As the rate of youth unemployment takes a steady rise in Cameroon, civil society groups in the sector are seeking ways of helping out. The organization, Youth Business Cameroon (YBC) from October 19-21 organized a forum in Douala, dubbed: “The 2008 Entrepreneurial Marathon.” With focus on advancing youth entrepreneurship in Cameroon, the event sensitized young people on seeing self-employment as an opportunity where there is unemployment. The activities were part of the Global Entrepreneurship Week observed in over 50 Countries worldwide, to inspire young people into dreaming big and making their ideas a reality for economic empowerment.
By Irene Zih Fon
According to the Executive Director of Youth Business Cameroon, Gilles Lewat, it is time for all stakeholders committed to fighting youth unemployment, encouraging entrepreneurship or discouraging illegal immigration, to put together their resources for a greater impact to be achieved. This involves seeking partnership with Enterprise organizations and government structures, to design projects in schools and universities. Such occasion would yield an opportunity to rally youths from different sectors, when organizing employment/entrepreneurial forums.
Panelists at the three-day forum gave talks on varied topics such as ‘employment and self-employment,’ ‘social entrepreneurship’, ‘youth entrepreneurship and information and communication technologies’ as well as ‘rural and agricultural enterprise.’ The resource persons included the Directors of Mc Darwin Institute, Viva Coiffure, Youth Business Cameroon among others. The event also featured testimonies from young entrepreneurs who have made their mark in starting out on a business and actually making it. For those who prefer being employed, participants also got an insight into the process of job hunting.
To the organizers, the idea of instilling an entrepreneurial spirit is based on the fact that creating an enterprise would besides ensuring self-employment; also enhance employment by recruiting others. It enables a young person to engage in what he/she enjoys doing for a life, earn a living by it and at the same time exploit natural talents or acquired skills in an area of interest or expertise. Youths who are more concerned about a humanitarian cause, can equally start an organization that will cater for a societal need.
With regards to providing funding to young people ready to start a business, Gilles Lewat said, “money is not the most important aspect in starting a business, for there is need for ideas to provide start-ups.” He said they are working with some micro-finance institutions to convince them the organization’s members are worthy of their support, but it is still a process. The entrepreneur regretted that commercial banks in Cameroon do not grant support loans for business start-ups.
The young people present expressed their desire to see the organization, Youth Business Cameroon, get a good representation throughout the Country. They also want chapters created in universities, which would be suitable for the creative programmes designed. One of such is a programme of the International Labour Organization, of which YBC is a strategic partner, dubbed ‘GERME’ –“Gérez Mieux Votre Entreprise.” The initial version which is in English, entitled: “Start and Improve Your Business,” is a management-tailored program focusing on small businesses, as a strategy for creating more and better employment in developing economies and those in transition.
Youth Business Cameroon sets out to sensitize, reinforce capacity and build entrepreneurship. It was created in 2005 by a group of young Cameroonians from diverse background. Membership is open to anyone who adheres to its values. “These include youths with unemployment challenge, who are determined, honest, hardworking and ready to help towards developing our programmes”, added Mr Lewat. Members benefit from training and field work to promote excellence.© The Entrepreneur Newspaper 2008. All Rights Reserved