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Laws and Legal Systems

Human Trafficking In Africa; A socio-economic crisis

Human trafficking is a global problem that affects people almost all over the world. Although it is difficult to prove statistics on the extent of the crime, rumors indicate that it is increasing. Approximately, an average of 40.3 million people were reported to be in modern slavery in 2017 while the total annual revenue from human trafficking varies from one source to another, it is estimated to be between USD 5 and 42 billion, the practice is common on different continents of the world but it is endemic in Africa.


Africa has been ravaged by a series of crises, including high unemployment, poverty, hunger, corruption, political and economic instability, among many others. Tensions and insurgency have exacerbated these problems, leading to internal displacement of people. The quest for survival in these socio-political and economic crises has produced larger waves of immigration from one African country to another; from one African region to another, and from Africa to other continents. Although some immigration activities are legal, many other activities are carried out illegally. At the same time, criminals often deceive immigrants and traffic them in a world of varying degrees of exploitation. Although the exact number and demographics of trafficked persons from Africa are unknown, reports indicates that between 2017 and 2020 alone, a total of 108,613 individual cases of trafficking have been recorded whereas a total of 6-9 countries were found victims of human trafficking in sub-Saharan Africa.


The scale of human trafficking in Africa comes from alerts issued by activists, civil societies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), especially in Nigeria, Togo, South Africa and the Republic of Benin, to name a few. Anecdotal reports indicate that the rate of human trafficking in West Africa has been alarming since the mid-1990s. Child trafficking also became prominent in West Africa, with targets on children between the ages of 3 and 17years old. Although great efforts have been made to combat human trafficking in Africa at the international, national and regional levels, it is regrettable that the success achieved is limited.
The nature, scope and complexity of human trafficking in Africa is discussed in this article. Starting with the concept of human trafficking, we outline human trafficking in Africa; the driving factors of human trafficking and recommendations for effective response measures.


In Africa, estimates determine that more than 40 million people live in modern slavery, making it more rampant than at any time in human history. 23% of global human trafficking occurs in Africa according to the 2018 Global Slavery Index, there are more than 9.2 million people living in modern slavery in some parts of Africa. This represents almost a quarter of all human trafficking worldwide. Among the countries with the highest number of victims per thousand in Africa, Eritrea has the highest prevalence rate at 93 per thousand, followed by Burundi with 40 and the Central African Republic with 22.3.
Furthermore, 40% of trafficked persons in Africa are in forced labor. According to the Global Slavery Index, an estimated 37% of victims of human trafficking face forced labor on the African continent. Trafficking in labor can take many forms, including agricultural, mining and fishing activities. Traffickers often force victims to work long hours in extremely dangerous conditions and potentially abusive environments, with little pay.


Also, not more than half of human trafficking victims are forced into marriage. For most, traffickers often force about 63% of victims to marry without their consent, many of whom are identified as children. This could be as a result of exchanging this young ones for money, debt settlement or family disputes without considering the impacts on the innocent child. Forced marriage can lead to sexual and physical abuse, domestic slavery and sexual exploitation.
In Kenya, Zimbabwe and Ghana, taking advantage of people’s fear of contracting HIV, girls as young as 8 years old are sold as brides because of their puberty. Children from war-torn West African countries are often sold as slave labor, working on tea, cotton and cocoa plantations. Girls from Togo were trafficked to work as domestic servants away from home. According to some reports, in Malawi, European tourists have driven the demand for child prostitution, and some of these children have been sent to Europe as sex slaves. The reports describe the vicious cycle of abuse, in which child victims later become abusers. In Tanzania, trafficked children subsequently returned to their villages to recruit new victims to work in the country’s mines.


African countries need to recognize that human trafficking, especially children, is a major violation of human rights and can have serious consequences for economic development. Many African countries have not yet ratified the major international conventions that prohibit trade among humans. The trade is fueled by sexual and economic exploitation.

By Alexander Asiedu Ofori

A passionate writer, content creator and a Pan-African

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