It’s not easy for young people in northern Cameroon. Unemployment is high in the country’s northern provinces, and up to three quarters of the seven million who live here have no income. Social structures are very rigid and hierarchical. It is usually elders who take important decisions and occupy key official positions. Young people are frequently excluded from any role in shaping social policy. Violent and extremist groups exploit this situation in order to recruit new followers.
On behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the European Union, the German development agency GIZ is working to improve this situation by enhancing the economic prospects of young people in the country through work and training opportunities. The programme targets those who want to set up their own business.
Ousmaila Bouba from Garoua in northern Cameroon is just one of those whose life has been transformed as a result. Along with so many others, he made his way to the capital Yaoundé in the south-west of the country. For many years he worked for a pittance as a carpenter. Eventually he gave up hope of a better future in Cameroon. Ousmaila tried – and failed – twice to reach Europe. He returned to Garoua, heard about the job scheme, submitted an application and was accepted.
Ousmaila completed courses in business management and bookkeeping and went on to become a self-employed carpenter. What’s more, while he was training, he got to know other young people who were equally keen to make a better life for themselves in Cameroon. That inspired him. “I never imagined that one day I could run a successful business in my own town, Garoua,” says Ousmaila. “It’s as though I had been given a second chance.”
Ousmaila Bouba is not the only one to benefit from the programme. To date, 4,500 people have attended training courses, and 4,300 have received support to help them set up a business. Since 2016, the programme has helped to create 3,400 new jobs, giving all those young people another important reason to stay in their home country.