Trafficking Risk in Sub-Saharan African Supply Chains

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Benin Country Overview

Politics

Benin is a presidential republic in western Africa.[1] It is considered one of the most stable democracies in sub-Saharan Africa, having held several elections judged to be free and fair since the country’s transition to democracy in 1991.[2] In March 2016, President Patrice Talon was elected for a five-year term.[3] While a peaceful transition of power was observed and freedom of expression is generally respected, that state of judicial independence of the Constitutional Court was placed into question when President Talon appointed his personal lawyer as the Court’s president in 2018.[4]

Economy

Benin is classified by the World Bank as a low-income country.[5] The economy is characterized by a high degree of informality, with 90 percent of youth aged 15 to 29 employed in the informal labor sector.[6] The country’s key commodity exports are cotton, cashews, and shea butter.[7] Under President Talon’s administration, Benin has begun engaging in a development plan which seeks to improve infrastructure, education, agriculture, and governance. Considerable developments have been reported to take place in electricity generation which has helped to decrease blackouts on a national scale.[8] Benin’s economy relies heavily on informal re-export and transit trade with Nigeria, which accounts for nearly 20 percent of GDP. The country’s economy is therefore vulnerable to trade shocks in Nigeria.[9]

Social/Human Development

Although Benin has experienced stable GDP growth over the past two decades, poverty remains widespread with a national poverty rate of 46.4 percent in 2018.[10] Benin is placed in the low human development category and was given a score of 0.520 in 2018, placing it163 out of 189 countries and territories.[11] Nearly 65 percent of Benin’s population is under the age of 25.[12]

Poverty, coupled with unemployment, increased living costs, and limited access to resources has led to the migration of some Beninese to other West African countries, including Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire.[13] However, Benin continues to attract migrants from other West African countries due to its relative political stability.[14] 

U.S. Department of State TIP Report Summary (2019)

U.S. Department of State TIP Ranking: Tier 2 

According to the Trafficking in Persons Report, trafficking risk may be found among children from low income families in services that include domestic servitude, markets, and agriculture. Girls are reportedly exploited in sex trafficking in urban areas. Criminal groups have been reported as traffickers of women and children for the purpose of forced labor in neighboring countries to Benin and Gulf countries.

Migrant and Other Vulnerable Populations

Benin has a negative net migration.[15] The largest source countries for migrants in 2019 were Togo, Nigeria, Niger, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana.[16]

[17]

The top destination countries for migrants from Benin in 2019 were Nigeria, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, and France.[18]

[19]

There were an estimated 1,494 persons of concern in Benin at the end of 2018, including 1,174 refugees and 320 asylum seekers.[20]

Exports and Trade

Benin’s top exports in 2018 were cotton, edible fruits and nuts, oil seeds, animal/vegetable fats (shea butter), electrical machinery, and iron and steel.[21]

[22]

The top importers for all goods from Benin were Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Nigeria and China.[23]

[24]

Benin was the 158th largest supplier of goods to the United States in in 2018. The largest exported product to the U.S. was edible fruit and nuts, specifically cocoa, cashew, and brazil nuts.[25]

Trafficking in Persons Risk Factors Analysis

Legal/Policy Risk Factors

LEVEL OF LEGAL PROTECTION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS
Freedom of Association

In Benin, the law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, with the exception of certain civil servants and public employees. New unions are required to register with the Ministry of Interior, a process that can take up to three months. The law does not clearly define the grounds on which approval or denial of a trade union registration is granted.[26] An estimated 75 percent of all salaried employees are members of trade unions, although this may represent only a minority of the total workforce, since most economic activity is reportedly organized within the informal sector.[27]

The law provides for the right of workers to bargain collectively and to strike. Strikes require notification prior to being organized. Strikes are liable to be prohibited by the government under the condition that the activity negatively influences the economy or national interest.[28] Antiunion discrimination is not permitted by the law. Rather, labor laws seek to provide reinstatement for workers in the instance of being fired for union activity. The U.S. Department of State noted that civil servants, public employees, domestic workers, agricultural workers, migrant workers and those working in export processing zones do not receive legal protections related to labor.[29]

Working Conditions

Minimum wage was increased by the government in 2014, from CFA 30,000 (USD 51) per month to CFA 40,000 (USD 68) per month. The labor code establishes a workweek between 40 and 60 hours, with at least one 24-hour period of rest each week. Domestic and agricultural workers tend to work up to 70 hours or more each week. The law does not provide legal protections for a worker’s employment status in situations where they are required to remove themselves from unsafe working conditions.[30]

Discrimination

The constitution of Benin prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation in several areas, but excludes discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases.[31] Prohibitions of discrimination do not apply to the informal sector, which employs approximately 90 percent of the Beninese work force.[32]

Forced Labor

The Government of Benin prohibits forced or compulsory labor, apart from imprisonment with compulsory labor.[33]

Child Labor

The law prohibits the employment or apprenticeship of children under the age of 14. Children between the ages of 12 and 14 may engage in domestic, temporary, or seasonal work, as long as it does not interfere with compulsory education.[34] Education is compulsory for children between six and 11 years of age.[35]

Civil Society Organizations

According to Freedom House, NGOs and human rights groups operated freely in 2018.[36] A situation in 2016 posed a limitation on the public’s freedom of expression when the High Authority of Audiovisual Communication decided to close seven private media outlets. Since that decision, three of the seven media outlets have been re-opened.[37]

Ratification of ILO Conventions Related to Human Trafficking or Rights of Workers and Migrants

[38]

Use of Export Processing Zones (EPZs)

The U.S. Department of State reported that a Free Trade Zone near the Benin-Nigeria border is one of three Free Trade Zones in the nation that remains currently active.

It was reported that workers in export processing zones are excluded from relevant legal protections.[39]

Political Risk Factors

POLITICAL INSTABILITY OR CONFLICT

Benin scored a 73.6 in the 2019 Fragile States Index, placing it in the “Warning” category, and was ranked 75th out of 178 countries.[40] Freedom House characterized Benin as one of the most stable democracies in sub-Saharan Africa.[41]

LEVEL OF CRIME AND VIOLENCE

The World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report ranked Benin at 88 out of 141 for organized crime.[42]

LEVEL OF CORRUPTION

The Transparency International Corruption Perception Index scores Benin as a 41 out of 100, where a 0 signals “Highly Corrupt” and 100 signals “Very Clean.” Benin is ranked 80 out of 180 on that index.[43] According to the U.S. Department of State, officials engaging in corruption with impunity was reported as a widespread issue. The judicial system was reportedly susceptible to corruption at all levels.[44]

Socio-Economic Risk Factors

LEVEL OF NATIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Benin scored low in the human development category, according to the UN Human Development Index (HDI), with a rank of 163 out of 189 countries and a score of 0.520.[45]

LEVEL AND EXTENT OF POVERTY

Benin has a relatively high level of poverty, with 66.8 percent of the population determined to be living in multi-dimensional poverty according to the UN.[46] When adjusted for inequality, the HDI falls to 0.327, a loss of 37.1 percent due to inequality.[47] Benin’s gross national income (GNI) per capita has been rising steadily over the past 15 years, but has dropped from a high of over USD 930 in 2014 to USD 800 in 2017. Since then, it has climbed back up to USD 870 in 2018.[48]

DEGREE OF GENDER INEQUALITY

The UNDP Gender Development Index ranked Benin 163 out of 189 countries for gender inequality in 2017, with a GDI value of 0.875.[49] In 2020, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report ranked Benin 119 out of 153.[50]

The literacy rate among females is 31.1 percent, compared to a literacy rate of 54 percent of all Beninese males.[51]

According to the constitution, women and men have equal rights to own and administer non-land assets. However, customary practices are an obstacle to the fulfillment of this right. Inheritance is the primary means of accessing land in Benin, and under customary law only men have the right to inherit land.[52] Despite these measures, only 13 percent of all land acquired with tenure belongs to women.

Women are limited in their capacity to gain access to financial services because obtaining a loan is largely contingent upon owning land.[53]

Women reportedly face discrimination in employment. Most women occupy jobs in the informal economic sector, and while some have been noticed to take on activities typically assigned to men, there is a prominent rural/urban divide concerning this kind of labor. Socio-cultural tendencies continue to enforce gender divisions of labor which typically assign men to income-making positions while women are relegated to household duties. Women have reportedly experienced discrimination in recruitment practices for both director and professional positions.[54]

Documented Trafficking and Trafficking Risk in Key Commodity Supply Chains

Cotton

COTTON OVERVIEW

Cotton plays a central role in Benin’s economy, contributing to about 12 percent of the country’s GDP.[55] Benin was one of the first West African countries to reform its cotton sector in the 1990s, which overlapped with a decline in sectoral performance.[56] Although the sector had been privatized, the government took temporary control of the sector in 2012, before handing control back to a private association. Long-term issues identified in the sector include lack of ginning capacity and poor infrastructure, especially among storage facilities.[57] As in the rest of West Africa, nearly all cotton farmers in Benin are smallholder farmers.

DOCUMENTED TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS RISK FACTORS IN COTTON PRODUCTION

The U.S. Department of State has noted trafficking among farmers, which could include cotton farmers.[58] The U.S. Department of Labor notes forced labor and child labor in the production of cotton.[59] Due to the smallholder nature of cotton farming in Benin, child work on family farms is relatively common. Benin reportedly has low rates of school attendance in cotton growing regions, indicating that many children are employed in the informal economy on family farms or at plantations.[60] A 2006 study found that recruiters visited villages in Burkina Faso promising boys cash or goods, such as bicycles or clothing, in exchange for employment in cotton producing regions within Burkina Faso and Benin. Some of these recruiters were farmers looking for labor on their farms or on their neighbors’ farms, but others were independent recruiters. Some children working for these farmers may not be paid until the end of the harvest cycle, which can bind them to their jobs and make it impossible to return home. Payment may be deferred even longer, potentially beyond the first year, and the end wages are often much less than promised by the recruiters.[61]

Cashews

CASHEW OVERVIEW

190,000 hectares are used for cashew production, and the sector is still growing rapidly. The bulk of exports consist of raw, unprocessed cashews.[62] There are an estimated 200,000 cashew farmers in the country. Most cashew farms are under 1.5 hectares, although some are as large as five hectares. Only five percent of cashew plantations are owned by women.[63]

 

 

DOCUMENTED TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS RISKS FACTORS IN CASHEW PRODUCTION

Little information is available on labor in cashew production, but the U.S. Department of State has noted trafficking in commercial agriculture in Benin more broadly.[64]

Related Resources

Resources for Understanding Legal and Policy-Related Risk Factors

Endnotes

[1] Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Benin. 2020. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bn.html

[2] Freedom House. Freedom in the World 2019: Benin. 2019. https://freedomhouse.org/country/benin/freedom-world/2019 

[3] U.S Department of State. 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Benin. 2018. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/benin/

[4] Freedom House. Freedom in the World 2019: Benin. 2019. https://freedomhouse.org/country/benin/freedom-world/2019

[5] World Bank. Benin. http://data.worldbank.org/country/benin

[6] U.S. Department of State. 2019 Investment Climate Statements: Benin. 2019. https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-investment-climate-statements/benin/

[7] Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Benin. 2020. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bn.html 

[8] Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Benin. 2020. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bn.html 

[9] World Bank. Benin: Overview. http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/benin/overview   

[10] World Bank. Benin: Overview. http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/benin/overview   

[11] United Nations Development Programme. Human Development Report 2019: Benin. 2019. http://hdr.undp.org/sites/all/themes/hdr_theme/country-notes/BEN.pdf

[12] Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Benin. 2020. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bn.html 

[13] Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Benin. 2020. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bn.html 

[14] Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Benin. 2020. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bn.html

[15] World Bank. Net Migration: Benin. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SM.POP.NETM?locations=BJ

[16] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. International Migrant Stock 2019. https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/data/estimates2/estimates19.asp

[17] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. International Migrant Stock 2019. https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/data/estimates2/estimates19.asp

[18] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. International Migrant Stock 2019. https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/data/estimates2/estimates19.asp

[19] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. International Migrant Stock 2019. https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/data/estimates2/estimates19.asp

[20] United Nations Refugee Agency. UNHCR Population Statistics Database. http://popstats.unhcr.org/en/overview 

[21] International Trade Centre. List of products exported by Benin. 2018. https://www.trademap.org/Product_SelCountry_TS.aspx?nvpm= 

[22] International Trade Centre. List of products exported by Benin. 2018. https://www.trademap.org/Product_SelCountry_TS.aspx?nvpm=

[23] International Trade Centre. List of products exported by Benin. 2018. https://www.trademap.org/Product_SelCountry_TS.aspx?nvpm=

[24] International Trade Centre. List of products exported by Benin. 2018. https://www.trademap.org/Product_SelCountry_TS.aspx?nvpm=

[25] Office of the United States Trade Representative. Benin. https://ustr.gov/countries-regions/africa/west-africa/benin

[26] U.S Department of State. 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Benin. 2018. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/benin/

[27] U.S. Department of State. 2019 Investment Climate Statements: Benin. 2019. https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-investment-climate-statements/benin/

[28] U.S Department of State. 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Benin. 2018. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/benin/

[29] U.S Department of State. 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Benin. 2018. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/benin/

[30] U.S Department of State. 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Benin. 2018. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/benin/

[31] U.S Department of State. 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Benin. 2018. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/benin/

[32] U.S Department of State. 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Benin. 2018. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/benin/

[33] U.S Department of State. 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Benin. 2018. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/benin/

[34] U.S Department of State. 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Benin. 2018. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/benin/

[35] U.S Department of State. 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Benin. 2018. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/benin/

[36] Freedom House. Freedom in the World 2019: Benin. 2019. https://freedomhouse.org/country/benin/freedom-world/2019

[37] Amnesty International. Benin 2017/2018. https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/africa/benin/report-benin/

[38] International Labour Organization (ILO). Ratifications for Benin. http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=1000:11200:0::NO:11200:P11200_COUNTRY_ID:103028 

[39] U.S Department of State. 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Benin. 2018. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/benin/

[40] The Fund for Peace. Fragile States Index: Benin. 2019. https://fragilestatesindex.org/country-data/ 

[41] Freedom House. Freedom in the World 2019: Benin. 2019. https://freedomhouse.org/country/benin/freedom-world/2019

[42] World Economic Forum. The Global Competitiveness Report 2019. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_TheGlobalCompetitivenessReport2019.pdf

[43] Transparency International. Corruption Perceptions Index 2019: Benin. 2019. https://www.transparency.org/cpi2019

[44] U.S Department of State. 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Benin. 2018. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/benin/

[45] United Nations Development Programme. Human Development Report 2019: Inequalities in Human Development in the 21st Century; Benin. 2019. http://hdr.undp.org/sites/all/themes/hdr_theme/country-notes/BEN.pdf 

[46] United Nations Development Programme. Human Development Report 2019: Inequalities in Human Development in the 21st Century; Benin. 2019.  http://hdr.undp.org/sites/all/themes/hdr_theme/country-notes/es/BEN.pdf 

[47] United Nations Development Programme. Human Development Report 2019: Inequalities in Human Development in the 21st Century; Benin. 2019.  http://hdr.undp.org/sites/all/themes/hdr_theme/country-notes/es/BEN.pdf

[48] World Bank. Country Profile: Benin. https://data.worldbank.org/country/benin

[49] United Nations Development Programme. Gender Development Index (GDI). 2017. http://hdr.undp.org/en/composite/GDI

[50] World Economic Forum. Global Gender Gap Report 2020. 2020.  http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2020.pdf

[51] World Economic Forum. Global Gender Gap Report 2020. 2020.  http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2020.pdf

[52] Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Center. Social Institutions & Gender Index (SIGI): Benin. 2019. https://www.genderindex.org/wp-content/uploads/files/datasheets/2019/BJ.pdf

[53] Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Center. Social Institutions & Gender Index (SIGI): Benin. 2019. https://www.genderindex.org/wp-content/uploads/files/datasheets/2019/BJ.pdf

[54]  Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Center. Social Institutions & Gender Index (SIGI): Benin. 2019. https://www.genderindex.org/wp-content/uploads/files/datasheets/2019/BJ.pdf

[55] Sasse, Allegresse. “Benin cotton sector wary as government hands back control.” Reuters. May 17, 2016. http://af.reuters.com/article/africaTech/idAFKCN0Y81Y4

[56] Gergely, Nicolas. World Bank. The Cotton Sector of Benin. 2009. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/487161468013850723/The-cotton-sector-of-Benin 

[57] Sasse, Allegresse. “Benin cotton sector wary as government hands back control.” Reuters. May 17, 2016. http://af.reuters.com/article/africaTech/idAFKCN0Y81Y4

[58] U.S. Department of State. 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report: Benin. 2019. https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-trafficking-in-persons-report-2/benin/  

[59] U.S. Department of Labor. 2018 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. 2018. https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ILAB/ListofGoods.pdf

[60] Afro News. “Labour Standards violated in Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali.” June 30, 2015. http://www.afrol.com/articles/13491

[61] de Lange, Albertine. “Going to Kompienga.” A Study of Child Labour Migration and Trafficking in Burkina Faso’s South-Eastern Cotton Sector. Amsterdam: International Research on Working Children (IREWOC). August 2006. https://childhub.org/en/system/tdf/library/attachments/lange_d_alb06gtkompienga_061106.pdf?file=1&type=node&id=17645

[62] African Cashew Initiative. Analysis of the Benin Cashew Sector Value Chain. 2010. http://www.africancashewinitiative.org/files/files/downloads/aci_benin_gb_150.pdf

[63] African Cashew Initiative. Analysis of the Benin Cashew Sector Value Chain. 2010. http://www.africancashewinitiative.org/files/files/downloads/aci_benin_gb_150.pdf 

[64] U.S. Department of State. 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report: Benin. 2019. https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-trafficking-in-persons-report-2/benin/ 

Trafficking Risk in Sub-Saharan African Supply Chains

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