Investigating illicit trafficking in Africa

CALL FOR STORY PROPOSALS: Trafficking in illicit goods, a term used by INTERPOL to describe all types of systemic illicit trade and financing, includes counterfeiting (trademark infringements), piracy (copyright infringements), smuggling, tax evasion and avoidance through opacity mechanisms.

Deadline for submission: 7 May 2013 Most nations, particularly in Africa, lack resources and laws to identify and penalize illicit trade practices, not least because the illicit can often be cloaked in technically legal structures. To complicate matters further, a clear link has been established between trafficking of illicit goods and transnational organized crime, cutting human, environmental and other areas.

Over the years, illicit  trade of small arms has developed into an industry.  African nations have slowly become host to illicit small arms markets. However the real culprits are developed countries which discreetly supply arms to these failing states in Africa.

The licit global small arms market is estimated at approximately US$ 4 billion a year and illicit trade is estimated at US$ 1 billion. Africa loses around US$ 18 billion per year due to  wars, civil wars and insurgencies.

During March 2013, the New York Times investigated  how Africa’s elephants are being slaughtered at the highest rate in two decades, largely to satisfy soaring demand for Ivory among China’s growing middle class.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) claims that “the line between what is illegal, what is illicit and what is perfectly acceptable is often blurred on the African continent, for example an air cargo carrier could be transporting illegal arms one day and much-needed humanitarian aid the next.”

In order to effectively investigate ‘illicit trafficking in Africa’, the following questions are central:

1. What are the most commonly trafficked items in Africa and the estimated annual profits?

2. How are African governments’ helping to eradicate illicit trafficking?

3. Why are media and civil society important for exposing illicit trade practices?

4. Who are the powerful players on both sides of the trafficking racket?

FAIR invites all MEMBERS who are interested in participating to submit story proposals based on the following questions:

1. What is the time you will need to do the story?

2. Which sources will you access (documentary and human)

3. What own observation do you plan to assemble and how do you plan to record them (film/photography)

4. Which databases do you plan to mine and what tools do you plan to use to do this?

5. How will you avoid confirmation bias (i.e. how will you ensure that you do not ignore data that might contradict your hypothesis?)

6. What is your minimum outcome story?

This Transnational Investigation will seek to enhance issues which FAIR members have previously highlighted for national and global media, including: SMUGGLERS FLOODING KENYA WITH ARMSGETTING RICH IN POVERTY-STRICKEN CONGOSIERRA LEONE VICE PRESIDENT CAUGHT IN ILLEGAL TIMBER BUSINESSZIMBABWE’S DISAPPEARING DIAMONDS.  

The FAIR Commissioning Editor, in consultation with FAIR director, Board, regional mentors and partners, will assemble the investigative team on the basis of the most viable story plans per region and country. Only story plans that answer the above six points will be considered.

The deadline for submission is Tuesday, 7 May 2013.

Proposals should be sent to, and copied to

We look forward to your participation. 

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