The sector contributes significantly to the growth of Cameroon’s economy especially during the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
T he advent of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) ushered in new ways of conducting business and interacting. The innovations brought in by ICTs in solving society’s problems constitute a great part of the digital economy. Digital economy in effect is all business transactions conducted with the use of ICTs tools and the internet. In Cameroon, the sector is progressively making strides and contributes in no small way to economic growth. This is why President Paul Biya in his message to the nation on December 31, 2015 noted “We must rapidly bridge the digital development gap. This is a genuine growth driver as well as a niche for new jobs for our youth.” The government immediately buckled down to work to provide the necessary infrastructure to set the ball rolling for the digital economy. With over 20,000km of optical fibre cable already planted in the country, data centres and multimedia telecentres in almost every nock and cranny of the country, the government is determined to make the digital economy thrive. Already, concordant statistics indicates that internet penetration in Cameroon now stands at 34 per cent according to Hootsuite & We Are Social in January 2021 as against 30 per cent in January 2020. With some 2.7 additional internet users in January 2021, internet penetration jumped to 34 per cent compared to just 2 per cent a decade ago. According to Internet Live Stats, with a 16.5 per cent increase in the internet penetration rate in 2016, Cameroon was among the top three African countries with the highest growth in their internet penetration rate that year. The remaining two were Mali (+18.6 per cent) and Lesotho (+18.1 per cent). Conversely, the penetration of mobile telephone users in the country has also increased tremendously. According to Digital Cameroon 2020 (dataportal) Cameroon witnessed 3.7 million (19 per cent increase) increase of mobile connect between 2019 and 2020. Cognizant to the importance of the digital economy in driving growth, the government is not only ensuing the installation of up-to-date infrastructure, but it is also promoting the creation of start-ups. The Ministry of Post and Telecommunications and other partners like Huawei, African Institute of Computer Sciences, amongst others, have engaged different programmes to train young Cameroonians and give them the entrepreneurial skills in incubation centres to enable them set up start-ups. Programmes as such enabled some digital economy innovators like Olivier Madiba who founded Kiro Games (video games) and William Elong, the founder of Drone Africa to raise funds to develop their inventions. In a bid to encourage innovations, the government also instituted awards to best innovative works through the Ministry of Scientific Research and Innovation. President Paul Biya’s special prize to Arthur Zang, the Cameroonian inventor of Cardio-Pad for instance, was a greater booster to promoting digital innovation in the country. Many other youths with the latest being Bruno Zuo clinching the FCFA 10 million prize in 2019 for developing an application for vehicles security. “Everything right now seems to be digitalized. We have even the payments of bills like electricity for example which we used to go to the office to pay but right now ICTs are helping us to sit at home and make these payments which is really a great deal,” Mr Zuo Bruno told Cameroon Business Today.