A Cure For ‘Nigerian Internet Scams’.

The problem:

“Show me a man that has not received an email from Nigeria and I will show you a man that has not seen email.”

If from that statement you already know what I mean, Nigeria, we have a problem. It is clear that there is a huge problem pertaining to scams originating from Nigeria which has cost us and the world dearly

But what the world does not know about the scammers is that majority of them are ambitious, hardworking talented but misguided young men and women who did not grow up having a Jeff Bezos, Larry and Sergey, Mark Zuckerberg to aspire to. Our rag to riches internet stories were not that of Jerry Yang and David Filo but online fraudsters also known as yahoo boys

The solution:

“Give a man fish and you have fed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you have fed him and his family for a life time.”

It would be difficult to convince a man to stop making money the only way he knows without giving an alternative. So rather than spending all time and money focusing on clamping down internet fraudsters, why not support them in putting their ‘entrepreneurial’ energies and technological skills to more positive uses? Few people understand that these chaps have all relevant skills it takes to be very successful Internet entrepreneurs. Startup founders and scammers are very similar. Like startup founders, they are very determined, have well defined supply chains, business models and they even understand conversion rates, lifetime value of customers, etc

When I was back in Nigeria and told some of these guys to stop scamming an begin legitimate Internet businesses that would be more rewarding, the response I got was  unanimous, “Will you feed me if I stop? Show me, don’t tell me”. That has been my motivation for the past 3 years…

So how about telling showing them how to make sustainable money legitimately with the very same skills they use to scam? Can you imagine if all those boys and girls put all their scamming efforts towards, creating startups? It will be amazing I promise you.

In addition to the very brilliant young men that have taken the wrong road, we have the young ambitious startup founders that are making an effort.  We have to support existing Nigerian Internet entrepreneurs and make them the role models these scammers look up to. At this point in time 20 year old Ahmed Mousky , Mayowa Owolabi  founder of DuduPay, and Loy Okezie, our Michael Arrington come to mind.

Consequently, I wish to push for the highest level of Internet Entrepreneurship in Nigeria through education and mentorship. For us to have the impact, we need Nigerian startups to begin making a positive impact globally. For that to happen, we will need to enlist the support at the highest level. How do we get companies like Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, PayPal, Techcrunch, and people like Fred Wilson, Mike Arrington, Paul Graham, Saul Klein, Ron Conway, Steve Blank and co to buy into this dream?

Fred Wilson nailed it when he said I have always believed in the power of entrepreneurs and for profit initiatives to change the world.So to encourage global interest and participation, we should articulate the commercial and social benefits their participation will bring. Highlight the unlimited opportunities we have in the Nigerian market (70 million mobile phone users and counting, remittance to Nigeria is $10 billion every year, a population of 140 million people) explain that helping Nigerian internet entrepreneurs is the perfect way to gain insight into the untapped market of Africa. Prove to them that they can support us to kick start the largest social and economic revolution in Nigeria and Africa. That by helping us to help ourselves they would have really changed the world.

What next?

“To save a drowning man, he must first give you his hand”

We need to start showing effort in making ourselves world renowned. How can we harness the talents of the gifted internet entrepreneurs spread across Nigeria? Towards this end, I, in conjunction with my good friend Roland Ukor would like to announce an initiative called Nigerian Internet Entrepreneurs. The goal is to provide a mechanism that will  support and promote Internet Entrepreneurship through actionable knowledge transfer in every department of the Nigerian Internet ecosystem and integration with the global Internet ecosystem.  Thank God we have Nigerians like Eghosa Omogui, Venture Capitalist at Intel capital and Kingsley Idehen, founder of OpenlinkSW who I am certain will support our endeavour.

This August, we hope to organise a first event that will bring together people interested in creating world class Internet entrepreneurs who would build world renowned startups. In the near future we hope to organize workshops where will bring the best in the word to teach our best programmers (.NET, Ruby, PHP, etc) UI Designers, product guys, social media people, Entrepreneurs, bloggers etc. Get our VC’s to integrate globally.

For this to have any chance of success, we would need your help if you are

  • A programmer, designer, VC, product developer, etc and you want to mentor
  • A journalist and you want to help spread the word
  • An Internet Entrepreneur that wants to participate
  • A company that wants to help sponsor
  • or just want to be in the know of our next steps

Please drop your email below.

Special thanks to Nmachi for helping me edit this post.