Africa and the War on Drugs

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About the Authors

Neil Carrier is a researcher based at the African Studies Centre, Oxford. He has published widely on the substance khat, which he first studied in Kenya and in the UK for his PhD in social anthropology at the University of St Andrews (2004). In recent years, Carrier’s focus has broadened to drugs in Africa more generally, and he has also carried out research in East Africa on a range of other issues, from film and photography to indigeneity. His current project focuses on the Somali diaspora and their impact upon Eastleigh, a Nairobi estate recently transformed into a booming commercial zone.

Gernot Klantschnig is assistant professor in international studies at the University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China. He completed his DPhil in politics at St Antony’s College, Oxford in 2008. His doctoral research, which is to be published as Drugs, Crime and the State in Africa: The Nigerian Connection, examined Nigeria’s role in the international trade and control of illegal drugs. His recent research and publications have also focused on the international politics of crime control, West African law enforcement, as well as China’s growing economic and political engagement with Africa.

Africa and the War on Drugs

Nigerian drug lords in UK prisons, khat-chewing Somali pirates hijacking Western ships, crystal meth-smoking gangs controlling South Africa’s streets, and narco-traffickers corrupting the state in Guinea-Bissau: these are some of the vivid images surrounding drugs in Africa which have alarmed policymakers, academics and the general public in recent years. In this revealing and original book, the authors weave these aspects into a provocative argument about Africa’s role in the global trade and control of drugs. In doing so, they show how foreign-inspired policies have failed to help African drug users but have strengthened the role of corrupt and brutal law enforcement officers, who are tasked with halting the export of heroin and cocaine to European and American consumer markets.

A vital book on an overlooked front of the so-called war on drugs.

Reviews

‘A fresh, ambitious, and critical survey of drug use and trafficking in Africa, where globalization has added cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine to local staples like beer, khat, and cannabis. Carrier and Klantschnig explore the continent’s changing drug ecologies, the mixed implications for development, and policy responses that have ranged from more drug wars to state complicity in the traffic.’
David T. Courtwright, presidential professor, Department of History, University of North Florida

‘In a world in which progress on addressing the global illicit drug problem is non-existent, this important volume seeks to move the discourse on drug flows and use in sub-Saharan Africa from a domain tightly controlled by the punitive language and narrow mind frames of the US-driven war on drugs towards a more nuanced, balanced, research-based and both historically and culturally informed perspective. Thus, it is a breath of fresh air for an arena of contemporary social life dominated by failed policy, preconceived ideas, human rights violations, and lack of rigorous on-the-ground research. Patterns of drug use in Africa have been changing, and certainly the globalization of illicit drugs is part of this story, but, as this volume effectively demonstrates, it is on a small part of a much more complex narrative.’
Professor Merrill Singer, Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut Storrs

‘Nuanced, insightful and clear-headed, this book offers a devastating challenge to the war on drugs and its apologists.’
Jonny Steinberg, University of Oxford

‘Reliable data on the use of drugs in Africa is notoriously hard to find, and this is a topic which tends to attracts sensationalism and political opportunism rather than rational commentary and debate. In this readable and thorough book, Carrier and Klantschnig offer a calm and reasoned review of the existing evidence and develop an effective critique of the ‘war on drugs’ approach. Picking apart many common assumptions about psycho-active substances in Africa, they effectively challenge the value of supply-side regulatory approaches and attempts at prohibition, and argue for policies based on harm-reduction. This book will be essential reading for anyone interested in drugs policy in Africa.’
Justin Willis, Durham University

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