Silicon Mountaineers count losses as French Ambassador visits to understand their motives.

The Silicon Mountain Community is still counting its losses caused primarily by the ongoing Anglophone crises. Community members could not stop reiterating to the French Ambassador to Cameroon, His Excellency Christophe Gilhou during his visit to the community on Friday September 16, 2019.

"Njorku lost $30,000 due to this crisis; Our client ended his project with us after paying just $20,000 out of the 50 he was supposed to pay due to the unrest. He said he could not pump money into a business in a crisis-hit region.Churchill Mambe Nanje, founder of Njorku explained to the Ambassador and his entourage.

Churchill was not the only startup founder or Community member who complained. About 70% of the 2hours of the visit was preoccupied by complaints from various startups; New Generation Technologies, Jongo Hub, Digital Renter, Akwajobs and other individuals also feeling the pinch of the hardship.

Many Silicon Mountain Community (SM) members and startups have relocated to other crisis-free towns in search of peace and favourable conditions for business.

Valery Colong, one of the Startup founders and pioneers of the tech ecosystem said aside the crisis, there are three other major factors, fighting against the birth and growth of SM startups; Government Policies not recognizing the startup status, lack of funding and total neglect from the government.

However, the Community needs to work on its Marketing, Engineering and Fundraising sectors in order to thrive. But these cannot work too if life keeps hitting hard on those willing to power these sectors.

Why the visit to Silicon Mountain?

Of course the community was right to ask the visitors their motives for coming. After taking a tour of the venue-ActivSpaces, H.E Gilhou explained with utmost confidence, their reason for visiting a crisis-hit region and a government-neglected tech community.

"I am here to understand what Silicon Mountain and the entire South West Region are beyond the crisis. I want to also know how the French government can contribute to their growth", said Ambassador Gilhou.

The fact that I am the first Ambassador to visit the community means I am willing to make things work. France has a very strong tech economy with which we can collaborate to make yours grow. However, I am not promising you anything”, he affirmed.

From the two hours of the exchange, the main issue that kept coming up was the crisis. Reason why Mpara Faith, founder of New Generation Technologies, pleaded on behalf of the community with the Ambassador to aid in ending the crisis quick. Mpara believes he can influence the resolving of the crisis, since France and Cameroon are good friends.

The community was happy with the entourage. The beautiful smiles, warm welcome and great exchanges said it all. It was the first time a person in that capacity was visiting their community.

H.E. Gilhou got into office just two weeks ago and he is making visits to the crises-hit region already. This is the first Ambassador to come to the community and promise to come back. Could this be the dawn the community has been waiting for?

However, sampling the opinions of some Community members, some say they are still keeping their fingers crossed not hoping for anything positive or negative.

Besides, that was how MINRESI (government Ministry of Scientific Research and Innovation) came closer to understand the system and not long, the creation of Silicon River in Yaounde was announced with over XAF12billion allocated for its functioning. Mr. Gilhou will have to prove their opinions wrong or right with his subsequent actions.

What next after the visit?

The Ambassador has signed to come back to this vibrant tech ecosystem that is putting Cameroon on the map in terms of technology development/innovation in Africa.

But for how long will it take for him to do so?

What should the Community expect from a friend of an unfriendly government?

France has and is growing a strong tech economy, does this mean SM will benefit from French aid? If so, at what cost? These were some of the reactions from free thinkers in the community.

Why Silicon Mountain keeps growing.

Silicon Mountain has survived internet shutdown for three months, one of the longest in Africa.

Has been crippled by the ongoing Anglophone crisis for more that three years though still staggering to stand.

Neglected without funding and favourable business conditions by government and diversion of funds to the creation of a sister Community, Silicon River in Yaounde.

Two main Community Hubs sealed by Mayor due to respect for ghost town.

If the community still exists after passing through these difficulties, then it’s end time is not near.

Present at the meeting were officials of the Ambassador’s entourage; Mr. Stéphane CATTA, Consul General of France in Douala, Mrs. Elena LANDES, Political and Press Adviser, Mr. Nicolas FRELOT, Counselor for Cooperation and Cultural Action, Mr. Pierre GRANDJOUAN, Head of the Economics Department and Mr. Nicolas WILLEMIN, Deputy Director AFD (French Development Agency).

Among Silicon Mountain Community members were startup founders, developers, communication personnel, fundraisers and tech students from higher institutions.

The visit was also an opportunity for the ActivSpaces Labs to pitch their most recent product, Wangari Bizcard to the community. According to Eduke Nadesh, ActivSpaces Community Manager who pitched the product, Bizcard is a mobile App that aids the exchange of contacts without stress.

According to her, most people find it difficult to collect all contacts they wish to have at an event. But with Bizcard, one party just needs to scan a QR code of the other or send the contact via text to the other person.

The App is online on playstore and has on playstore. So far, the reviews have been positive and the users have confessed the App is very is easy to use.

Bizcard is one of the many products created in Silicon Mountain.

ActivSpaces is an open innovation hub for techies and tech communities in Cameroon. Created in 2010, ActivSpaces operates two hubs in Cameroon-Buea and Douala.

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