Modern-Day Slavery? The Scope of Trafficking in Persons in Africa


Fitzgibbon, Kathleen. 2003. "Modern-Day Slavery? The Scope of Trafficking in Persons in Africa." African Security Studies 12 (1): 81-9.

Author: Kathleen Fitzgibbon


Hundreds of thousands of African men, women and children are being forced into situations of labour and sexual exploitation both on the continent and abroad every year. Internationally, trafficking in persons has been identified as a serious threat to human security and development by governments, pressure groups and the UN. But for many African governments, the problem has only recently been acknowledged. This article, the first in a two-part series on the issue, outlines the types and extent of trafficking in Africa, with a focus on West and Central Africa. Contributing factors, in particular the high profit margins and low risk of arrest and conviction, are reviewed as well as the impact on human rights, public health, community and family development and the growth of organized crime. The second article in the series will consider successful strategies and international programmes, with a focus on the lessons learned for Africa from West Africa. 

Keywords: child soldiers, conflict, internally displaced people, Africa, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, organized crime


  • Fitzgibbon makes note that civil unrest and internal armed conflict are often to blame for human trafficking in Africa, as populations grow increasingly vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, and trafficking when they are destabilized and displaced. She points to such examples as the Sudanese civil war, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and civil wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo-Brazzaville, the DRC, Uganda, Somalia, and Sudan, all of which involve the abduction of men, women, and children for combat, forced labor, and/or sexual exploitation.   

Topics: Armed Conflict, Development, Gender, Women, Men, Girls, Boys, Livelihoods, Sexual Livelihoods, Rights, Human Rights, Security, Sexual Violence, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, Sexual Slavery, Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Sex Trafficking Regions: Africa, Central Africa, West Africa

Year: 2003

© 2023 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at