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Title:Cameroonian feymen and Nigerian '419' scammers: two examples of Africa's 'reinvention' of the global capitalism
Author:Ndjio, BasilISNI
Series:ASC working paper
City of publisher:Leiden
Publisher:African Studies Centre
Geographic terms:Cameroon
Subjects:commercial crimes
economic behaviour
Abstract:'Feymen' is the term used in Cameroon for international swindlers and confidence tricksters, and '419' scammers in Nigeria derive their business epithet from a reference to a section of the Nigerian criminal code which deals with business malpractices at large and in specific fraud. This paper is essentially based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Cameroon between 2000 and 2005 and in some European countries (France, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands) as a continuation to the author's research on the moral economy of trickery and deceit which yields 'unconventional' and 'unethical' modes of wealth production in contemporary Cameroon. The principal object of the paper is to demonstrate how, since the mid-1990s, young marginalized African youths have been endeavouring to make the best use of the cumulative opportunities offered by present global capitalism and to frame a dominant mode of the capitalization of riches, that is to corrupt its convential norms and systems of values, taking Nigerian advance-fee scammers and Cameroonian international swindlers as examples. The paper is divided into three parts: a comparative analysis of the art of 'feymania' and advance-fee fraud in which young Bamileke from the Western Region of Cameroon and the Igbo in the southeast of Nigeria are key actors. The second part discusses the internationalization of advance-fee and feymania-related practices. The final part explores what the author refers to as 'this African reinvention of global capitalism'. His findings fit in with the observation of Bayart and his collaborators (1999) that the social capital of African economies is increasingly taking the form of a widespread use of deception and 'dirty tricks'. They rightly point out that many African social actors have managed to re-appropriate to their own advantage the economic reforms imposed on them by Western institutions such as the World Bank. They have done this not only by developing new modes of acquisition of wealth, abandoning conventional economic strategies and norms, but also by inventing their own economic practices which can be morally and judicially categorized as criminal or illicit, dissolving the difference between criminal behaviour and legitimate profit-seeking. These new economic practices straddling the licit and the illicit, the 'visible' and 'invisible' economy, embody the ambition of many African businessmen and entrepreneurs to 're-invent' global capitalism. [ASC Leiden abstract]