African countries agree measures to curb growth of human trafficking

A concerted global war on a new multi-million dollar business in human trafficking is heating up and African countries are mapping out strategies to ensure success of their effort.

In recent decades, Africa suffered and even today, continues to suffer from the socio-economic problem variously referred to as brain drain. But a disturbing phenomenon has since grown also within the drain fire: The dehumanisation and sale (sex trade) of human bodies mostly in Europe but with its origin in Nigeria plus many other countries in the south of the hemisphere.

So experts from the African Union (AU) as well as those from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) adopted far-reaching measures they believe will curb the growing menace of human trafficking across the regions of the continent.

At the end of a three-day convergence that ushered in the launch of AU Commission’s initiative against Trafficking in Persons (AU.COMMIT) campaign with the rest of the continent’s Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in Abuja, the experts agreed to set up a reporting mechanism on the implementation of the Action Oriented Paper (AOP) and generate a true status continental report on the state of trafficking in Africa.

No fewer than 43 of the 53 countries in Africa including 13 of the 15 nations in West Africa have ratified the Palermo protocol yet it was widely reported that organ trafficking has now been added to the hydra-headed nature of the scourge while impunity has become a major obstacle in the fight against migratory abuse and what has often been referred to as modern slavery.

The statistics are also frightening: The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that about 29,000 young men and women from sub-Saharan Africa are illegally transported to Europe and the Americas yearly with Nigeria contributing a sizeable proportion of that number.

The United States (U.S.) Department of State estimates that of the 600,000 to 800,000 men, women and children trafficked across international borders each year, approximately 80 per cent are women and girls.

United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reports that across the world, there are over one million children entering the sex trade yearly and that approximately 30 million children have lost their childhood through sexual exploitation over the past 30 years.

Mind bungling as the statistics reveal, the business dimension is even more dreadful because it constitutes the oil in its furnace. Human trafficking, according to the UN’s figures for 2008-2009, has now created a $32 billion global business.

Besides the translation of the Ouagadougou Action Plan into measures for preventing trafficking, prosecuting traffickers and providing assistance to victims of trafficking, the Abuja technical meeting had also sought to merge the AU.COMMIT with the AFRICA-UNITE campaign on violence against women, which was launched in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2010.

The Ouagadougou action plan against trafficking of especially women and children was adopted in 2006 and by January 2007, the AU further adopted the Executive Council decision (EX.CL/Dec.324x), which endorsed it while the IOM was enjoined to assist member states with the development and implementation of sound migration policies aimed at addressing trafficking in human beings.

When the experts rounded up, there emerged a report which said the institutional cooperation would now involve the setting up of a strategic partnership and cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination in Africa, the Arab world and other regions through the AU-LAS dialogue, European Union (EU)-Africa strategic partnership and others of similar hue. They also revealed that machinery has been set in motion to work out a common set of standards to arrest the scourge.

The report said further that countries have now been empowered to set up anti-human trafficking national taskforces anchored in a well resourced and relevant institutions responsible for coordinating and implementing activities of the taskforces. The experts urged governments on the continent to develop legislative frameworks in line with existing protocols and instruments in combating trafficking in human beings.

The new president of the ECOWAS commission and Ghanaian Victor Gbeho noted that human trafficking is also a serious challenge to the security and welfare of women and children all over the world as it “affects virtually every country and region and involves the deprivation of its victims of their basic dignity and rights as human beings. It has become a worldwide criminal business enterprise, perhaps second only to trafficking in drugs and weapons in its profitability. It also involves the exploitation of the most vulnerable, mostly women and children usually in the contexts of poverty, weak or transition economies, insecurity and political instability”.

There were broad observations by the league of Arab states as origin, transit and destination region, also by the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), which had considered the free movement of regional citizens and its impact on anti-human trafficking efforts.

So too were the submissions by the ILO, UNICEF, UNPF for Women (UNIFEM), UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as well as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Extracts from a longer article at


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