YAOUNDE, Cameroon — As Cameroon’s young people prepared to observe national youth day on February 11, many were questioning their future. As the week long activities took place, youths were complaining that galloping unemployment and economic insecurity are causing many of them to lose confidence in their own country. More than 30,000 graduate with university degrees each year, but fewer than 10 percent are gainfully employed.
Thousands of youths gathered in the southwestern Cameroon town of Tiko for the launch of national youth day activities. They sang, despite growing unemployment, underemployment and mounting insecurity – especially in the northern part of the country where Boko Haram attacks are frequent.
Twenty-four-year old university graduate Stanley Beke said he wants to join the many youths who have left Cameroon in search of greener pastures in developed countries, but lacks the financial means.
“It is really frustrating for a youth to leave school after some degree and realize that there is no job in the country. That is why you find many youths forcing themselves to go overseas. Some of them lock themselves in ships just to find themselves somewhere out there. Many youths only want to leave the country because they don’t see any future in this country,” said Beke.
The president of Cameroon’s national youth council, Jean Mark Afesi Mbafor, said the main problem is that Cameroon’s educational system, created before independence to train civil servants, is outdated. He said that if education were professionalized, Cameroon would be training youths who can create jobs instead of youths who expect to be recruited into the already saturated civil service.
“We are told in China today, calculators are coming out from (being made by) secondary schools in China. We can do that in Cameroon and contribute our own part in the development of Cameroon. And the head of state has talked a lot about technological development, and we know we can not talk about emergence without industrial and technological development,” said Mbafor.
The director general of Cameroon’s National Employment Fund, Moute A. Bidias, said that besides giving loans to youths to start businesses or open farms and breed livestock, they have negotiated with Cameroon enterprises to recruit youths and train them in various professional fields. He said such companies will get a tax break.
“We have about 100,000 enterprises in Cameroon. If half of those enterprises, that means 50,000 enterprises, recruit just one young person, we will be able to put 50,000 young people to work in enterprises this year. Imagine that some of the enterprises recruit two or three young people. How much shall we have?” asked Bidias.
According to the World Factbook, the unemployment rate in Cameroon is 30 percent. Cameroon’s National Institute of Statistics reports a 70 percent underemployment rate.
Cameroon’s minister of youth affairs and civic education Mounouna Foutsou say such figures are making Cameroonian youths vulnerable to terrorist groups.
The 50th Cameroonian national youth day is being celebrated under the theme “Youths, citizenship and the fight against insecurity for an emerging Cameroon.”