Combatting Forced Labour and Trafficking in Africa: Current Responses and a Way Forward

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Two centuries after the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, the
ILO estimates that almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour, of which approximately 3.7 million are found in Africa. Most victims are exploited by private individuals or enterprises, while an estimated 2 million are forced to work for state institutions or rebel groups. Those who exact forced labour generate vast illegal profits and deprive workers of the fair share of their labour. Forced labour is often found in sectors which are either unprotected or poorly
protected by labour law and where informal employment arrangements are common. Domestic work, agriculture, construction, certain parts of global manufacturing, as well as the sex and entertainment industry are most frequently cited as industries prone to forced labour. The ILO’s Director-General, in his message on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery (2 December 2012), reminds us that the struggle against slavery in its
modern forms continues. These practices defy the principle that “labour is not a commodity” as affirmed by the international community in the ILO’s Constitution. He also called for enhanced action to end all forms of modern-day
slavery: First, governments must implement national legislation and policies to address crimes of forced labour. Second, businesses and workers must be vigilant in preventing forced labour across supply chains and in identifying violations of workers’ rights. Third, barriers to cooperation nationally and internationally must be overcome to permit coordinated and mutually reinforcing action by different actors. Fourth, as poverty is a major contributor to the continued existence of forced labour, policies centred on jobs, income, and
the establishment of nationally defined social protection floors are vital to end modern day slavery. Acknowledging major implementation gaps with regards to laws and policies against forced labour, the ILO’s Governing Body decided to put the issue on the agenda of the 2014 International Labour Conference. The objective is to discuss new standards to supplement the ILO’s Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) in order to strengthen prevention, protection and compensation measures. It is in this context that the ILO’s Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL) and its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) seek to assess the state of knowledge on forced labour, human trafficking and slavery in Africa, as a background to the Lusaka conference that will consider best practices and suggest a way forward in the continent’s fight against them. This report provides a snapshot of what is currently known about coercive labour practices in Africa, what is and is not
happening in response, and what should be considered to take the battle forward.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationGeneva
PublisherInternational Labour Office
Number of pages67
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Forced labour
  • Trafficking
  • Africa
  • trafficking policy


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