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June 01, 2015
Verite to Assess Trafficking Risks in Sub-Saharan Africa
    by Robert Kropp

With economies improving and ample natural resources, the region is at heightened risk for human trafficking violations.

Despite persistent challenges, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the sub-Saharan region of Africa has been on an upward trend for many years. In 2012, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) reported that per capita GDP there has grown for 15 consecutive years; more recently, the World Bank noted that GDP continued its increase in 2014, albeit by a moderate “average of about 4.5 percent compared with 4.2 percent in 2013.”

Verite, the Massachusetts-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) whose audits of working conditions in emerging economies seek to ensure that the private sector takes responsibility for human rights, recently described economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa as “booming.” The growth has been “driven largely by expanding natural resource exploitation, particularly in the oil, gas and other extractive sectors, as well as in agricultural production, fisheries, and forestry,” Verite states.

Describing the continent's economic potential as “truly transformative,” the
African Development Bank reported in 2013 that “Africa has 120bn barrels of oil reserves, no less than half of Saudi Arabia, and 600 million hectares of uncultivated arable land, half of the world total.”

Too often in developing nations, natural resource exploitation is accompanied by severe human rights violations, a trend that Verite notes is occurring already. “Headlines are filled with stories of people displaced by internationally capitalized mines and large-scale agricultural ventures, of women and children forced to work as sexual slaves or as laborers in hazardous conditions in mines or on fishing boats, and of desperate migrants risking their lives in unsafe boats or being abused by foreign employers in jobs they didn’t agree to and can’t escape,” the NGO states.

Verite has announced that it has partnered with the
American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative and Solidarity Center in an “an ambitious two-year research project to map out the scale and distribution of global economic engagement across the sub-Saharan Africa region. The project will focus on assessing the patterns and risks of human trafficking and forced labor associated with global supply chains in sub-Saharan Africa, and on identifying best practices that companies and governments can employ to prevent trafficking and other associated human rights abuses in these contexts.”

The initiative, Verite states, “will represent an important, regional supplement to our recent work on global supply chains in support of federal contractors and other businesses, as well as government contracting officials, as they comply with Executive Order 13627 on Strengthening Protections Against Trafficking in Persons in Federal Contracts.”

Verite is active in the
Know the Chain initiative, which was launched in 2013 to provide transparency around issues of slavery in corporate supply chains. Other members of the initiative, which seeks to “assist companies in building ethical and fair supply chains free of forced labor and trafficking,” include the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and the Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN).

Regarding its sub-Saharan initiative, Verite states, “Our hope is that companies and governments will ultimately use these tools to ensure that they are doing all they can to ensure that no harm comes to African people from international economic investment in the region, and that investment instead contributes to improved livelihoods and responsible development.”


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