7 November 2017

Cameroon: Go-Betweens Business Thrives


Young men parade in front of offices proposing to facilitate the acquisition of administrative documents or services.

Owing to difficulties encountered by the public in obtaining administrative documents or services due to bureaucratic red tape, a new profession has emerged in Cameroon, which is that of go-betweens.

These are people who are in connivance with the administration and who can obtain services or documents in lesser time than the ordinary user, of course in exchange for a prize. They are found everywhere, in front of the Senior Divisional Officer's office, court houses and especially transport offices.

As soon as one approaches the transport office in Douala, the young men rush towards you asking questions, "Carte grise? Immatriculation?" The scenario is the same in front the SDO's office but the question differs as they try to find out what type of document you want to certify: birth certificate, diploma, certificate of non-conviction...

They propose forms or assist to fill the form in exchange for FCFA 1,000 in addition to the cost of the form which is usually FCFA100 and the cost of the fiscal stamp to be affixed on the document. They usually make brisk business during the period of competitive exams into professional schools. The same activity is witnessed around the port of Douala but for the difference that it is regulated and recognized by law.

The sad side of the story is that it penalizes users who want to obtain these document or services by themselves as some authorities deliberately make things painfully slow so as to push people to pass through the Go-betweens because they receive a certain percentage of the money received from users.

"When I was registering the police exam, I spent a whole day at the Sub divisional office just to have my birth certificate certified", said Eric Aboh. "I was surprised people who went through the Go-between obtained the services in less than thirty minutes", he added.

Another inconvenience is that some people have not only been dubbed in the process but also lost their documents. Tracing the culprits is usually very difficult as the Go-betweens work in solidarity and would not release any information that might lead to their capture or incarceration.

Complaints are awash at the transport office in Douala of people who have been robbed, dubbed or tricked to pay a higher fare than necessary in obtaining car documents.

Here the mark-up for the various actors in the chain is in terms of tens of thousands. While the profession of Go-betweens has come to facilitate things for users, it has always brought woes to some people.


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