The call was made by Angela Martins, acting director for social development, culture and sport at the AU Commission, addressing a continental technical experts’ consultation on drug demand reduction, the AU said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
"While efforts to combat drug trafficking and supply are undeniably important, we acknowledge that addressing the demand side of the equation is equally critical," Martins said. "By focusing on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and reintegration, we can break the vicious cycle of drug use and dependency, and create healthier and more resilient communities."
She underscored the significance of dialogue, knowledge-sharing, and cooperation among experts, policymakers, civil society, and stakeholders, recognizing that no single country can effectively tackle the drug menace alone.
Martins also emphasized the need to develop comprehensive strategies that address the root causes and consequences of drug use through collective action and international cooperation.
The consultation on drug demand reduction was strategically formulated to delve into the 2023 Pan-African Epidemiology Network on Drug Use report, which aims to improve health security, and socio-economic well-being of Africans by addressing substance use and treatment.
According to the AU, illicit drug trafficking, substance dependency, and related criminal activities have far-reaching consequences that undermine Africa’s efforts toward the achievement of sustainable peace, security, and prosperity. The number of people who use drugs in Africa has risen exponentially with a corresponding increase in the number of people with drug use disorders and comorbidity, including young people.
It said the growing trend in drug use in Africa is a result of a growing market for drugs including those produced locally, in addition to Africa being a major transit area for trafficked drugs, of which a significant amount remains on the local market.