Yaounde — "To fully succeed in, and become a sub-regional hub of digital transformation, Cameroon must very quickly move on costs, access, quality of services and on improving the sector's competitiveness, while having its sight set on job-creation and accelerating innovation ".
These are the words of Antonio Pedro, Director of the Subregional Office for Central Africa of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), during a consultation with various stakeholders of Cameroon's digital transition project, moderated by ECA's Economic Affairs Officer Mactar Seck, and chaired by the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications of Cameroon, Ms. Minette Libom Li Likeng, this Thursday at the ECA premises in Yaounde.
Cameroon's digital transition project is one of the fruits of the exchange between President Paul Biya and ECA's Executive Secretary Ms. Vera Songwe during her first official visit to Cameroon in April 2019.
This support project focuses on four pillars, including: (i) Upgrading the legislative and regulatory framework and strengthening governance within the ICT sector; (ii) the development of broadband infrastructure to facilitate access by citizens, the administrative corps and enterprises to high-quality, reliable and cost-effective digital services; (iii) the development of e-Commerce, e-Government, digital financial services, and associated payment methods; and, (iv) the development of a digital entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Speaking to the heads of telecommunications regulatory institutions, mobile phone companies, ICT startups and relevant public-sector officials who took part in the talks, Ms. Libom Li Likeng underlined the pivotal place of the digital economy in Cameroon's development trajectory.
"It is with this in mind that the Head of State, H.E. Paul Biya has continuously challenged the Nation and the Government, to spare no effort in making up for Cameroon's backlog in the digital economy, and support the many initiatives of young people in this area, "she said.
According to the Minister, the technical support provided by ECA, along with two other partners, namely: the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the infrastructure financing platform - Africa50, is in line with the government's digital economy development strategy for Cameroon.
"Partnering with ECA is a great opportunity; and I take this moment to express, straightaway, the deep gratitude of the Government of Cameroon to the Executive Secretary of ECA for this important support, "said Ms. Libom Li Likeng.
During a long and fruitful exchange with the various stakeholders of the digital economy and telecommunications sector, several young start-uppers described the challenges they face, and expressed their wishes for a better future.
Many of them spoke of the need for better ICT policy framework and reduction in administrative bottlenecks to makes life easier for startups.
Others evoked the need for a huge campaign to initiate learners right from primary levels into digital careers, while popularizing the digital culture which they defined as one in which people are conscious of the daily-life benefits accruing from the digital economy.
To Mr. Kom Sihon - founder of Ikwen - a software engineering company that helps companies go digital and reach out more efficiently to customers, financing is not the biggest problem of Cameroonian Startups. Human capacity, he said, is a huge challenge. He urged government to encourage big business to promote quality startups, by accepting to test their products/projects.
According to Mr. Mac Arthur Zang, telecommunications engineer and award-wining inventor of Africa's first telemedicine tablet - the Cardiopad - Government needs to do a lot more oversight with regards to the operations of foreign companies in the digital economy sector, given recurrent cases of unequal partnerships they have held with national SMEs especially in the area of Fintech, resulting in several litigation processes.
After listening attentively to the young entrepreneurs, Minister Libom Li LIkeng said while Government works towards improving the business climate and digital ecosystem, "you young people must seize opportunities and dare to innovate."
"Together we can break walls to promote Cameroon's digital economy," she reassured them.
The Director General of Cameroon's Telecommunications Regulatory Board (ART, in French) - Mr. Philémon Zoo Zame, a representative from CAMTEL (the State-owned telephony company), Orange Cameroon and others, all made cases on their commitment to render better digital services to enterprises and the general public in the country.
Meanwhile, Messrs. Pedro and Seck of ECA said today's encounter with multiple stakeholders could provide a pedestal on which to have regular exchanges on improving the health of Cameroon's digital economy.
Abel Akara Ticha - Chargé de communication
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