You know that I rarely did trip reports in the past. I am personally convinced that you do not want to read, what I had for breakfast in Barcelona. But this trip was different. When I told the people around me that I will be travelling to Nigeria I got a lot of different reactions J.
I guess that most of these reactions are based on our constant confrontation with what we call the Nigeria scam. As you probably know there is section 419 of the Nigerian criminal code that is violated by these kinds of attacks. Therefore these scams are often called 419-scams. It is unbelievable; when you go to our search engine and search for "Nigeria scam 419" you find more than 400'000 hits! There is even a site called http://www.nigerian-scam.com/ . For a country like Nigeria, this is one of the worst possible things to happen if you want to base the growth of the economy on modern technology! Is this a Nigeria-only problem? Not by far. A lot of scams originate from Western countries, a lot of others from Eastern countries – and, there is no doubt about it, a lot from Nigeria as well.
I was told that Nigeria is serious in fighting these crimes. Additionally I knew that we have an agreement with the Nigerian government to support them in their efforts . The Nigerian subsidiary invited me to visit the country and talk to the customers and governments and I accepted.
Let me try to summarize a few of my impressions and findings:
I had the opportunity to have a roundtable discussion in Abuja with government representatives and in Lagos with executives from different companies, mainly financial services. Additionally I could collect different impressions of the cities and the country by talking to quite some people. I met a lot of people who are extremely proud of their country and are highly energetic moving the country forward. Additionally, when driving through the streets of Lagos in particular you see a people wanting to sell something all over the place. Everybody seems to want to make his or her own business. So people do not seem to wait until money comes to them but are aggressively looking for their business opportunities.
From a technical point of view Nigeria is ramping up fast. Today they still have a bandwidth challenge. In the Western world we are used to having "unlimited" bandwidth. In Nigeria, this is not (yet) the case. However, Nigeria is in the process of solving this issue and there seems to be a good chance that enough bandwidth will be available in the future to drive growth in the economy. In my opinion this will be crucial as Nigeria and the business there more and more sees that they are part of the global village and want to be connected to it.
What does this now mean? I am convinced that the spirit in Nigeria will have an up- and a downside with regards to this development. By wanting to drive business, Nigerian people will follow all the opportunities they can to grow their economy. This is a very good thing and I am convinced that there will be good opportunities for them as they do not have to care about legacy applications. In other developing countries I have seen impressive e-government solutions as the government made it a priority and made the money available. As they did not have to link back to "old" legacy host systems, they could do very cool stuff. Similar things can happen here. So, watch out!
But, as I mentioned already, there is a downside: By going aggressively after the business opportunities on the Internet, there is a good chance that a small part of the population will go after the illegal business opportunities as well – and we have seen that already. This does by no means mean that Nigeria is the one and only source for lottery scams or even for the "Nigeria" scam but this is definitely a problem for this country. So, watch out! It happened that *.com.ng was blacklisted as a spam domain, which has an unbelievable negative impact on any country in this stage of its development.
When we are coming to the downside, there is always an enforcement piece to that. What is Law Enforcement actually doing to combat fraud and any other illegal activity within their country? I often get the impression when I talk to people in Europe that their impression is that Nigeria is doing nothing or that they are not serious about it. After the discussions with the Nigerian government I am convinced that they really want to fight against cybercrime as they have seen that this is a big image problem for Nigeria. And they are serious about that! They already had their first successes and they will improve.
We, as Microsoft, are committed to help the Nigerian government. We have the agreements in place and started already to train some Law Enforcement officers. So, together and together with additional partners from the private space there is a fair chance to go after the bad guys and help Nigeria to ramp up.
The agreements between the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria) and us caught quite some attention which shows that we are on the right path:
- Spammers Beware: Microsoft and Nigeria Team up to Fight Cybercrime
- Microsoft, Nigeria Join Forces Against Cybercrime
- Microsoft aligns with Nigeria to crack down on scams
- Nigeria enlists Microsoft to fight spam scammers
- And a lot more
Obviously I know of the Nigeria scam. I am convinced that a country like Nigeria needs a fair chance and support to fix this problem and grow the economy that way.
P.S. I said that I was driving through Abuja and Lagos. Well, driving through Abuja would probably (maybe) work out. Lagos would have been a complete nightmare! I have never seen any worse traffic than that in my life J