By Sharon Atieno

The illegal exploitation of precious metals and minerals as well as wildlife trafficking have been linked to the rise in organized crimes in Africa particularly the Sahel region.

This is according to Ghada Waly, the head of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) during her briefing to the Security Council.

She noted that the illegal exploitation of precious metals and minerals such as gold, silver and diamonds is fuelling extremists with significant sources of income, and benefitting the groups that control extraction, and trafficking routes.

Waly said based on UNODC research, “we have established that illegally mined gold and other precious metals are being fed into the legitimate market, providing huge profits for traffickers.”

Wildlife trafficking has also been reported as a possible source of funding for militias, she added, with the illegal trade in ivory alone generating $400 million in illicit income each year.

“This criminal exploitation strips the people of Africa of a significant source of revenue. It robs the millions of people who depend on these natural resources for their livelihoods. And it fuels conflicts and exacerbates instability,” Waly said.

She also observed that conflict zones in Africa were being disproportionately affected by illegal mining and trafficking in precious metals.

“Mineral supply chains are often linked to child abuse, human trafficking, forced labour and other human rights violations. With 60 percent of Africa’s population under 25 years of age, young people are both the future of the continent but also its most vulnerable citizens,” Waly said.

However, according to her, once empowered, young people can become powerful change agents: “They can create a better future and advocate on behalf of themselves and their communities and protect their natural resources.”

Waly said the UN’s crime fighting effort was ready to assist all African in securing their “right to peace, stability, justice and prosperity – for today and future generations. Leaving no money for terrorists. Leaving no one behind.”