2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa
Regional Outlook - Sub-Saharan Africa Graphic
Child Labor Information by Country
Child Labor Information by Region
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Meaningful Efforts:

  • Adopted and expanded laws that identify hazardous occupations or activities prohibited for children.
  • Established new mechanisms to coordinate efforts to address child labor.
  • Launched new and expanded existing social programs that aim to increase resources for youth training and development.

Challenges and Existing Gaps:

  • Minimum age laws do not apply to all children.
  • The number of labor inspectors is insufficient for the size of the countries’ workforces.
  • Children, including trafficking victims, are punished for their involvement in the worst forms of child labor.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 70 million children, or 22 percent of all children in the region, are engaged in child labor. Children in the region engage in the worst forms of child labor in forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Children also perform dangerous tasks in agriculture, mining, and domestic work. In 2017, the news media highlighted the use of child labor in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to mine cobalt used in the manufacturing of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries found in electronics.

Seven countries—Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, and Rwanda—strengthened labor protections for children by adopting or amending existing laws or regulations that identify hazardous occupations or activities prohibited for children. Other governments increased their coordination of child labor efforts by establishing new committees or task forces. In 2017, The Gambia’s Department of Social Welfare launched a National Coordination Committee on Child Labor to conduct child labor investigations and streamline the process for prosecuting child labor perpetrators. Benin’s newly formed Inter-Ministerial Task Force to Combat Trafficking in Persons organized a 2-day workshop to finalize a national anti-trafficking policy, action plan, and data collection guidelines. In addition, Nigeria’s Edo State and 10 of Zimbabwe’s 12 provinces established task forces to address child trafficking.

During the reporting period, several governments increased resources for youth training and development. Cameroon financed the Institute of Childhood Rehabilitation Project, which aims to restore a center in Betamba that provides vocational training to youth. Mauritania worked with the ILO to launch a decent work project for migrant youth in the fishing sector, and Uganda partnered with a local bank to fund a program to reduce youth unemployment through enterprise development, job creation, and business skills training. These initiatives, as well as the USDOL-funded Engaged, Educated and Empowered Ethiopian Youth (E4Y) project in Ethiopia, implemented by World Vision in partnership with the International Rescue Committee and the Center for Creative Leadership, provide youth with training and skills that help them secure decent work opportunities.

In many countries in the region, minimum age laws do not apply to all children. This does not conform to international standards, which require that all children be protected under minimum age work laws. In Botswana, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Comoros, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Uganda, minimum age protections do not apply to children outside of formal work relationships. In addition, 85 percent of Sub- Saharan African countries lack a sufficient number of labor inspectors to adequately enforce labor laws. Ghana, for example, had 105 labor inspectors. According to the ILO’s technical advice of a ratio approaching 1 inspector for every 15,000 workers in industrializing economies, Ghana would employ roughly 833 inspectors. Kenya employed only 84 labor inspectors compared with the ILO’s technical advice of 1,321 inspectors. Nigeria employed only 888 inspectors compared to the ILO’s technical advice of 4,005 inspectors, while Uganda employed 47 inspectors compared with the ILO’s technical advice of 500 inspectors and the Republic of the Congo employed 12 inspectors compared with the ILO’s technical advice of 137 inspectors.

Many children, including victims of human trafficking, were arrested, detained, and criminally prosecuted for their involvement in the worst forms of child labor during the year. Criminal law enforcement authorities in Nigeria detained children for their or their parent’s alleged association with Boko Haram, and many children remained in detention facilities for prolonged periods. The armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo arrested 302 children, many for their alleged association with armed groups, and detained them for periods of up to 1 year in cells with adults, during which time they were interrogated and beaten. Somali officials continued to detain children for alleged associations with non-state armed groups, and more than 30 children were prosecuted and given sentences ranging from 8 years to life imprisonment for association with al-Shabaab.

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