5 Darkest Businesses in Africa
Some businesses operating in Africa are involved in activities that are considered dark and unethical. These businesses engage in practices that include human trafficking, illegal wildlife trade, and forced and child labour among others.
These activities not only harm individuals and communities but also contribute to instability and conflict in the region. Sadly, developed countries have been identified as components of this harmful practice. In this article, we will examine how these dark businesses in Africa have been accused of exploiting workers, violating environmental regulations, and engaging in corrupt practices to maximize profits. Let’s dive in.
Diamond Mining in Congo
Most miners and diamond diggers in sub-Saharan Africa travel great distances to find work and submit to gruellingly long hours for low wages – or sometimes no wages – in substandard conditions. Coupled with this is the problem of child labor predominant in informal diamond mines, especially during times of war.
There have been cases of children being lowered into small, narrow pits by ropes to dig out sacks of dirt, which is in turn washed by other children in search of diamonds. According to the International Peace Information Service, an independent research service, Child labour at diamond mines increased by 50% in the months after schools were closed during the pandemic. It based its findings on the monitoring of 105 mines. In Congo, nearly twelve thousand children are toiling diamond mines every day to support their families.
These children are exposed to mining-related diseases such as pneumoconioses and prostitution. A 12-year-old who works over 12 hours a day said, “It’s very hard work. If I don’t give the soldiers money, they will take my clothes and beat me. I don’t have any other work, it’s only digging.” He also revealed that he and other children have to pay 20 per cent of their findings to the gunmen.
Moving away from diamond mining, the extraction of cobalt from Congo has also been linked to human rights abuses, corruption, environmental destruction and child labour. This is validated by a lawsuit that argues Apple, Google, Dell, Microsoft and Tesla all aided and abetted the mining companies that profited from the labour of children who were forced to work in dangerous conditions that led to death and serious injury.
The court documents revealed that cobalt from the Glencore-owned mines is sold to Umicore, a Brussels-based metal and mining trader, which then sells battery-grade cobalt to Apple, Google, Tesla, Microsoft and Dell.
Processing of coffee in Côte d’Ivoire and Togo
The 2019 U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report showed that coffee is produced with forced child labor in Côte d’Ivoire and Togo. Coffee production from land preparation, weeding, pruning trees, spraying fertilizers or pesticides, hand-harvesting, and transporting is highly labour-intensive. This is worse in Africa where all most all the work is performed manually.
Also, reports suggest that women work more hours as they are likely to be involved in fieldwork, harvesting and processing while men take care of transporting and marketing the beans. In Kenya, A 2002 report from the International Labor Rights Forum cited widespread abuse and harassment of female plantation workers including rape and physical assault by supervisors. Described as the second largest profit-generating industry in the world, the coffee industry still grapples with a lot of ethical and moral challenges that need to be addressed.
Africa has suffered from conflicts due to uneven redistribution of crude oil revenue and severe environmental pollution. In addition to this is how corruption has plagued the industry. A notable example of this will be the case between Shell and environmentalists in South Africa. Reports say Shell commenced seismic survey activities in mid-December despite growing opposition from environmentalists and new court action. It claimed that it had consulted all relevant communities on the operations.
However, on the 28th of December, the Grahamstown High Court in Makhanda ordered the immediate seizure of the activities, stating that, based on evidence, Shell failed to consult with the communities and individuals who would be impacted by the survey.
The planned five-month seismic survey campaign faced strong opposition from environmentalists and fishermen who claimed that the activity would harm marine life, especially since it would take place during the migration season for humpback whales.
Cocoa farming in Cote d’Ivoire
Known as the world’s top cocoa producer, Côte d’Ivoire is driving deforestation, which harms the environment and feeds the illicit timber trade. Cocoa farmers majorly rely on natural soil fertility in virgin forests for high cocoa yields. This makes farmers move from one settlement to another because, after 5-10 years, the fertility of the soil dwindles.
Moreso, cocoa traders diversify and increase their income by making profitable deals with logging companies and illegal timber traders. This has increased the number of illegal loggers. According to reports, artisans carry out logging in forests that cocoa farmers have targeted with funding from shadowy financiers. They go against Côte d’Ivoire’s 2019 Forest Act, and mill raw timber into semi-finished products at the felling site while truckers move the cargo to markets in urban centres. It is also important to note that the use of child labour has risen in cocoa farms in Ghana and Ivory Coast over the past decade despite industry promises to reduce it
Production of sweatshirts in Tanzania
While China has been applauded for its contribution to the development of African nations, its agreement to allow more than 100 Chinese investors to invest directly in Tanzania’s manufacturing industry has been reportedly questioned. This comes as a large number of Tanzanians were found working hard at a Chinese-owned factory outside Tanzania’s capital, Dar es Salaam.
Reports say men and women were found producing counterfeit Adidas and Nike football shoes, sandals, and cute-as-a-button dress shoes for little girls. These men and women worked without protective gear, and face masks in an atmosphere highly filled with fumes. These workers worked beyond eight hours without earning overtime, as required under Tanzanian labor law.
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