Tuesday 17 September, 2013

Why Africa Gets a Bad Rap for Online Scams and Crime

A blog called White African complains that Africa gets a bad rap online for internet scams and cybercrime. The author complains that they can’t open a PayPal account, they have to go through extra security to use Facebook, and they have trouble getting items shipped. Why? All because of the continent on which they live and worldwide prejudices.

Sure, there are hundreds of scams coming out of Africa, from the world-famous Nigerian doctor pleading for your assistance (and asking for money up-front) to dodgy dating scams. But these scams shouldn’t give the entire continent a bad name. If there’s a recent news story about hackers in the Ukraine, you don’t chalk it up to those untrustworthy Europeans.

Africa has fifty-two countries at the time of writing but there are only a few countries that are known for their cybercrime. You don’t hear about Moroccan, Zambian or Zimbabwean scammers all that often. White African cites the Internet Crimes Complaints Center 2009 Report, which lists Nigeria as #3, Ghana as #6 and South Africa as #7 worldwide for internet scams.

Who is #1? Why, it’s the good old U. S. of A. The United States produces a whopping 66 percent of the world’s cybercrime. At #3, Nigeria has only 8 percent of the world’s internet scams and from #5 (Malaysia) down, all are under 1 percent. What this means is that only Nigeria produces any significant amount of internet scamming, and that’s still well under 10 percent.

A more recent report in 2013 by anti-virus software giant Symantec found Africa’s internet scamming even less significant. It looked at six contributing factors – malicious computer activity, malicious code, spam zombies, phishing web hosts, and origin of bots. The survey found the United States again at #1 with 23 percent, China at #2 with 9 percent, and no mention of any African countries. The rest of the pie chart was devoted mostly to countries in Europe. The entire continent of Africa is under the 19 percent of ‘other countries’ that includes the rest of the world.

Why does Africa get such a bad rap? While needy Nigerian millionaire doctors play a part, most of it is just good old fashioned racism. Africa is still the ‘dark continent.’ It has always had a reputation for corruption and social ills, and this has just been updated to the digital age.

This is a big problem for African ecommerce sites and internet entrepreneurs, the number of which is growing. Many share White African’s pain.

But studies show that more and more Africans are going online. Along with internet use, ecommerce shopping is growing year by year in Africa. This is partly enabled by sites increasingly targeting feature phones, since the number of laptops and smartphones is relatively low in Africa. These numbers are expected to keep increasing each year.

Many feel that the solution is for Africans to create their own platforms. If the rest of the world ignores them, they can do it themselves. For global ecommerce sites and companies, this is a market that shouldn’t be ignored. We can only hope that as global companies realize Africa’s buying power, they’ll wise up, take a geography lesson and realize they should do business in Africa.

Bob Steele

Bob Steele

Bob Steele is an entrepreneur, software developer, marketer, and author living in the Denver metropolitan area. He’s an avid outdoorsman who loves skiing, hiking, fishing, boating, and just plain having fun. His interests include games, space, technology, physics, cooking (well eating actually), economics, business, internationalism, and team sports. With over thirty years of professional consulting experience, Bob has been exposed to many diverse business models and has gained a sensible approach to life. Bob’s company, WaveCentric is focused on commerce, marketing, and entertainment related products.

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