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Human trafficking is arguably the most insidious of crimes. The theft of a human life, sold for labour or as a sex slave is a gross indictment of humanity’s potential for evil. And in the context of the rise of an extraordinarily well-funded global terror network, human trafficking has become a crime of monumental proportions – a crucial commodity in the financing of terrorism. The International Labour Organisation estimates that 36 million individuals are trapped in sex slavery, forced or bonded labour and other forms of servitude – an industry worth in the region of $150 billion a year. The harsh reality for those of us in the emerging markets in Africa is that our current, fragmented, financial systems are making the funnelling of money gained from trafficking much easier than it should be.

African countries have a special responsibility because they are part of a region that has historic challenges when it comes to corruption and conflict. This is a continent that has developed greatly over the past two decades – but it’s a region that is still on a journey to strengthen governance and security frameworks. We in Africa have a duty to manage our meteoric economic growth responsibly. Policymakers in Africa recognize the harsh reality that funds gained from human trafficking still cross our borders through shell companies, badly governed banking systems and lax anti-money laundering laws. It is therefore imperative to achieve a unified response across such a vast region. This can only be achieved by continuing to strengthen our governance and compliance framework in order to address human trafficking much more aggressively.

The first step is for each and every nation to build its own regulatory platform against money-laundering. The international community is here to help us do this. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) provides a clear framework for legal, operation and regulatory measures that can be forced upon the banking system – and other transactional industries such as online gambling and real estate brokerage.

Here in Angola we have been reforming our legal framework for many years. Since the introduction of financial compliance laws in 2011, which were targeted specifically at anti-money laundering and the financing of terrorism in financial and non-financial sectors, the Central Bank of Angola (BNA) has introduced a series of mandatory regulations and compliance mechanisms. These include obligations to prove identification across the entire chain – banks have a duty to ensure that the banks they are doing business with are also meeting their legal obligations.

Adoption of global standards is important – but Africa needs to do more. There is an urgent need to go beyond standard anti-money laundering controls. African countries need to work together to develop and implement new monitoring techniques specifically tailored to detecting human trafficking. Again, we can look to the international community and the developed economies for guidance. We can also learn lessons from how the international community has come together to try to combat the smuggling of refugees across the Mediterranean. In November 2015, an international operation that was conducted by Europol led to the arrest of 29 suspected migrant smugglers – individuals believed to be part of a sophisticated network of human traffickers leading all the way to Pakistan. Each migrant on this particular occasion paid around 14,000 euros to the smugglers in order to obtain fake documentation and ‘safe passage’ to Europe where they would be able to claim asylum. More than 40 people died on that journey.

The success of such sting operations is down to intelligence sharing and a concerted effort to identify unusual payments or employment conditions. One human trafficking network was uncovered in Spain after semi-slavery working conditions in Pakistani run restaurants were identified. Individuals worked without pay, holiday or social security in order to pay back their ‘debts’ to the smugglers.

Unearthing these slave networks requires intelligence gathering, intelligence sharing and on-the-ground observation. Africa can learn simple lessons here – they can help financial institutions to identify ‘red flag’ indicators to scan their systems for suspicious transactions. They can empower banks to create their own version of the US Bankers Alliance, which led to the publication of international guidance to help the financial industry identify and report transactions linked to trafficking. In 2013, some of the United States’ largest banking groups joined forces to create a human trafficking working group in conjunction with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. This now acts as a forum for the sharing of best practice and monitoring rules. This is the outcome of two simple ingredients: political will and the buy-in of the private banking sector. Leadership from policymakers must however come first.

Here in Angola, the constitution prohibits any practice that affects the dignity of the human being. This statement was enshrined in law in 2014, in addition to existing laws that regulate the legal regime of foreigners operating in Angola in order to unearth the use of illegal manpower, illegal migration and other crimes.

Developments such as these are patently voluntary. African countries must learn from these developments. African governments and private banks must come together voluntarily to confront this growing evil – and those of us who wish to pursue greater collaboration must work with international bodies, such as Europol, to support African governments less equipped to come to the table. This is no longer an issue that Africa can ignore as we must lead the fight against human trafficking and financial institutions in Africa have a major role to play to eradicate this menace.

Human trafficking in Africa is a serious problem. However, with the help of organizations like the UNODC and IJM, awareness of modern-day slavery in Africa is increasing. The new legislation is helping to protect vulnerable populations and many African countries are joining the fight to end modern-day slavery.


Banele Kunene, National Project Officer,

Twitter: @glo_act

Many dimensions of human trafficking are still poorly understood even though it is now a priority of many African countries. Information about the problem is still limited. While existing bodies of knowledge like the United Nations are working hard to raise public consciousness about human trafficking, it is still not enough to support the programs for action which addresses the problem. There is still no clarity on where migration stops and trafficking starts. This is the major concern of this research as it seeks to answer questions on differences between smuggling and trafficking. This research also explains us who are the traffickers and reasons why women and children are the ones at risk of trafficking.

Trafficking has turned human beings into goods of business that get bought, sold and resold. The forces of supply and demand of the markets even apply to them as products of the business. Human beings become looked at in terms of who is most valuable, who will fetch the highest price and who is useless at the market. The physical and mental torture that these acts cause for the victims and family members is the most degrading things to a human being. Therefore, immediate and rapid measures should be taken to put a stop to this evil trend of human degradation and man’s evil to man.

Human trafficking qualifies as the modern day slavery. By definition, human trafficking involves transporting recruited people from their country of origin to the destination for their exploitation. The people being trafficked are exploited for different purposes such as prostitution, labor, domestic servitude and far more forms of forced labor without worthy payments. Internal trafficking happens when recruiting, transporting and exploitation, on the whole, occur within the country of origin. Trafficking greatly violates an individual right. The rights range from violating the earning capacity, the freedom of movement and control over liberty. Trafficking takes advantage of disasters and the vulnerability of individuals affected by the disaster.

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Human trafficking is associated with various vulnerabilities faced by the women and children in their country of origin. These vulnerabilities expose them to life hardships making them easy targets. Reports have it that between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across the international borders. It represents the third world largest organized crime worldwide.

Therefore, human trafficking in Africa is growing by the day, and with the facts on the table, there is the evidence that not much is getting done. Some countries even consider it to be the most lucrative business for their economy and would not imagine a day without it. Over 90% percent of nations in Africa that operate in human trafficking do it on the trio which means they are the source, the transit points and the destinations for the trafficked ones. If almost all countries participate in trafficking including middle economy countries like South Africa, then the question is who will stop it.

Unemployment, poverty, increase in prostitution, social-cultural practices undermining women, gender imbalances and the demand for sex workers and for cheap labour are the main causes of trafficking in Africa. Human trafficking includes forms such as pornography, the marriage of convenience, forced marriage, sex tourism, and forced labour and illegal adoption. In Africa, countries like Kenya and Lesotho, women and children are the main victims of human trafficking. In many countries people who fall prey to trafficking ordinary women, men and girls living normal lives in their houses, street children and sex workers.

Many organisations have come together to deal with human trafficking together with the governments and the United Nations. Many of them provide funds for victims of trafficking to regain their lives after this ordeal while others put in laws to protect people from being trafficked. The United Nations has come up with various conventions to protect the women and children from being trafficked as well as those who have migrated to new countries. There are also bodies that are making an initiative to educate people on the risk factors of human trafficking and how to avoid being trafficked. Governments have put in the measure like the prosecution of traffickers so as to help reduce the instances of trafficking. Much still has to be done, however, in terms of educating the public and preventing the practice instead of reacting after trafficking having happened, which so far is the common trend of most African nations.

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How To Stop Human Trafficking In Africa

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