By Samuel NTYENE EVA, digital marketing expert and Okwelians Fellow 2022.
Cameroon is going digital. That’s a fact. After transitioning from 2G (Voice and Short Message System « SMS ») to 3G technology in 2012, Cameroon, despite some inconvenience, continues to perfect its network in a highly competitive sector where mobile operators are vying with each other in terms of offers and technicality to capture and retain a demanding clientele in search of quality service. The country has experienced a decisive turning point with the advent of 4G, of which all mobile network operators claim leadership. At the heart of this competition are 9.15 million Internet users, a population that has increased by 16% between 2020 and 2021, according to the Digital 2021 report published by Kepios, Hootsuite and We are Social on February 11, 2021. Among these Internet users, 4.3 million are social media users, making up 16% of the country’s population, estimated at 26.88 million in January 2021, according to the same source. Another interesting data from the Digital 2021 report is that the number of mobile connections increased by 2.6 million (+11%) in the same period, increasing the mobile connections ratio in Cameroon to 99% of the country’s population. With precision, many people in Cameroon have more than one mobile connection. All these aggregates of opportunities make the digital sector in Cameroon a real niche that is increasingly attracting the interest of companies in the education sector and the business world in general. To understand this phenomenon, we must take stock of existing digital solutions to propose solutions to analyze and dissect the barriers to digital growth in Cameroon in education and business.
I. A Broadband Creativity
The pedagogical integration of computer science in education has been a reality since November 2001, when Head of State Paul Biya inaugurated the first multimedia centers in Yaoundé. The population will quickly take hold of ICTs, and soon, modernizations of education projects have come into being throughout the country. But it was not until the advent of the Covid19 pandemic in 2020 that digital educational solutions began to spread almost virally across the country. In reaction to the social distancing measures imposed by the government and health institutions, school authorities had to rethink their teaching methods. The long-standing resistance to digital growth in education in Cameroon was smashed on March 17, 2020, with a Prime Minister’s special statement disclosing the government response strategy to the Coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19), thus opening a new era: that of the revenge that e-learning, distance education, and training are taking on the classroom. One of the first actions of many secondary and university teachers was the integration of social networks such as WhatsApp to allow their learners to continue their training while confined to their homes. In line with the government instructions, Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV), the national broadcaster, made everything possible to remote teach and assess primary and secondary school students. Today, more Cameroonian state and private universities are adding distance learning to their curricula (ESSTIC, University of Ngaoundéré, etc.). Also, some ministries such as the Ministry of Secondary Education, have virtual classes integrated into their official website.
Source : The World Bank : https://www.worldbank.org/en/programs/all-africa-digital-transformation
II- The meeting of business and digital
Digital transition is now a must for companies in Cameroon. Thus, Cameroonian companies ought to upgrade for their local and international competitiveness. We can see the consequences of the digital growth over the last few years on banks/micro-finance and their business. Microfinance structures and banks have had to respond quickly or risk disappearing. These companies are now more connected, intelligent, agile, and social. One can log into his bank account at any time, and on any connected device, from a simple application (UBA mobile app, Ecobank mobile app, e-banknet SCB, etc.). By giving this freedom of access to users, these financial institutions have eliminated time that costs to free up time that pays.
State-owned companies have also resolutely taken the path of modernizing their customer relations. That’s the case with ENEO, the major electricity supplier in Cameroon. Following the kick-off of the mobile money technology in Cameroon in 2010, it has embarked on a dematerialization process whose benefits are visible in the daily lives of Cameroonians. It is one of the first companies to allow bill payment via mobile banking (better known as mobile money). Customers are now relieved of the ordeal of paying these bills in a branch, for which it was common to spend a whole day. Mobile money has remarkably impacted financial inclusion in the country. Mobile operators are working closely with application developers and merchants to ensure that they are using their APIs correctly to grow their businesses. School fees can be paid exclusively by mobile money, as are electricity, water bills, and countless other transactions. More Cameroonians are opting for digital platforms to market their products and services. The creation of e-commerce sites (VuSur, Sellam Quick, Kikuu
Cameroon, etc.) is another perceivable part of this new fashion already well anchored in the consumption habits in Cameroon. However, after the close down of Afrimarket and Jumia in 2019, the e-commerce sector requires a real competitor to take over the market.
South Korea to invest XAF4 bln for the construction of 3 digital campuses in Cameroon in 2022, November 30, 2021. Copyright: BRM.
III- For a better digital growth in Cameroon
Digitalization in education and business in Cameroon is an opportunity to boost the growth of companies in public and private sectors through innovative solutions to improve their productivity. Government authorities must put in place all the mechanisms to allow a reliable digital growth in the country. But this must not be limited to encouraging private initiatives to invest in it. State institutions must showcase for this revolution. However, apart from a few rare procedures like the biometric passport application procedure, the Cameroonian public administration has not invested in the process of digitizing itself. Almost all procedures still require going to the administration.
On the other hand, the demand for digital, in terms of content and outlets, in the education sector is growing. However, this growth tends to slow down due to the high cost of access to videoconferencing courses and the poor 3G and 4G coverage, especially in rural areas. In addition, untimely power cuts throughout the country hamper the progress of e-learning. Apart from that, courses content should link with the ongoing digital revolution in the country.
In the e-commerce sector, authorities must solve two main challenges. The first is logistics, as there is no fixed address system in the country to ease the delivery process. The other is payment, as people tend not to disclose their credit card information online and, given the country’s banking penetration rate, cash remains the preferred payment method. Cyber security also needs to be strengthened to reduce the mistrust and the fear that some consumers have of having their data stolen online. The State must ensure that reliable and updated statistics on the digital economy are made available and freely accessible to all to reassure local businesses and attract more foreign direct investments for better digital growth in Cameroon.
Shortly, the analysis of the economic situation of Cameroon regarding the digital world clearly shows that the country is still far behind on the path of digital transformation. Cameroonian government must therefore take objective and effective policies to close this gap.
NTYENE EVA SAMUEL is a digital marketing expert with skills in copywriting and Search Engine Optimization. He has helped over 500+ companies better rank their online campaigns and increase their visibility.
He is a Former Volunteer Mentor of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Civic Education and 2022 graduate of the Okwelians Fellowship for Young Cameroonian Leaders. Samuel NTYENE EVA is enthusiastic about improving social engagements and digitalization in Africa.
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