As Africa experiences the highest rate of growth of digital consumerism in the world, Cameroon finds itself at the forefront of the continent’s technological boom.
This rise of the tech industry in Cameroon is quickly changing the landscape of the country, and the investment opportunities these companies are bringing in, as well as the digital products they produce, could prove key to building Cameroon’s economy and improving the lives of its impoverished citizens.
Rise of Startups
Despite the steady improvement of living conditions in Cameroon, many citizens still struggle to survive. As a result, numerous startups in the country have set out to use advancements in technology to work for people in need.
Noticing that the cost of smartphones is lowering every day while access to health care is still difficult and that the infant death rate remains high, tech startup GiftedMom created an app allowing pregnant women and new mothers to text health care professionals for help when they cannot afford to see a doctor in person.
Similarly, Agro-Hub set out to help farmers, who make up nearly 70 percent of Cameroon’s population, as they fight to keep their work profitable. The startup helps farmers adapt to market changes, sell their products and find a community among other farmers who may offer help.
As unemployment remains a constant issue, web platform Njorku helps people from Cameroon to find jobs by offering an easy-to-use interface for both people looking for work and recruiters trying to find well-suited candidates.
These startups, only a few among many, use technology to solve real-world issues with practical solutions. As they succeed, the users they target (impoverished peoples, mothers and infants, unemployed individuals) also succeed.
Through Education Comes Potential
Seeing the possibilities that can arise when people are educated and knowledgeable about technology, many tech industry professionals both within Cameroon and abroad have invested time and resources to prepare young people for participation in the industry.
In 2015, German software corporation SAP hosted Africa Code Week in 17 African countries, including Cameroon, with the goal of spreading digital literacy and preparing African youth to work and compete in an increasingly digital world.
The Genius Center in the Cameroon city of Douala teaches children coding, computer skills and the ability to think of digital solutions for real-world issues, preparing them not only for employment but also to use these skills to improve their communities.
While Africa’s fast-growing population raises alarms of poverty and unemployment, the rise in technology training provides hope for job openings increase and creation of well-educated workers who are capable of performing in these roles.
As the tech industry in Cameroon continues to grow, significant changes are necessary for the growth to be sustainable. The country is still reeling from a three-month government-imposed internet shutdown in English-speaking regions that ended in early 2018, leaving tech professionals wary of the government as it announces plans to support the industry in the coming years.
Due to tech professionals’ suspicion of the government and Cameroonian business peoples’ hesitation to invest in this industry, many startups have sought investment from investors outside of the country.
For Cameroon to fully enjoy the benefits of this growing industry, domestic investors must understand and support the rapidly evolving direction in which the world market is trending.
While these changes are necessary for the benefits of the tech industry in Cameroon to be realized, the country has already made significant headway in establishing itself as a global competitor in the industry.
– Rob Lee