After a decade of strong growth in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Cameroon was compared favorably with fast-growing East-Asian economies. This fame came to a sudden stop in the late 1980s when the country experienced one of the world’s deepest and most protracted recessions, triggered by large fall in the terms of trade and appreciation of the real exchange rate. Debts - previously at reasonable levels - mounted, banks failed and poverty increased. A 50% devaluation of the CFA Franc, a currency Cameroon shares with other former French colonies, in January 1994 pushed the foreign-currency denominated debt to increase to over 100 percent of GDP, triggering the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt relief process. Cameroon successfully exited HIPC in 2006. Since then, the authorities have set the goal to become a middle income country by 2035, anchoring their growth strategy on building infrastructure. After some initial success, with real growth steadily increasing from 1.9% in 2009 to 5.9% in 2014, the country is facing again some fiscal strains and risk of its debt distress has risen from low to moderate to high, in just 3 years.
While global economic growth has been sluggish in recent years, Africa has been growing. We’ve seen a resurgence of traditional sectors such as agriculture and the extractive industries as well as promising new ones such as ICT. Not surprisingly, these booming sectors need highly skilled technicians, engineers, medical workers, agricultural scientists and researchers. Yet large numbers of African graduates remain unemployed as their skills are often not in line with industry requirements.
I met Roselynd Laubhouet in 2004 when, as a recent graduate, she accepted an assignment as a Junior Professional Associate with the World Bank's Africa Region in Washington, D.C. From day one, it was evident that Roselynd was special. Being an entrepreneur at heart, she was filled with dreams, aspirations, and a passion for her home country of Senegal (and her continent) that set her apart.
When Roselynd and I reconnected in Abidjan last December, eight years after our first meeting, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that not only had she moved home to Senegal, but she had also started a successful international business. The journey from bureaucrat to entrepreneur was not easy, but it was clear that--having returned home--Roselynd was realizing her dreams.
I was curious to learn the secrets of her success, to understand the challenges facing returnees, and gather any advice for other Africans in the Diaspora considering a return. Roselynd was kind enough to share her experiences with me in the hopes that other young women in the Diaspora might be inspired to follow in her footsteps.