Since the proliferation of innovation and technology in Nigeria, there has been a thin line that separates the identity of a digital-savvy guy, often known as a “tech bro,” from that of a “Yahoo boy,” a moniker connected with online fraudsters. That subtle line has piqued the interest, suspicion, and, at times, misunderstanding of the Nigerian people.
Imagine this, a young Nigerian guy, always indoors (working remotely), with constant light or generator buzzing all day, the glowing laptop screen anyone could see through the window, the latest iPhone, or literally any iPhone at all. Then, the subtle but strong international accent from daily virtual meetings (clients in Yahoo Boys’ term) coming out from the dimly lit room.
This is almost the perfect scene that has become synonymous with many remote workers in Nigeria, especially tech bros. This seemingly innocuous scenario, however, frequently elicits odd looks and curious inquiries from neighbours, landlords, and even entire communities.
It’s as though working from home, keeping a consistent power supply, and engaging in worldwide exchanges have unwittingly placed a cloud of suspicion over these tech bros. Depending on the neighbour or landlord, or even their sons, it’s either they want you out or they want you to “show them the way” by force.
On Wednesday, HackSultan, a popular tech bro and a Twitter/X influencer made a tweet about a neighbour of 2 years who thinks he is into ‘yahoo” even though he explained to him that it was simply just tech. So, according to him, I work from home always, there’s always light or Gen on, I’m always on my laptop and sometimes he hears me speaking oyinbo kinda English…. And I told him I’m not into forex…
Sultan’s tweet struck a chord with many others in the tech industry and beyond who are also remote workers and have faced similar judgments. The stories ranged from subtle suspicions to confrontations resulting from being labelled as “Yahoo boys”, and it became clear that this was not a one-off occurrence.
But, what can you do if your neighbours think you’re into Yahoo? Just like one Twitter/X user said, he has currently laid out plans to sue anyone for defamation. In a country like this, the question now is how far will the lawsuit go.
It is almost as if explaining one’s legitimate hustle as a tech bro falls on deaf ears because, at times when this happens, the narrative is often misinterpreted to match the conventional image of internet fraud. It’s a story that, despite best attempts, appears to persist, propelled by a pervasive mistrust that’s difficult to shake off or cast aside.
There have been some other professionals who also fall under the remote setting and have experienced some kind of profiling and labelling as Yahoo boys. Chidi (name withheld), a writer who also works remotely has had his fair share of this accusation despite not being in the tech industry.
Me sef don collect after my neighbour enter my house see 3 laptops dey on, since then she think say I be Yahoo boy, always asking me for money and always telling those she can say I dey run yahoo…Chidi
Fola, a mobile software engineer at a payment solutions company, shares a similar experience with Technext. He recalled that his landlord had to go to his workplace to verify his claims that he wasn’t involved in an illegal venture since he doesn’t go to work every day, like regular 9-5 workers.
“It was a really a bad experience for me. For someone to think of me in that manner (as an internet fraudster) was a hard pill to swallow. He (the landlord) didn’t say it explicitly, but I knew what he meant. More so, I never experienced such until I came to Lagos,” he said.
Do we blame these landlords? probably not. In June last year, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) declared that landlords may risk 15 years in jail for renting houses out to Yahoo Boys. So, maybe profiling, stereotyping, and discrimination are almost inevitable for these landlords.
Why this is happening to tech bros?
So, why is this stereotype still present? It reflects societal attitudes toward technology and the internet. The digital world is still a new frontier, and its complexity can be intimidating to people who aren’t actively involved in it.
Unfortunately, online fraud has left its imprint on the global impression of internet-related activities, including lawful ones. This has given rise to the notion that any type of online interaction is associated with potentially harmful intent.
So, whether you’re a tech enthusiast building an honest career or someone genuinely engaged in online work, if you happen to share certain traits commonly associated with “Yahoo boys,” traits like always being at home, constantly running a power generator, and in possession of various gadgets, that delicate line continues to linger in the perception of many Nigerians.
Nevertheless, with Nigeria’s tech ecosystem on a continuous upward trajectory, the possibility of closing this divide opens the door to a future where the term “tech bro” is hailed for its innovation and valuable contributions, rather than being clouded by doubt and skepticism.
Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!