The post-COVID-19 recovery in Cameroon: A breath of fresh air from the youth

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Laurence Okalia, winner of the 2021 Blog4Dev competition for Cameroon. Laurence Okalia, winner of the 2021 Blog4Dev competition for Cameroon.

This is one of 38 winning blogs from the 2021 Blog4Dev competition, the World Bank Africa annual writing contest, inviting young people to weigh in on a topic critical to their country’s economic development. Blog4Dev winners responded to the question: How can young people work with their governments and civil society organizations to respond to the impact of COVID-19 and build a stronger post-pandemic economic and social system?

No sector, least of all any in my own country, has been spared the horrors of COVID-19 (coronavirus). In Cameroon, the data from a National Statistical Institute study conducted in June 2020 gave an idea of the impact of the pandemic on the national economy. A total of 93 percent of companies and 60 percent of households have been negatively affected by the pandemic.

Even before COVID-19, Cameroon had been experiencing various ups and downs that had weakened its economy: the security crisis in the North-West and South-West regions; insecurity in the Far North Region; the oil shock, etc.

At the same time, the pandemic has demonstrated Cameroon’s resilience, and above all, the incredible talent of the country’s youth, who have been able to develop initiatives to encourage local consumption by Cameroonians . It is as if young people are being called upon to challenge the conventional wisdom that says: “If youth only knew, and if age only could!”

Because in Cameroon, young people do know how and can in fact leave their mark on the post-COVID-19 economic recovery.  How? They just need information.

As a journalist specializing in economics and ICT (Information and Communications Technology) for my media outlet, every day I come into contact with different sectors in which young people could distinguish themselves even further.

First, in agriculture and livestock. Nature has been kind to us, endowing us with rich soils and a favorable climate. This has given rise to the Support Program for the Renovation and Development of Professional Training in the Agricultural, Livestock and Fisheries Sectors (PCP-AFOP), which is the mechanism through which the government of Cameroon has, with the support of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), trained and placed over 3,500 youth since 2014. The youth of today definitely need to take a much closer look at the primary sector.

Now that the country has successfully diversified its production of raw materials, the next step is to process these materials. A new wave of youth could, therefore, get involved in the secondary sector to help offset the negative trade balance.

Production, followed by processing, trade, and other crosscutting activities would create value added, and would mobilize a variety of actors in the agricultural production and handicraft sectors. For example, the experience of the Integrated Program for the Processing and Transformation of Agricultural and AgriFood Products (TRANSFAGRI) could lay the groundwork and show the way forward.

Furthermore, traditional medicine has largely proven itself through the local production of hydroalcoholic gels and chloroquine derived from cinchona, and has had a positive impact on the secondary sector of the economy. This is a chance for young people to explore these opportunities. This is the sole focus of the Department of Pharmacology and Traditional Medicine of the Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences of the University of Yaoundé II.

The pandemic has also revealed the importance of developing the digital economy. Since the onset of the crisis, the rate of internet penetration in Cameroon has increased by 10 percent, and now stands at 40 percent, comprised mainly of young people.

Young people have developed a significant number of software programs designed to make life easier for the general public. Many of these programs have been used in teleworking arrangements. In the current context where in-person classes are restricted, e-learning has proven itself, especially with the TOOTREE application, a digital platform that serves as a network for mutual support, discussion, and information around points of interest among students, parents, teachers, and heads of institutions. Most recently, a Center for the Development of the Digital Economy was established to help young people navigate through the process of setting up a viable business venture.

To put all this into practice, we must rely on communication. The mass media can create jobs for those young people who view it as their mission to make their peers more aware of the importance of getting involved in the economic recovery, using language that they understand.

Putting all the pieces of this puzzle together would certainly brighten the face of our country, by the hand of our youth and for the good of Cameroon.

Laurence Okalia is the 2021 Blog4Dev winner from Cameroon. See the full list of 2021 Blog4Dev winners here, and read their blog posts.


Laurence Okalia

Lauréate au concours Blog4Dev 2021 pour le Cameroun

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