Peace Corps


I was visiting a new work partner at his cybercafe the other day and noticed an interesting phenomenon. It was full of Nigerians (identified thus because they’re anglophones who refuse to learn French) actively involved in scamming Americans and Canadians. The owner was somewhat embarassed, but unable to refuse the scammers, as they’re his best source of income.

The cybercafe at my primary work partner is also flooded with these scammers from morning to night. They paitently wait outside for us to open, and then our administrator has to hassle them to get them to leave in the evening.

The money’s just that good.

I’m actually not sure how I feel about it. A fair number of the scammers have immigrated from Lagos because it’s cheaper to live in Benin. This immigration has been great for the cybercafe business here in Cotonou. The immigrants are more or less educated, they’ve got good business sense, and they’re comfortable with technology. They’re also completely immoral, scamming those who don’t know any better so that they can have a nice cell phone. No bones about it, these are not the starving and destitute that are scamming. It’s a business, and business is good.

What I’m curious about is the actually effect these scammers have had on development in the ICT sector in the last few years. They’ve clearly driven the spread of cybercafés, and the proliferation has also driven the prices way down. Despite the low prices, these places can be immensely profitable. They push for better maintenance of computers and the latest technologies, and because it’s available and cheap, Beninese youth are also taking advantage of these technologies, which is cool.

Don’t get me wrong, scamming is WRONG WRONG WRONG. It’s a horrible practice. I’m just curious to know how much development has been driven by it here in Cotonou.


  1. Theresa!

    So you ended up with a Bertrand huh? Should I send over a deck of Magic cards?

    The reason I’m replying to this post in particular is that I’ve been trying to cell Tom’s old cell phone on eBay for some time now (I finally did but it took some work). Twice in a row I received bogus buys wanting me to send it to….that’s right…Nigeria. It really really pissed me off but at the same time I respect the ingeniousness behind it. And quite honestly, if you’re not able to sniff out a scam when selling something then you shouldn’t be selling online.

    You make an interesting point about development in response to this ‘biz’ though. It definitely wouldn’t be the first time societies advanced on exploitation and deceit. Though I don’t condone it, at least in this case it’s a less developed country developing indirectly and partially due to the exploitation of…well…us.

    Also….Tom and I are moving to NYC.

    Love you!

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