2012 Regional Outlook
Challenges and existing gaps:
2012 Assessment Breakdown
Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Niger, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania
Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Somalia, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea
As a region, Sub-Saharan Africa has the second largest number of child laborers (59 million) in the world, with one in five children a child laborer. The ILO reports that Sub-Saharan Africa lags behind other regions of the world in terms of progress towards the elimination of child labor, with over 28.8 million children ages 5 to 17 engaged in the worst forms of child labor. While the emerging face of Sub-Saharan Africa is one of promise, progress, and stability, there is still much to be done on the continent to address the worst forms of child labor, particularly in dangerous forms of agriculture and domestic service.
ILO Conventions 138 and 182, as well as the CRC, have been largely ratified in the region. During the reporting period, numerous countries ratified the Palermo Protocol and/or the Optional Protocols to the CRC, including Burundi, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Republic of Congo, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. However, 42 percent of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have yet to ratify all of these international standards. Read More of the region summary
Several governments addressed occupational safety and health concerns for working children by adopting or updating lists of hazardous work prohibited for children. These governments include Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, and Malawi. However, 45 percent of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa still do not have hazardous work lists. Despite this, several government strengthened legal protections for children during the year. The Governments of Niger and Sierra Leone increased protections for children engaged in commercial sexual exploitation; the Government of Mali passed a comprehensive law to prohibit trafficking in persons; and the Government of Comoros adopted a new labor code that addresses the worst forms of child labor.
In 2012, many governments launched or expanded efforts to improve access to basic education. The Government of Kenya signed into law its 2012 Basic Education Bill, which strengthened compulsory education provisions, and the Government of Swaziland extended its free education program from grade three to five. However, there is still an urgent need for governments in Sub-Saharan Africa to remove barriers to access basic education. For instance, seven countries lack a compulsory education age, four of which are in Southern Africa. Fifteen countries also have compulsory education ages below the general minimum age for employment of 14 years. Children are also at risk of entering the workforce at a young age due to school related costs and the limited number of schools in Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, in half of all countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, many children are not registered at birth, so do not have birth certificates. The lack of birth registration is a significant barrier for children because governments require birth certificates to enroll in school or access social services.
Almost half of all countries in West Africa took steps to improve enforcement of child labor laws by increasing the number of labor inspectors and providing training to labor inspectors. The Governments of Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia also increased their number of labor inspectors. In addition, the Government of Lesotho established a Children's Court to enforce all criminal laws to protect children against the worst forms of child labor. Sixty-five percent of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have also established monitoring and coordinating mechanisms to manage government-wide efforts to combat child labor. In 2012, the Governments of Ethiopia and Cape Verde established national committees to coordinate efforts to eliminate child labor and the Government of Uganda created a Counter Trafficking in Persons Office and an inter-ministerial Task Force to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts. Nonetheless, despite these improvements, the majority of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa still lack the ability to effectively enforce even the basic legal frameworks on child labor that they may have established. Enforcement bodies lack resources, personnel, and training, which impede effective inspections and subsequent imposition and collection of sanctions on child labor violations.
There are several countries in Africa that recruit child soldiers and are complicit in the use of forced child labor. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, although the government signed a UN-backed action plan to stop the recruitment of children in armed conflict, some elements of the Congolese National Army and armed rebel groups continued to abduct and forcibly recruit children for use in armed conflict and for labor and sexual exploitation. Although the Government of Central African Republic had previously signed an agreement to demobilize child soldiers, armed groups on all sides of the conflict increased the use of child soldiers in 2012. In Mali, non-state groups including pro-government militias and government-supported militias, recruited children for military purposes. In Eritrea, the government required, as a pre-condition for graduation, that all students complete their final, 12th year of schooling and military training at the Sawa Educational Institution in remote Western Eritrea, where they carried out various construction, mining, and agricultural activities.
Although many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have implemented some of the suggested actions for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor from USDOL's report last year, there is still much to be done. There is a pressing need for governments to increase their efforts to effectively protect children from exploitation through improvements in legislation and access to education and, in particular, through the enforcement of child labor laws and targeted social programs for children engaged in the worst forms of child labor.