It is common knowledge in Germany that, migrants of Cameroonian descent are one of the most educated set in Germany. Most of them have very good Grade Points, very good jobs, and are well respected by their peers of both German and non-German descent. As good as it may feel to identify with this set of people who seem to have created a positive image for themselves in ‘another man’s land’, I often can’t help but imagine what Cameroon will look like if all the great people I meet out here decide to relocate to Cameroon.
According to figures from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) or the German Technical Cooperation, more than 20,000 migrants of Cameroonian descent now live in Germany .Within this lot are both students and professionals in the fields of Engineering, Medicine, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Communication, Finance, Law, Sports, Languages and Culture amongst others. One can only imagine what a great nation Cameroon will be if these great minds decide to relocate. That said, it is also wise to acknowledge that, the degree to which the Cameroonian diaspora in Germany can succeed in influencing development in Cameroon depends not only on the migrants themselves, but on many other variables. Significant influencing factors include the country’s political regime, specific policies concerning the diaspora, investment conditions, corruption and security. The influence of the Cameroonian diaspora is directly dependent on whether or not the government seeks to cooperate with it and how it structures such cooperation.
Talking to some Cameroonians in Germany, the thought of all the above mentioned influencing variables makes most of their aspirations of relocating die even before they are born. Coming from this place of frustration, I decided to do a quick street poll. I made use of a non- standard vox pop which sought to know if migrants of Cameroonian descent in Germany plan to relocate to Cameroon within the next 10 years. As requested by most of the respondents, names were withheld and only initials used.
Question: Do you plan on relocating to Cameroon within the next 10years? If yes, why?, If no, why not?
–N.F.N is a Clinical Research Associate in a contract organization that plans and executes clinical trials in Europe and USA. She said: “I don’t plan on returning to Cameroon in the next 10 years. The main reason for this decision is linked to my career. Cameroon as we know is an underdeveloped country. Judging from the little progress or should I say retrogression Cameroon has experienced in every sector in the last 25 years or so, I think it is safe to say that Cameroon’s economy will be nowhere close to average in the next 30 years. Someone said, development will actually only begin in 30 years’ time. Now, because I love my career and plan on pursuing it to the top, going back to Cameroon will be counterproductive”.
-E.T.F is in Germany for family reasons and will be pursuing a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering. She said: “Yes, because it is Home. I have three main reasons:
- Pride: I think it is utterly vain to make another man’s land home simply because it offers me a more comfortable and secure lifestyle. Yes, I am proud like that. I do not care how problematic Cameroon is, it is still my home and I am proud of it. I will not run away from it.
- Need: Cameroon needs me more than any other country does. Over the years I have acquired skills and knowledge from foreign countries, but the truth is I have little to contribute to these countries compared to what I can contribute to mine. Regardless of how much impact I may manage to have abroad, it would be a shame to have none in Cameroon.
- Duty: Europeans, Americans or Asians will not be the ones to address and solve African problems in a sustainable way. It is the responsibility of Africans to help Africa. It is my duty to return home with knowledge and skill for my country’s benefit. It is the “patriotic” thing to DO”.
T.A works part time with the Machine Manufacturing sector while pursuing graduate studies in Mechanical Engineering. He said: “Mostly Yes, and may be No. Mostly yes, because I cherish the socio-cultural climate in Cameroon. I like the community life, the system of education, family life, freedom of religion and expression, simplicity of life and the cultural diversity. I like the flexibility that women have to be mothers while maintaining a career. The natural environment of Cameroon and the great potential (mostly still to be exploited) that Cameroon has to offer is of great appeal to me and I feel that I can make contributions to the exploitation of the numerous resources Cameroon has.
May be no, partly because of the political and socio-economic situation in Cameroon. As much as I cherish Cameroon, I also cherish being an engineer. The present political and economic situation in Cameroon is not very enticing for engineers like me and 10 years seems too short to overcome and transform the political and economic climate and make it favorable for the engineering sector. I do however hope that in 15-25 years, Cameroon will be in good shape politically and economically and I would definitely want to go back there. But the most important reason why I might stay in Germany for the next 10 years is because my partner is German and she may need some more time to transition into life in Cameroon”.
-A.F.T is a Risk Management Consultant. He said: “Yes I plan to relocate to Cameroon in the next 10 years. I traveled to Germany to get education, work and make money. I believe I have been educated well enough such that I can contribute to my home country or to the African continent. The work I do here in Germany is appreciated but I believe working in Cameroon would be a more substantial contribution. Besides I would love to spend more time with family and loved ones”.
-A.T is doing Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. He said: “I do not see myself moving to Cameroon in the next ten years for a couple of reasons. First, I would like to work and earn some money in Germany in order to be financially secured as companies in Germany pay way better than the ones in Cameroon. Also, finding a job in Germany would not be as cumbersome as it would be in Cameroon where people have to pay huge amounts of bribe just to secure lucrative jobs (in most cases). Most importantly, I hope to acquire work experience from a renowned German company that I can take home when I finally decide to relocate. I’m particularly passionate about entrepreneurship with the primary intention of giving back to the society through job creation. This requires capital, part of which I hope to get from savings from my monthly wages”.
-V.N.K is in Germany for family reasons and she is in the final phase of her Masters in Journalism and Media within Globalization-A European perspective. She said: “Yes. I plan to settle in Cameroon in the next ten years. Not because I am happy about the politico-social aspects of the country but because I want to be a part of the change that I would love to see happen back home. I am convinced that, if given a chance, the youth of Cameroon can make things happen. Many of us have been out here and have seen the way things operate. We can adapt this knowledge for use in the development of our country. This, we cannot do if we remain abroad. So I am here, yes, but I owe my contributions towards the development of Cameroon. I hope and pray that things get better but even if they don’t, home is home and I must return”.
-G.T.A is pursuing a Bachelor in Mechanical Engineering. He said: “I initially wanted to go back in 2 or three years after my studies, but that is changing now. The possibility of me being here for more than 10 years is more and more feasible. First my studies are taking a little longer than expected. Secondly, I am beginning to feel more and more comfortable with (or used to) the environment here. Also, I personally want to face the challenge of making it here before exploring the other possibilities. This includes going back to Cameroon.”
Well, I will not say this sample is 100% representative. However, this gives an idea of what could be operational on the ground. It is more recurrent to find those who don’t plan on going back in 10 years outnumbering those who do. Of course there seems to be diverse reasons for their decisions with the most predominant being the unattractive political and socio-economic conditions back home. Call it cowardice or irresponsibility, but again, it is only an unwise builder who embarks on a building project without counting the cost. That notwithstanding, home is home. Fixing it needs combined efforts which of course can only be realized in an accommodative environment. Away from just a cliché, it is the government’s role to make home accommodative for its citizens. If we dream of an emerging Cameroon then the government should cooperate with its citizens to make this happen, without which the brain drain cry will continue day in and day out.