About the Project

Trafficking Risk in Sub-Saharan African Supply Chains

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About This Project
The website Trafficking Risk in Sub-Saharan African Supply Chains is the product of a two and a half year-long research project implemented by Verité in partnership with the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and the Solidarity Center, with assistance from the African Labour Research Network (ALRN). The project was funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons under grant number S-SJTIP-14-GR-1042, “Identifying Trafficking Risk and Best Practices for Combating Risk in sub-Saharan Africa.”

The overarching goal of the project was to develop a comprehensive framework and body of resource material for analyzing global supply chains and associated human trafficking risks in the sub-Saharan African region (SSA), so as to assist governments and businesses to identify and combat trafficking risk in the region through effective programs, policies, and legal frameworks.

The research consisted of the following elements:

  • Documentation of the most significant global supply chains that reach into SSA;
  • Documentation of trafficking in persons (TIP) risks associated with these global supply chains, both in general, and, where possible, in specific African country contexts;
  • Examination of the country-specific legal and policy frameworks in which global supply chains operate in SSA, and in which TIP takes place and/or is prevented and prosecuted; and
  • Identification of company and industry practices that either enable or help prevent TIP in African supply chains.

Verité carried out the research on supply chains, TIP risks, and corporate and industry practices, and developed the project website. In total, reports on 22 commodity supply chains, 6 overarching sectors, and all 49 sub-Saharan African countries were completed. In addition, ABA ROLI developed a comprehensive methodology for examining country-level legal and policy factors relevant to TIP, applied this methodology in 8 individual countries, and conducted 2 field-based case studies and 2 desk research-based case studies. Solidarity Center worked with Africa-based partners at ALRN to carry out 5 additional field-based case studies.

The approach and content reflected in the website Trafficking Risk in Sub-Saharan African Supply Chains complements and builds upon a previous collaboration between Verité, Made in a Free World, and the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to create the Responsible Sourcing Tool website. Responsible Sourcing Tool provides resources to enable companies to understand TIP risk in their supply chains based on the characteristics of the economic sector in which they operate, and the characteristics of the countries in which they use and/or source labor. In addition, Responsible Sourcing Tool provides model compliance tools and other resources to assist federal contractors and others to prevent TIP in their supply chains.

Trafficking Risk in Sub-Saharan African Supply Chains complements Responsible Sourcing Tool by offering a framework for examining the nature of TIP risk in specific, geographically-situated supply chains. The pages under the “Explore by Commodity” tab present information about the industry characteristics and key TIP risk factors associated with key export commodities in the African context. Country reports included in the “Explore by Country” tab examine the role of individual African countries within global commodity supply chains, and analyze the risk factors for TIP and vulnerability to TIP faced by workers within specific African country contexts. The country reports also summarize documented instances of TIP and TIP risk factors associated with key export industries in each country. In addition, the methodology developed by ABA ROLI provides a tool for examining the relation of legal and policy frameworks to risk of TIP in individual country contexts.


Gift of the United States Government

This website was funded by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.

Methods and Sources
Country Reports

A core element of the Trafficking Risk in Sub-Sarah African Supply Chains website is the “Explore by Country” tab, which allows users to access country reports all 49 sub-Saharan African countries. The purpose of these country reports is to provide information on political, socio-economic, and policy/legal factors that have an impact on trafficking risk in each country, as well as more detailed information on trafficking risk associated with key export supply chains in that country.

The country reports have been based on desk research, relying to the extent possible on a standardized set of authoritative, publicly available, and regularly updated sources that are available for all (or nearly all) African countries. This approach facilitates comparison between countries, and will also enable maintenance of the country data on the site over time.

The main sections of the country reports are the Overview, U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report Summary, Migrant and Other Vulnerable Populations, Exports and Trade, Trafficking in Persons Risk Factors Analysis, and Documented Trafficking and Trafficking Risk in Key Commodity Supply Chains.

The Overview section provides brief narrative information on political, economic and social context to orient the reader. This section draws primarily from sources such as CIA World Fact Book (politics) and World Bank country profiles (economy). Social information is supplemented with country profiles from sources such as UNDP, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report Summary provides the 2017 TIP tier ranking and a summary of trafficking risk mentioned specifically in context of potentially exported supply chains. It then links to full Trafficking in Persons Report permanent link for further information.

In the Migrant and Other Vulnerable Populations section, readers can find information on scope and national origin of migrants and other vulnerable populations (refugees, internally-displaced persons, asylum seekers) as well as out-migration patterns. Sources used include IOM migration databases and UNHCR country statistics.

National export economies are summarized in the Export and Trade section. Given the project focus on global supply chains, export data has been used instead of production data. Export data is primarily drawn from the International Trade Centre (ITC). The ITC dataset itself relies primarily on UN COMTRADE data, maintained by the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), which is regarded as the most authoritative source of trade statistics according to economists consulted.  The ITC dataset is particularly helpful because in the event that UN COMTRADE information is not available or has gaps (common in developing economies and SSA), ITC integrates mirror data (data from import partners) to create a more complete picture of trade flows.

The heart of each country report is the Trafficking in Persons Risk Factors Analysis section. This section describes country-based TIP risk in four main categories: Legal/Policy, Political, Socio-Economic and Environmental factors. Factor categories are based on the trafficking risk factor framework developed by Verité for Responsible Sourcing Tool, with a focus on factors most relevant in the African context.

Finally, each country report also provides information on trafficking risk in key exported supply chains. For each selected commodity, a description of the national supply chain is provided along with any documented credible evidence of trafficking or trafficking risk in the specific, country-based supply chain. Where available, findings from field research case studies conducted by ABA ROLI or ALRN have been embedded within or linked to this section.

Commodity Reports

Reports are included on the following commodities:

  1. Apparel
  2. Cocoa
  3. Coffee
  4. Copper
  5. Cotton
  6. Diamonds
  7. Fish
  8. Flowers
  9. Fruits and Nuts
  10. Gemstones other than Diamonds
  11. Gold
  12. Livestock
  13. Mineral Fuels
  14. Palm Oil
  15. Rubber
  16. Sugar
  17. Tantalum, Tungsten, Tin (Conflict Minerals)
  18. Tea
  19. Tobacco
  20. Vanilla
  21. Vegetables
  22. Wood (Forestry)

This list was selected by cross-referencing key export commodities from sub-Saharan African countries with preliminary research on evidence of trafficking risk.

The commodity reports are intended to describe trade and production of sub-Saharan African supply chains of targeted commodities, including top exporters, export trends, and regional features of production. They also provide an analysis of TIP risk factors tied to supply chains, providing examples from key exporting countries and a summary of key risks.  Finally, via charts embedded in the report, they allow for comparison of top exporting countries of a given commodity on relevant TIP risk factors. For example, most reports include a chart showing the UN Human Development Index scores for the top exporters of the target commodity.

Each report includes the following sections: Summary of Key Trafficking in Persons Risk Factors in (Commodity) Production; Overview of (Commodity) Production in sub-Saharan Africa; and Key Documented Trafficking in Persons Risk Factors in (Commodity) Production.

The Summary of Key Trafficking in Persons Risk Factors section provides the reader with a snapshot of the most relevant risks documented in sub-Saharan African production of the good, based on an analysis of the supply chain’s production dynamics, work force, labor supply chain, and other contextual factors. The checklist was adapted from the trafficking risk factor framework Verité developed for Responsible Sourcing Tool, with a focus on issues most relevant to the African context.

The Overview section provides information on exports and trade of the target commodity, as well features of production and supply chains for the commodity within the African context. As with the country reports, the Exports and Trade section of the commodity reports uses the ITC data set and focuses on export rather than production data due to the project focus on supply chains. Trade data for specific commodities was identified by using ITC data at either a 2 digit or 4 digit level of specificity, depending on the level of granularity relevant to an analysis of labor force issues. For example, the production of raw sugar vs processed sugar vs. confectionaries all involve different kinds of labor, with differing degrees of associated structural vulnerability to trafficking. Typically, the higher-level, two digit codes are more removed from the bottom of the supply chain, which is where the riskiest labor tends to be found, but this varies by sector. The Overview section also describes the nature of production for each commodity and the structural features of its supply chain in the region, with an emphasis on the dynamics that have labor and TIP implications (such as estate vs smallholder production, commercial vs. artisanal mining, complexity of supply chains, time-sensitive aspects of production, and so forth).

The Key Documented Trafficking in Persons Risk Factors in (Commodity) Production section provides examples of risk in terms of work force, labor supply chain, and other contextual issues from key producing countries. Information for this section of each commodity report was gathered via desk research among academic, media, and NGO sources. Researchers created a standardized system for tagging materials to align findings with the Risk Factors typology, using a qualitative data tagging platform developed for this purpose. The examples provided are not meant to be an exhaustive catalogue, but rather to illustrate the range of trafficking risk in a particular commodity, and to provide preliminary insight into the nature of those risks.

Sector Reports

Sector reports are provided for Agriculture, Extractives, Fishing, Forestry, Manufacturing (Apparel), and Service Sectors Associated with Exported Commodities (Construction, Sex Trafficking, and Domestic Work).

The top section of each report lists relevant commodities and a summary of high-level trafficking risk found in that sector. Then an overview of the sector in terms of the economy and features of production in the African context is provided, followed by an analysis of trafficking risk in each sector in the African context. This is particularly helpful for agricultural and extractives sectors, which are made up of many individual commodities; it is an opportunity to identify emerging sector-wide themes and trends.

Each report also provides examples of actions related to trafficking risk that companies and other stakeholders have taken in that sector. Where possible, the actions of companies and private sector coalitions have been highlighted. However, for some sectors, businesses have not been active on trafficking issues or even human rights or sustainability issues more broadly. In those cases, attention has been paid to interventions from other stakeholders such as governments.

A list of external resources for good practice in that sector is provided at the end of each sector report.

The “Associated Service Sectors” report is structured differently from the other five sector reports, taking a thematic approach to describing the ways in which global supply chains can contribute to trafficking risk in construction and domestic work as well as to sex trafficking. Resources for good practice are similarly presented at the end.

Project Partners

About Verité

Headquartered in Amherst MA, Verité is a global, independent, nonprofit organization that provides consulting, training, research, and assessment services with a vision to ensure that people worldwide work under safe, fair, and legal conditions. Since 1995, Verité has partnered with hundreds of multinational brands, suppliers, and international institutions across multiple industry sectors to improve working conditions and overall social and environmental performance within global supply chains. Verité aims to ensure that globalization is made to work for poor and vulnerable people around the world. We ensure that powerful institutions, particularly the private sector, take responsibility for solving human rights problems where goods are made and crops are grown. The impact of our work is tangible: more income for workers and harvesters; increased opportunities for women, minorities and migrants; protection for children and those in forced labor; safer working conditions in factories, farms, fisheries, and mines; and empowerment for workers and harvesters.

About the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative

For more than 25 years, and through work in more than 100 countries, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and its partners have  strengthened legal institutions, supported legal professionals, fostered respect for human rights, and advanced public understanding of the law and of citizen rights. In collaboration with ABA ROLI’s in-country partners—including government ministries, judges, lawyers, bar associations, law schools, court administrators, legislatures, and civil society organizations—ABA ROLI designs programs that are responsive to local needs and that prioritize sustainable solutions to pressing rule of law challenges.  ABA ROLI employs rigorous and innovative monitoring and evaluation approaches in assessing the quality and effectiveness of our programs. ABA ROLI has roughly 500 professional staff working in the U.S. and abroad, including a cadre of short- and long-term legal specialists, volunteers, interns, and third-party contributors, who in fiscal year 2016 alone contributed $3.2 million in pro bono legal assistance.

About the Solidarity Center

The Solidarity Center is the largest U.S.-based international worker rights organization helping workers attain safe and healthy workplaces, family-supporting wages, dignity on the job, and greater equity at work and in their community. Allied with the AFL-CIO, the Solidarity Center assists workers across the globe as, together, they fight discrimination, exploitation, and the systems that entrench poverty—to achieve shared prosperity in the global economy.

About the African Labour Research Network

The African Labour Research Network brings together trade union-linked researchers from all over Africa to undertake joint research and publications in an attempt to develop alternatives to the neo-liberal development path. The network was formed in 2001 as an African-owned research initiative, which seeks to increase the continental cooperation and coherent response regarding the challenges facing the labor movement in Africa.