Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mr. Ponzi comes to Africa

There's a very well kept secret about Africa and it's this: There are many wealthy people here, some of them fabulously wealthy. And where there is wealth, it is reasonable to expect, there will be stealth. And so it has proved to be. This week Noseweek, the monthly (ahem) South African investigative magazine, broke a story about a massive Ponzi scheme that's supposed to have fleeced hundreds of (mostly African) investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars. Yes, that's UNITED STATES dollars. Like I said, there are some fabulously wealthy people in this continent.

Now, admittedly, not all of these rich people have acquired their wealth through (how shall we put it?) conventional channels. Or at least, not through what passes for conventional channels in other parts of the world. Take the recently departed Omar Bongo, erstwhile President of Gabon. And that's erstwhile with a capital "WHILE", 42 years to be precise. 42 years! You can do a lot in 42 years and Bongo did a heck of a lot. For himself, that is. Politics being the original African Ponzi scheme, you see.

This week's Economist has an obituary of Omar Bongo. Entertaining and depressing in equal measure.

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