Returning home has never been easy after spending so many years abroad or perhaps, lived your whole life as a foreigner in another man’s land. Probably due to mass unemployment rates in most African countries, many nationals have often resorted to seeking greener pastures out of their countries of origin.
The economic hardship presented by most African countries continues to send many Africans out of their motherlands. The resulting effect is slow economic development, brain drain and of course, a drastic fall in the country’s labour force.
A group of people (Diasporans) succeed to make it big in other countries and their only wish is to come back home and invest, as a means of contributing their own quota to the socio-economic development of their nations. Unfortunately, the political state in most of these countries do not favour their return.
Cameroon is one of such countries where Cameroonians in the Diaspora either refuse coming back home or find it hard re-integrating themselves into society the moment they get home. Those who finally decide to make it back to the country with the intention of investing, are faced with overwhelming realities of corruption and fraudulent procedures involved in setting up a business in Cameroon.
In 2016, the Director of the French Development Agency, Hervé Conan through Cameroon’s Ministry of External Relations set out a plan on how to get the Cameroonian diaspora to invest back home.“We are examining ways to encourage Cameroon Diaspora to invest in their country of origin so that they can play a role in the economic development of their country.”
A good plan and idea it was, but how successful will it be given the disgusting state of corruption that has ripped the country off its values? When youngsters take off to foreign lands, most often, they haven’t yet tasted bureaucracy but on their return after so many years, they have to battle with money changing hands illegally.
Cameroon’s taxation rate is another stop-cork to returnees hoping to invest in the country. With a business (corporate) tax rate at 38%, it makes it inevitably easy for businesses to fold up in less than 3 years. This is especially common with startup companies who find it difficult to keep up with the requirements of the taxation department.
Such hideous situations in the country have pushed Miranda Oben, to turn the situation around with her German-based project, the “Returnees Project” which is Africa’s pioneer networking sphere connecting its Diaspora to their respective countries with the aim of promoting the exchange of mutual resources.
As a Cameroonian, Miranda Oben is a German-based IT expert who is now a leading crusader for the return of Cameroonians in the Diaspora. She believes despite the challenges that come with getting back home, Cameroon could still be a promise land for them. Her Returnees project shares inspirational stories of those who have returned as well as providing a guide on how to return and re-establish in Cameroon.
The Cameroon government has nonetheless realized the enormous contribution of the Diaspora to its national development considering the fact that remittances from the Diaspora constituted about 1.5%and 0.7% in 2006 and 2009 respectively, of the country’s GDP; a noticeable amount for a country that has plans of emerging by 2035. How then can the Diaspora be ignored?
It was against this background that Cameroon held its first ever Diaspora Forum on June 28, 2017 bringing more than 400 Cameroonians from abroad. The forum terminated with a wide range of recommendations designed to encourage Cameroonians inn the Diaspora to invest in the country by creating a state secretariat responsible for handling Diaspora affairs, an investment fund and incentive mechanisms to urge investments and create jobs.
In showcasing and celebrating Cameroonians who have returned home, might encourage those who are still skeptical about returning that despite the many challenges;corruption, bad roads, power failures and tax increments, there will never be any other place like home. Her call therefore is for Cameroonians in the diaspora to come back home and invest.