Foreign Policy Blogs

Drug Users are Hurting Africa

 Global philanthropy is about the positive impact that people in one place can have on the lives of others around the world. Unfortunately, it's just as easy – probably easier – to have a negative impact on the rest of the world. This weekend the Guardian published several articles discussing the impact of British cocaine on Africa. The discussion centers around a comment written by Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the United National Office on Drugs and Crime. Costa cites the horrible effects that the drug trade has on stability and development in many African countries. He goes on to blame celebrities who glamorize drugs for helping perpetuate the problem. He specifically cites Amy Winehouse, but another article points out that she is probably not the right target, as her drug use is far from the most alluring part of her image. The report also describes the effects of drugs in Guinea Bissau, and provides a brief analysis of non-African impact of the drug trade.

Drug users are always an easy target, and the drug trade is definitely the source of many bad things. Doesn't it seem a little bit too easy, though to just blame the drug users for these problems? First, as many commenters have pointed out, one possible way around the crime accompanying drugs is to legalize them. Second, we all do untold amounts of damage  every time we buy the wrong coffee. Finally, the global banking system happily sucks up the ill gotten wealth of the developing world's leaders and oligarchs, that has at least as powerful an effect on state capacity as the drug trade.

Should cocaine addicts stop using? Oh yeah. For lots of reasons, but I don't really see why the world needed three new articles to tell us that.



Kevin Dean

Kevin Dean is a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in international conflict management and humanitarian emergencies at Georgetown University. Before returning to school in Fall 2006, he spent six years working in the former Soviet Union - most of that time spent in Central Asia. He has managed a diverse range of international development programs for the US State Department and USAID. He has also consulted for several UN agencies and international NGOs, and is fluent in Russian. Kevin is originally from Des Moines, Iowa and studied Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Iowa.