It’s not uncommon for development workers to get frustrated and discouraged by the lack of traction our efforts often have (just see my previous posts in this blog). But this past week was an awesome jolt of optimism for me. I spent it in Yaoundé at the invitation of a local NGO, YES (Youth Employment Services) Cameroon, where I participated in the annual ‘Social Enterprise Trade Fair’, part of Global Entrepreneurship Week – sponsored in Cameroon by the U.S. Embassy, the British High Commission, and funded in part by them and other US and UK foundations. The goal of the week and its numerous lectures and workshops was “to inspire young people to embrace innovation, imagination and creativity; to think big, to turn their ideas into reality and to make their mark.” I’m happy to say I think it was a success!
My role was that of facilitator and judge. Along with another PC volunteer and frequent collaborator, Cherlin Charles, we facilitated some sessions on social entrepreneurialism (“Business Ideas and Development” and “Business Management”) and served on a panel that judged participants’ business plans – the top three of which received 1 million CFA (about $2,000) in seed money. I was really impressed by the motivation, curiosity, and general spirit of the seminar’s participants.
Development can sometimes be a ‘three steps forward–two steps back’ process. But this event definitely felt like forward momentum. I congratulate all the participants and organizers on a job well done and heartily thank Gilbert, Estelle, Oscarine and the rest of the YES Cameroon team for inviting Cherlin and I and treating us so well. I know next year will be even better. Plus it gives me more things to do in Yaoundé when I’m obliged to be there! (I’m thinking a “how to write a good business plan” session might be next…) Anyway, thanks again to everyone and I look forward to working with you all again.