Africa’s coming disaster?

Tyler Cowen links to reports of African drug users deliberately injecting themselves with another addict’s blood to share the high.

When I think about Africa’s future, what worries me aren’t the drug users.

The 1960s were a decade of hope for Africa. The 1970s were a decade of coups. The 1980s a decade of financial collapse. The 1990s a decade of civil war. The last ten years, hope has come back. Peace and prosperity are returning, and one easily envisions, twenty years from now, a host of nations with four times their current wealth.

Unfortunately, I fear the next decade could be remembered as the one derailed by the drug trade. West Africa is Europe’s foyer to South America’s drug trade. I don’t know the source of the crack and heroin I see on the streets of Monrovia, but I suspect it’s runoff from this trade. Why pay your couriers (or corrupt officials) in cash when you can pay in cocaine?

I don’t know much about these larger machinations, but the decay and danger in places like Guinea and Guinea-Bissau are ominous. West African scholar Stephen Ellis has been looking into the trade. I wonder: Do readers have other scholarly or other work to share? I’m working with the users, and one can’t help but wonder what is happening up the chain.

Occasionally the trade comes closer to home. Our downstairs neighbors in Monrovia are a UN police officer and, across the hall, an accused but acquitted drug trafficker from Nigeria. After his unsuccessful prosecution, our landlady, who works in the Ministry of Justice, apparently thought “hey, he might make a good tenant”. The logic eludes me.

Not that burglary is much of a problem in Monrovia, but if you wanted to be sure no one robs your apartment, you’d live above the police officer and the drug lord. So I draw small solace…