Yesterday, I had a conversation with someone about MMM (Mavrodi Mondial Movement) in Nigeria. The individual said it was akin to lottery or gambling. I once gambled at Montecasino in Johannesburg. Being the sharp Naija girl that I am, I stopped immediately I made a profit on my money.

I see five clear distinctions between MMM and organised gambling.

  1. Gambling is regulated – It is under the purview of a government regulatory agency and has clear policy guidelines.
  2. Gambling and lottery institutions are financially capitalised – They are not issued a license unless they show clear financial capitalisation.
  3. Gambling institutions are insured.
  4. Although online gambling exists, the organisation behind it is required to have a registered business address and clear shareholding structure.
  5. Gambling chips have inherent value. In Vegas, for example, you can use chips to pay for some goods and services outside the casino.

If you choose to participate in MMM, be honest about its structure. It is not organised gambling. It is a Ponzi scheme sustained by continuous patronage. It will only survive as long as individuals keep giving “help”. Unlike financial institutions, there is no investment product, loan offering or treasury business.

Where does the 30% spread come from? It only exists as long as more people give help than those who take help. There is no investment vehicle that produces the 30%.

I think there are two kinds of people who are involved in MMM – the middle class and the poor. The poor deserve love and understanding; the middle class less so. I will explain why. The poor borrow money to “give help” in MMM. They have no disposable or investment income of their own. If they did, they would not qualify to be poor. Some are driven by a desperate need to escape their circumstances. Many people cannot relate to those circumstances.

Desperation is a curious thing. It presupposes a lack of options – whether real or imagined. That you can think of options and utilise those options to escape your circumstances is a sign of lack of desperation. The term, “poverty of the mind” exists for a reason. The desperate need compassion and intervention. If they were not involved in MMM, perhaps it would be prostitution or murder. I cannot tell.

Members of the middle class see a get-rich-quick opportunity in MMM. They are driven by greed. For instance, some bankers in Nigeria indulge in closed network opportunist schemes. They trade their own money or “borrow” clients’ monies to return them after unsanctioned trading. They continue along this trend with foreign exchange round tripping. Members of the middle class know what they are doing.

My major objection with MMM is that it shifts focus from love to personal advancement. To cheerfully participate, one must “unlook” the possibility that latecomers may lose their money. One must have been so focused on personal enrichment that after making profit, a sigh of relief was breathed at the thought that one was not unlucky enough to experience pain during Christmas due to frozen accounts.

I think most of us have a trace of MMM ideology in us. Nigeria is so hard that we are firmly focused on our personal hustle to the exclusion of non-family members. We are desperately trying to make enough money to have light, water & shelter and to send our kids to school. Then and only then do we look up to see others around us. We outsource giving to church, salving our consciences that our charity work is done for the month. We really don’t directly engage with the poor and helpless if we can avoid them. At least, we don’t actively look for them.

The greatest lesson I have learnt from MMM is to be compassionate. There are desperate people in Nigeria. What can I do to make them feel a little less so?