High Volume Transport

Vital transport research to ensure accessible, affordable and climate friendly transport for all.

Filling a gap in our understanding of the role of the transport sector in human trafficking

In 2020 the research team that I was working with undertook a literature review that examined the role of transport in human trafficking. We identified very few resources, particularly on Africa, and it quickly became evident that the transport sector’s role in helping to combat human trafficking was very under-explored.

Global estimates of the number of human trafficking victims paint an alarming picture. An estimated 16 million people were participating in some form of forced labour in 2016. Of these, a quarter were in forced domestic work and 4.8 million people, mainly women and girls, were in a situation of forced sexual exploitation1. Systematic gender discrimination leaves women and girls especially vulnerable to human trafficking.

At a time when human trafficking is increasing in Africa, substantial investments are being made in the transport sector. Between 2007 and 2019, 13,000 kilometres of regional highways on 17 road corridors were built in Africa with US$8 billion in funding from the African Development Bank. Over the same period, 26 one stop border posts were established to facilitate the movement of goods and people. Yet in our review of the transport literature, we were surprised to learn that human trafficking is seldom mentioned as a potential unplanned outcome of transport infrastructure projects.

To increase understanding of these issues, we designed and implemented a primary research study in four research sites in Tanzania and Uganda over a nine month time frame in 2021. Our objectives were to:

A research reference group comprising representatives from government, private sector, civil society and academia was formed to input to the research methodology design, review emerging findings and ensure policy relevance. The study involved quantitative and qualitative data collection and was implemented with the approval of research ethics bodies in both countries.

The primary research confirmed the importance of the transport sector and HVT corridors in facilitating human trafficking in Tanzania and Uganda and highlighted the following:

Interviews with survivors of human trafficking in both countries provided insights into the face of human trafficking and hinted at the trauma experienced by those caught up in the illicit trade.

Together with our research reference group, we identified policy implications. These included:

The next step in our research project is to design a practical intervention that will enable stakeholders in the transport sector to participate in the fight against human trafficking. The primary research findings suggest many potential entry points. We will work closely with our research reference group of government, private and civil society stakeholders to identify and design an intervention that has the potential to be institutionalised and sustained in the research countries.

The research described in this blog was undertaken by a consortium led by Cardno Emerging Markets and included Transaid, North Star Alliance and Scriptoria. The research is funded by UKAid through the UK Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) under the High-Volume Transport Applied Research Programme, managed by IMC Worldwide Ltd. Learn more about the project here.

1 ILO (2017). Global estimates of modern slavery: Forced labour and forced marriage. International Labour Office (ILO), Geneva. Available from: https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dgreports/@dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_575479.pdf