Modern-Day Slavery in Africa

The Persistence of Modern-Day Slavery in Africa: Unveiling the Ongoing Tragedy

For many, the African slave trade is a chapter confined to history books, associated with the abolition of slavery in the United States in 1865. However, the shocking reality is that the nefarious practice of slavery continues to haunt the continent to this day. In a deeply unsettling video released by CNN,[1] we witness a young Nigerian man being sold as a slave on an auction block in Libya—a powerful reminder that thousands of Africans are still trapped in the clutches of modern-day slavery.[2] This article delves into this persistent issue, the countries plagued by this tragedy, shedding light on the alarming scope of African slavery, and the need for urgent intervention.

The Scope and Scale of Modern-Day Slavery in Africa

The Guardian’s report brings to our attention the staggering statistics: approximately one in every 200 people worldwide falls victim to modern slavery—a heartbreaking reality unparalleled in history.[3] Africa, the world’s most impoverished continent, bears the brunt of this despicable trade, boasting the highest enslavement rate globally. Shockingly, an estimated 9.2 million individuals—equivalent to the entire population of Austria—remain trapped in various forms of slavery across Africa. What makes matters worse is that this modern-day slavery often remains invisible to society at large, as it predominantly afflicts marginalized individuals devoid of influence or societal value.[4]

In some African countries, slavery has become an institutionalized practice,[5] firmly entrenched within cultural norms and customs.[6] Despite the unequivocal global ban on slavery, the plight of nations like Mauritania—a country that only officially abolished slavery recently—highlights the pernicious nature of this phenomenon. The legacy of slavery persists, perpetuated through the inheritance of slave status, ensuring that generation after generation remains entrapped in chains of servitude. Such deeply rooted practices necessitate urgent and sustained efforts to break the cycle of bondage that has plagued these societies for centuries.

Auctioning Lives: The Human Trade in North Africa

North Africa, particularly Libya, has emerged as a hub for people trafficking networks and modern-day slave markets. Reports from Aljazeera paint a harrowing picture of hundreds of individuals—primarily West African migrants—being auctioned off like commodities, their dreams of a better life shattered.[7] The Mediterranean Sea, a treacherous route to Europe, often becomes a tragic dead end for these migrants, forcing them back into the clutches of ruthless slave masters and human smugglers. Survivors recount the horrors they endured, where men, women, and even young Libyans fall victim to abduction and subsequent resale.[8] These vulnerable individuals, seeking hope and opportunity, find themselves trapped in a nightmarish cycle of exploitation.[9] It is imperative to focus efforts on combating exploitation in Africa, particularly in North Africa, where the human trade thrives and the plight of victims is most severe.

The Profits and Plight of Victims

Modern-day slave traders have found a lucrative enterprise, surpassing the profits of their 18th and 19th-century counterparts. Siddharth Kara, a renowned slavery expert, reveals that each enslaved individual can generate profits ranging from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Particularly distressing is the prevalence of sex trafficking, where victims yield over four times the revenue compared to those subjected to forced labor. Shockingly, the Global Slavery Index estimates that Libya alone is home to around 47,000 migrants trapped in slavery, enduring unimaginable torment,[10] while neighboring countries like Algeria are also mired in the darkness of this inhumane trade.[11]

A Call to Global Action

The plight of those ensnared in modern-day slavery, including in Nigeria, demands urgent and coordinated action on an international scale. As global citizens, we bear the responsibility to raise awareness, support organizations tirelessly combating slavery, and advocate for comprehensive policy changes to eradicate this gross violation of human rights. By addressing the root causes of slavery, tackling poverty and inequality, and empowering marginalized communities, we can forge a path towards ending modern-day slavery in Africa. Together, we have the power to build a world where every individual can live a life of dignity and freedom.

The persistence of modern-day slavery in Africa is a stark reminder of the darkness that continues to afflict our world. We have shed light on the alarming reality faced by millions, exposing the hidden corners where slavery thrives in plain sight. It is incumbent upon us all to stand up against this egregious violation of human rights, amplifying the voices of the victims, supporting organizations dedicated to combating slavery, and fostering a global movement toward a future where slavery is but a tragic chapter in history.

In addition to these efforts, organizations like GFA World are taking proactive steps to address the root causes of slavery and bring hope to Africa. With initiatives such as their Child Sponsorship Program in Rwanda and their plans to expand their ministry to six other nations, GFA World is actively working to break the cycle of poverty, empower marginalized communities, and bring the transforming power of the Gospel to those in desperate need. Let us unite in our resolve to combat modern-day slavery in Africa and create a world where freedom and dignity are the birthright of all.

Learn more about poverty alleviation through livestock

[1] Elbagir, Nima; Razek, Raja; Platt, Alex; Jones, Bryony. People for sale. CNN Exclusive report. May 7, 2021.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Hodal, Kate. One in 200 people is a slave. Why? The Guardian. Feb. 25, 2019.
[4] Dahir, Abdi Latif. Still in Chains: Africa is Again the World’s Epicenter of Modern Day Slavery. July 23, 2018.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Smith, Bernard. ‘They sell Africans over there’: Libya’s slave trade. Aljazeera. Nov. 28, 2017.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] “Global Slavery Index.” Walk Free. Accessed June 29, 2023.
[11] Ibid.