The Kenya Forum | Modern slavery in East Africa: 37,000 slaves in Kenya - The Kenya Forum

October 22, 2013


The situation of modern slavery may not be so bad in Kenya as it is in its East African neighbours, but with 37,000 forced, unpaid labourers, shouldn’t we be taking a closer look at this tragedy?

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Modern slavery in East Africa: 37,000 slaves in Kenya

Food for thought for Kenya Forum readers to temper the chest-thumping, back-slapping and self-congratulation we’ve witnessed over the weekend to mark Mashujaa Day. It’s about ‘slavery’ in Kenya 50 years after independence…

According to the Global Slavery Index 2013, a survey conducted by the ‘Walk Free Foundation’and released by the independent policy institute Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs) yesterday, 29 million children and adults around the world work in servitude.

The Global Slavery Index provides a ranking of 162 countries, reflecting a combined measure of three factors:

• estimated prevalence of modern slavery by population;
• a measure of child marriage;
• a measure of human trafficking in and out of a country.

The survey is heavily weighted to reflect the first factor, the prevalence of ‘modern slavery’. A number one ranking is the worst, 160 is the best (160 out of 162 countries because some countries tied for 150th place etc).

KENYA – 37,000 ‘SLAVES’

Kenya comes in at number 102 worldwide on the Global Slavery Index with the number of ‘enslaved’ calculated to stand at 37,349, just below Guatemala and one above Iran in the rankings.

It is fair to say that Uganda was ranked 25-worst in the world for modern day slavery (approximately 270,000 ‘slaves’) followed by Tanzania (350,000 ‘slaves), the rankings being decided by number of slaves set against the size of a country’s population.

India leads the rankings (if that is the right word) with about 14 million forced labourers, while China has some 2.9 million and Pakistan just above 2 million. Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma and Bangladesh complete the top 10, measured in absolute numbers. But when it comes to forced labour as a proportion of the population, only Mauritania is worse than Haiti.

So not as bad as Uganda and Tanzania but 50 years after independence, 180 years after the British banned slavery, in the year 2013, Kenya still has over 37,000 ‘slaves’ in the country. Food for thought indeed.


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