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Cameroon. Young entrepreneurs drilled on business skills
By Mokun Njouny Nelson
Young entrepreneurs in Bamenda, North Western Cameroon have learnt the necessity to write a concise business plan before they embark on any business, big or small.
Most of the 34 young entrepreneurs who attended the one day workshop on poverty alleviation and entrepreneurship on Monday June 22 2015 at the conference hall of the Bamenda Foundation Radio Mile 6, (In North Western Cameroon) were managing small businesses for some time. However, non had a blueprint or business plan when they first started.
Restaurant owner and outdoor caterer Maureen Boyo, spoke for most participants when she said “I didn’t know about the complete circle of managing a business; that is to say you have the idea, you get to the stage where you plan it and then implementation, and evaluation. I didn’t get through all of these stages when I started my business.”
Organized by UK based charity Citizen Outreach Coalition in collaboration with two local NGO’s Youth Outreach Programme and Mey-Low-D Foundation, the day long workshop was intended to drill the mixed bunch of small business men, women and a handful of budding entrepreneurs, on the basics for setting up successful businesses from drawing a good and viable business plan to managing cash flows and staff.
Opening the workshop earlier, Chitoh Judith Ndekeh, chief of Service for Social and Economy in the North West Regional Office for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises implored the participants to follow the deliberations closely and implement resolutions they would have jointly agreed.
“Many young businesses fail because most people think they can just get up in the morning, borrow some money from family and friends, go to the market, buy some products or provide a service and they start making a profit the next day. No successful business started out that way. To succeed, you need to plan way in advance”. She said.
UK based Citizen Outreach Coalition Chief Executive Officer and main organizer of the workshop Francis Ngwa told participants it was time African youths stopped the difficult struggle to get to Europe through treacherous sea voyages during which hundreds are killed each year. He acknowledged that some of the migrants were fleeing from socio-political turbulence back in their home countries but most were in fact, economic migrants. He was categorical the only way to end the exodus was to empower young people in Cameroon and other African countries affected by the brain drain and unnecessary migration.
According to Francis Ngwa, “various studies indicate that among these thousands of migrants who get trapped abroad are young people who would have gladly stayed home if they had the necessary training, help and support in setting up viable businesses”. This is why he said they targeted mostly young business people and those with bright business ideas to attend the workshops in Bamenda and Yaounde. He said talks were ongoing with a number of funders who will help realize the second phase of the project which will include further training and financial help to the participants to grow their businesses.
The deliberations were led by Amos Fon, financial expert and Director of “African Dreams”, an organizational that helps young people with training and setting up small businesses. Topics for discussions included drawing a good business plan, good business strategy and managing company assets, workers and financial flows.
A US trained economist, Mr Fon said young entrepreneurs faced an uphill task establishing profitable business ventures in Cameroon and across Africa, through no fault of theirs
“Young people mostly cannot access the loans that banks can give because they don’t have assets to give as guarantees” he said. He added, “we think the problem is not with the youths, the problem is with the systems; if we can design systems that can take care of the challenges of the youths, we will be able to cross the line”.
Participants were invited to draw new business plans for their existing and new businesses which will be forwarded to Mr Fon for cross checking, help and advice. They will eventually be aided with some funding as soon as it is available.
A similar workshop will take place in Yaounde on Monday June 29 2015.
Reactions from Participants
Compiled by Honore Fon.
Maureen Boyo. 38. Outdoor catering. Owns restaurant
During the workshop, I learnt things that will help me improve my business. The first thing is that it is not far for me to get my business working as I would like it to be. The other thing is how to manage your business. Managing your business does not necessarily mean the money, but it equally means the kind of people you have on board. You need to create a good team which will make your business sustainable. These are the things I have learnt from the workshop which I think can help me improve on my
Q Before this workshop, what didn’t you know about running a successful business?
I didn’t know about the complete circle of managing your business; that is to say you have the ideas, you get to the stage where you plan it and then implementation and then evaluation. I didn’t get through all of these stages when I started my business.
Q Let’s assume you needed to start a fresh new business today, what will you be doing differently?
I have to draw up my business plan; very important. This will help me share my vision with other people. Others should know what exactly I want to do so that I can get the right people on board and foster the business.
Rinda Jumbam 27 . Fast Food entrepreneur
I do fast food or “shawamar” business. This is a new kind of business that has been newly introduced into Cameroon and has to do with bread, meat and things like salad. I just started this business and have been doing it for the last four months alone.
I have learnt from the workshop that I must not only stay at home and be a job seeker but I could actually be a job creator. If you want to look at the certificates, I graduated as a teacher four years ago and never had a job in that domain. That is why I decided to start doing something instead of trying against all odds to get a job. I need to create my own opportunities and future and not expect anyone to do that for me.
Q What message do you have for those who did not benefit from this?
I will be educating them on what we learnt here. I will advice them when job searching fails, they need to diverse different survival means. Most of them already have what it takes to create jobs for others. They should be more proactive and do something useless.
Sirri Lysette 30. Emerging Employment Agency Owner
Plans to create an employment agency to train domestic workers
Q. Why did you decide you want to create an employment agency for domestic workers?
I have discovered that most, if not all women, will like to and in so doing, do not devote enough time for the care of their children. Some even lock up their children at home when they go out to work. This can have last lasted and negative effects on the children. Also, it I extremely difficult now to get a good domestic worker to help some of these working mothers. Part of the reason is that some people go to villages, take people’s children to big towns to take care of their children but end up treating them very badly. A lot of people in the village have now decided not to be giving out their children for this.
Q When you eventually get your business running, how do you intend to change that?
What I will do is get some of the young girls who will like to do domestic work, train them and if someone wants them, tey will sign a contract with my agency which will be legally binding with clear conditions both parties need to respect. Anybody who does not want to comply with those terms and conditions, will not get any of my workers. I have learnt quite a lot from this workshop which will be extremely useful when I finally set up the business.
Mbah Elvis 27. Agriculture and Livestock businessman.
The workshop was interesting and timely for me because I was thinking of expanding and now need to redevelop my strategy so I have a greater chances of getting to the point I want. I started off without getting any necessary planning, training, market research etc which are all necessary to run any successful business. I never had all these focused palnning but after attending this workshop, I need t re-strategize and do things more effectively
I started off without any business plan, there was no documentation, I had ideas only inside my head I just got up each morning and said this is what I wil be doing today and the whole thing was very haphazard. Because of this workshop, I now realize the errors I have been making which has badly delayed my business expansion and progress. It is good to document things because you can always refer to it when necessary. Also, the people I work with have no idea what I am planning to do or any long term plans I have for them and the business. I need to develop them and get them know my vision which will help them also help me in developing the business. This will all change following this workshop and we are very grateful to the organizers.