Importing Foreign Entrepreneurs to Set Cameroon on a Business Path

January 5th, 2007 by admin

Here is an interesting article from another news blog set up by a Cameroonian. There are many other articles of interest at the site that you might find worth reading.

Importing Foreign Entrepreneurs to Set Cameroon on a Business Path
By Ernest L. Molua

Cameroon is in dire straits. The President of the Republic, Mr Paul Biya, in his most recent public pronouncement, challenged his countrymen to rise-up from inertia (inaction) and embrace patriotism, like the Asians. He implicitly implied that Cameroonians, perhaps lack the vision, determination and will to overcome obstacles, except in football. Cameroon needs a thriving business class to catalyse development. The business climate is riddled with obstacles that serve as impediment to indigenous entrepreneurialism, yet few foreigners as far as China seem to have the magic wand to braze the odds. If Cameroonians cannot do it, then lets import foreigners to do it, after all America, Canada, Australia, Germany currently have schemes and programmes to import skilled able-bodied labourers. There must be policy in place to import and properly manage foreign entrepreneurs who will take the lead for Cameroonians to follow.

The Chinese are doing it in frying puff-balls in Cameroon, as a lucrative enterprise and not for mere subsistence. They took the lead. All of a sudden, Cameroonians are now increasingly frying ‘puff-balls’ or ‘puff-puff’ in every street corner. While the Nigerians, Ghanaians and Beninese are exploiting the coastline reaping revenue of about 5 million FCFA per day in fish sales, Cameroonians are caressing beer bottles, harboring tons of concubines and harvesting poverty while sitting on the complaining bench.

Time to Bring in Foreign Job Creating Firms

However, we will need to import job-creating foreign entrepreneurs. The Cameroonian tragedy is that foreign derived investments are very low. The country receives less than 1% of global investments. That is too low to facilitate ‘sustainable’ development and growth. We will need to clean our business environment to cajole the Sony Erickson, Ford, BMW, Ikea, Pfizer, Microsoft, etc. to set up factories and plants in Cameroon, to gainfully employ our people. There is shortage of job creating private domestic and foreign firms in the country. The result is that about 40% of households in the country cannot find formal gainful employment, and continue to live on hand-outs and external assistance from the lone breadwinner in the extended family. And they either pest the breadwinner to death or push him to loot state treasury.

This economic reality is particularly saddening since Cameroon is a treasure trove. Huge deposits of natural resources and agrarian produce, but the problem is that we export raw materials and we import the finished product. With the result that Cameroon gets poorer and the nations north of us get richer. We need to add value to our agriculture products, and if we cannot do it ourselves, let’s bring in foreign risk-bearing entrepreneurs to undertake the transformation.

There is need for strategies to speed up development and growth, by creating an environment that will attract more international investments, since Cameroonians themselves are cash-strapped to create businesses or inherently lack the entrepreneurial will and acumen. The sign for foreign investment is domestic investment. If domestic businessmen do not seem to believe in investing in their own country, it becomes difficult for foreign investment to flow in. We therefore need to promote domestic investments, regional trade within Africa, with growth and development strategies having specific focus on creating jobs and wealth in order to break the cycle of poverty.

There are several obstacles that stand in the way of foreign investment coming into the Cameroon. The first is afro-pessimism – the belief that the entire continent is corrupt and riddled with inefficiencies. This is incorrect. There are countries like South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco and Tanzania that have maintained an admirable record of good government and good governance.

There are some positives in the outlook for the continent. The International Monetary Fund in its world economic outlook said while the global economic trend has not been consistent, 2005 recorded the highest economic growth in the history of trading. The African continent recorded growth that was, on average around 3%-5%. The continent’s GDP rose to 5.1% of the global GDP. Interestingly, Cameroon, Angola, Mozambique and Botswana have shown high growth rates.

On the other hand, states such as Zimbabwe and the Ivory Coast have recorded negative growth, largely due to political instability. It is important for the African continent to develop its own strategies for development and growth. We must be careful of importing eurocentric strategies for the continent. We also have to be careful of one size fits all strategies. What may work in Johannesburg may not work in Douala or Kinshasa. However, we must thoroughly examine and imbibe the best strategies that may do the greatest good to us.

There are many similarities between strategies for running successful businesses and successful countries. The strategies for attracting investment into a company through good governance and subsequent growth can be applied to the process of building a country set to attract investment. The country’s success levels will be enhanced by improved corporate governance. The corporate sector is a critical driver of growth in any country. With the best intentions in the world, Government is not a good creator of employment and wealth.

Sustainable Business Establishments

On a purely business level, there is a great need to produce business strategies that will result in organisations that are sustainable in the medium to long term. A lot of businesses are created in such a way that they are only sustainable in the short term, because they are based on short term goals and strategies. Some businesses are structured in such a way that they can only survive for twelve months or less. A lot of failures are due to limited understanding of the product/service, the markets and the competition.

On the other hand, talent and good leadership are increasingly becoming key to sustainable businesses. While in the past, there was much emphasis on assets, there is an increasing focus on people as the core of every successful organisation. Modern business calls for proprietors and managers who are willing to bring in new thinking and create new ways of doing things. Cameroonians can quickly learn and be pushed onto the right path if there are more opportunities to work shoulder-to- shoulder and eye-ball to eye-ball with foreign entrepreneurs. Let’s open the floodgates for Pakistani, Indian, Lebanese, Turk and South African Boers and Afrikaners entrepreneurs to come and nurture our timid businessmen and teach Cameroonians to take risk.