US reports say child labour persists in East Africa, Congo

Friday October 12 2018

Children work at a quarry in southwestern Uganda. PHOTO | NMG


The US Department of Labour has claimed that East African countries are using child labour or forced labour in violation of international standards.

Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia and South Sudan are among those identified by the Department's Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB).

The list comprises 148 goods from 76 countries using child labour — Benin, Burkina Faso, Zambia and Egypt for cotton, Ethiopia for handwoven textiles and golf, Kenya for coffee, fish, miraa, rice, sand, sisal, sugarcane, tea and tobacco.

Tanzania is said to use child labour in the cloves, coffee, gold, Nile perch, tea, sisal, Tanzanite and tobacco sectors. Rwanda’s child labour is in tea sector.

“Children in the Democratic Republic of Congo labour in harsh and dangerous conditions to mine cobalt ore, a mineral essential to the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in our cell phones, laptops, and electric cars,” said ILAB.

Two reports prepared by ILAB — List of Goods Produced by Child Labour or Forced Labour and Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labour — highlight specific sectors and describe the progress some countries have made in upholding international commitments to eliminate such practices.


"These reports represent the contribution to global efforts to protect workers in the US and around the world by defending the rights of all people to live free of child labour, forced labour, human trafficking, and modern slavery," said US Secretary of Labour Alexander Acosta.

He said the US should not seek an unfair advantage by turning a blind eye to labour abuses, as profits should not come on the backs of children or slaves.

The International Labour Organisation estimates that there are over 152 million child labourers, one in every 10 children, and 25 million forced labourers worldwide.

"These reports provide information on progress in adhering to international labour standards as well as nations that must end abusive and immoral labour practices," said Martha Mewton, deputy undersecretary for ILAB.