How Common Is Human Trafficking in Africa

For the developing world, progress to equality and financial stability is often slow. Many nations of the developing world share similar if not the same issues on the road to change. Common issues include extreme poverty and hunger, lack of proper health care, inequality, forced labor, war, high mortality rates and the spread of diseases. One of the most significant concerns in third world countries is human trafficking. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines human trafficking as “organized criminal activity in which human beings are treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited (as by being forced into prostitution or involuntary labor)”.

Human trafficking and sex trade can be seen everywhere and is no more prevalent than in the continent of Africa. Although Africa is a continent, thirty-one of its fifty-three countries are listed as low human development on the Human Development Index. Fourteen are listed as medium human development and only seven African countries are categorized as high human development. Human trafficking is a major problem in many African countries.

In fact, Equatorial Guinea, located in central Africa, is among the top countries in the world for sex trafficking. Although sex trading in Africa is present in its entirety, it is most noticeable in central, south and eastern Africa. had this to say about human trafficking in Africa, “ Trafficking gangs are flourishing across Africa through the exploitation of hundreds of thousands of migrants, yet nations are failing to dismantle networks due to a lack of coordination”. Knowing the struggle of human trafficking in Africa, the origin, human repression, the fight against repression and how globalization affects its industry, can help end this long existing issue.

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Human trafficking has long been an issue in Africa. Men, women and children are exploited for domestic servitude and commercial sex trade. Every minute more than one person is trafficked across borders and two to four million people are trafficked each year. Throughout the world, more than twenty percent of victims are children, and in some parts of west Africa up to one-hundred percent of victims are children. Traffickers use many tactics to keep their victims hostage, these can sometimes include social isolation, physical violence, emotional violence, confiscation of a passport and drug addiction. World wide, the sex trade industry makes ten billion yearly. South Africa in particular is a hub for the sex trade industry. South Africa is not only a destination location for abroad slaves, but a source as well, with slave owners plucking victims from providence to providence. As mentioned, most victims in South Africa are from South Africa, but others come from countries such as Thailand, Ethiopia, Ghana, Lesotho, Bulgaria, Mozambique, Eswatini, and Tanzania. In Benin CIty in Nigeria, almost all of the women are taken as sex slaves to European countries from a young age. In the article “Africa fights the people trade” from, it tells a story of a young girl from Benin City, Nigeria, who was deceived into going to Italy for work. When she arrived, she was forced into prostitution, often receiving beatings if she did not cooperate with her captors.

The young woman explained how she was once in a coma for three days after a harsh beating for failing to earn enough. In the year 2000 the Trafficking Victims Protection Act was created by U.S. congress in order to prosecute traffickers, prevent trafficking and helping victims and survivors. There are three tiers representing the extent of which a country follows the TVPA legislations. Tier 3 is the worst, identifying countries whose governments do not fully meet the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so. There are no African countries that can be placed into the tier 1 category, and many are in tier 3. The main causes of slavery in Africa have been because of violent conflict and war, poor economic conditions, humanitarian crisis and environmental crisis. According to, all of these conditions are causes that lead sub-saharan Africa to make up 13.6 percent of the total global enslaved population. The fight against human trafficking in Africa has been bleak. The government has done little to help or protect trafficking victims. In fact, in an article by, it reports this about the government’s handling of sex trade cases, “In six cases, the government’s response was cause for concern; four victims reportedly disappeared, one was reported missing from the police station and may have been returned to her traffickers, and the government incarcerated the sixth victim for holding a fraudulent visa”.

Clearly the government has a lack of concern for the hundreds of victims that are enslaved everyday. As explained before, not a single African country can be labeled into the tier 1 category, meaning no government of any African country is fully committed to ending human trafficking. Because of government discrimination and living conditions, lack of employment and lack of education many women and children find themselves turning to choices that may lead to human trafficking and sex work. says, “Driven by poverty, conflict, discrimination and injustice, says the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), hundreds of thousands of people in developing countries fall prey to sophisticated trafficking gangs every year — living and too often dying in harsh conditions on the shadowy margins of societies far from home. Fearful of the authorities and forced to work as prostitutes and laborers under threat of violence, many find no escape”. In some cases, the governments have worked to create awareness of sex trafficking and educate border patrol agents on signs to look out for. However, lack of financial and human resources, unenforced laws and weak border protection, have allowed trafficking gangs to continue to prey on new and innocent victims.

It has become difficult for countries to focus their attention to one location. Some countries are source countries for victims, others are destination countries, and even yet, some countries become unintended destination countries when traffickers become stuck en-route to Europe. In Africa, schools called daaras were available in rural areas to provide religious education to students from poor families. The students would go away and learn an education, similar to American college. However in the 1970s and 1980s many faced hard financial times and moved to city areas. Many daaras have now become a place were children are forced to beg on the streets or face sexual abuse from teachers, all the while the truth is hidden from the children’s parents. The government needs to distinguish real education schools from the fake ones. Trafficking is making slow progress to becoming stopped. Over time African governments have been slowly implementing measures to end trafficking and help victims. Since most African countries are poor, the process is long. Wealthy and destination countries also need to take a step up in curbing the demands for sex trade victims. The main theory that can be applied as a whole to many African countries is dependency. Wealthy countries continue to grow at the expense of Africa. Africa is exploited for diamonds, copper and other natural resources.

And now, Africa is being exploited by taking innocent victims and trafficking them to wealthy European and North American countries. The fight for development is suppressed by wealthy western capitalist countries who refuse to see African countries as independent and exploit them for their natural resources. Sex trafficking gangs deceive women and children of Africa and western world companies and businesses take advantage of cheap labor and production costs. With such high levels of poverty, war, crime and inequality, many Africans have become dependent on help and aid from first world countries. For the most part, globalization has had a devastating effect on human trafficking. The article “Human Trafficking Casts Shadow on Globalization” by, tells a story of a twenty-six year old woman from the Czech Republic who was promised a lucrative job in Germany from a man who came into her waitressing workplace.

When she arrived she was gang raped and forced to work in Amsterdam’s Red Light District as a sex slave, often providing sexual favors for up to thirty-six men a night. Because of globalization, sex traffickers and gangs are more easily able to entice and deceive. Because of the internet, fake jobs can easily be posted and accepted, making the process to become enslaved much more smooth and streamlined. Globalization has created income inequality and causes those living in poorer African countries to search for a better job. Often they are forced into indentured servitude or human trafficking in order to make the journey to a more wealthier and opportunistic country. explains the problems of globalization and complications with destination country laws, “Given the ease at which migrant workers can find jobs in America, labor trafficking exists because employers have full control of their illegal workers, to pay or not to pay, as well as to threaten or not to threaten with deportation. To further complicate the matter, migrants in forced labor situations who paid a smuggler prior to entering the United States, cannot fit into the narrowly constructed definition of a human trafficking victim.

These migrants are viewed as violators of immigration laws, rather than trafficked individuals”. Overall, only the dark side of globalization has been made relevant in the sex trade industry. However in some cases, globalization has made society more aware of what is happening and what needs to be done to stop it. In conclusion, human trafficking has become a large problem in African countries. In addition to sex trafficking, forced labor and servitude has become significant. The government has done little to help victims, often blatantly turning a blind eye to the problem. Not a single African country can be named into the tier 1 TVPA category of being compliant towards trafficking legislation. Dependency plays a large role in fueling the sex trafficking industry. Many African nations are taken advantage of and exploited by larger capitalist nations. Poverty, war, lack of job opportunities, weak laws and no government help has caused many to search for hope elsewhere, often being deceived or tricked into harsh conditions. Globalization has for the most part only created more of a problem for those who are embarking on the fight against human trafficking. Destination countries need to work on lessening demand and helping victims and source countries need to work on preventing trafficking gangs from entering and abducting citizens. Africa has been making slow progress toward stopping human trafficking. There are many factors that play into the fight against this disgrace against humanity, as mentioned above. Only time will tell if the sex trade industry in Africa will grow or diminish.

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How Common Is Human Trafficking in Africa. (2022, Feb 04). Retrieved from

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