Skip to main content

Kenya’s second-largest city becomes world's new drug trafficking hub

By: Jean-Michel RENOVIC | Catharine HAMILTON
16 min

The Kenyan city of Mombasa, the largest port in East Africa, has become the capital of a new drug trafficking route. Heroin from Asia and cocaine from Latin America now transit through Kenya, before heading to Europe. FRANCE 24’s team reports.


It’s an increasingly common sight off the East African coast, especially in Kenya: a ship from Pakistan with a cargo of heroin on board – containing poppies harvested in Afghanistan and refined in Pakistan. A few kilometres off the Kenyan coast, it’s joined by a small fishing boat.

In recent years, a new route has been opened up by international drug traffickers. And for good reason: the Kenyan coast is long and poorly monitored. No wonder, then, that’s it’s easy to smuggle drugs into the country.

Once delivered to Kenya, heroin – and sometimes also cocaine – is brought to Mombasa, the country’s second-largest city and the region’s biggest port. From there, smugglers have several options: taking a plane straight to Europe or Dubai; moving the drugs to the capital Nairobi to send them abroad more discreetly; or even sending them to South Africa or West Africa to use an even less obvious route.

A growing public health problem

Our reporters met drug mules, like David, who regularly ingest drugs to transport them discreetly and avoid security checks. It’s dangerous work, but extremely well-paid: David can earn up to €10,000 each time he smuggles drugs out of Kenya.

This illegal market, estimated in Kenya at more than €100 million a year, is constantly growing and has serious consequences for the health of Kenyans. Previously absent from the country, hard drugs – especially heroin – are now easy to find and at minimal cost: less than two euros a dose.

In Mombasa, the drug-trafficking hub, an estimated 3.5 percent of the population has already tried heroin. Estimates of frequent users range from 2,500 to 5,000. Drug use is becoming a growing public health problem because as well as the harmful effects of drugs, many users contract AIDS or hepatitis C due to a lack of precautions.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Page not found

The content you requested does not exist or is not available anymore.