Often unfairly. I’m not Nigerian, nor am I of Nigerian descent (that I know of), but I have worked for a number of large entities in Nigeria and I regularly advise Nigerian (and other African) bank boards—so I have a perspective on views of them by others. My general sense is that other Africans look at the fringe of Nigerians that raise the eyebrows with their behavior due to scams or big man-type corruption scandals, and extrapolate from these tail events in forming views about the entire nation. Perhaps I feel I can relate to this sort of unfair stereotyping. As an African-American, I know far more Black people with resumes nearing that of President Obama’s than people with resumes like Biggy Smalls’s—but the world seems to think quite the opposite. This is characteristic, by the way, of a common set of cognitive biases. We don’t do statistics well mentally—even if we are statisticians. In particular, we overestimate the likelihood of rare events and underestimate the probability of common events—and this is almost universal. We also fall prey to subconscious associations and, of course, we like to confirm our pet theories without sufficient evidence. Taken together, when we see Nigerian scammers or criminals or big men, we associate scams and corruption with Nigerians, even though scammers and corrupt officials anywhere are probably extremely small in number (despite Nigerians being extremely large in number, with respect to Africa) and believe Nigerians are “all like that”. The one true point—which even most Nigerians agree with—is that Nigerian scammers are extremely creative, if not brilliant. This energy could be better spent in building the country. But again, quantifying that is difficult as its unlikely that even if every scammer changed his ways it could make a dent in such a large economy. I think the point is that, in my experience, many Africans like to look outward and criticize Nigeria instead of looking inward and analyzing their own problems—which are probably just as prevalent. I found this especially to be the case in Kenya. Yes, Kenyans work hard and yes, they are better at getting away with scams and corruption than many Nigerians, but as a foreigner I find Nigerians infinitely warmer and more noble in character—and with me that counts for something. Probably every Nigerian I have ever met has invited me to his or her home for dinner; yet, in my 2 years in Kenya, I didn’t receive a single invitation. That’s probably my bad effort at casual statistics and cognitive biases speaking, but, nonetheless, it counts for something! Blogged from Quora


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