Why does being in Africa make you untrustworthy?

I haven’t been able to use PayPal for two months. I just got profiled for extra security measures on Facebook. I can’t make certain purchases from Africa. Few organisations ship goods to me here in Kenya.

Let’s be honest; living in Africa, or being African, gives you a certain unwelcome aroma in the eyes of global corporations. Frankly, we’re just not trustworthy.

This isn’t new to any of us who live, or spend a great deal of time, in Africa. You’re blacklisted, given extra screening, and generally treated like a second-rate human. You’re not trusted, and you’re not worth the time to figure out if you can be trusted.

Frankly, as a total continent-wide user base, we just don’t make enough of a blip on the radar to be worth their time. There’s not enough money here in their minds, there is lower-hanging fruit elsewhere with a lot more spending history – and therefore power.

Does it make it right? No. Do my own stories of wrongs and misbehavior matter? No.

Jon Gosier states it well when reflecting on his blacklisting by PayPal (one of the very worst company offenders):

“Once again, the message perpetuated here is to be cautious when dealing with Africans, Africa or anything you suspect of being related to the aforementioned.”

A closer look at African cyber crime

From the Internet Crimes Complaints Centre (IC3) 2009 Annual Report [PDF download]

Nigeria has a significant 8%, but Ghana, South Africa and Cameroon all come in at a measly 0.7%. How in the world do Africans get so much worse treatment for so little compared to the others? There’s no doubt that one country in a continent of 52 countries has a problem – we all get punished for it.

Here are some more interesting statistics, according to the Consumer Fraud Reporting statistics for 2009:

“The majority of reported perpetrators (66.1%) were from the United States; however, a significant number of perpetrators where also located in the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Canada, China, and South Africa.”

So, there are two strong Africa contenders for fraud, but it’s amazing how much more hell internet consumers in African nations (outside of Nigeria and South Africa even!) have to go through in comparison to their much more cybercrime-ridden finalists like the US, Canada and the UK…

Texas in Africa puts this well after a recent foray into this space with Delta:

“it also reflects knee-jerk prejudice and the willingness to write off an entire continent of people as liars and cheaters. The consequences of this attitude are far reaching”

Too true, and there are only two ways that this might change:

First, we in Africa come up with our own payment and business solutions that work here first, and then interact with other global systems.

Second, the global corporates wake up and realise that there is quite a bit of spending power and money to be made in Africa, just like the mobile operators found out in the 90s.



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