Gazprom Stirs Racism Talk With New Gig

Upstream (Oslo), July 1, 2009

Russian energy giant Gazprom has inadvertently walked into an online racism debate with the announcement of its new joint venture in Nigeria–Nigaz.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Nigerian counterpart last week agreed the $2.5 billion venture to build refineries, pipelines and gas power stations in Africa’s most populous nation.

The name is meant to be an amalgamation of “Nigeria” and “Gazprom”, pronounced “nye-gaz”, but can be read phonetically as an offensive term for people of black African origin, wrote Reuters.

“How more derogatory can it be . . . let’s join forces in making our government rename this JV,” said the creator of “Nigerians No Nigaz”, a group set up on social networking website Facebook.

Other bloggers took a more mocking approach.

One African-American blogger recommended a playlist of songs from US hip-hop artists including 50 Cent and Tupac Shakur for the Nigaz launch party.

But many comments about the branding blunder on the Twitter and other social networking sites were from white bloggers.

“White people are making too much of this. As long as the Russians pay us, they can call it what they like,” said one Nigerian in the commercial hub, Lagos, asking not to be named.

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