Huge increase in drugs trade in Africa’s ‘cocaine corridors’ used by Kinahan cartel – report
The Sunday World previously revealed how the Kinahan gang was moving cocaine across the continent in air ambulances
Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World
7th January 2026
A new investigation has revealed how countries across east and southern Africa are receiving much larger drug shipments from South America than was previously believed.
According to the new Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) report, drug market research in 16 countries has found both substantial local consumption and bulging transit flows to Europe and Australia from South America.
These cocaine shipments primarily travel by maritime container from Brazil’s port of Santos, though a steady stream of human carriers also flies smaller quantities from Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos Airport.
Most of the cargo lands in coastal states like South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, and Tanzania, before either being transhipped to other continents or heading inland.
“The result is a blooming drug trade whose full scale is hidden by feeble interdiction capacities,” the report reveals.
“West and north Africa are the continent’s more famous cocaine corridors, yet given their much higher enforcement profile – with French naval carriers patrolling the Gulf of Guinea – it is hard to compare based on seizure data alone.”
The report details how: “Cocaine traffickers are despatching regular, large-scale consignments to various countries in the region.
“The cocaine is often concealed in or among a shipment of licit goods, either as a directly designed shipment of contaminated cargo or in a rip on/rip off arrangement where the container seals are broken and replaced fraudulently.
“Sometimes the cocaine is concealed inside the container housing itself.”
In July, the Sunday World revealed how the Kinahan gang was moving cocaine across the continent in air ambulances as Christy Snr aimed to take control of one of the world’s key shipping routes for cocaine.
The Dapper Don planned to go from Irish mafia boss to a global cocaine powerbroker in a move that would have made him of equal importance to the Colombians who control the production and price of the drug.
Kinahan posed as an aviation consultant in a bid to secure access to planes in multi-million-euro deal
It emerged how the cartel had bought off officials for use of landing strips and took control of the key transport route to Europe, making the Irish gang second only in importance to the Colombian Cartels.
After the drugs landed in the southern part of Africa, the Kinahan gang would use ‘air ambulances’ to move the cocaine through the continent to ports where it could be shipped into Europe.
Kinahan, along with his Dutch business partner Nessy Yildirim, had planned to base themselves in the capital Harare where they had already purchased luxury properties amid plans to relocate his family there from the United Arab Emirates.
The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) report describes how Africa has become central to the global cocaine trade.
“The region is not a peripheral transit trade route for drugs, and it is not simply a marginal element of the expanding global cocaine trade.
“Instead, it sits at the intersection of maritime and aerial flows of drugs from South America to Asian, European and Australian destinations, while also being a growing destination market itself.”
The new report reveals how Nigerian drug traffickers have long dominated maritime and aerial flows since establishing outposts in Brazil’s Sao Paulo in the late 2000s.
By 2013, they organised up to 30 per cent of the cocaine exports by ship or container from the local port of Santos, according to a report published that year by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Most recently, in December, police arrested an alleged Nigerian cocaine smuggler in São Paulo.
He was accused of shipping 5 tons of cocaine in October 2021 from the port of Rio de Janeiro to Europe via Mozambique. However, this case aside, it is thought Nigerian actors have lost ground, said Jason Eligh, the report’s author and a senior expert at the GI-TOC.
“They play a role, particularly in the capacity of cocaine distribution regionally in east and southern Africa. How big that role is today — compared to a decade ago, for example — is a question mark,” he told InSight Crime