of euros for new police databases in West Africa
At least 5 million is being
spent by the EU on developing a series of interlinked national
police databases in West Africa, that will eventually allow information
and intelligence gathered in the region to be disseminated to
law enforcement authorities across the world.
The West Africa Police
Information System (WAPIS) project "forms one of the pillars
of the EU's Cocaine Route Programme"  and is being developed
by the EU alongside INTERPOL and the Economic Community of West
African States (ECOWAS, which has 15 member states).
An initial 2.2 million
is going towards the first phase of the project, which began
in September 2012 and will run until October 2013.
The EU has also "committed
3 million to fund the second phase of WAPIS," said
a spokesperson for EuropeAid, the European Commission department
responsible for "designing EU development policies and delivering
aid through programmes and projects across the world." 
Under current plans there
will be "a pilot phase until 2015 with the system operational
in some countries," which are yet to be identified, and
subsequently "the roll out to other countries who are 'willing
and able' is planned."
According to an INTERPOL
press release, WAPIS will "facilitate the collection, centralisation,
management, sharing and analysis of police information on a national,
regional and global level to more effectively tackle crime such
as drug trafficking, illegal immigration, money laundering and
weapons trafficking in West Africa." 
EuropeAid told Statewatch
that after five "pilot phase" countries in West Africa
are chosen, only the police forces of those countries will have
access to the system. However, "other law enforcement authorities,
including immigration and customs services, have been invited
to join in the near future." A presentation given to a May
2011 conference by Pierre Reuland shows a "concept model"
in which national WAPIS bureaux are clearly connected to border
control agencies. 
said that currently, WAPIS "has been conceived as a criminal
database gathering basic information (i.e. on individuals, vehicles,
identity documents) without focusing on specific sets of criminal
offences." Particular offences "would be eventually
identified at the end of the scoping phase."
National authorities will
be involved in the system to "the largest extent possible,"
said EuropeAid, and "at the regional level (ECOWAS), information
will be exchanged between countries in the region (as for example
it is happening through the Schengen Information System)."
Data will also be shared
across INTERPOL's 190 member states,  while "as far as
information sharing in European countries is concerned the principle
is again to share information at the largest extent possible,"
EuropeAid told Statewatch, although "translating this into
practice will depend on the situation in any given country."
A three-stage process
The initial aim is to
make assessments of the legal and institutional situation in
five "pilot" countries - Benin, Ghana, Niger, Mauritania
This will allow the three
project partners - the EU, Interpol and ECOWAS - to assess "the
current police and customs information management; the communication
means; the legal framework for police information exchange; [and]
the preparedness of each country/organisation participating,"
Three main aims will then
be pursued. At the national level, the "creation of an automated
national database of police information to collect, centralise,
manage, share and analyse information."
At the regional level,
the "development of an infrastructure environment at ECOWAS
to increase the sharing of information among the countries of
Finally, the "global
level" objective is the "establishment by INTERPOL
of a link with the rest of the world, via its National Central
Bureaus in the region and its Regional Bureau in Abidjan, Côte
d'Ivoire, and by using its telecommunications networks, expertise
and IT tools to guarantee the longevity of the WAPIS programme."
The "main link"
to European law enforcement databases will come through INTERPOL,
said EuropeAid, which as well as a regional office in Abidjan,
has its main headquarters in Lyon, France. Information could
subsequently be disseminated to EU member states and Europol.
INTERPOL's factsheet for
the project says that the data protection system "will be
based on the procedures and legal framework of ECOWAS and on
INTERPOL's Rules on Data Protection." EuropeAid told Statewatch
that work is also ongoing "to assess the existing national
legal frameworks for data protection."
The ECOWAS Supplementary
Act on Personal Data Protection covers the "collection,
processing, transmission, storage, and use of personal data by
any individual, by government, local authorities, and public
or private legal entities."
National law enforcement
and military bodies can be exempted from the ECOWAS rules, which
cover "any processing of data related to public security,
defence, investigation and prosecution of criminal offences or
State security," unless these bodies are "subject to
such exemptions as are defined by specific provisions stipulated
in other legal texts in force." 
and integrated international policing"
The original proposal
for WAPIS seems to have emerged at a conference hosted in September
2010 by Security & Defence Agenda, "a neutral platform
for discussing defence and security policies."
The event, "the external
dimension of EU police co-operation - towards global and integrated
international policing in West African countries," was organised
by INTERPOL in cooperation with the Belgian Presidency of the
EU and sought to bring together "high-level representatives
of relevant organisations investing in West Africa with other
key participants." 
included INTERPOL; the Belgian Federal Police; NATO, Europol,
the Council of the EU; the French Ministry of the Interior; the
UN Office on Drugs and Crime; as well as academics from the Institute
of Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa. West African police
representatives made up a minority of the speakers, with officers
from Nigeria and Burkina Faso offering their views.
At the conference, "the
Chiefs of Police of the West African Sub-Region declared that,
to meet these challenges" - terrorism and organised crime;
human, drug and weapon trafficking "a system of national
databases connected at regional and global level was needed."
Also at the event was
the EU's Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström,
who argued in a speech that "by increasing operational cooperation
with both EU and international actors, and by strengthening the
capacity of Western African police, it should be possible to
track down, disrupt, and hopefully dismantle, the criminal and
terrorist networks causing instability and crime."
adding emphasis to certain phrases: "the experience of EU
internal security suggests that West African countries could
draw substantial benefits from closer coordination and information
exchange between agencies - police, immigration and customs for
example - both within and across national borders."
West Africa in particular
should be "given priority in terms of international
security concerns," she told the audience. 
The conference drew up
a set of three recommendations on "operational international
police cooperation", later circulated by the Belgian Presidency
at a Council working party, the Committee on Operational Cooperation
on Internal Security (COSI).
They call for closer cooperation
between UN, EU and INTERPOL with law enforcement agencies in
West Africa and "sustainable policing development"
- for example through the development of a centralised regional
criminal database. 
"A key role in
Europe's energy supplies"
While arguments for developing
WAPIS focus on dealing with drugs, organised crime and terrorism,
the EU also has other interests in Africa.
In March 2011, The European
External Action Service released a "strategy for security
and development in the Sahel," a region that includes some
ECOWAS and WAPIS states and which lies east and north of West
The EEAS argued that "improving
security and development in Sahel has an obvious and direct impact
on protecting European citizens and interests and on the EU internal
security situation. It is therefore important to ensure and strengthen
coherence and complementarity between internal and external aspects
of EU security."
A May 2012 study for the
European Parliament also examined the Sahel, arguing that it
represents "something of an extension of the EU's own southern
geopolitical border," and that many of the countries in
the region "play a key role in terms of European energy
supplies, the management of migration flows and the containment
of illicit trafficking and terrorism."
For these reasons, "the
EU cannot afford to let instability fester and spread throughout
the region," which includes Nigeria, from where the Trans
Sahara Gas Pipeline project is "expected to bring Nigerian
gas into Europe." Completing this project "requires
far greater security in the region." 
While there is "political
will" in West African countries to address organised crime
groups, "the operational responses have not yet reached
a very high level. The main problems still relate to: training,
turnover in the operational services, budget, corruption and
internal structures," according to the Council of the EU.
WAPIS is part of a body
of work looking to change this and is under development as efforts
continue to introduce intelligence-led policing techniques across
This is particularly the
case in Nigeria, which, if all goes to plan, will eventually
be connected to WAPIS. "There are ongoing efforts to strengthen
the Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB) on systematic data gathering,"
according to Kemi Asiwaju from the Nigerian NGO CLEEN Foundation.
The aim of this is to
"strengthen intelligence-led policing in the country,"
he said. The CLEEN Foundation hosted a conference on the issue
in 2012. 
According to INTERPOL,
the first WAPIS workshop was held on 28 November last year, and
this year "five other workshops will follow in West African
countries in order to assess in detail the needs of the countries
and to establish a detailed plan for the second and third phases
of the WAPIS programme."
The first of these was
held at the end of January and lasted three days, with Benin
playing host to "some 20 representatives from seven countries
to define the scope of the exchange of police information in
West Africa." 
"The workshop concluded
with the adoption of a comprehensive model of information exchange
to enable the investigation and prosecution of criminals among
the countries of the sub region," says INTERPOL's press
holds inaugural WAPIS workshop, 28 November 2012
 EuropeAid, Who
 INTERPOL, High-level
West African delegation updated on anti-crime initiatives during
INTERPOL visit, 11 October 2011
 Interpol presentation
 INTERPOL, WAPIS Programme, October 2012
 ECOWAS, Supplementary Act
A/SA/1/01/10 on personal data protection within ECOWAS,
16th February 2010
 Security & Defence Agenda, The
external dimension of EU Police Co-operation towards global
and integrated international policing in West African countries,
30 September 2010
 Ibid. at 
 Cecilia Malmström, The
external dimension of EU-police cooperation in West African countries
- towards global and integrated international policing', speech
given at the Interpol/Belgian Presidency Symposium, March 2011Brussels,
Bibliotheque Solvay, 30 September 2010
 Presidency, The
external dimension of EU Police Cooperation - towards a global
and integrated international policing in West African countries,
15331/10, 22 October 2010
 European Union External Action Service, Strategy
for Security and Development in the Sahel,
 European Parliament, Directorate-General for External Policies
of the Union, A
coherent EU strategy for the Sahel, May 2012
 General Secretariat, Coordination
of cooperation in combating organised crime, especially drug
trafficking, originating in West Africa - Report 2011,
7388/1/12 REV 1, 3 April 2012
 CLEEN Foundation, Operationalising
Intelligence led-Policing in Nigeria, Conference proceedings,
 INTERPOL, Boosting
police information exchange across West Africa focus of INTERPOL
workshop, 29 January 2013