Bloggers and website owners in Africa are getting taste of a new scam. Naturally, it’s probably not originally created to be a scam, but it’s turned in to that for those in Africa who use Google AdSense. For those unfamiliar with the term, AdSense is a program that people can enroll in to get a snippet of code to place on their site. Google then scans the content of pages the code is placed on, displays relevant text ads, and the website owner gets a small payment for each ad click-through. Overall it works quite well. I use it on a few websites of mine and make enough money to pay for the basic costs of the sites. I’m not getting rich on it, but I don’t have to do anything to earn the money, so that’s a win-win.
People with larger sites that get more traffic can make a great deal more though. This being the case, a number of website owners in Sub-Saharan Africa have taken to using Google AdSense on their sites. Again, it works well overall and they appear to get a good number of click-throughs which result in some pretty decent earnings for these guys. The problem comes when they want to actually get at the money coming to them from Google.
The quite excellent Atelier des médias, a ning network based on a radio show in French (ning doesn’t like Google Translate by the way) broke the story about what has been happening to a lot of these guys with the checks that they get sent from Google. For those running AdSense, you may be asking right now, “They mail the checks? Really? But Google just does a direct deposit in to my bank account. The check is a last resort” Yes, they do direct bank deposits when you’re not in Africa. This is explained a bit more in the article:
Google does not offer the possibility of electronic transfer to its customers residing in Africa and they only offer the sole option of receiving their payment by check, a check they have the greatest difficulty in cashing.
But there is an added layer of trouble to even starting a Google AdSense account in the first place as Serigne Diagne, the fellow who is the main subject of the article and owner of senactu (a Senegalese new portal), mentions in a comment which appears to single Africa out as a “problem” region:
…google only accepts payment by check for a person who is in Africa, for people who open the adsense account in Europe, America or Asia…
I have to admire the fact that Serigne is able to comment so evenhandedly on this as he has received good payments from Google that he cannot access as the article stated:
Serigne is quite angry because his site, senactu.com displays advertisements from Google (via AdSense) and has received two checks in the amount of $208.84 and $233.55 [USD]. The two checks are from CityBank, that banks located in the Dakar will not cash, not even at the local branch of CityBank.
And you can go on to see similar stories in the comments from prominent African bloggers that are in agreement with the article. I just have to ask, what gives? First off, why checks by mail? In general, postal systems around the world are not known for always being that great. When mailing to Croatia, I tell people, “Okay, I sent it in January, you should see it in February.” to which they always reply, “Fine, but which year?” African postal systems can work in their roundabout way, but at the same time, there is no need for this. Why no direct bank transfers like website owners in the Americas, Europe, or Asia can access? That would seem to be the easiest option. Or, barring that, how about phone credits? This is a highly-used form of complementary currency in Sub-Saharan Africa. It’s almost like Google doesn’t want the payments to be received…
Let’s face it, while Google is making strides to have a presence on Africa, they’re a bit timid. They don’t really want to invest themselves wholeheartedly, but at the same time, they want it known that they’re there. They’re fine with their AdSense being displayed on African sites, but how many AdWords (the other, paying-to-Google side of AdSense) clients are they going to have there? Most likely, the clients are based in France or Belgium as shown by some of the ads that I clicked on senactu. Is the mighty Google with their secret sauce afraid that they’ll get taken in some African scam? Is Google really working to develop a web economy in Africa? Why do their Western Union payments not include anywhere in Sub-Saharan Africa? Does Google really want to pay these African website operators or just take the AdWords client money without paying the AdSense money? From where I’m sitting, it would appear that they don’t and it’s a nasty scam to those who started using AdSense in good faith. Hopefully others will chime in on this and show some proof to the contrary.