French students in Cameroon
Fourteen students from the Management School of Strasbourg France recently landed in Yaoundé Cameroon to help accompany 15 illiterate women to develop their businesses. They are coaching these women in business development, finance management and communication. Here are some of the amazing things they have been up to so far ...
When we first arrived in Cameroon, we didn’t know what to except at all. After a few days, we went to the office of LifeTime Projects to meet the team (Fanny, Herwin, Aaron…). There, they presented us the different projects of the association. The orphanage, the production of soap in Atta (a little village), the entrepreneurial classes and the support of women with their micro entrepreneurship projects . The latter is the reason why we came to Yaoundé.
The association “Femmes d’Atta” and LifeTime Projects have been working together for nearly two years now in order to support the women of “Femmes d’Atta” to implement their micro enterprises. Last year, LifeTime Projects provided funding to each woman of the association. With the money, 6 women were able to develop their enterprises.
We met one of them, Mama Astadicko, 64 years old. We went to her shop in a neighbourhood of Yaoundé (Etuidi). Her shop is quite small but there is a lot in it. On the outside, she exposes typical African clothes called “pagnes”, shoes, and crockery. There is a little bench on the outside so that she can sit on it and control her merchandise and avoid robberies. On the inside, she sells peanuts, other sorts of food and different types of jewellery. The inside is very small but she exposes all her products on wooden shelves. She has a little mattress and several chairs in order to receive people and clients. When she welcomed us in her little shop, our first impression was that everything was very tidy. And even if she sells a lots of merchandise, everything has its own spot.
In order to discuss with her, she invited us to her house, which is located just behind her shop. We went down a little path, and we arrived to her house. The house is huge, because she has around 20 children (but “only” 13 are living with her at the moment). She explained to us that all the children are not her blood children, but after her divorce, she decided to dedicate her life to raising abandoned children (often because of the death of the parents). She is single, which is very rare and poorly viewed for a woman of 64 years old in Cameroon. But her ex-husband was very violent so after her divorce, she didn’t want to be comprised with another man and preferred to find a way to raise all her children and send all of them to school. Indeed, education can be very expensive in Cameroon, and especially when you have more than ten children.
Having her own business was very important for Mama Astadicko, because it would mean offering a good life for her children. Thanks to the funding, she was able to develop her business. With the money she got, she bought some utensils that provide her a big competitive advantage against the other businesses in the neighbourhood because she’s the only one who can make a specific type of peanuts.
But the funding also helped her when she had to confront unforeseen events. For instance, there was a fire in the market in front of her shop a few months ago. The fire spread and damaged her utensils. She had 4 and now, only two can be saved in order to keep producing the peanuts. Also, someone robbed 7 pagnes she had exposed. The loss was huge for her. But thanks to the funding, she plans to import more clothes from Nigeria, so she can have a better margin and more profit. The costs may well be higher because she’ll have to pay the travel to Nigeria and spend a night there, but at the end, she will gain money because the clothes are cheaper in Nigeria than in Douala (another city in Cameroon where she currently buys the clothes). The funding was a massive help for her, and now, she has started to reimburse the money to Femmes d’Atta (so that other women can benefit from similar funding). And she can keep the interest of the fund in order to send her children to school. This is a great achievement for Mama Astadiko who she herself has been learning to read and write thanks to LifeTime Projects literacy project.
And Mama Astadicko, is only one example, we could have developed the case of Mama Magno and her big farm, Mama Ngah and her chili plantation…
Mama Astadiko in front of her shop
Working hard ...