According to the U.S. Department of State's 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report, most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are both a source and a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking for the purpose of forced labor and forced prostitution. In other words, in these countries, unscrupulous people exploit, coerce, abduct or purchase individuals for the purpose of enslaving them. A few, like Niger, Mali, and Mauritania, still allow caste-based slavery practices rooted in ancestral master-slave relationships.
Sub-Saharan Africa is by no means unique in this respect. Every country in the world has, to some degree, a problem with trafficking in persons. It is the fastest-growing crime in the world, and is second in financial scope only to the sale of illegal drugs.
Every year for the past decade, the U.S. Department of State has published the Trafficking in Persons Report, which highlights global trends in trafficking and how individual countries deal with them. Their performance is measured against a United Nations international standard and the United States Trafficking Victims Protection Act, or TVPA.
Individual countries are ranked in tiers. Countries whose governments fully comply with the TVPA's minimum standards are in Tier One. In Sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria and Mauritius are ranked in Tier One.
Tier Two is reserved for those countries whose governments do not fully comply, but are making significant efforts to achieve minimum standards. Nineteen countries in Sub-Saharan are Tier Two countries.
Twenty seven countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are on the Tier Two Watch List. These are countries with significant or increasing numbers of trafficking victims whose governments may be working hard to comply with the minimum standards but fail to show proof of it, or who say they will do better in the future.
And then there are the five countries in Tier 3. Their governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so. They are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Mauritania, Sudan and Zimbabwe.
"Modern slavery – be it bonded labor, involuntary servitude, or sexual slavery – is a crime and cannot be tolerated in any culture, community, or country," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her introduction to the report. "[It] is an affront to our values and our commitment to human rights."