AFRICA: Sakawa uses beautiful portraiture to tell a story of Ghana’s enterprising young adults who hope to make a living by learning how to scam on the Internet.
JoAnne Velin
Jo-Anne Velin is a Canadian journalist & film director living in Europe, creating long-form documentary films with a very special focus on authentic sound.
Published date: July 7, 2019


Sakawa is a Ghanaian word describing the evolved practice of scamming foreigners via Internet, invoking religion and ritual to enhance success.

Belgian director Ben Asamoah’s film, Sakawa, takes you into the quiet way of life of a poor community’s micro-entrepreneurs who have developed their own scamming practices. He does this with tenderness and patience to reveal how this strategy has grown organically from the spread of the Internet per se, and from the treasures found in waste PCs dumped in Ghana en masse from wealthy countries. It makes perfect sense at that scale and in that context, to harvest money from men, and sometimes women, who seek love online and who will pay for the hope and emotional fulfillment of being noticed. Asamoah also drops in other examples of how people strive to overcome poverty, through piety, ingenuity, or trying to acquire what they need to get into Europe. The whole film, however, is beautifully shot. The editing puts it neatly into a type or category that makes this a very Belgian/European film indeed – very much a film made primarily for an audience in the North, and a television audience at that. We are always outside looking in, even if the director has Ghanaian roots.

Ground zero

The opening shot follows a man hauling computer waste across a vast PC dump. Hand tools crack the hard drives from their metal boxes. This is ground zero.

Sakawa shows us the matter of fact strategies people use to target «clients»

it demonstrates how systematic swindling of white men and women seeking love and partnership through Internet dating connections, sometimes succeeds.

(the subtitles use this word) in rich countries as sources of raw material, or as prey. There is no finger-wagging condescension by the director. The film is especially strong as it demonstrates how systematic swindling of white men and women seeking love and partnership through Internet dating connections, sometimes succeeds. Detailed market analysis is shared between the scammers; digital filters on a phone, or sheer acting, make a man’s voice sound like a woman’s; an old hard drive is cracked and the owner’s bank account details are plumbed; a young woman teaches another how to lure the client; a young man, after purifying himself with the help of a voodoo priestess, takes an egg she has given him to hatch and brings it home to care for it: on the bus, he …


Dear reader. You have read 5 articles this month. Could we ask you to support MODERN TIMES REVIEW with a running subscription? It is onbly 9 euro quarterly to read on, and you will get full access to close to soon 2000 articles, all our e-magazines – and we will send you the coming printed magazines.
(You can also edit your own connected presentation page)