Child labour in Africa

The latest ILO global estimates on child labour indicate that Africa has the largest number of child labor; 59 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 are involved with hazardous work. More than one in 5 children in Africa are employed against their will in stone quarries, farms, and mines. Poverty remains the major reason behind this issue.

Globally, the number of child labourers has declined by one third since 2000, from 246 million to 168 million. But Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the region with the highest incidence of child labour with more than one in five children in child labour.

The percentage of children in hazardous work is highest in the Sub-Saharan Africa region (10 per cent). The number of child labourers also decreased in Sub-Saharan Africa (by 6 million). The net impact of these regional trends is that the population of child labourers is becoming more concentrated in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. According to the regional distribution of child labour for the 5-17 years age for 2008-2012, Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 30 per cent of all 5-17 year-olds in child labour.

Although the decline in child labour during 2008-2012 offers some cause for optimism, Sub-Saharan Africa is still the region where children face by far the highest risk of child labour and also the region where progress has been slowest and least consistent.

An increasing number of African countries are developing National Action Plans (NAPs). However, progress towards the achievement of the targeted goals is slow. Nearly half of the 54 countries in the region have yet to begin designing their NAPs. There is a great need to improve and scale up implementation efforts in nearly all countries. Partly because child labour programs tend to receive low attention within national development priorities.

ILO child labour strategies and policy responses

The ILO identified the need to reinforce action for a continued focus on Africa. An enhanced focus and support for the development and full implementation of national action plans for the elimination of child labour, especially its worst forms, and the scaling up and replication of pilot projects, knowledge building and integration of child labour into national development agendas is a priority in Africa.

Some ILO member States have formulated National Action Plans with the aim of eliminating the worst forms of child labour in the shortest possible time. The ILO is supporting several countries in the region in this regard, a key objective being the development of national institutional and technical capacities for the effective implementation of National Action Plans.

In order to fight child labour in Africa, the ILO has now launched a resource centre for Africa: Clic-AFRICA. This online centre will keep track of child issues in specific African countries on a regular basis.


  1. Launch of the IPEC Project for Uganda "Support for the preparatory phase of the Uganda National Action Plan for the Elimination of child Labour" (SNAP)

    24 April 2009

    SNAP, a new four-year project funded by the US Department of Labor, will assist the Ugandan government to further strengthen the country's legal, policy, institutional and social foundations for large-scale action against the worst forms of child labour. Interventions are being designed to tap into components of the Ugandan Decent Work Country Programme as well as opportunities offered by other ongoing political, social and economic development programmes and policies. The project launch will take place on 24 April 2009 in Kampala to coincide with the 90th Anniversary Celebrations of the ILO and is being organized with the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, the Federation of Uganda Employers, and two workers' organizations - the National Organization of Trade Unions and the Central Organization of Free Trade Unions.

    1. Vocational training and apprenticeship: An alternative to underage work and the worst forms of child labour in French-speaking Africa

      15 February 2009

      This brochure is the product of IPEC’s project in Francophone Africa supported by the Government of France. It presents the approach, interventions and results obtained in promoting vocational training and apprenticeship for children in the 13-17 year range as an alternative to child labour. The three-year project, which runs to the end of 2009 has been carrying out programmes in eight countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Senegal and Togo. (Only in French.)