Human trafficking, arms trade and drugs: Why South Africa ranks 7th on global crime index

SA is struggling to contain organised crime, says an international group.

SA is struggling to contain organised crime, says an international group.

  • South Africa is ranked seventh-highest on an index that measures criminality in 193 countries.
  • The index measures various indicators of crime, including human trafficking, arms trade, drug trade, cybercrime and financial crimes.
  • South Africa has the third-highest criminality score in Africa, after the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.

South Africa is ranked seventh out of 193 countries on a scale that measures criminality, according to new data on organised crime.

The second edition of the Organised Crime Index, produced by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GI-TOC), says that South Africa climbed 12 spots up the criminality index, from 19th in 2021 with a criminality score of 6.63 to seventh place in 2023 with a score of 7.18.

The index gives a criminality score on a scale of one to 10, where one indicates levels of crime and 10 indicates high levels of crime.

It includes data from 2022 on levels of criminality and resilience against organised crime in all 193 UN member states, and shows how organised crime and resilience have changed in the past two years.

According to the index, South Africa grapples with various forms of human trafficking, including sex trafficking, child labour, domestic servitude, organ smuggling, child brides and labour exploitation.

READ | ‘The perfect storm’: Why transnational crime syndicates see SA as a ‘haven’

The country also struggles with “a significant issue of arms trafficking”, with millions of illegal firearms in circulation, many of which originate from domestic sources such as firearms stolen from licenced civilian owners and those “lost” by or stolen from government departments, the report said.

Mark Shaw, director of the GI-TOC said: “Countries around the globe have been forced to reckon with a new reality; a reality where organised crime has shown no sign of slowing down. Instead, criminal groups have quickly adapted and seized fresh opportunities.”

In addition, South Africa is part of a growing drug trade.

The report found that the country is “one of the largest heroin consumer markets on the continent” and has become “a key player in the global cocaine trade”.

The report said:

Most of the cocaine comes in shipping containers from Brazil and then transits through South Africa to other destinations.

South Africa is ranked third-highest for overall criminality on the continent, after the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, 7.35) and Nigeria (7.28), while Africa as a whole has a criminality score of 5.25.

While the continent saw the smallest continental increase in criminal market pervasiveness between 2020 and 2022, it still saw growth in 10 criminal markets.

Globally, the index suggests that the number of people living in countries with high levels of organised crime increased in the past two years.

Today, no less than 83% of the global population lives in countries with high levels of criminality – up from 79% in 2020.

This year, Myanmar recorded the highest criminality score (8.15), followed by Colombia (7.75), Mexico (7.57), Paraguay (7.52), the DRC, Nigeria, South Africa, Iraq (7.13), Afghanistan (7.10) and Lebanon (7.10).

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