Slavery in Senegal

Slavery is an endemic feature of the human tragic experience, and Senegal is no exception. Despite being abolished in 1905, slavery has survived in modern-day Senegal, manifested in the form of servitude, forced labour and the exploitation of vulnerable minority populations.

How did modern-day slavery come to be?

The origins of modern-day slavery in Senegal lie in 16th century trade links between Europe, Africa and the Americas. Senegalese slaves were shipped to the Americas to work the plantations of their colonial masters, primarily in Brazil and Cuba. The trans-Atlantic slave trade was finally abolished in 1848, although conditions of servitude remained in place throughout the colonial period.

The persistence of slavery today

Slaves can still be found in Senegal today, concentrated amongst minority ethnic groups in the country’s rural areas. Many of these groups live in a precarious position between freedom and bondage, an unfortunate legacy of past structural inequalities.

The majority of slaves are born into servitude, a cultural practice that grossly dehumanizes and marginalizes the minority populations it targets. Forced labour is rampant, while modern day slavery also takes the form of extortion and false debt, among other forms.

Tackling modern-day slavery in Senegal

Senegalese anti-slavery law was revised in 2007 to improve implementation and enforcement. Progress has been slow however, and there is still much to be done to stamp out this malignant institution.

    • Raising awareness amongst at-risk populations: A key policy initiative should be to equip at-risk populations with the knowledge to resist and recognize forms of modern day slavery.


    • Improving socio-economic prospects for the vulnerable: This should involve creating job opportunities for the poor and increasing access to basic services.


    • Enforcing and strengthening anti-slavery law: Anti-slavery laws must be actively enforced throughout the country, while also providing support networks for victims of modern-day slavery.


For generations, Senegal has been associated with immense stories of suffering and exploitation. Thankfully, activists, policy makers, and ordinary citizens are now beginning to take proactive steps to challenge the persistence of modern-day slavery. Together, we can steadily move towards a brighter, slavery-free future.