Cameroonians resident abroad frequently return home to visit family and friends but most fly back to the Diaspora after these visits. A small number have however, decided to move back home permanently despite the poor job prospects and poor or sometimes non-existent services. They have to content with frequent power cuts, extremely poor road networks and an administrative machinery and other bottlenecks. This is in stark contrast to the high tech networks and organisation they wilfully left behind in their adopted countries. Most of the Returnees have now set up striving businesses at home.
Award-winning IT Engineer and Professional Presenter Miranda OBEN is going behind the scenes to record their stories in a mini documentary series titled: “The Returnees – Home Sweet Home!”
For 20 minutes, each Returnee tells their stories of hope, joy, challenges and aspirations.
A grande networking gala of the returnees and guests will take place at the St John’s Plaza Bonapriso, Douala Cameroon on Friday December 16th 2016.
UK based journalist Francis Ngwa Niba has been speaking to the series producer Miranda OBEN. Excerpts.
Q. What inspired this project?
Vision, passion and love. I had a vision and took a leap of faith! I had a burning desire to bridge the gap between means and needs; resources and wants – the love for my nation and aspirations to be different. I couldn’t hold back but commit to being the voice and agent of change.
Q. What are some of the challenges you faced putting it all together?
Oh, when you get to knowing me, you’ll know that I almost never see “challenges”. Traditional wisdom insinuates that opportunities are embedded in every crisis situation – and so, I will find opportunities in the challenges we face. Our greatest challenge has been our ability to sell this message – that the Diaspora holds the key for Cameroon’s emergence. More so, making others understand that in each and every one of us – lies something unique. Therefore, our ability to sync thoughts and perspectives is key to our collective success.
Being the first to introduce such a movement in the way we are doing it is quite a challenge. Mobilizing the required resources and aligning them to meet the needs and expectations of our teams and targets has been daunting yet very rewarding. Notwithstanding, we have made a lot of progress in several areas and continue to strive to be better in all we hope to do. We have gained wit through these challenges and learned valuable lessons that have enabled us to maintain the course of our journey and cemented a path that will be used by many to introduce similar initiatives in the nation in particular and continent in general.
Q. You describe the stories you recorded in the trailer as ‘unique, personal and inspiring’. Can you expand on that statement?
Permit me to start by saying why they are unique. – They are unique because when they are told, you will NOT find any other person who has walked that same path. They are personal stories, because we have the people themselves narrating in the documentary series. And finally to your question “inspiring”. They are inspiring because these individuals have been able to impact lives and have also been able to stand out because they are able to invest in themselves, believe in themselves and rise above the norm! In each one of them, we find something different.
Q. Tell me, Miranda, I know people who returned and a year or two later, left in frustration because of either, no jobs, bad jobs or bad facilities. Any reaction to that?
Cameroon like other African countries, is facing an unemployment crisis. So, no one should return to Cameroon in search for and competing with the locals on the minimum job opportunities available. Instead, they should come to create jobs. So, I really can not dwell on their frustration.
On the other hand, my team and I are looking to set a stage that will prepare Returnees for the Cameroonian realities so they can become agents of pollination and engage in activities that will spread knowledge and wealth
Q. Which of the stories will you say was the most inspiring?
They are all inspiring in their respective ways. These are just the few we can mention for now – there are many more to be showcased. In the particular case of Roland Fomundam and Greenhouse Ventures – it is not only about the work he is doing but the personality of the person he is – He is a true Leader-a born Leader I might add. He has introduced an innovation that will change the way Agriculture in Cameroon has been practiced for centuries and most importantly, he has created a model that will put this technology in the hands of many. Agriculture is the back bone of the African economy and Cameroon has been in dire need of someone like this – a devoted patriot with great business ideas.
Kibonen NY is another inspiring story. She, I believe, is on the verge of becoming a mogul in the textile industry. This is what Cameroon and Cameroonians need. There are several of such stories and we will be bringing them to light. We are telling Cameroon and Africa in general to brace themselves because something revolutionary is about to happen.
Q, What will you say is the biggest eye opener you learnt from the project?
Now that is not an easy question Francis! The biggest eye opener is the revelation I had on August 12th 2016 when God answered my prayers in a special way. I had a dream and woke up to understand the words of Jim Motavalli; “Do not underestimate the power of doing something you truly care about!” I love my country with a deep passion and God answered my prayer! I learned that you may lose the things you have, you may lose people you love but you should never lose yourself! Now I can tell every little boy and girl with much more conviction than before to BELIEVE in themselves and FOLLOW their leads and lead their way – the mind is their only limitation. YOU make your own footprints in the sands of time!
Q On a personal note, you are Cameroonian, resident abroad like those you chronicled. They have now returned. Any plans to return yourself anytime soon?
I am home already! My mind is at home and that is where I rest. Returning home must not be physical and that is something we like for everyone to know. For most of us, for us to do well at home we have to live in the West. What matters is how we connect with home and what the outcomes become over time. Besides, there is a time for everything according to God’s divine purpose.
Q It cannot be all good good good. What didn’t you like as you recorded the various stories?
The best thing about what we do is simply the aspect of listening, learning and living. There is nothing bad about listening and learning from a bad story – there is everything good about it. The truth is that there is a good and a bad side to every story. The picture we are painting for our nation is that which will seek to focus on the good things – we have been painted with the bad story for the most part and that has greatly limited our abilities to extract good from bad.
Q Of all the Returnees you have talked to so far, from the different countries, have you portrayed any from Asia?
No, we haven’t. Should you or any of your readers, know about any with an inspiring story, kindly get through to our production team in Cameroon or drop me a line.
Q I know this could be a tricky question but any idea just how many Cameroonians, both men and women, who have returned from abroad? Have you been able to collect any statistics with regards to the number of men and women who have returned?
We are currently getting those statistics. We are also talking to the Cameroonian Embassies in the Diaspora.
Q. I understand there will be a big project launch in December in Cameroon. Any details of what people should expect on the night?
Yes, indeed. A very engaging group of a diverse group of potentials shall be meeting in Bonapriso Douala, on Friday December 16th 2016 at the St John’s Plaza for a first of its kind exquisite Networking Gala. We shall be bringing together the people on whom the future of our beloved country rests. The young and aspiring professionals in every sector. The succeeding and the successful ones shall be meeting in a historic gala. You and your team are equally invited to join all the other media outlets that shall be present to report this to the world! You shall live to tell your children you were there when this cornerstone was laid. (smiles…)
Q. Any plans to extend this to other countries apart from Cameroon and any other future plans?
Great question! Cameroon is serving as our proof of concept. We have 3 other African countries already lined up for 2017 and 2018. We are here to restore the pride of our people and this vision and mission is pan-African. The next event is already planned in Cameroon and scheduled for Dec 15th 2017.
Q Any expected big names invited for the December project launch in Douala? If yes, who will be coming?
Oh common, you don’t really think I’ll release that this early. Besides, if I told you now, that will rip away the surprise effect so just stay tuned. (smiles)
Cameroon contact 00237678391724
Trailer. The Returnees.