Cameroon has done it again… this time by winning the Olympics with bad press. As we all know by now, news agencies have reported the defection of 7 Cameroonian athletes, which has been syndicated worldwide, even the washington post is talking about it and while everyone was been quite verbal about their disappointment and shame, some even when forward to launch a petition against granting asylum to those athletes.
Why does bad news spread faster than good, I wonder if the Washington Post ever reported on Cameroon the first country to develop a medical tablet dedicated solely to saving lives. Of course not we live in the era sensational journalism,
Nevertheless the whole time my head kept wondering what will I have done if I was in those athletes shoes.
That is a very easy decision to take, because the answer depends on two things, your background and your perspective on life, you see Cameroon is a 21 million strong country, with a majority of people living under $5 per day (I’m so tired of this world bank statistic) but despite that, Cameroon has observed a steady economic growth of 4.5% since 2012, yet year in, year out there is massive exodus of talent and brain.
My story is quite similar, I left Cameroon 2 years ago to further my education in the states, I would not say, I lived on $5 a day, but like a majority of the youth, I went to college and graduated.
Straight out of it, I decided to work for Night club as their web designer, not because they weren’t better jobs, but getting those better jobs has proven to be a hassle.
You see in Cameroon, though over 11 million people are unemployed, this employment figure doesn’t count the informal sector which employs millions of people like taximen, bike owners, or “buyam sellams”.
Ofcourse I could have applied for a job at the state companies, but tribalism, favoritism, and corruption drive a lot of our companies, who would hire a half anglophone, half bamileke. These are they kind of unfortunately questions companies look at; where are you from ? Who is your father ? What is your last name ? Do you want to sleep with me ? even though I was qualified, getting a formal job was still not possible, now imagine that is the same reality for millions of people who have obtained their bachelors or masters, so all they can do is to sell clothes at Mokolo, that is a funny sad reality.
A better example, is my best friend, who graduated from a state university, gets a scholarship to go study in China, gets his masters, he is back in Cameroon and its been 6 months today, No job.
Due to the powerful nature of the government, a lot of our parents are civil servants, they have worked day in day out to able to send their children through school, no great pays but by some kind of money management technique called “njangi” they were still able to afford.
Because of that I do have a lot of classmates who went straight abroad for studies after high school, these guys do not come from high income families, a lot of them had to borrow huge amounts of money to send their kids abroad, in Cameroon we dont have a “College trust fund”.
Unfortunately once these get abroad they swear never to return. After all why should they return ? Nobody wants to come back and sell clothes !
But the is serious problem with that kind of reasoning, some will argue that what if our parents had followed that same logic we will not be where we are today, but you see our parents lived in a very different era, they were paid to go to school, had full scholarships and their jobs paid off well.
After the 90’s all of that changed…
Nevertheless thinking the is no need to comeback is fundamently flawed, yes patriotism doesnt feed a nation, but hope is really what should keep us moving.
My gig at the night club, put me in position to recognize an opportunity, I got recommended, went for the interview in 2 a piece coat and got the job.
A great job I would say, great perks, great starting salary, great team of people, and I was given a brand new Macbook Pro, a 24/7 home internet connection, even the Presidency of republic did not offer that.
…But well things started going wrong, as with many Cameroonian companies who start off well (Cameroon airlines, Sonel, Snec), a lot don’t survive to retain their talent, in my case my company upfront refused to increase pay package but once they did they added $50 (lol), they were constantly stressing out the employees with undertone racial statements and kept a majority of executive positions for their French counterparts but basically an unproductive work environment for a high-skill job.
I remember once during a Thursday meeting, the CEO told us, the reason he didn’t want to increase salaries was because he felt we did not show the zeal, thus we don’t need it, and how he knew how to manage our money better.
In my head, I said F**k You !!!!
His statement revolted me, but you are in Cameroon, who will you go complain to. This company started to use a very common tactic, they knew the job market was difficult so they capitalized on it, basically they told us, if you didn’t like the pay, you were free to leave. No one left, that says a lot !
So while some people got paid $100 monthly to do exactly what Apple geniuses do, the expatriates got paid $2000 upwards to do nearly nothing (in my opinion).
In clear English, we were being exploited !
Tell me why would any talented young engineer wish to continue to go through that stress.
So I did what I had to do, I decided to look abroad for better opportunities, later on quit ! (so did many others after me) I headed to the US, in the hope of one day getting that a solid background and going back to start my own business.
A lot of other people share similar stories, a lot people I know will never go back Home if things don’t get better.
So here we are ! Stuck with a lot of talent who will prefer to stay abroad because they believe conditions are better, and others who believe working hard in Cameroon will someday pay off.
As an idealist I strongly believe Cameroon will change for the better (thats the reason why I started writing a book), no one lives forever, so with continuous perseverance and hard work, it will take us 1, 2, 5, 10 years, if you take a page from Mandela’s book, he sets a perfect example.
I’m preparing to go to Cameroon to focus on expanding my startup, today the team is 6 people, but I wish to grow and create thousands of jobs and retain the talent, but to be honest with you a part of me is scared.
I could very well stay in the US, get a great job working, for someone like Google, Twitter or Facebook but my perspective of life is different I prefer to go for the unknown rather than be comfortable, I prefer to hope than to live on what others have built. So I really don’t know how this whole thing will go down, the government may decide to crush me with their tax and corrupt system, thus making this decision a great mistake, I don’t know, who knows ? but I have always learnt to trust my guts, optimism and live by my passion.
If only I could inject into those 7 athletes an ounce of my optimism.