This paper is part of an ISS project analysing the linkages between organised crime and statehood in Africa and exploring how policy and operational responses could be better coordinated and strengthened across the continent. Organised crime permeates many of the debates on how to build a prosperous Africa that benefits all its inhabitants, yet research on the topic is limited. This paper examines the key factors that enabled the growth of organised crime in Africa and identifies the actors involved. It highlights the main trends that have made Africa so vulnerable to organised crime, identifies implications for the future and proposes responses. Much of the technical and development assistance dedicated to addressing organised crime in Africa has not worked well. The analysis presented here will hopefully catalyse debate between donors and African countries that will offer more effective and coordinated strategies.