Cameroon is not the fastest growing market in Africa, but it is a politically and economically stable region. It is rapidly catching up with other African markets in terms of its communications infrastructure (the high-performance fiber optic SAT3/WASC Submarine cable which has a terminal in Douala, and the COTCO fiber-optic link which runs across the entire length of the country along the Cameroon-Chad oil pipeline). Cameroon is extremely rich in human capital (university graduates, professors, researchers etc...). The country has a good and reliable power grid that is 95% or more hydropowered (meaning it is relatively cheaper and greener and the incidents of power outages are significantly lower than other African markets).
Cameroon [& Africa]: The Lowest Common Denominator in the Knowledge Economy
According to Thomas Friedman (in The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century), the dramatic developments in Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) in the past decade, particularly the Internet and computer technologies, have created a new global economy where
"…intellectual work, intellectual capital, [can] be delivered from anywhere. It [can] be disaggregated, delivered, distributed, produced and put back together again -- and this [gives] a whole new degree of freedom to the way we do work, especially work of an intellectual nature."
The result, says a recent World Bank report, is a new economic reality where
“comparative advantages among nations come less and less from abundant natural resources or cheap labor and increasingly from technical innovations and the competitive use of knowledge—or from a combination of the two, as is illustrated by the success story of Bangalore, the capital of the Indian software industry.” (P. 8).
A decade ago, India was no different from most developing countries in Asia or even Africa. As an Indian financial expert quoted in Friedman’s book points out:
''India had no resources and no infrastructure. It produced people with quality and by quantity. But many of them rotted on the docks of India like vegetables. Only a relative few could get on ships and get out.
However, India was able to capitalize on the Internet boom of the late nineties and place itself at the frontline of the 21st century "knowledge economy". It did this by creating an enabling environment characterized by a renewed emphasis on science education, particularly in engineering and computer sciences at the tertiary level; huge investments in ICTs, particularly in a robust and reliable Internet system and a world class software industry; the establishment of business-friendly laws aimed at attracting foreign investment and multinationals; the adoption of less restrictive citizenship laws, to harness the potential of India’s mammoth Diaspora community, etc.
The results are there for all to see. Today, India’s graduates are no longer rotting “on the docks of India like vegetables” but have become frontline soldiers in a global digital economy. As the Indian financial expert puts it, “…we built this ocean crosser, called fiber-optic cable. For decades you had to leave India to be a professional. Now you can plug into the world from India. You don't have to go to Yale and go to work for Goldman Sachs.''
What's next after Cameroon?
Other African markets that ZoomOps will be expanding into include:
- South Africa
Last but not least, ZoomOps' founders' familiarity and past experience with Cameroon positively influenced the decision to locate ZoomOps' first Africa office in Cameroon.