There are over 20 million slaves in the world, with most of them coming from third world countries. The reasons for slavery are many but the leading cause is poverty. The slaves are manipulated and exploited due to their abject poverty. It is approximated that the slavery industry generates over 10 billion dollars each year. This problem is not limited to the African continent only as it can be seen in other countries like Beijing, Bangladesh and many others.
Even though slave trade was banned officially in the late 1800s, slavery is still practiced in parts of Central and West Africa today. Many children from these regions are sold as slaves into the local agricultural industry and sex industry of the more affluent neighboring nations. According to Anti-slavery International, over 50,000 Africans are sold and owned by Arabs in North Africa. The indigenous ethnic groups in South Sudan are often attacked by North African Arabs, who kill every man and imprison the children and women as slaves. Physical maiming is not uncommon and is usually done to slaves so as to instill fear and prevent escape.
In western Africa, the routes that were once being used by slave traffickers are yet again being used by those people who now enslave others to gain profit. The only difference is the mode of traffic: the routes are presently being traveled by vans and tracks rather than by camel. Furthermore, the slave kingpins are using modern communication methods such as mobile phones as they handle the transport of their human consignment.
Besides kidnapping, children are also acquired via purchase from their guardians for a mere $20. That is why slave trading is common in areas ridden with poverty such as Togo and Benin. These children are later sold as house servants or prostitutes for over $400 in the neighboring nations like Gabon and Nigeria.
Slaves are sold to serve various functions ranging from commercial and domestic labor to sexual exploitation. Children, particularly girls, from Togo and Benin are in high demand by the wealthy people in Lagos and Libreville.
In recent times, slave trade was only considered as an element of war-torn countries like Angola, Chad, Somalia and Sudan, where 10 year old girls serve as sex slaves or servants at the military bases. However, it is now seen that throughout some nonviolent West African states, human trafficking is booming. Some countries that are believed to be implicated in slave trade include Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Gabon.
In addition, there are many factories and cocoa plantations in Africa that largely use slaves for labor. These slaves are usually found in the remote rural regions of West Africa. Here, boys ranging from age 12 – 16 are trafficked to cocoa plantations where they are used to provide slave labor for planting and harvesting cocoa beans, which are then exported for chocolate production.
A study carried out by UNICEF reported that modern slave trade still goes on in Africa even after the colonialists left. Experts believe that this is an outgrowth or a continuation of the human trafficking practices of the past. However, now Africans themselves have adapted the reprehensible habits of retreating colonizers. Since the major underlying factor of slavery is utter poverty, the only way in which slavery can end in Africa is if poverty can be effectively dealt with.