Cameroon trains new crop of business superheroes

Off a dusty path in the capital city of Yaounde, one of Cameroon’s most successful digital start-ups is capitalising on its success to foster a new generation of entrepreneurs. Founded in 2013, Kiro’o Games has grown to become Central Africa’s first major video games studio. It draws on African mythology for inspiration, as in its fantasy role-playing game ‘Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan’. Today, Kiro’o’s online educational platform Rebuntu, launched last June, trains young Cameroonians to navigate obstacles in real-life business.

“Our generation has the duty to bring something new that will finally generate growth,” said Olivier Madiba, founder and chief executive officer of Kiro’o. Subscribers pay 10,000 Central African francs to access a digital training manual, featuring cartoons and advice on how to find good projects, hire the right staff and secure investor funding. They can also seek online and in-person mentoring from Kiro’o staff. In Central Africa, better known for conflict, disease and poverty, training locals to set up international companies may seem like mission impossible.

Unlike neighbouring states, Cameroon has been relatively stable for decades, but is blighted by high youth unemployment. Many young people with professional education are forced to take up lower-skilled jobs such as farming, driving taxis and running market stalls. But Kiro’o digital communications head William Fankam believes there is another way: create your own work. “We are wall-breakers,” he said. The company has broken down barriers in education. And it has also overcome the obstacle of financing, Fankam said, developing its own model to raise funds from investors.

The entrepreneurs’ training programme aims to share Kiro’o’s pioneering approach with others, he added. In just over a year, about 1,000 Cameroonians have signed up for the training. The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications has paid inscription fees for more than 800 of them, who are looking to set up technology-focused businesses. Kenneth Fabo, who runs JeWash, a home dry-cleaning and ironing service in Douala and Yaounde, said the programme is helping him devise a crowdfunding strategy to grow his business.

— Thomson Reuters Foundation

Inna Lazareva