“Great documentaries expose worlds
you’d never otherwise see, and Sakawa succeeds at lifting the veil
on what’s now a pop culture trope.”
– Austin Chronicle
We’ve all received those e-mails from strangers announcing that we have won the lottery or that an attractive woman would like to chat with you…
But who are the people trying to deceive us? What human stories lie behind this phenomenon of internet fraud?
In Ghana, there is a high rate of youth unemployment. This has led young men and women to practice internet fraud, with the help of animism/voodoo, to earn a living. ‘Sakawa’ is the name given to this practice.
Sakawa meets the new generation in Africa dealing with a digital world in their very own way. Ama is a young mother and a newcomer on the scamming scene.
“Some of the scammers buy phones with a special microphone that changes the voice from male to female.”
Francis, the most experienced of them all, teaches the youngsters the tricks of the trade. And when a ‘client’ is too stubborn to part with money, the fraudsters turn to voodoo priests who perform rituals to help their scams work.
OneDollar tries to save the money he earns to travel to Italy. Some of the scammers buy phones with a special microphone that changes the voice from male to female, but OneDollar simply changes the pitch of his voice. He sounds like a girl when he talks to his Canadian ‘lover’ and he tries to convince him to send money for a plane ticket.
The fraudsters’ stories are intertwined with the path of e-waste. What starts as Western waste dumped in Ghana, ends up as the medium for the Ghanaian youth to make money. One of the methods of stealing is to find a hard drive that contains personal and financial information from its former owner – and though it sounds like a long shot, it works.
Belgian-Ghanaian director Ben Asamoah gained intimate access to this hidden world and stunningly shows the reality of the people behind internet fraud. Europeans have been making false promises to Africans and plundering their continent for centuries. Through sakawa, young Ghanaians are simply returning the favour.
The film screened at Doc Edge Festival 2019.
Previous festival appearances for Sakawa include