Digital Transformation Center Cameroon
At a glance
With a Networked Readiness Index of 3.0, Cameroon ranks 124th out of 139 countries represented. On the one hand, the importance of internet is constantly increasing, on the other hand, internet is almost inaccessible in rural areas. Individual internet access is unaffordable for most Cameroonians and women are marginalized in terms of using this technology. Internet connections work well (mostly) in urban areas, albeit slowly. Mobile internet tariff choices in Cameroon are difficult to navigate due to the multitude of different offerings. These are all reasons why, despite a literacy rate of about 77%, the proportion of internet users in the country is only 34%.
The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MINPOSTEL) has ministerial responsibility for ICT in the country. Cameroon’s Digital Strategy 2020 includes eight strategic areas whose promotion should contribute to the digital transformation in the country. These include:
1. expansion of broadband infrastructure
2. increasing the production and supply of digital content
3. ensuring the digital transformation of state institutions and companies
4. promoting digital culture by spreading the use of ICT in society
5. strengthening digital self-awareness
6. developing a local digital industry and promoting research and innovation
7. developing human capital and leadership skills in digital technology
8. improving governance and institutional support
The digital strategy was thus aligned with Cameroon’s Vision 2035 for sustainable socio-economic development and is currently being updated.
Digital ecosystem activities are mainly concentrated in the cities of Douala Yaoundé and Buea. Startups in Cameroon’s digital ecosystem are primarily pushing e-commerce, software & hardware, media & design, and fintech. Private sector associations such as the “Economie numérique” commission of the Groupement inter-patronal du Cameroun (GICAM) and private networks such as the Réseau des Professionnels du secteur des Telecommunications, des TIC et du Numérique au Cameroun (REPTIC) are tapping into the start-up culture and digital initiatives of larger business sectors to act as accelerators and coordinate developments. According to the World Bank Group, the business climate in Cameroon is hostile to investment. There are many reasons for this: lack of infrastructure, obstacles to cross-border trade, bureaucratic hurdles (e.g., registration of property), obstruction by the judiciary and financial administration and, last but not least, corruption.
Several public information systems (civil status, health information and logistics systems) and municipal administration are currently being digitized, wherefore qualified personnel is needed. German development cooperation is also supporting the Cameroonian tax administration, in particular the General Directorate of Taxes (DGl), in the acquisition and implementation of a complete, stable and efficient tax administration software (Integrated System for the Management of Taxes – SIGIT). Modernizing rural development depends on digital infrastructure and digital literacy in rural areas. Regional innovation centers can multiply digital initiatives from the hubs in Douala and Yaoundé.
Digitalization in Cameroon is yet not a priority topic in German development cooperation, but a cross-sectional one. There are many digital initiatives within the cooperation, also at regional levels. These include innovative approaches in the pilot phase, successful approaches at scale, and comprehensive digital components (e.g., eSkills for Girls, digital community telecenters), as well as capacity-building measures aimed at broad impact (e.g., the Strategic Alliance with Orange to support the Orange Digital Center). In addition, the programmes OurVillage bilaterally and WIDU regionally support the piloting and application of digital innovations such as “blockchain” technology and digital investment systems.
There is great potential to leverage synergies in Cameroon’s digital ecosystem across a variety of partners and smaller as well as larger digital interventions. This is further multiplied by parallel initiatives from other donor institutions. In line with demand and partners’ prerequisites, the Digital Transformation Center Cameroon builds local capacity or promotes existing capacity, thus supporting self-determined digital transformation. Through the Digital Transformation Center, democratic and participatory processes are established to strengthen local, economic and social ICT structures.