Image by Mainak Das, via Wikimedia Commons.  Accessed 04.08.17


The illicit trade in sub-Saharan Africa in poached wildlife and environmental products presents a reputational and ethical risk for investors in the region. As the frequency of poaching and trafficking are spiking, the international community is paying increasing attention, as finite wild animal populations and protected habitats are being depleted.

Poaching and trafficking should not be considered an isolated “conservation” issue, but rather one barometer of regional (and transnational) criminality and corruption, since it is widespread criminal networks and corrupt elites that are predominantly responsible for this black-market activity.   

The poaching and trafficking of wild products in sub-Saharan Africa is largely enabled by three interwoven features of its economy:

  1. Well-established local and regional criminal networks who also engage in other types of illegal activity, such as drug smuggling, human trafficking, and trade in counterfeit goods;
  2. Corrupt or grey-market profiteering business leaders and ruling political and military elites – or, where central power is contested, corrupt or profiteering local militia or other local leaders; and
  3. The high level of Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) in the region, which have long rendered a large percentage of its economic activity “invisible” and make it a very permissive environment for poaching- and trafficking-related payments, bribes, and informal money transfers.