Dancing to the beat of the 419

Would-be Afrobeats stars need cash to make it in Nigeria’s music industry — and cybercriminals have plenty to burn. The partnership has generated some of the country’s biggest hits, and put famous names behind bars

On the surface, the Nigerian music scene looks healthier than ever. The country is home to Afrobeats (not to be confused with Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat), which is the most popular — and lucrative — music genre in Africa. Its galaxy of stars includes Wizkid, Davido, Yemi Alade, Runtown, Patoranking and Tiwa Savage, and industry executives are pushing hard to expand into international markets.

But behind the scenes, and the lavish Instagram accounts of its most successful stars, the Nigerian music industry is in a perilous state. It is plagued by wanton piracy, infrastructural poverty, an ailing royalty collection system, rampant corruption and an abundance of con men masquerading as music executives.

Enter the Yahoo Boys. Many Nigerians are sympathetic to internet fraud, commonly known as Yahoo-Yahoo or 419 scamming, after the section of the Nigerian criminal code that deals with fraud.

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