How one man is adding “salt” to an economic wound in Cameroon

In the budget implementation report recently released by Cameroon’s ministry of finance (MINFI), it is revealed that at end-September 2017, non-oil revenues generated by the country stood at CFA1,885.6 billion against CFA1,816.7 billion at the same time in 2016.

To them, this under-performance was mainly due to lower imports (-2% overall, and -7% oil excluded) and, at a lesser extent to the impacts of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). If care is not taken, Cameroon will be heading towards a more terrible situation than it is.

Startups and businesses contribute enormously to the national wealth of every country. Despite this, some governments still feel the urge to clamp down on these businesses.

Cameroon is the latest country to have witnessed this devastating situation.

Two hubs in Cameroon’s bourgeoning tech ecosystem (Silicon Mountain) ActivSpaces and Jongo Hub were victims of the Buea Mayor’s recent shop-sealing exercise on July 30 and 23 respectively in Buea. Including others,Mayor Patrick Ekema Esunge found it exciting to seal these business premises because they were not opened on Monday as a result of the Anglophone crisis hitting hard on the two English Speaking regions of Cameroon.  The news of this was shocking as it caused commotion on social media when Rebecca Enonchong, ActivSpaces’ Board Chair  broke it on twitter,

ActivSpaces (African Center for Technology Innovation and Venture Spaces) and Jongo Hub play a vital role in the existence and growth of the Silicon Mountain tech ecosystem. These two hubs act as meeting points for techies and tech enthusiasts around Fako division working on different technology entrepreneurship ideas. Jongo Hub which was supposed to be hosting a Design Thinking workshop went for more than week with its doors closed. This is not encouraging for a young hub that is trying to help young people grow.

 

Gabriel M. Ashu Arrey, Managing Director and Co-founder of Jongo Hub explained  someone called him on Monday and told him “They” were closing his hub but he couldn’t come there since it was a Monday.”I was very  surprised and embarrassed when I came to my business place on Tuesday, July, 24 2018 to find out that someone can just come and seal it for no reason. It has not been easy for me, I have a lot of startups that I am working with who could not access the space to have their training and other resources the space has to offer. We could not serve our clients as well”, Ashu lamented.

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ActivSpaces on its part is a “Community Church” for techies around Fako division. It welcomes more than 25 space users daily. Hence, it will have an adverse effect on its activities if it is shut down for a day.

Considering the role small businesses play in the economic development of every nation, it is vital for them to stay alive. Small businesses help stimulate economic growth by providing employment opportunities to people who may not be employable by larger corporations. Moreover, they tend to attract talents who invent new products or implement new solutions for existing ideas. This is a replica of what ActivSpaces and Jongo Hun are dong.

The resilience of Silicon Mountain startups and hubs kept them going during the more than three months’ internet shut down in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon.  Their zeal to continue existing during the shutdown pushed them to shuffle between Buea and Douala, connect to the internet using satellite and relay at times and create an “Internet Refugee Camp” at Bonako. The same resilience will keep them going in times when their premises are sealed.

However, as at the time this story was written, the Mayor had asked the reopening of these shops in a press release he published. Business premises that were shut down are now operational. While businesses have resumed operations, the economic repercussions resulting from this action however  continue to them an enormous effect on the growth of these businesses.

 

 

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