Monday, November 3, 2008

My Town Monday: Life in West Africa

Mr. Boh wrote this piece over a year ago when he was actively looking for a job. He tells of the trials and tribulations in securing a position in his country. Despite all the difficulties getting through the bureaucratic red tape and corruption, we are happy to know that he was successful in this search. At the end, he's sent along some pictures of himself and his colleagues.

Getting a job is Cameroon is like forcing the camel through the eye of a needle. It has always been a very difficult task. Most often, before vacancies are published, those to fill them had already been selected and at times already working. This is a common practice with the private sector whose employees make sure that the office is filled by blood brothers or brothers from the same village or tribe. This "kanka" worm has eaten deep into the society that even public examinations are not corrected regarding merit but on who pays in how much to which minister or authority. Examination scripts are corrected in terms of which minister has sent in what list with how many names. However, there are still a few hopefuls like foreign embassies that recruit based on merit.

Recently the US Embassy in Cameroon launched a job opening for a driver for their motor pool and not less than 300 persons applied. A month later 15 candidates were short-listed for the interviews. I happen to have been one of the candidates short-listed. We did the interviews each at a time and at the end, it was announced that a selected few would still be called up for the driving test. Three weeks have gone by, still no appointment to any of us and still the vacancy remains.

While we continue to wait in agony, I stopped by a cyber cafe to check my email, and as I opened my inbox I had so many emails but one caught my attention; it was labeled "Your application for employment". I hurriedly opened that mail and it was
from the Kingdom of the Netherlands' Embassy in Cameroon. It was just to inform me that they did not have an immediate opening for a driver at their embassy and to wish me well in my search for one. This was an application that had been deposited since the month of March.

Similarly, UNESCO had sent me a mail through the post office in response to an application I submitted in their office. Theirs said they were sorry to inform me
that after the driving test conducted in their office I was not retained meanwhile I never participated in any test organised by the UNESCO office in Cameroon. This is just one case in a million. Before the vacancy was launched someone's brother was already working in that post. Their publication of that vacancy was just to tell the world that they are not involved in the corruption thing here in Cameroon. How do they stay safe from corruption when they have left the recruitment of their local staff in the hands of Cameroonians; remember Cameroon has been classified two times world champions in corruption.

Recently the US Ambassador to Cameroon, His Excellency Niels Marquard, single handedly lead the anti-corruption struggle with threats like having to curb the good existing trade relations between Cameroon and the US. The President of the Republic was forced to track down and arrest a few government ministers charged with embezzlement and corruption and they are presently serving a jail term in the Yaoundé central prison in 'KONDENGUI'.

This was the first giant step ever taken and it is hoped that in a few more decades to come, Cameroon would be like other economies of the world with jobs available for all classes of people.

G4S (Group 4 Secoricor) employs about 5000 Cameroonians and is ranged about the third largest employer in the country now; recently, they dramatically changed their recruitment policy; to be a common guard now with this company, one has to be a holder of the GCE Ordinary level (General Certificate of Education). Just a decade ago, this job was reserved only for the under schooled persons, i.e. those who have
not even completed elementary education and have nothing more like a certificate to show in addition to their birth certificates. Now that even University graduates come crowding at the gates of G4 company during recruitment they have automatically changed their policy. This was just to justify how much it is difficult to secure a job here in the country. [07 September 2007]

Click here for other My Town Monday posts on Travis Erwin's site...


pattinase (abbott) said...

We often forget how much harder people have it in other countires.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful, indomitable spirit Mr.Boh has. He is a wonderful model for us all.

David Cranmer said...

Patti, Whenever I hear somebody complaining about life in the US, I wish I could transport them to certain parts of Africa for just a year to see if they'd still feel the same way.

Mary, Yes, he has a wonderful spirit and the word 'no' is not in his vocabulary. I certainly feel fortunate for having met him and making a life-long friend.

Travis Erwin said...

It is sobering to read the tales of Mr. Boh and learn how hard things can be elsewhere.

Charles Gramlich said...

Man I sympathize with the agony of such red-tape and beurocracy. Sounds a bit like trying to get something published sometimes, but that's certainly not as serious given that I will still be able to eat if I don't get something in print.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Thanks David,

I appreciate these posts about Mr. Boh so much. They remind me how lucky we aree here in the US.
And I admire Mr. Boh and his great fortitude.


Barrie said...

An eye-opening post.

David Cranmer said...

Travis, Charles, Terrie, Barrie: There certainly is a big difference in the way things are done over there. It's great to see that he was able to overcome the hurdles and find such a great opportunity.

Charles, that's a good observation... we do encounter many obstacles that are a pain to get around, but when it's at every level like over there, it can be paralyzing.

I'm glad all of you are still enjoying these posts from Mr. Boh... I know he appreciates all your comments!

Reb said...

Wow, I know that there are still jobs advertised here that companies have already filled, but they are so few and far between. I can't imagine the frustration that Mr. Boh must have felt while job searching.

I agree with Mary, he is a wonderful model for us all.

Barbara Martin said...

It is very fortunate Mr. Boh has a determined attitude.

Thank you David, for bringing these wonderful stories about Mr. Boh.

Joshua said...

wow, great mTm man.

David Cranmer said...

Reb, Barbara, and Josh. As I've mentioned before I send all your comments to Mr. Boh and he's very appreciative that people take the time to read his posts. The Net in Cameroon can be extremely slow at times and to load a page like Blogger and open comments could take 10-15 minutes at a time so I send them to his e-mail where it's a little quicker because he's already in that account. (easier opening one than two)