Perhaps the biggest news story in Ghana today is about Nana Appiah Mensah, also known as NAM1, CEO/founder of Zylophone media and Menzgold. Menzgold was apparently a gold trading hub where people bought gold and received a 10%+ return on their investment each month.
In September 2018, the SEC told the company to shut down its vault market. The company has not made payments or returned customers’ principal since (SEC says it’s command should not keep the company from making payments). There have been protests by customers at Menzgold offices in Accra and Kumasi, and NAM1 is apparently in custody in Dubai as of today over another legal matter.
There are now reports that Menzgold will circulate a list of people who invested their money in the company. This is causing riot; people don’t want this information released for various personal and professional reasons. Apparently many well established business people, lawyers, politicians (including ex presidents etc), were among the 1.8 million Ghanaians who invested in the scheme.
There is some general sense that customers who invested in Menzgold are financially literate and some insinuate that they were motivated by greed.
As Ghana’s Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori Atta, said, “I see some people at the Finance ministry who have invested there. I look at the BoG and I see some people who have invested there…so it becomes an issue of greed”.
My concern today is figuring out what percent of the 1.8 million Menzgold investors are in the diaspora.
I AM interested in learning about how Menzgold traveled to the diaspora such that young Ghanaians ended up investing in the scheme. I want to understand who and through what channel they heard about Menzgold, how they were approached with the opportunity, why they did it, how much money they put in it, and what their sentiments are about the ensuing saga?
For example, my cousin, an intelligent, generous, and upwardly mobile young man in New York invested in Menzgold. Early last year, he asked my friend and I about Menzgold when he was in town. I did not think that he had heard enough of Menzgold enough to be interested. Yet, he had already invested. So my friend advised him to take out his principal and reinvest his dividend payments just to be on the safe side.
Did he listen? In part 2, I will ask him about why he invested, how he found out about Menzgold, who managed his account, how does he feel about his trapped principal, and will he invest through another vehicle, should the option become available? Also, does he think he was motivated by greed?
This will be interesting to know because:
The reach of the Menzgold operation tells us something about the nature of an evolving diaspora and its financial relation to the continent. Why do we make the investment decisions that we make as it relates to the continent? Moreover, are younger diasporans more experiential and risk prone than earlier generations of immigrants?
Could this energy/momentum to find an investment vehicle on the continent be catalyzed into creating and funding legitimate investment vehicles for a Diaspora that’s desperate to connect with the continent physically and even more determined to make financial gain from the land?
Stay tuned for PART 2.