Modern-Day Slavery in Africa

November 5, 2009

One problem in Africa is the exploitation of children.  A problem that parents are often times to blame.  This interview from France 24 tells one girl’s story of being sold into slavery by her family:

“We used to have a little girl here from the village by the lake. She was 8 years old when she arrived here and she had been placed and sold seven times.  What happened is, her parents, in order to earn money, would sell he and tell her in 15 days you run away.  The girl would run away, be sold again, and so on.  After a while, she realized what her parents were doing and she decided to escape once and for all.” (2:08-2:33)


The head of U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime Antonio Maria Costa explains one reason why these children are sold into slavery:

“Children’s nimble fingers are exploited to untangle fishing nets, sew luxury goods or pick cocoa.  Their innocence is abused for begging, or exploited for sex as prostitutes, pedophilia or child pornography. Others are sold as child brides or camel jockeys.”


This BBC documentary shows how children are used in fishing villages in the African nation of Ghana:

“I treat them very seriously as if they were just beginning on the job. If you make a mistake, I will give you two lashes.  Then you will not cast the net carelessly again” (3:36- 4:00)

Earlier this year, the Department of Labor released a report on goods suspected of being produced by child or forced labor in 58 countries.

In the report they state:

“The International Labor Organization estimates that over 12 million persons worldwide are working in some form of forced labor or bondage and that more than 200 million children.”

It goes on to list items originating from Africa such as bricks, cobalt, copper, gravel, diamonds, and gold as either being made or extracted with child labor or forced labor in countries such as the Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, and Senegal.

Children are also being forced into marriage in countries like South Africa.  Were girls as young as 11 given away by their families.

In an article earlier this month by the BBC Prince Xhanti Sigcawu, a member of the Xhosa royal family who practices the custom of abducting young girls for marriage, defends the tradition, stating:

“… remains an important part of who we are as people.  There is nothing wrong with the practice when it is done in the right way – which is when the girl is at the right age and the parents are involved and agree.”

Six African nations were put on the TIP Report’s “Tier 3” blacklist as inadequate in their efforts and are subject to U.S. sanctions if they don’t make greater strides to fight modern-day slavery.

In June The African Union (AU) launched a new campaign to combat human trafficking on the continent. AU’s Commissioner for Social Affairs said in an interview with the VOA that it

“…aimed at galvanizing support, against trafficking but also for the implementation of those instruments that have been adopted whether it is at national, regional, continental or international level.”

Many African States still do not have legislation on human trafficking, or only have laws that criminalize some aspects of human trafficking.  Others with laws have weak enforcement.

Now, with the 2010 Soccer World Cup games in South Africa, researchers told The Namibian they were are worried that Southern Africa will see a rise in the number of women and children trafficked from neighboring countries.    They estimate roughly 500 criminal gangs who profit from the sex trade will be preparing for the expected increase in sex-tourism with international visitors to South Africa.

But the problem of modern day slavery is not just a domestic concern for Africa, many women and children are being trafficked to other countries including Italy, the UK, and the US.

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One Response to “Modern-Day Slavery in Africa”

  1. getmobetter Says:

    I feel for Mother Africa there are so many problems my homeland faces. What makes this story so sad is that children are our future and the struggles they face are so mentally and physically crippling. Benin is one of many countries that faces problems around sexual abuse of women and children. Women are the center of life and this abuse is so wrong. I salute those who have taken up this cause in helping these young children. I prayer for Mother Africa and all her children… Great Post… Great Blog…Take Care!!


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