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How Some Academics View Scamming In Africa

A SCARS Special Report

The View Of Academic Apologists On Ghana Scammers!

Updated: March 2021

Meet Jenna Burrell, Associate Profession of the University of Berkeley, California. A progressive associate professor at their school of Information.

The video below represents a prevailing view amongst American Progressive Academics that “Young Men” in Ghana are marginalized by Western Countries, and for that reason turn to scamming.

That it is Western Business and American & European attitudes that have created the scamming culture in Ghana (and by extension throughout Africa and the rest of the world).  Minimizing and apologizing for the scammers in Ghana (and elsewhere.)

In summary, it’s all our fault!

According to Jenna Burrell, scamming activity is really all about overcoming stereotypes and Internet oppression. Western businesses ban African countries because of the scamming risk, but this is really just a misunderstanding – implying it is racism at work and that it is understandable that Ghana (and by implication all of African) youth rebel against these limitations through scamming.

This is one of the major reasons why these scams propagated and were so difficult to overcome. The lax attitudes that many academics and people in authority have about scammers created challenges in approaching the problem from a law enforcement perspective.  These attitudes permeated U.S. administrations (including the Biden administration) – particularly in the United States Department of State, Federal Law Enforcement, and the White House.

For example, instead of sanctions on scamming countries for their failures of law enforcement, the focus is on gender politics.

When you listen to this attitude and how “Poor Ghanaians” can’t get enough access to the internet you will understand how poisonous these views can be and how certain sectors can project this distorted belief system. In their view, these “poor misunderstood youth” are only trying to get things for free to occupy their inherent curiosity and to explore the world through pen pals. These are also the views that are being taught to the current generation of our youth in the process.

Of course, in the opinion of most scam victims: “we should shut all internet access off from Ghana for good, and treat them like the thieves they are!”

We have found that the progressive mentality (including that of Facebook and most of Big Tech) typically apologizes for criminals – turning them into victims of a global society. Only rarely caring about the real victims of these criminals.

Sadly, a significant percentage of the population believe in this also. We routinely hear from people who disagree with our own Law & Order and Real Victim Centric views.

This is also, curiously, why we believe that no American Universities have made any real effort to understand or study the effects of these scams on their victims. Almost all research is conducted outside of the United States in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and now China.

Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafes of Urban Ghana by Jenna Burrell

By Burrell, Jenna (2012) Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafes of Urban Ghana. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Link

SCARS NOTE: This book was written almost none years ago (as of this update). It reflects a mentality the continues to this day and that we combat constantly. It is a big part of the reason why we have lost so much ground in less than two months since the change in administration, and why Ghana almost refuses to take these crimes seriously. We, never the less, continue to fight the good fight and put pressure on governments to ignore this point of view in favor of recognizing that scammers are not disadvantaged youth, they are criminals!

Summary:

An account of how young people in Ghana’s capital city adopt and adapt digital technology in the margins of the global economy.

The urban youth frequenting the Internet cafés of Accra, Ghana, who are decidedly not members of their country’s elite, use the Internet largely as a way to orchestrate encounters across distance and amass foreign ties—activities once limited to the wealthy, university-educated classes. The Internet, accessed on second-hand computers (castoffs from the United States and Europe), has become for these youths a means of enacting a more cosmopolitan self. In Invisible Users, Jenna Burrell offers a richly observed account of how these Internet enthusiasts have adopted, and adapted to their own priorities, a technological system that was not designed with them in mind.

Burrell describes the material space of the urban Internet café and the virtual space of push and pull between young Ghanaians and the foreigners they encounter online; the region’s famous 419 scam strategies and the rumors of “big gains” that fuel them; the influential role of churches and theories about how the supernatural operates through the network; and development rhetoric about digital technologies and the future viability of African Internet cafés in the region.

Burrell, integrating concepts from science and technology studies and African studies with empirical findings from her own field work in Ghana, captures the interpretive flexibility of technology by users in the margins but also highlights how their invisibility puts limits on their full inclusion into a global network society.

Excerpt from her book:

The urban youth frequenting the Internet cafés of Accra, Ghana, who are decidedly not members of their country’s elite, use the Internet largely as a way to orchestrate encounters across distance and amass foreign ties–activities once limited to the wealthy, university-educated classes. The Internet, accessed on second-hand computers (castoffs from the United States and Europe), has become for these youths a means of enacting a more cosmopolitan self. In Invisible Users, Jenna Burrell offers a richly observed account of how these Internet enthusiasts have adopted, and adapted to their own priorities, a technological system that was not designed with them in mind. Burrell describes the material space of the urban Internet café and the virtual space of push and pull between young Ghanaians and the foreigners they encounter online; the region’s famous 419 scam strategies and the rumors of “big gains” that fuel them; the influential role of churches and theories about how the supernatural operates through the network; and development rhetoric about digital technologies and the future viability of African Internet cafés in the region. Burrell, integrating concepts from science and technology studies and African studies with empirical findings from her own field work in Ghana, captures the interpretive flexibility of technology by users in the margins but also highlights how their invisibility puts limits on their full inclusion into a global network society.

Review Of Her Book:

In this well-written and compelling book, Burrell deftly supports her conviction that future scholarship must recognize the inconsistencies inherent in the digital experiences of those who live in the margins of our global society.

Practical Matters

An Endorsement Of Her Book:

In this fascinating ethnography of life in internet cafes in Ghana, Jenna Burrell shows how a blend of scammers, religion, and a grey market produce a new form of digital marginality. Exploring the ‘material turn’ in science and technology studies, this book makes an important contribution to media studies, development studies, and anthropology.

Trevor Pinch
Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University

We encourage you to visit her YouTube Channel and leave your thoughts about these poor misunderstood Ghanaian Youth.  If you would like to leave her a personal comment after watching her video, here is a link to her page at the University of California at Berkeley.

Our Goal

Our goal in this article is not to shame the good professor, but rather to express our disdain for the mindset that apologizes for criminal behavior and exc