Tech Industry in Cameroon
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.

Looking Forward

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
Photo: Flickr

gates_foundationThrough innovation and funding, Kenyan bitcoin startup Bitsoko promises to revamp the way commerce is conducted in bustling markets in Nairobi and cities across Africa. The company has invented a digital wallet that employs blockchain technology to allow a smoother, cheaper transfer of funds between individuals.

Used in Bitcoin, blockchain technology saves and encrypts transaction records that allow for safe, speedy monetary transactions at a low cost.

This form of technology expands access to financial services for merchants and their customers. For sellers, such programming allows them to view and track customer payments while aggregating this data to produce complete financial and stock records, customer invoices and receipts, financial statements, and tax returns.

The acceleration of blockchain technology will also make transferring funds between individuals cheaper, encouraging mobile commerce.

Developments such as this will provide an alternative to inconvenient, slow transactions using cash or credit cards and will follow at the heels of the economic boom occurring in Africa. Such technology will foster economic growth and pair customers with suitable goods and services in a more efficient way.

According to Allan Juma, co-founder of Bitsoko, the brand hopes to be a leader in mobile finances, noting how “the financial structure in Kenya and throughout Africa has changed rapidly since the birth of mobile money by M-Pesa. We believe that this will only continue to grow”.

The company has recently attracted attention from international investors and organizations as well. It was recently awarded $100,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the Global Challenges Explorations, an initiative providing support to groups working toward solutions to global problems.

Programs such as this one provide an incentive for entrepreneurs who have experienced societal challenges to develop efficient, sustainable strategies for improvement.

With its GCE funding, Bitsoko plans on expanding its access internationally, bringing mobile banking services to Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Sierra Leone in a project co-founder Daniel Bloch has named “Enable Universal Acceptance of Mobile Money Payments”.

Bringing this technology to new countries will spur economic growth and technological innovation that has been heating up Africa in recent years. With increased transactional accessibility, sellers can expect to create a larger, more diverse consumer base and enhanced output.

Partnerships between international organizations such as the Gates Foundation and local businesses can lead to far-reaching global solutions that empower entrepreneurs and their communities.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: Disrupt Africa, Grand Challenges in Global Health, Bitsoko
Photo: Coin Telegraph

Ampion Venture Bus, a Pan-African entrepreneurship initiative, helps develop tech entrepreneurs in a unique way — a bus road trip across different parts of Africa. The bus journey enables tech experts with dreams to solidify their startup ideas into real business projects.

Entrepreneurs board the Ampion bus with an idea. On the five to seven day bus journey, the entrepreneurs interact directly with their target users. They also fine-tune their initial idea, launch and pitch it to potential investors. On the bus, the entrepreneurs learn from each other and receive advice from mentors.

The Ampion bus stops at innovation hubs along the road. The end of the five to seven day trip is planned to coincide with a regional tech event, in which the entrepreneurs who just finished perfecting their idea can pitch to more investors.

The Ampion Venture Bus trip is unique because the bus drives through rural areas. Many startups in Africa focus solely on issues in large urban metropolitan areas, and popular startup events usually occur in big cities.

“In Nairobi, for example, you might have a start-up event every other week. But we drive to rural areas, go to places where we are often the first organization ever to organize an entrepreneurship event,” explained Fabian-Carlos Guhl, CEO of Ampion.

At the end of the road trip, the most promising, successful startups join the Ampion Fellowship. This is an incubation program that provides a startup with funding, office space and mentoring.

The best of the Ampion Fellows receive a trip to Germany in order to modify their businesses even further and to meet with more potential investors.

“Travelling on the bus helps the teams to work closely together. In agriculture, for example, we go to farms, talk to farmers and see what challenges they face – and then our local and international teams try to develop solutions that suit them.”

Each trip, the Ampion bus carries 200 promising young entrepreneurs in five buses, divided into categories of interest. The company aims for females to account for 50 percent of bus-goers.

So far, over 30 successful startups have begun due to the Ampion Venture Bus program. Startups have provided innovative solutions to issues in “health care, citizen engagement, education, public transport, sanitation and tourism,” according to How We Made it in Africa.

One successful startup born of the Ampion bus is Based in Zimbabwe, the startup provides users with tools to coordinate and manage funerals.

Another startup is MobiDawa, located in Kenya. The program reminds patients to take medicine at the correct times, provides instructions on how to take medicine and warns them of possible side-effects.

“We want to identify start-ups that have potential to change the face of Africa, and ideally also globally. We want to foster technology that can disrupt an entire industry and generate profit, but also make social sense. We look for brilliant people… we look at their ideas, the quality of their education, their past entrepreneurial projects and their motivation. We certainly won’t accept someone who says ‘I don’t care about sustainability, I just want to get rich as soon as possible’” said Guhl.

– Margaret Anderson

Sources: How We Made It In Africa, Ampion
Photo: Flickr

When startups in Africa are discussed, people often generalize the continent as a whole. But it seems that Nigerian startups in particular are making big strides toward being the future of business on the continent.  A slew of investments and ideas suggest the country will be the most prominent for some time.

In April 2014, the Nigerian economy added 89 percent to the GDP literally overnight. After adjusting its figures, the country is now worth $510 billion, easily surpassing the now number two South Africa at $370 billion.

The country did not have to squeeze the numbers, per se, but simply updated figures that were two decades old. The economy had been growing steadily at 7 percent per year but this year, the appropriate values to the banking industry and the burgeoning film scene were added, among other areas.

Despite all the other numerous problems the country faces—like ranking 153 out of 187 on the U.N. Human Development Index—its position as number one should prove to be a much needed boon.

And so far it has, at least for the startups that are quickly appearing in the country.

In the technology sector, incubation center Co-Creation Hub has made $500,000 available in order to fund ideas and experimentation. Startups will be given between $10,000 and $25,000 to clarify ideas and work out issues with business models.

Other companies are excited about the future of tech in Nigeria as well. Microsoft Corporation will sponsor the 2014 DEMO Africa Event, which is scheduled to take place in late September. The event will feature the top 40 startups from the country.

One company featuring at this convention will be Integrated Medics. In a country that needs to advance its healthcare as quickly as possible, it is certainly a highlight that a medical care startup will be featured. The startup plans and promises to deliver smooth and mostly automated healthcare features.

The outlook for the Nigerian economy overall is positive. As the country continues to grow (it’s expected to surpass the United States in total population by 2050), it must also continue to rely on both small and big business to keep its place as the number one African economy.

Andrew Rywak

Sources: The Economist, This Day Live, The Tribune 1,, The Tribune 2