For about R300 you can buy an African child – one of the tens of thousands of children snatched from their homes across the continent by terrorist groups.
The children are forced to become soldiers, sex slaves, wives or spies, or butchered for their body organs.
Worsening conflicts from the Great Lake Region northwards are driving the hunt for children by groups such as Islamic State, and Islamist terrorists Boko Haram and al-Shabab.
Rachel Ward, a researcher at the SA Human Rights Commission, said: “We are worried about the link between human trafficking and the financing of terrorism.
“Under the anti-terrorist-financing regulations, money-laundering refers only to money illicitly gained and passed through legitimate channels.
“But terrorist activity tends to be funded through other illicit means, such as human trafficking,” she said.
Monique Emser, a Free State University researcher, said the LexisNexis Human Trafficking Awareness Index showed a growing link between terrorism and human trafficking.
She said conflicts in countries such as Mali, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, South Sudan and Somalia, and in the Middle East, bolstered the trafficking of children for recruitment as soldiers.
Emser said human trafficking generated revenue for terrorists and was a source of canon fodder.
Abductions of children were used to terrify communities into submission.
“Human trafficking is comparable to rape as a tool of war.
“Terror groups that have links in Africa are paying $25 for children and young women. An alarming number of people, especially young adults, are kidnapped for organ trafficking.
“This is where the big money lies, with some organs costing R1-million on the black market.
“We have seen this with IS in the Middle East, where organs are harvested and the profits used to fund the terrorists’ operations.
“It’s not yet happening in Southern Africa, where trafficking is mainly for forced labour and sexual exploitation. But we should be concerned that it will emerge in our region.”
She said an estimated 120000 children in Africa were used as soldiers, labourers or sex slaves.
“Worldwide 300000 children are used in these roles. According to Unicef, 2000 children were forcibly recruited by South Sudanese militia groups in 2014. In the Central African Republic nearly 10000 child soldiers are involved in the conflict, despite a UN presence.
“The Lord’s Resistance Army is estimated to have recruited 38000 child soldiers, with 4200 operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Emser said.