'Sakawa boys': Meet the professional internet fraudsters of Ghana

In Ghana and Nigeria internet fraud is an increasingly common way for young people to make money

I am sitting in an internet cafe near Kwame Nkrumah circle in Accra, Ghana. It is nearly 2am on a weekday. The clicking noise created by many people typing at the same time sounds like rain falling on the roof. With your eyes closed, you could easily believe that you are in a business premises. But this couldn't be further from the case.

This is one of many hubs of internet fraudsters (known as 'Sakawa boys' in Ghana and 'Yahoo boys' in Nigeria). A group of young men sit nonchalantly in front of computer screens. The silence in the room is occasionally disturbed by chatting among the guys as they peruse through pictures and chat online with their victims, who are referred to as “clients” or “mugu.”

Internet fraud has become immensely popular in Ghana, Nigeria, and many other West African countries. It has even inspired movies, songs and catchphrases. There are many reasons for this. First, scores of young people are unemployed in the region. Also, the virtual world is still like the Wild Wild West with barely any effective legal controls and restrictions.


Jude – US ambitions thwarted

Twenty-six years old Jude is a Nigerian national, and he is involved in internet fraud. He has been living in Ghana for about five years now. He tells me that he moved to Ghana in a bid to travel to the US. But with his plans of going abroad at a standstill, he turned to internet fraud.

He reveals that he started doing 'Sakawa' from an internet cafe, but now he works from home.

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