Innovation & Jobs Creation in Cameroon
According to Rosenberg & Trajtenberg (2004), eras of technological progress and economic growth are the result of some key technologies commonly known as General Purpose Technologies, from which derives subsequent innovations that contributes to effective reorganization and relocation of economic activities. During cycles of innovation, newly created firms explore markets in established or building-up industries, carrying activities that lead to creative or disruptive innovations. A perfect example of a General Purpose Technology is the Semiconductor which spawned numerous innovations and contributed to the birth of major industries (such as technology information and communications). The correlation between innovation and jobs creation should not be neglected by Central African nations.
Tony Elumelu, the Chairman of Heirs Holding and a successful entrepreneur, created the term "Africapitalism" to describe the new thinking process in which the Private Sector is at the forefront of development initiatives. Africapitalism insists on the necessity for "forward thinking investors to see opportunities where others are blinded by preconceptions".
In a previous series of articles I wrote about the perspectives for economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa and I listed several challenges or obstacles that Central African countries are facing. However, MTN, Ecobank, United Bank of Africa, Dangote Group or Afriland First Bank are concrete examples of Afrocapitalist initiatives that created positive and long lasting impacts on the society. Success stories can only be written if the entrepreneurial focus is put on wealth creation; by referring to wealth we mean Collective Social Good instead of financial rent. African entrepreneurs should be motivated by the challenges surrounding their societies and should think beyond the simple idea of business creation as a self-employment mechanism. Jobs creation will not always be the responsibility of the governments, since they also need to focus on the creation of the right business environment in order for companies to emerge and succeed. Africapitalism is a "New African Deal", a quest to build foundations for economic sustainability, rethink economic models and make sure focus is put on social issues resolution rather than traditional resources trade.
Similar ideas were expressed by Cameroonian authors or thinkers in the 90's. In "A ship in turmoil? Cameroon: reasons for hope" (1995), Gregoire Owona mentions that "the information era is in building process and cannot be reversed...it becomes imperative to think about productivity and rentability. We should not think about employment anymore, but rather revenue generation through creative activities...Small businesses and individual enterprises will become our economy's engine of growth. Even if buying power is weak today, it will eventually increase over time and unemployment will most likely decrease".
Two decades after, Cameroon is at the crossroads and needs more than ever to integrate Private Sector growth in its development model. In parallel, Private Sector organizations should focus on the resolution of social issues while generating wealth that will benefit to future generations. Disruptive ideas such as the CardioPad project led by Marc Arthur Zang which resulted in the creation of a bio-medical company called Himore Medical Equipments are perfect example of the correlation between jobs creation and innovation in the context of Central African nations. Each Cameroonian entrepreneur, should assess the impact its venture will have on the society; seek social good and use it as a founding philosophy.
As we embrace Africapitalism, solving issues such as energy grids reliability, road transportation safety or rapid urbanization challenges will ineluctably lead to the creation of new industries, expand market opportunities and allow more people to get access to employment in Cameroon.