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Organised Crime and Illicit Markets

Globalisation has transformed the nature of illicit markets in every country. From the early 1990s illicit flows of people, cash and commodities such as drugs or wildlife products, have transformed how we understand what has generally been termed “organised crime” and how it operates. Indeed, the set of conceptual tools and terminology that we have at our disposal are arguably not well suited to trying to understand the emerging reality. What is particularly clear is that the distinctions between licit and illicit markets are becoming increasingly difficult to draw. None of this is to say that what we are experiencing is entirely new, but the scale and scope of these developments is unprecedented.

 Mapping illicit flows and providing a more effective set of conceptual explanations for what is underway is a critical objective of the Centre’s National Research Foundation programme on organised crime and illicit markets. The work is primarily focussed on South Africa and Africa more widely and seeks to develop a foundation of research and a network of analysts to pursue it further. While the impact of illicit markets varies greatly across the continent there are important similarities both between developments in middle income countries like South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, as well as in a set of poorer and conflict prone states. Parallels can also be drawn with a wider set of states, most particularly in Latin America.

 The Centre’s work is focussed understanding in greater detail the growth of “organised crime” in South Africa since the advent of democracy, as well as its antecedents before 1994. Detailed research work has been conducted in West Africa and the Sahel, in the Horn and in North Africa. The Centre hopes to make a long-term contribution to the discussion on illicit markets and their impact on livelihoods, governance and development in the African and South African context. 












M. Shaw and T. Reitano, ‘Atlantic Currents and their Illicit Undertow: Fragile States and Transnational Security Implications’, Altantic Currents, German Marshall Fund publication scheduled 2015

M. Shaw and S. Haysom, ‘Organised crime in late apartheid and the transition to a new criminal order:  The rise and fall of the Johannesburg “bouncer mafia”’, Journal of Southern African Studies, publication scheduled 2015

S. Ellis and M. Shaw, ‘Is organised crime African?’  African Affairs, Vol. 114 (457), October 2015

 M. Shaw and F. Mangan, ‘Enforcing our law when the state breaks down: the case of protection economies in Libya and their political consequences,’ Hague Journal for the Rule of Law, September 2015, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 99-110

M. Shaw, ‘Drug trafficking in Guinea-Bissau 1998-2014: the evolution of an elite protection network,’ Journal for Modern African Studies, Vol. 53:3, September 2015, pp.339-364

 M. Shaw and W. Kemp, ‘Rethinking the multilateral response to organized crime,’ in ed. Bassiouni, C. (2015) The Future of Human Rights and International Criminal Justice, June 2015

 M. Shaw, and T. Reitano, ‘The Political Economy of Trafficking and Trade in the Sahara: Instability and Opportunities’, World Bank Saharan Knowledge Exchange Series, July 2014

 M. Shaw, ‘Organised crime in Africa’, in P. Reichel and J. Albanese (eds), Handbook of Transnational Crime and Justice, London, Sage, 2013.