Every sunday, I help to host a show on a new station on Y FM Ghana, 107.7 FM on a show called "Fresh". The show is designed to target the Ghanaian youth, and we combine hip hop music and discussions about matters that affect the youth in Ghana. While I have been working on the show, we have discussed everything from sexual harrassment, to youth unemployment, to the "Sugar Daddy" phenomenon affecting young women. Listeners are invited to text in with their views and thoughts about the topic for the day.
Yesterday, we had a discussion about the practice of internet fraud, commonly referred to as "sacawa". People who use the internet to defraud people are often known as "sacawa boys" . Now the interesting thing about the use of the word "sacawa" to describe internet fraud is the fact that, from what I gather, " Sacawa" means "blood money" or the practice of using juju, or witchcraft, to get quick money. So the view is that many internet frauders use juju to defraud Westerners out of thousands of dollars of cash, whether it be through posing as females on internet dating sites to get money from western men, or by using email scams, or using stolen credit card numbers.
The facts are that internet fraud is on the rise in Ghana, and it is a practice that is blamed mostly on the youth. Unfortunately in Ghana, numbers of unemployed, out of school youth are very high. Thus, it comes as no surprise that many young people relish the opportunity to make quick money.
Many of the texters to our show echoed this idea. "Leave the sacawa boys alone!", one text said. Another said, "We dont hve jobs and cant afford school, so what else should we do?" Yet others said sacawa is actually HELPING the economy and is reducing crime on the streets. And many others yet said that internet fraud was a way to repay white people for the crimes they had perpetuated on Africa and blacks in general. Some of my friends in Ghana have thought about going into internet fraud but are afraid to use witchcraft. I've heard of young men buying flashy cars, computers, homes, and expensive clothes with stolen money. Even myself, I see internet fraud all the time in the cafe across my street. Young boys will come in, gather around the computer, prowling dating sites and sending messages to Western men pretending to be girls. One time, the cafe operator asked if he could use my voice to talk to one of his victims to prove he was an American girl!!
There are talks of a cyber crime bill going through Ghanaian parliament right now that would inrease jail penalties for those who are caught. But would it really work? In a society where jobs and education are denied for a large number of youth, and importance on money and Western style consumerism and materialism is growing, it comes as no surprise that internet fraud seems to be a supported practice by those in the youth. If the government really wants to combat this problem (if they see it as a problem at all, since most of those in government live plush lives anyway) there needs to be more jobs and opprtunities available to the youth.