Mozambique boasts giant coal, ruby and gas deposits but one of the southeast African nation’s biggest exports may be something a lot more sinister: heroin.
As much as $800m worth of the narcotic is shipped annually from its beaches to neighbouring countries and to Europe. That is according to a research paper by Enact, an EU-funded initiative to mitigate the impact of transnational organised crime, and a related working paper by Joseph Hanlon, visiting senior fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
“Mozambique is a significant heroin transit centre and the trade has increased to 40 tonnes or more per year, making it a major export which contributes up to $100m per year to the local economy,” Hanlon said. “With an export value of $20m per tonne, heroin is probably the country’s largest or second-largest export after coal.”
The value of Mozambique’s coal exports more than doubled to $1.7bn last year, as production and prices rose, according to data from the central bank.
Produced in Afghanistan and Pakistan, heroin is shipped to Mozambique’s coast with motorised wooden boats, which can carry up to a tonne of the drug in hidden compartments, according to the Enact report. From there, it is transported by road to SA. Some is sold to local users, but most of the heroin is destined for Europe, said the researchers, who include Mark Shaw, Simone Haysom and Peter Gastrow.
Mozambique’s 2,470km coastline has been used by maritime traders for centuries.