AU Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development Minata Samate Cessouma, (Photo © AUC/File)

AU Joins Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats

ADDIS ABABA – The African Union (AU) has joined the Global Coalition to address challenges caused by synthetic drug trafficking and use worldwide.

Led by the United States, a total of 85 countries and 13 international organizations joined hands to launch a Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drugs last Friday.

Synthetic drugs, also known as “designer drugs” or new psychoactive substances (NPS), are intoxicating substances manufactured to mimic the effects of controlled drugs. The drugs, which cause tens of thousands of people in the US alone, are usually marketed as cheap substitutes for real drugs in the form of cannabinoids (chemically similar to marijuana) or cathinones (chemically similar to amphetamines).

“Africa is under siege”

AU Health and Social Development Commissioner Minata Samate Cessouma pledged the Union’s commitment to the Coalition to counter the threat posed by NPS.

“Africa is under siege as a major transit hub for trafficked drugs destined for lucrative European markets. We are indeed facing a challenge of epic proportions and find ourselves at crossroads,” said Cessouma during the launch of the Global Coalition.

Africa is experiencing a rise in drug trafficking and related crime including corruption and other forms of transnational organized crime such as trafficking in human beings and firearms, cybercrime, money laundering and illicit financial flows.

On the other hand, the AU says the continent is confronted by rapidly rising consumption of synthetic drugs, an exponential growth in the number of people who use drugs and those who suffer from drug use disorders, especially youth.

AU Pushing for Drug Action Plan

Youth populations are the most vulnerable to using drugs and are also more severely affected by substance use disorder in several regions.

“To us, harnessing the demographic dividend remains central to realizing Africa’s aspiration for socio-economic transformation. It presents a great opportunity to build resilience of young people and address root causes of some key challenges facing Africa today, including drug trafficking and use, forced migration, radicalization and violent extremism,” Cessouma continued.

“AU is working with its member states to implement the overarching continental drug action plan whose main goal is to improve the health, security and socio-economic well-being of people in Africa by addressing drug trafficking and problematic drug use, in all its forms and manifestations and preventing the onset of drug use’’.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) are also among the international organizations leading the Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats.

The coalition aims to accelerate efforts against illicit synthetic drugs and employ coordinated approaches to prevent illicit drug manufacturing, detect emerging drug threats, disrupt trafficking, address illicit finance, and respond to public safety and public health impacts.