Child labour is the employment of children under the age of 18 in a manner that restrict or prevent them from basic education and development.
Poverty is a major factor that drives child labour in Africa. In poor families, child labour is a major source of income for the family.
In many African countries, children are made to work in backbreaking jobs such as logging, mining, and fighting in wars, as well as exploiting them as beggars, household servants, and even for sexual purposes. To help pinpoint which African countries are the worst offenders in the realm of child labor, the international consulting firm Maplecroft has compiled a Child Labor Index to rank them.
Child Labour in Africa: Here are the 8 Worst African Countries For Child Labor
A country in West Africa, Nigeria suffers from widespread poverty leading to a large number of cases of child labor within the country.
According to the International Labour Organization, the number of working children under the age of 14 in Nigeria is estimated at 15 million. The high level of diverse and tedious jobs that children execute in dangerous circumstances is particularly worrying. These jobs include street vending, begging, washing cars or shining shoes. Other children work as apprentice mechanics, hairdressers and bus conductors while an even larger number work as domestic servants and farm hands.
Many children involved in labor miss classes in schools, drop out from schools, suffer from exploitation and malnutrition and face various forms of adverse situations.
Over 68% of the population of Burundi , a landlocked nation in East Africa, are below the poverty line. This is reflected in a large number of child laborers in the country. Nearly one in five children in Burundi are engaged in some kind of labor activity such as working as domestic helps (primarily girls), working in the family owned agricultural fields as well as industrial plantations, and other types of child labor activities. Despite schooling till the age of 12 being free in the country, only about 71% of the children receive some form of formal education. Children in the country are also affected by the internal conflicts prevailing within the country where many children were forced into participating as war soldiers or detained in prison. War and disease in the country have also led to many children being orphaned and forced into labor as their only means of survival.
Child labor is highly prevalent in Zimbabwe where children are engaged in various sectors of work in agriculture, industry and services. Around 96% of the child laborers are engaged in tea, sugarcane, cotton plantations as well as in forestry and fishing industries. Mining activities, vending, and begging on the streets and domestic work is also often performed by children.
South Sudan has a huge population of child laborers working in the country, often under extremely adverse work situations. As much as 45.6% of children in South Sudan between the ages 10 to 14 are engaged as child laborers. Only 31.5% of children in the country, aged 6 to 14, actually attend school. 60.2% of the child laborers in South Sudan are engaged in the agricultural sector while 38.2% work in the services sector and small percentage in the industrial sector (which is highly underdeveloped).
3. DR Congo
Children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are often forced to work in gold, wolframite, and coltan mines, as well as being engaged in the armed conflicts prevalent in the region. 3,327,806 children in the country are child laborers working in various sectors like agriculture, industry and services. Sexual exploitation of children is also common here. Inability to provide valid birth registration certificates and proof of citizenship often leaves children no choice but to enter the labor markets, toiling hard to make money for their poor families.
39.8% of children between the ages of 5 to 14, numbering around 1,012,863, are child laborers in Somalia. Only half of children within this age range attend school. Fishing, threshing grain, and livestock raising are just some of the agricultural activities where Somali children are employed to work as labor. Construction and mining industries operating within the country also use children as part of the workforce. Children are also engaged in armed conflicts, illegal and anti-national activities. Sexual exploitation and human trafficking of children are also not uncommon.
Eritrea is ranked number one as one of the worst countries for child labor in the world. In Eritrea, the government holds programs under which children in grades 9 to 11 are asked to offer their labor in various fields like agriculture and public services. Children are also often forced to participate in compulsory military training programs. Though laws are there against the employment of children as labor, the implementation of the laws are weak and many children are often dragged into forced labor where they are heavily exploited. Commercial sexual exploitation of children also takes place in the country.