Strengthening the fight against organised crime in West Africa: OCWAR-C and OCWAR-M projects presented at the Dakar Forum

The European Union (EU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Expertise France presented the OCWAR-C and OCWAR-M projects at the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa. These two projects will contribute to strengthening the fight against organised crime in ECOWAS countries and Mauritania. OCWAR-M will focus on the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing (AML-CFT), while OCWAR-C will be dedicated to strengthening cybersecurity and the fight against cybercrime.

Trafficking in drugs, arms, counterfeit medicines and people, cybercrime and piracy: organised crime in West Africa is multifaceted. Through its scale, its transnational dimension and the costs it generates, it reduces the capacity of States to finance the development and stability of the region. On the economic front, crime could cost West Africa up to FCFA 30 trillion (USD 50m) a year. [1]

High human, economic and security costs

This trafficking finances, amongst other things, terrorist groups whose activity can be seen with an increasing number of attacks causing human victims and the destruction of property.

of West African countries to fight against trafficking and use the resulting revenues: the size of the informal sector and the low rate of use of the banking system by economies restrict the traceability of financial flows. In addition, the weakness of border controls and the lack of regional cooperation facilitate the movement of criminal groups. Finally, political instability and poor governance weaken the institutions responsible for the fight against crime.

Equipping actors of the penal chain

It is therefore to strengthen the capacity of countries in the region to take the fight forward that the European Union is financing the regional projects OCWAR-M (Organised Crime: West African Response to Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism) and OCWAR-C (Organised Crime: West African response to Cybersecurity and fight against Cybercrime).[2]

Expertise France, the international technical cooperation agency responsible for implementing these two projects, will be working with the various actors of the penal chain – judicial police, prosecutors, magistrates… – of partner countries. The support will involve training, focusing on very practical subjects such as financial analysis for magistrates specialised in the fight against money laundering. It will also strengthen the legal framework for action (regulation, manuals, procedure guides…) and the tools required (computer equipment, information analysis software…) to make the prevention and prosecution of crimes more effective. Furthermore, cooperation will be sought with the private sector and in particular with banks and NGOs, which have a role to play in detecting and reporting illicit financial flows.

For further reading: David Hotte: “Make mechanisms to fight against money laundering and terrorist financing more operational”

Towards a structured regional approach

Finally, fighting effectively against crime requires increased national coordination and a coherent regional approach. The OCWAR projects will therefore promote the strengthening of cooperation at these two levels in order to facilitate exchanges and the sharing of information between actors. For this purpose, ECOWAS will be a key partner for the implementation of the projects. One of the prerequisites for the success of OCWAR-M is, for example, the establishment of an effective partnership with the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), the specialised ECOWAS institution responsible for building the capacities of Member States in this field, supporting national risk assessments and organising the mutual evaluations of Member States.

[1] OECD/World Bank/African Development Bank, Illicit Financial Flows. The Economy of Illicit Trade in West Africa, 2018.

[2] A third regional support project, Organised Crime: West African Response to Trafficking (OCWAR-T), is currently being prepared to improve the framework conditions and the national and regional structures for the fight against trafficking in people, drugs, firearms and other products. OCWAR-T is implemented by GIZ.

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