AU, Small Arms Survey map illicit arms flows in Africa

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In the first-ever continental analysis of illicit arms flows in Africa, the African Union Commission (AU) and the Small Arms Survey identify the scale, availability, characteristics, and supply patterns of illicit small arms in Africa.

The survey identifies small arms as revolvers and self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines, sub-machine guns, assault rifles, and light machine guns and defines illicit small arms as weapons that are produced, transferred, held or used in violation of national or international law.

Weapons Compass: Mapping Illicit Small Arms Flows in Africa finds that cross-border trafficking by land is the most prominent type of illicit arms flow affecting countries on the continent. The weapons trafficked comprise both those sourced from within the continent — such as legacy weapons recycled from earlier conflicts and weapons diverted from national stockpiles — as well as arms sourced from other parts of the world, including embargo-breaking transfers from the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Another key finding was that, “AU member states’ participation in international information-sharing platforms that can help to provide critical weapons-trafficking intelligence has been very limited to date.” Due to the data on illicit weapon holdings being scarce, the magnitude of the problem can only be very roughly estimated, the report states.

The report provides practical recommendations for AU member states to tackle illicit arms flows by noting specific assessments that can be generated to fill knowledge gaps; practical guidance and tools to develop; and ways in which to support and coordinate the implementation of those recommended actions.



The African Union Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa by Year 2020 was adopted in January 2017 and sets out practical steps to address the underlying drivers of conflict as well as the tools and enablers of violence. Preventing the illicit flows of weapons within Africa, including to conflict zones, is a vital component of the AU Roadmap, and this report aims to provide AU member states with a synthesis of relevant information on the topic.