Ministers from 26 African countries have adopted a joint plan to combat the trafficking of people in the region.
Members of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States and 11 countries of the Economic Community of Central African States have agreed on a deal to intensify the campaign against human trafficking on the continent.
The ministers agreed to cooperate on matters such as repatriating victims of human trafficking and extraditing traffickers.
Dr. Esther Guluma, regional director of UNICEF, a co-sponsor of the meeting, outlined some of the measures envisioned in the plan.
"That action plan involves a lot of things that are quite significant for the region, including things such as enforcing documentation," he said. "Since we are talking about cross-border trafficking, documentation is extremely important. It talks about capacity-building of law enforcement officers, of police officers, of immigration officers, and it talks about monitoring -- evaluation. Because one of the things that we do not have concerning trafficking is data, we never know how many are being trafficked."
Officials say thousands of children fall victim to trafficking every year across west and central Africa, most of them because of poverty.
People trafficking is a major problem in Nigeria, where children are smuggled in from neighboring countries to work as domestic workers, and women are smuggled out to work as prostitutes in Europe and the Middle East.
Nigerian Justice Minister Bayo Ojo believes the adoption of the plan demonstrates the political will of African governments.
"While saluting the efforts of the experts, I am optimistic that the adoption and signing of these tools will mark the beginning of a decisive blow and progressive extermination of this modern-day slavery," he said. "Our international partners would have seen the resolve and commitment to attack the monster, and take the destiny of our continent in our hands."
The International Labor Organization says at least 50 million children are engaged in economic activities in sub-Sahara Africa, more than anywhere else in the world.
It is the first time countries in the region have agreed on a common regional strategy and action plan to fight human trafficking, recognizing that it is a trans-national problem that requires a trans-national solution.