Drugs and development in Africa: Exploring what we know



Drugs and development in Africa: Exploring what we know

6 October 2021

The African continent has a long history with drug cultivation, production, consumption and trade. The complexity of the drug issue in Africa mirrors the broad complexity of the continent itself. Moreover, as with drugs, Africa is often treated as a homogenous entity, with little attempt to reflect the varied geographic and cultural nuances or historical idiosyncrasies. Cannabis and khat each have a storied sociocultural history of production and use. Opiates, such as heroin; stimulants, like cocaine and methamphetamine; pharmaceuticals diverted for illicit misuse, and an ever-evolving range of novel synthetic concoctions are among the array of more recent substances of production, use and trade across the continent.

Efforts and attention towards rethinking the drug issue in the Global South, specifically in Africa, have been increasingly mobilized in recent years. However, much of the available mainstream discourse, research and literature on drugs and development in Africa were not conducted by Africans and/or is not accessible to the local groups and communities as they are often produced in the global north and paywalled behind academic publication platforms. Indeed, few examples exist of holistic discussions on this topic in the region. The purpose of this virtual event is to revisit the issue of drugs and development in Africa from a refreshed angle, by seeking to:

  • highlight the rich and varied local drug research and policy work underway across the continent;

  • seek to engage discourses around sustainable development within African drug environment contexts;

  • identify and explore divergences and overlaps between drugs and development policies, initiatives and actions across Africa.


  • Date: Tuesday 19th October 2021, 3.00-4.30 pm (CEST)

  • Format: Virtual, closed event

  • Duration: 90 minutes

  • Platform: MS Teams


Chair: Elrena van der Spuy, University of Cape Town

Introducing the Drugs and Development Hub: John Collins, GI-TOC and Anna Paus, GIZ - GPDPD


  • Dr. Abel Basutu, Programme Management Specialist, African Union

  • Jason Eligh, Senior Expert, GI-TOC

  • Bernice Apondi, Policy Manager, VOCAL-Kenya

  • Angela Me / Francois Andre Emile Patuel, UNODC (tbc)

Discussant: Anine Kriegler, University of Cape Town

Closing remarks: Jane Marie Ong’olo, African Union (tbc)


  • Local governments, policy makers

  • Regional civil society actors, academia

  • Regional institutions and associations working on drugs and development issues


  • African Union

  • GI-TOC


  • University of Cape Town


The DDH provides an interactive platform for discussions between academics, policy makers and affected communities involved in illicit drug crop cultivation, drug production and/or trafficking, and/or those that have transitioned beyond it. DDH seeks to create greater awareness about the links between drugs, (organised) crime and development by integrating the needs and capabilities of researchers, policy makers and of civil society, in order to gain a more holistic understanding of current phenomena surrounding illicit drug economies. The goal is to develop a more robust, long-lasting and extensive collaborative network between academics, policy makers and civil society for discussing past and future development interventions and their relation to drug policy.

Date18 October 2021

Related Profiles

  • Global Partnership on Drug Policies and Development (GPDPD)
  • African Union
  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)