Hundreds of young Ghanaian men and women are resorting to get-rich-quick schemes, popularly known as ‘sakawa’. Most of these schemes are hatched and executed on the internet.

In internet cafes from Accra to Agona Swedru and from Kumasi to Keta people are using the World Wide Web to defraud people of money and other worldly possessions. ‘Sakawa’ is the latest craze in town and even teenagers are getting hooked. A colleague of mine in the JOY FM Newsroom recently interviewed a 13-year-old boy who spoke about how he poses as a woman to dupe white men in Europe.
“They send me a lot of money,” he says. “I use to pay my school fees and buy things for myself.”
Thanks to ‘sakawa’ school dropouts have suddenly become millionaires, driving in posh Mercedes and BMWs. They are buying houses whiles graduates who are honestly earning a living struggle to pay their rents.
It’s a major problem and government has to deal with it – and soon. Because of Ghana’s growing reputation as a major ‘sakawa’ base, most e-commerce websites do not accept transactions from Ghana. Paypal lists Niger and Togo as eligible countries. Ghana is not. I cannot use my debit card, issued by VISA, to renew my Norton anti-virus subscription or pay the company that powers the podcasts on my site because Ghana is essentially blacklisted.
There is a police cybercrime unit which is supposed to be clamping down on this problem with venom. But it has neither the personnel nor the equipment to go after the criminals. They do not even have regular, dependable access to the internet so they are operating like highway patrolmen who cannot get on the highway.
Alarmed at the rate young people are resorting to ‘sakawa’ some of the youthful officials in the Mills administration called a press conference this week to talk (yeah, just talk!) about the subject. In all their speeches, the young ministers put themselves up as worthy role models who have made it without resorting to “sakawa” or (fraudulent) get-rich-quick schemes.
Listening to them, however, I couldn’t help but ask: isn’t politics in this country essentially an easy way to riches?
Politics is supposed to be a noble call to service. Not here in Ghana. Most of the politicians in this country are a bunch of dignified, ‘sakawa’ fraudsters who are every bit as criminal as those who prowl the internet in search of idiots to dupe. They come to us (like the ‘sakawa’ boys do) with promises to give us more than we have. They use cunning and deceit to win our votes. But when they’ve gained our confidence and we’ve given them what they want (power) they start plundering our wealth, which they use to surround themselves with ostentatious luxury.
Politicians are contributing in various ways to the fast spreading epidemic of get-rich-quick schemes in this country. We see our politicians driving in the latest luxury sedans. They have become so filthy rich that they prefer to seek treatment abroad at the slighted hint of a migraine. They engage in corrupt practises that earn them money they do not deserve. And they even greedy enough to use the law to demand that we give them “ex-gratia” – gifts we cannot afford to give. Even those who claim to have made their riches before entering politics are stealing every state property they can lay their hands on.  
Young men and women, fresh out of the university, who have never held down a job, are driving around in posh cars simply because they could shout the loudest in defence of the indefensible.
Our government officials have fleets of cars parked in their homes as our police cry for patrol cars and logistics to fight crime. Our politicians live like kings in grand mansions where they never suffer blackouts like most of us do, their taps constantly flowing they can even afford to cultivate plush lawns whiles most of us struggle to get water to drink.

Politics is one of the easiest and fastest routes to riches in this country – besides drug trafficking and internet fraud. So why when I hear a group of politicians telling young people to look up to them and stay away from get-rich-quick schemes, I feel like reaching out for a pinch (at least) of salt.
It’s not really a bad idea for the likes of Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, James Agyenim-Boateng and Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah to want to put themselves out as role models. But talking is not enough. If they really want to be seen as worthy examples, they should voluntarily publish their assets so that we all know what they have now. They should also make known their salaries as government officials. And in four years, they should publish their assets for us to know what they acquired in the period they were in public office. This is the only way for them to prove to us that they didn’t get into politics to pull a fast political “sakawa” on us – like NPP men who claimed to be “self-made” did with impunity and without shame.

Write A Comment