African Arguments has a good article by Michael Keating on the rise of drug trafficking in West Africa and the sad development of narco states in the region.
Apparently Guinea-Bissau has already been characterized as a narco state, and Guinea-Conakry is fast turning into one too. David Brown, a US diplomat who recently wrote a report called “The Challenge of Drug Trafficking To Democratic Governance and Human Security in West Africa,” wrote that “the coup in 2008 there have been reports of Latin American cocaine traders moving in significant numbers to Conakry, where some relatives of the late President Lansana Conté have an established interest in the cocaine trade. In 2010 the U.S. government designated Ousmane Conte, the son of Guinea’s late President, as a Tier 1 kingpin.” He fears that 3 or 4 other states in West Africa may be going down the same road.
Countries like Guinea-Bissau make for an easy target. A 2008 UN report noted that the country’s GDP was equal to the “wholesale value of 6 tons of cocaine in Europe.” Traffickers liked the country’s “unguarded coastline, high-level corruption and near-total absence of the rule of law, allowing cocaine gangs to operate with impunity.”
Most of the cocaine goes through Guinea-Bissau and Ghana and is then smuggled to Europe by West African criminal groups. Perhaps more worrying, these groups often have ties to non-state actors like Hezbollah and AQIM.
Keating notes that “a fair amount [of the money] is laundered in construction and legitimate businesses in such numbers that some observers cynically reflect that drug money is a net plus for the treasuries of these most impoverished nations,” but obviously the consequences of this phenomena are pretty dire for the region.