The African Union (AU) is set to assess the threat of online child sexual exploitation (OCSE) across 19 countries in the continent as of next month, an AU official has said.
The assessment will determine the magnitude of the problem, come up with policies and strategies and help improve member states’ capacities to address the problem, Dr Jane Marie Ongolo, Head of Social Welfare, Vulnerable Groups and Drug Control and Crime Prevention with the African Union, told 7Dnews on Wednesday March 6th.
A regional overview of sexual exploitation undertaken in Africa revealed that online child sexual exploitation including sexual harassment, texting, sexting and online grooming involving African children has been increasing.
“Based on the global assessment, the selected 19 African countries where the AU will conduct the assessment are the ones most affected and there is higher usage of Internet in those countries,” Ongolo said. Due to the issue’s sensitive nature, Ongolo did not give the names of the countries.
According to the International telecommunication Union (ITU), 24.4% of the population in Africa was using the Internet as of December 2018 compared to 2.1% in 2005. Africa is one of the two regions where Internet access and traffic is projected to grow the fastest between 2016 and 2021.
According to ITU statistics released during the continental consultation regarding ending online child sexual exploitation in Africa taking place at AU headquarters on Wednesday March 6th, young people, particularly those aged between 15 and 24, have been strongly engaged with the Internet and out of every three Internet users in Africa, one is a young person in this age group.
“Our children are enjoying using the Internet and the increase in Internet usage has boosted social and economic development but it has led to a greater risk of our children being sexually exploited online,” Cisse Mariama Mohamed, Director of Social Affairs of the African Union said.
Online child sexual exploitation of children is expanding across the globe in line with the development of internet connectivity. Africa is certainly not immune to these crimes and trends suggest that no country on the continent is safe, she added.
The two-day consultation described online child sexual exploitation as an emerging form of cybercrime in Africa and representatives of member states are expected to establish a clear way forward to end OCSE.
OCSE refers to crimes committed by offenders who are using Information and
Communication Technologies (ICT) to facilitate the sexual abuse of children.