ILO Tripartite Conference to Combat Forced Labour, Human Trafficking and Slavery in Africa

A first regional policy consultation process to share best practices, strengthen advocacy and advise on a way forward to combat forced labour and human trafficking in Africa.


  • Poverty and tradition are the major causes of Forced Labour in Africa, with unscrupulous employers and low state capacity or regulatory failure. Coercion and exploitation remain a fundamental part of today’s life. There is a real danger of this situation worsening.
  • Most countries in Africa have ratified the ILO Forced Labour Convention (No.29), the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (No. 105), the Slavery Conventions, the Convention on the Abolition of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (No. 182).
  • The ILO’s Special Action Programme on 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 (FL), human trafficking (THB) and slavery in Africa, as a background to the Lusaka conference that will examine best practices and suggest a way forward in the continent’s fight against these scourges.


  • Forced labour received less attention in Africa, partly because of challenges in collecting reliable information about the extent and nature of the problem.
  • Serious abuses have been reported in a number of countries and rising concern about forced labour and human trafficking has led to tougher national laws in recent years as well as action at regional level.
  • Forced labour in Africa can reflect long-standing patterns of discrimination against vulnerable groups, sometimes linked to the historical legacy of slavery. Also at risk are people in areas of conflict, with the plight of child soldiers an extreme case. Moreover, there is trafficking of people for labour and sexual exploitation, both within and across African countries and to Europe, North America and the Middle East. Women are especially affected
  • While legislation against forced labour often is in place, it is still not sufficiently applied. However. African countries are more and more adopting a tougher legislation which is criminalizing and penalizing slavery and human trafficking.


Almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour – 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys.
  • Out of these almost 21 million people – 3.7 million in Africa – continue to live in situations of forced labour today; to work under extreme coercion, largely in the informal and illegal economy.
  • In terms of prevalence, it is suggested that four in every 1000 Africans may find themselves in situations of forced labour at any given time.
  • 90% of Forced Labour is extracted by individuals or enterprises, as compared to only 10% by political authorities.
  • One in five victims are believed to be exploited for their sexual labour, and women and girls are said to make up 55% of victims.
  • Under-18s represent a quarter of Forced Labour victims, and in recent decades there has been an enormous increase in attention to apparent ‘child victims of trafficking’.
  • More generally, migrants account for a little over 40% of all Forced Labour victims.
  • In total, billions of dollars are said to be lost both to the world and the continental economy, as wages due to coerced labourers go unpaid.


  • To assess the contemporary state of knowledge regarding Forced Labour, Human Trafficking and slavery in Africa, as well as to examine efforts to eradicate them.
  • To share experiences, good practices and lessons learnt regarding prevention, protection and prosecution
  • To facilitate a holistic discussion on the legal, practical and technical modalities needed to form an effective and coordinated strategy to prevent and combat forced labour and human trafficking in Africa.

Expected outcomes

  • To gather and share better information and data that can help spur the drive against forced labour and trafficking in Africa.
  • To provide recommendations that can form the basis for a plan of action for Africa.