During the months of November and December 2015 I saw the influx of many Bushfallers (Cameroonians who live abroad) into the country. As expected these Bush Fallers usually come loaded with cash to spend while on their visit to Cameroon. Examples of items on which they spend include: drinks, medical bills, school fees, marriage celebrations, dead/memorial celebrations, transportation around the country, construction etc. The money spent by these bush fallers in a few weeks acts as a source of finance to the economy of the nation and helps to create wealth as the money they introduce circulates in the economy long after they have returned to their homes abroad.
Bamenda – a place that feels the impact of Bush fallers
There is a beautiful town called Bamenda, it used to be considered a backward town, or a town that does not circulate money, or a town that sleeps at 6 pm. I visited Bamenda many times during 2015 and saw a completely different place. The streets were busy late into the night, especially during the November and December months. If you were in Bamenda anytime around November and December 2015 you must have heard of a Bushfaller wedding (be it traditional, court or church) and if you attended any of these occasions you would have noticed that a lot of financial resources (from abroad) was invested to put up a good show.
I remember when I did the blessing of my marriage in December 2012 (at the time I was living in the Democratic Republic of Congo); the budget was exceeded more than ten times. If you are a bush faller that has recently done a wedding occasion in Cameroon, you will understand exactly what I mean by budget overspend. A standard for a good wedding has been set by the Bamenda society and every family wants to meet that standard and the pressure on the Bushfallers marrying is unimaginable. This pressure usually comes from the parents of the groom and bride. And many a times the Bushfaller has no choice but to abide; you can plan a reception for 200 people, but end up receiving 1000 people.
These weddings organised by Bushfallers have a huge economic impact on the society in and around Bamenda. Various companies thrive from these Bushfaller weddings; e.g décor, restaurants, snacks, hotels, transport, etc.
I also saw huge complexes, houses, businesses that have been set up in Bamenda by Bush fallers. These also have a positive impact on the economy of Bamenda and the nation as a whole. In my opinion Bamenda is a city that has felt the magical touch of Bushfallers. This is not to say other cities have not felt the touch – just that Bamenda’s is magical.
Bush Fallers have the power to do more in a sustainable fashion for the economy.
I personally appreciate the efforts of Bushfallers in developing the nation and I believe that even more can be done to ensure sustainable development. I probably have the gods to say such a thing because I have been a Bushfaller myself at some point in the past and now that I permanently live in Cameroon, I have a vantage point that is probably different from many Cameroonians living and working in Cameroon. I therefore have a few opinions – which are open for debate by all means.
i. Bushfallers help in killing the proudly Cameroonian spirit
If you are a Bushfaller reading this now you will agree that most of the times Bushfallers speak negatively of our motherland. This often builds the position of never wanting to return home and the motivation to help with the migration of family members from Cameroon.
I once (in 2013 I believe) landed at the Douala airport on an Ethiopian Airlines flight. While we were waiting for our bags at the carrousel, there was this Bushfaller who was so angry with the way the airport was disorganised - the carrousel area was packed, hot and some renovation work was going on. He went on and on about how the country was useless, how could this and that be going on. I had listened to his ranting for too long and I could not help it anymore. So I asked him, “Where are you from sir”? He said, “South Africa”
I went on, “how long have you been away without coming back home?” he said, “3 years”. I took a long breath and gave him a lecture – which I am sure you do not want to hear at this moment. But the summary of my lecture was that; South Africans especially the blacks have fought for many years to build the country to what it is today, in the past Cameroonians could not travel to South Africa and enjoy the luxury of a modern economy because of apartheid. And I ended by challenging him to do something to help change the many “bad things” he has identified in Cameroon just as the black South Africans did for many years.
As a Bushfaller you need to understand that you are seen by many back home as; a role model, someone that has seen better, a mystery etc. Everyone back home is looking up to you for various reasons. Some want to receive money from you, others want to join you, others want you to finance their businesses back home, etc. So as a Bushfaller you need to be aware of the impact of your actions – the go a very long way that you cannot begin to imagine. Reflect on the following:
• The pictures you post on facebook – tell a story.
• The way you talk and the kinds of stories you share when back home have an impact.
• Your actions – you drink only mineral water, and you are now a different being that needs special treatment. You also take a group of people out drinking and spend more than 500,000 XAF in an evening.
• Your remarks and recommendations carry a very big weight – so be careful with them.
• Sometimes you might be showing off without knowing – this too has an impact.
Many Cameroonians living and working in the diaspora live a stressful and humble life abroad but when they touch base in Cameroon, they are kings and queens. This is a good thing if you enjoy attention and adoration; it can also be a source of more stress for you because you may be sending a message to Cameroonians back home that your life abroad is so easy. This creates a huge demand for your financial resources back home.
I have seen many Cameroonians emigrate abandoning good jobs back home for a life abroad – a life they have no clue about. When they eventually arrive in the new country and realise that it is not as rosy as they thought, it is too late and almost impossible to make the trip back due to pressure back home. This leads to what I call Bushfaller entrapment. You are not happy abroad and at the same time you cannot come back home.
ii. How can Bushfallers contribute to sustainable development in Cameroon.
The following are some of the ways in which Bushfallers can help the economy:
• Do not forget where you come from. It is important that as Bushfallers we never forget where we come from. The stories we tell and the way we carry ourselves when we visit home has a huge impact on the psychology of Cameroonians who have never travelled before. If a Bushfaller displays love and appreciation for his country on a visit, it helps to motivate those back at home to keep fighting for the development of the country. But if all that a Bushfaller does on a visit back home is criticize the local realities and show how these negatively compare with his/her host country abroad, this could fuel the misbelief that nothing good can come from Cameroon. As a Bushfaller try to adjust and blend in when you visit home.
• Bushfallers as educators: As mentioned above, Bushfallers have a huge power to influence. They have seen better and experienced better. Bushfallers can help with delivering relevant education in Cameroon as their voices have power to Cameroonians. There are many routes and ways to help educate Cameroonians: present lectures while on visits in the country, tell stories to educate, copy the good experiences from abroad and paste back home after some adjustments to reflect local realities. Collaborate with institutions and companies in Cameroon that are making contributions towards its development. This collaboration should help with skills transfer from abroad to Cameroon.
• Make informed and sustainable investments back home. I have heard many stories of failed investment attempts in Cameroon by Bushfallers. Some families/friends back home have misappropriated financial resources sent by Bushfallers and this has created some level of discouragement to Bushfallers to continue investing in the mother land. I can relate to this but I like to suggest that care and caution should be used when considering investing back home. The following are some pointers
- Use professionals to carry out investments back home. Your family and friends love you but this does not make them qualified project managers or business consultants.
- Test the viability of a business idea before investing. Sometimes it’s easy to make dangerous assumptions. Investments usually cost a lot of money, seek help and produce a solid business plan before investing in any venture back home.
-Invest in revenue generating and skills development ventures. I have mentioned in earlier write-ups that many Cameroonians lack relevant education and skills. Resist the temptation to tie capital in non-productive ventures – e.g. I discourage building a huge and expensive house in the village which will only be occupied 20 to 30 years down the line.
• Consider returning home to champion the development process. And finally why not consider moving back home to champion the development process. Countries like Nigeria and Ghana have benefited a lot from the return of their sons and daughters from abroad – who usually return with the needed financial resources and skills for development. There are some sons and daughters of Cameroon who have returned from the diaspora and are making development contributions back home, but many more are needed to win the development battle. Companies like 25-45 Business Consulting SA can help with the returning home process. The first step is to make the decision. The next step will be to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bushfallers play a very important role in the development process of our motherland; they possess skills, resources and the power that is needed for sustainable development of the country. It is very important that they understand these attributes and use them accordingly.
Written by Collins Mazu,
25-45 Business Consulting SA – a proudly Cameroonian company.