By Omordia, Efe Alexandra – A few weeks ago, I got this spooky feeling when I entered an internet café not far from where I live. The spookiness did not emanate from the fact that the twenty something year old attendant sprouted another head at my approach; it came about as a result of his actions or should I say inactions. You see, this young man didn’t acknowledge my presence for several minutes even as I tried my best to get his attention. The more I tried, the more he looked right through me like I wasn’t there. I started panicking and imagining all sorts of thing. I was almost convinced that I had turned to a spirit being as the attendant as well as some other young men around seemed oblivious of my presence. They were gesticulating and talking in coded language. It sounded like English but the words didn’t make sense to me. At long last the attendant spoke to me but what he said didn’t make me feel any better as he informed me in a removed and robot-like manner that I had begun to get used to that there was no free computer system for me to use even though I saw empty seats all around. At that point, it seemed like they were other people in the café that I couldn’t see. It was getting weirder by the minute and I was beginning to lose it. In a polite tone that was just short of hysteria I informed him that they were empty spaces all over. He looked at me like I was the dumbest person he had ever come across and informed me that all the systems had been booked for the day. I now got the whole gist. I realized that it was one of the café’s all over the city I live that that have young regulars who spend countless hours trying to cook up all sorts of fraudulent schemes on the internet.
Internet café’s like these are spread all over West Africa. You can find them in places like Kaneshie, Adjame and Uselu. They are usually situated in the rough side of town, where the lives of the inhabitants seem not to count for much. In such places you find young people congregating and trying to get a hang of the illegal business. Their methods and the language of communication may vary but their expectations are similar; they need to feel a sense of community. They need to use their skills to improve their lot and since the governments in such places are usually short-sighted. These youngsters are willing to make things happen for themselves and their loved ones. Reminds me of the movie “Catch me if you can” in which Leonardo di Caprio starred as an intelligent crook that went about impersonating others but the difference in the movie is that the government of the character’s country recognized his talents and tried to channel it positively by engaging the character Leonardo portrayed to work for a security agency. They recognized his worth and rewarded him accordingly.
In West Africa, there is an enormous Human Resource Potential that can be put to good use. That can help to transform economies. Governments in countries like China and India are getting smarter and smarter and are putting their large population to good use. What are we waiting for? Fact is, young West Africans like young people all over the world would always do stuff so it’s up to our governments to make stuff work.