Hidden Narratives of Illicit Livelihoods in West Africa

Hidden Narratives is a collaborative research project between the University of Bristol, the University of Ottawa, and the French Institute for Research in Africa-NIgeria. It is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council and the Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security Research. The project explores local narratives on the drug trade and the transport of migrants in two of West Africa’s major trade and control hubs: Lagos (Nigeria) and Agadez (Niger).

Over the last fifteen years, West Africa’s role in illicit livelihoods and their control has become a central concern for international and domestic policy makers, with attention coalescing around threats such as drug trafficking and irregular migration. Despite this growing policy interest, illicit livelihoods and related claims about organised crime in the region have not yet been systematically studied.

The project asks whether crime of a transnational and organised form exists in West Africa and investigates the understandings of it held by people acting on different sides of the law. Using the cases of the Tramadol trade and the transport of migrants in two of West Africa’s major trade and control hubs, the project seeks to uncover the ‘hidden narratives’ of livelihoods labelled illicit. These narratives will help to better understand what these illicit activities mean in West Africa, what has caused their emergence and what could potentially help to address them as a policy issue.


For further details please see the Hidden Narratives website

This project is associated with the MMB Challenge on Bodies, things, capital