ISS Africa
Home / About us / Press releases / Crime networks, governance and service delivery in Cape Town and Dakar
Crime networks, governance and service delivery in Cape Town and Dakar
27 August 2014

Pretoria, South Africa – With support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has, between 2011 and 2014, researched the impact of networked crime on the structures of governance and the delivery of public goods and services in Cape Town and Dakar. The research used analytical, narrative and empirical methodologies to explore a ‘social microcosm’ of criminal networks, and is one of the first in the continent to use social network analysis in the study of organised crime. 

African cities – feeling the effects of unplanned growth, which is fuelled partly by migration and partly by natural population increase – are struggling to address the needs of residents. As part of the state, local government institutions should be central providers of services and governance. Their inadequacies have opened the way for crime networks to integrate into the socio-political system and economy. As the cities developed, several gaps have emerged in the reach and influence of state authority: both in terms of its presence and the delivery of services. Organised criminal networks have been able to occupy and exploit such gaps.

Without suggesting that Cape Town’s and Dakar’s experience with organised crime is typical of all coastal cities in Africa, the trends observed here provide important indicators of the close connections between skewed urban planning, political transition and serious criminality. It is likely that these trends will continue in the absence of strategic and sustained interventions.

Both Cape Town and Dakar have become markets and transit points for drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and crystal methamphetamine. Apart from the drug trade, various other crimes sustain organised criminal activity, including the trade in endangered resources, cyber crime (ranging from ‘advance fee’ scams to sophisticated website cloning), and the trafficking of stolen motor vehicles. There are also crimes unique to each city. Protection rackets plague Cape Town, while Dakar is confronted by the challenge of child trafficking.

At a seminar convened on 27 August some of these research findings were presented. Khalil Goga, a researcher at the ISS, described the initial research findings of the project to illustrate how divisions between licit and illicit enterprise, the state and non-state sectors are becoming obsolete. He argued that: ‘Criminals relate to their environment, beyond just corrupting politicians or distorting the criminal justice system, but instead could exisit alongside the state as parallel sources of authority.’

Goga explained how case studies, including those of drug trafficking and protection racketeering, highlight the ways in which criminal governance has manifested in various circumstances. Using social network analysis, he illustrated how some of the most sophisticated criminal networks in South Africa were built on economic, rather than violent, relationships, while other criminal gangs needed to extend violence to maintain power.

Dr Derica Lambrechts, a lecturer at Stellenbosch University, presented findings from her PhD research on organised crime and state social control in Manenberg. In her qualitative research in the Manenberg, she found that organised crime existed alongside local government and civil society in providing social control.

This research is funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The ISS is also grateful for support from the following members of the ISS Partnership Forum: Governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the USA.

For more information, contact:

Khalil Goga, +27 83 4432 700,

About the Institute for Security Studies
The ISS is an African organisation that aims to enhance human security on the continent. It does independent and authoritative research, provides expert policy analysis and advice, and delivers practical training and technical assistance.