Mobile phones have become an essential part of our everyday life in Cameroon. Through a special month-long series, “Our Mobile Society,” we examine how phones and tablets are changing the way we live.
The telecommunications industry in Cameroon within the past couple of years has become more vibrant and transformational. Cameroon’s mobile penetration recently hit 80%.
Cameroon had 16.8 million mobile phone users at the end of September 2015, compared to 16.6 million at the end of 2014, according to the telecom regulator ART. Based on the country’s population of 22 million, mobile penetration rose to 80 percent in September 2016, from 71 percent:-
Communication with Employees
Nowadays, a company is able to stay in touch with its employees and verify absence from, or emergency availability for, work. Away from the office, an employer or manager is able to remotely obtain from the relevant personnel, information that is perhaps vital to make an important business decision on the go. Insurance companies, for example, or even mobile network operators tend to dispatch field-based workers to gather market data from Cameroon’s streets and remote rural communities. Before mobile phones, such data would be captured on paper and risk being out of date before being used. With mobile phones, data can now be communicated in real-time and utilised to have a rapid positive impact on the business.
Access to banking – Mobile Money
Not too long ago, access to a bank account, even to many office workers, was rare. The mobile network provider MTN Cameroon, for example, launched its mobile banking service in Cameroon around September 2010, in partnership with Afriland First Bank. At the time, the service mainly enabled users, individuals and businesses, to make money transfers and buy airtime. Since then, it had been extended to pay bills, goods and services. The benefits to businesses in particular are immeasurable. As of September 2016, MTN reported about 2.7 million subscribers with an even wider service offering including withdrawals. Until now, traditional banking was out of reach for over 90% of the population, especially micro enterprises. Mobile phones are sure changing the landscape of access to banking services for businesses and workers alike, allowing businesses to make smart financial decisions, such as investments, on the move.
Agriculture is perhaps the largest business sector in Cameroon. The vast majority of the Cameroonian population also practises subsistence farming. Just a few years back, small holders were generally at the mercy of middlemen who would relief poor farmers of the produce often at far less than the cost of production. Increasingly though, subsistence farmers and agribusiness owners are now being empowered through the use of mobile phones. It was recently reported that in Ebolowa, for example, cocoa and coffee farmers use mobile phone text messaging to find fair prices for their crops. In fact, in addition to boosting returns for labour in agribusinesses, those with access to smartphones are also able to access information on new farming methods and a whole lot more. Agribusiness owners, with plantations in remote areas, are nowadays able to check up on farm and working conditions remotely, thanks to mobile phones.
Increasingly, business managers are eager to improve workforce productivity. Some managers are already using mobile phones to collect employee input or feedback through surveys on ideas to improve the business. This gives the manager or employer invaluable data to make strategic business decisions for business growth. Mobile phones are therefore helping to improve interactivity between employers/managers and their employees. Evidence suggests that such initiatives positively impact employee productivity.
Training and re-training
Mobile phones of course allow access to the internet, home to vast amounts of free information for on-the-job skills enhancement. In other words, to in Cameroon, managers and employees alike are able to access the skills and information they need to become more productive at work. Mobile phones are therefore an indispensable tool for access to training and retraining information for employability skills.
Looking Toward the Future
Success in business is now heavily linked to taking advantage of opportunities offered through the mobile phone. In particular, the rise in smartphone ownership has also given rise to smartphone applications. These have huge potential for growing businesses as well in Cameroon. Consider the FEEM app, as an example. Proudly developed in Cameroon, the app makes it possible to speedily transfer files between clients on the same ad-hoc network. Savings in time and work productivity are huge. Looking to the future, many other innovations in the pipeline would lead to an accelerated growth in Cameroon businesses as we’ve never seen before.