Online dating for ghanaians

For the youth of the West African nation of Ghana, a country on the margins of the global economy, the growth of the Internet in the 1990s was full of promise — the promise of sharing in the prosperity of the information age, and of forging meaningful connections with the rest of the world, politically, economically, and socially.But when Internet connectivity finally arrived after the turn of the 21st century, many of these optimistic youth struggled to form connections with the foreigners they encountered online.One young Ghanaian, Gabby, got the idea to pursue online scamming from his friends. “Sometimes I would accompany them to the banks for the money.” Rather than email scams, Gabby’s preferred methodology was the online dating scam, colloquially referred to as the ‘come-and-marry’ scam.Gabby and other young scammers would frequent online chatrooms or dating websites, building relationships with amorous foreigners.Scamming came to be refered to by the Hausa term ‘sakawa’.Headlines warned of “The Sakawa Menace,” and crime movies had titles like “The Dons of Sakawa.” Despite the widespread approbation — even moral panic — a too-weak police and court system in Ghana has left scammers to pursue their gains largely without resistance, Burrell said.“Scammers did not fear the local police, though family pressures and societal stigma did compel some young scammers to quit.” In response to the spread of Internet scams from Ghana and other West African countries, many online businesses have begun blocking access to anyone connecting from Ghana and Nigeria.

“Once ordinary Ghanaians began coming online, they were coming into an already organized and formed subculture, not knowing what the rules were,” Burrell explained.He had diversified his gains, investing in the local music industry and renting out two trucks he had acquired.These youth, disillusioned with the possibility of forging authentic connections with foreigners, instead sought attention through misrepresentation; their Internet scams demonstrating increasingly clever strategies of social engineering.This had changed when Burrell returned to Ghana in 2010.Gabby, for one, had obtained a few thousand dollars from an Internet scam, by adjusting the format of his scam.Entire Internet cafés had been overtaken by scammers, and their profits were clearly evident in the young men’s conspicuous consumption of new cars, jewelry, and trendy upscale clothes.There was also much more public visibility for the scamming subculture and considerable alarm in Ghanaian society over the activity.Burrell tells a story of a burgeoning online friendship between Fauzia, a young Ghanaian woman, and an Egyptian man.While chatting online, Fauzia mentioned “ok, my phone is giving me problems and I will be very grateful if you could send me money to get a better phone or if you could send me a new phone.” After repeating the request, “I didn’t see him online again,” said Fauzia.“As the Internet was growing and spreading in the US in the mid- to late-90s, Ghana simply didn't have the bandwidth,” Burrell explained.“And it certainly didn't have the public access facilities or Internet cafés that most Ghanaians needed.

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