• Interview “Digital economy is the phenomenon of the century!”

Interview “Digital economy is the phenomenon of the century!”

For Minette Libom Li Likeng, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications since October 2, 2015, “digital economy is the phenomenon of the century”. Interview in Yaoundé by Dounia Ben Mohamed

 

Cameroon has implemented an ambitious strategy to promote the digital economy. What are your priority areas?

The digital economy is a major project, at the heart of our country’s development strategy. In his message to the Nation, on the evening of December 31, 2015, and in his speech to the youth on February 10, 2016, the Head of State, His Excellency Paul Biya, paved the way for the Cameroonian government to mobilize to make the digital economy our growth lever and a source of employment. The digital economy is the phenomenon of the century. It covers all sectors. When we see what is happening elsewhere, it upsets societies. So we implemented a strategy, as you pointed out, a roadmap entitled “Digital Cameroon by 2020″, which focuses on three pillars to balance. First, infrastructure: it is a prerequisite, the broadband. We have already launched the 4 G, now the rest will go very fast. Then, transform the administration, and finally, regulation. In the context of international cybercrime we have to set up the necessary safeguards.

How are you going to finance these important investments?

We will look for investors starting with us. At the “Invest in Cameroon” conference (organized in Yaoundé from May 17 to 18, 2016), we launched an appeal to the national private sector and international investors, already operating in our country in other sectors. Today, we have to attract them to the digital economy. The Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) model has shown good performance in other areas…

Are some projects already underway?

There are already mature projects, for example, a PPP is under way with a consortium of investors gathered by an Indian fund to supervise young people. Others not evaluated … but what is sure is that the digital economy is very expensive. Kilometers of fiber optics alone have cost hundreds of billions of CFA. So yes, PPPs are one way of financing these projects. We have to find more. Venture capital, crow founding… 

Knowing that to convince them, you have a relevant argument: the prowess of the young Cameroonians!

We do have many assets to offer to investors. First, our youth. The Cameroonian youth is very active. More and more young people, braving the obstacles, no longer hesitate to undertake, and to set up startups, without even waiting for the right framework. Look at what they can do without a frame, so imagine, when we have brought them the adapted ecosystem, they will go even further, and more will take advantage of the opportunities in the ICTs, following the example of the former. We have beautiful success story. Each year, Cameroonians are among the winners of international competitions in technological innovation, which proves that our country is full of talent! 

With respect to suitable framework, what tools will you put at the disposal of these young start uppers?

Last February, after the speech of the Head of State, we heard the grievances of the young people through a forum organized by video conference, to give the chance to most of them to express themselves. One of their first demands is to help them access funding. In this area, we must also innovate. Find new ways of financing that correspond to this youth and the thirst for entrepreneurship and innovation. But what the young people expect in priority is not so much money but incubators, platforms, where they can carry out activities and benefit from support. Following the model of the Sup-valor Technopole incubator, created by the National Polytechnic higher school of the Yaoundé University, which precisely supports business initiators through training, consultancy and accommodation. And it works very well. Many incubates are now internationally-recognized innovators. One of them created a drone! Only 23 years old! It is a true technological innovation, a pride not only for Cameroon but for all of Africa. These are models to generalize. In addition to private incubators, we have a large project in preparation, in collaboration with the Ministry of Industry, to set up a large specialized incubator to help position Cameroon as a maintenance center.

You mentioned your collaboration with the Ministry of Industry. You work with other Ministries. Digital must play a cross-cutting role in the “projects dedicated to emerging Cameroon”… 

Indeed. Our Ministry is not working alone on this large digital economy that ultimately affects all sectors. Actually, we are the facilitator. By the end of next year, with all of these projects, the digital economy will be a reality in this country, with an impact on growth, and job creation.


 

Author: DBM//Photo: Minette Libom Li Likeng, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Spokesperson of Africa to the 26th Congress of the Post Union © DR

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