Third Prize 3

Third Prize

Letter To A Friend – Year 2040

Roger Yomba N. Cameroon & Cote d’Ivoire 

Subject: Cameroon’s 2040 Independence celebration and the way forward

My dear friend Bapah,                                                       Yaoundé, January 2, 2040

I am pleased to come back to you after our recent telephone communication. I was very happy to learn that you made tremendous realizations in your life as a civil servant in your country of adoption since we separated in 2007 at Pittsburg. I chose to go back to Cameroon to fight the despotic regime and develop my business in various countries of Africa. You decided to remain in US after your graduation. I know that you always monitor politics in your motherland although you did not like to jump in the political arena.

Cameroon, which celebrates its 80th anniversary of independence this year 2040, is now again a federal republic after the previous experience of the 1960’s. It has fair and transparent democratic elections every five years for the federal and local governments as well as federal and local parliaments and senates. The tenure of the Presidency is limited to two consecutive mandates of five years. All citizens of 25 year old to above can compete for the parliaments and senate while those aged 35 to 70 can run for the Presidency.

You might have heard that I spent 2 years in prison for political reason after taken the lead of civil uprising with the executives of my party and several NGOs. As I was lucky enough not to be killed in prison, I decided not to give up; thanks to the wide support I got allover the world from friends and supporters.  I believed in Gandhi who said that, “You have to be the change you want to see in the world”.

Now, we have a second woman President since 2032; the first woman has been elected in 2013 for a transition government of three years after the death of the then President and dictator who governed the country for thirty two years. You might remember my preference for woman leadership since they are less inclined to betray. Today I am still confident in them giving their achievements.

I was astonished to speak to your son Paul last week when he visited Cameroon as officer of the US department of State. I am glad to know that he got a world class education in Law and international affairs and he got his way to high level diplomacy. Do you remember my son Briand who is 27?  He just landed an excellent job as a chief operating officer (COO) of the Battanga oil refinery corporation. It’s not like it was back when we were youth with 70% underemployment rate. At present, the unemployment rate decreased from 30% in 2011 to 8% in 2025 while underemployment is around 20% from 70% in 2010, after two decades of good governance and a visionary policy of renewal of our infrastructures and agriculture.

Last week I made a trip from Yaoundé to Douala to visit some cousins there.  Remember, this trip used to take up to five hours and you would often see terrible accidents along the way.  Well all of that has changed.  From less than 10,000 KM of asphalted roads in 2010, we now have 50,000 KM of modern, wide and well designed asphalted roads. We can travel for less than three hours from Douala to Yaoundé. The number of accidents in the roads decreased for 60% since 2030 from the figures of 2010 and 2011.

The agriculture which offers 40% employment is flourishing due to our policy of “new commitment” that allows farmers to easily secure funding to provide food and other agricultural products to 400 millions people in Central and Western Africa. Nigeria our neighbor is our first market with its 200 million inhabitants.

Since 2025, oil production has tripled to 65.02 million barrels per year from the 23.31 million barrels in 2010. Most interesting, from the thirteen foreign companies which exclusively operated in oil exploration and exploitation in Cameroon in 2011, we currently have five Cameroonian companies and ten foreign companies. Cameroonians presently enjoy a fair share of this resource.

The oil income doubled during the transition government period when the first woman head of state decided to include all its earnings in the national budget. It appeared by then that the former regime used about 40% of this income for private purpose notably to corrupt opposition leaders and top ranking militaries, and to finance foreign regimes to buy their political support and military back up. An independent audit conducted by a South African firm discovered that 10 to 20% of the oil income gone astray during thirty years.

You know that I grew up in a village, near the sea port of Kribi, where the single industry was the exploitation and transformation of timber woods.  Well, the Parliament passed a law that empowers community leaders to effectively control this industry allover the country to the point where no more timber (unbarked wood) is exported without first transformation by Cameroonian sawmills. This represents an important progress for the rural population who share more job opportunities for uneducated people who chose to stay or go back to villages. Remember, exploitation and export of timber woods, second source of foreign currencies, amounted previously to 944,345 m3 exported in 2010, with 612,345 m3 or 80% of unbarked woods.

At the level of the public governance, back to 2011, we had a heavily centralized regime with strong military presence that prevented many of our people to enjoy their constitutional rights and access to resources. After the institutional reforms and the access of five strong opposition parties in the federal parliament, the laws governing civil liberties and human rights, trade and investment, local government and decentralization are regularly amended to find the best pathways for our constituencies. Presently, our federal republic is composed of ten autonomous and accountable states that share 1/3 of the income generated in their areas and 1/20 of the federal budget. This had escalated the states budget up to 300%. Local budgets are directly in charge of social services like education and health in addition to the rural development. Each state has at least a well equipped public university and a hospital of reference.

Interestingly, as the governors are now elected by the constituency instead of being appointed by the head of state, the population has a direct oversight on the way public management is conducted in each state. Corrupt civil servants are regularly imprisoned and their profiles publicized on TV and newspapers to serve as examples.

Back to the years 1990s to 2010, Cameroon was regularly placed among the top three corrupted countries in the world. Last year we won the Regional competition of good governance and transparency organized by the Central Africa regional Board on Governance and Democracy, an agency of the African Union’s African Peer Review Mechanism. The Board is chaired by a former chief justice of Botswana, a country respected for its governance in the whole world.

One debate we had in this country was about the strategies to use in order to change an endemic corruption while building strong institutions. Discussions went on to the Uncertainty that motivates people to misbehave and refuse the change a corruption free country could bring. Some people like me thought that talking about uncertainty gave an opportunity to leaders and policymakers to come up with some alternatives that present the change as an innovation and a reason of national pride to reluctant individuals or groups of individuals. As Everett M. Rogers, the author of Diffusion of Innovation once wrote: “One kind of uncertainty is generated by an innovation, defined as an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or another unit of adoption. An innovation presents an individual or an organization with a new alternative or alternatives, as well as new means of solving problems. However, the probability that the new idea is superior to previous practice is not initially known with certainty by individual problem solvers. Thus, individuals are motivated to seek further information about the innovation in order to cope with the uncertainty that it creates.”

So, the parliament took the decision to spread a maximum of information on the way our institutions are governed while exposing those who misbehave and gratifying the best practices.

Cameroonians are now more effective in their critics to governments and top executives. Figure out that we have reached 90% of literacy rate in the country from 67.9% in 2010. The people have managed to build the schools in every single village and area in the cities since business people decided to support the federal law encouraging them to invest up to 20% of their taxable income into social projects. I worked hard with the fellows of the Cameroon People’s Party (CPP), to pass this law in the parliament. You probably remember our meetings with the US Congressional Black Caucus to learn the lobbying of governments and international institutions in favor of the grassroots.

At the social level, the government did an incredible job in sensitizing our people on their responsibility to best manage birthrate. From an average of 5.2 children per woman we had in 2010, at this time we have 2.8 children per woman. This allows families, local and federal governments to best plan for their expenditures on education, health and employment. We were 19,406,100 inhabitants in 2010. Forty years later, we are just 30 millions while scientists and demographists predicted that we should have been above 40 millions in 2040. Consequently our life expectancy increased from 51.7 years to 65 years and the expenditures for health decreased from 20% in 2010 to 12%.

Women now enjoy more free time to go to school and complete their education, what our mothers could not afford. Their literacy rate amounts to 70.2% from 59.8% in 2010.  A total of 60% inhabitants in urban areas have access to electricity from 30% in 2010, while 70% of total inhabitants have access to drinking water from 50% in urban areas and less than 30% in rural areas in 2010.

The issue of money circulation and poverty was another issue of great concern here. I expected that the government goes beyond the concept of fair trade or commerce equitable promoted by some alter-globalization movements. A balance of an open system with the former conventional system could help our peasants and people in suburbs, who couldn’t afford or understand the e-money system, to better face their daily needs. I believed that what they could do is to exchange their goods, time and skills to find a little relief without going back to the traditional barter systems.  With our researches and support, the new government resolved this through reforms negotiated at the Parliament and with the Central Africa Regional finance establishment. At the end of the process we have instituted a local currency called BATH which worth 1 BATH for 0.8 XOF (Central Africa francs) and circulates only in Cameroon. Last week I visited villages in three different states. People are in high spirits as the economy grows. I had good discussions with some of them on the benefits of our new monetary system. Believe me, I was surprise by their awareness that the system values their skills, time, and agricultural goods to 80% of the XOF currency in supermarkets, schools, hospitals, charities and any social services. They are proud to be Cameroonians.

I am also proud to talk about this currency since it is my major accomplishment as a member of the National Economic Council. In Africa, these kinds of systems are hardly needed to address the scarcity of money or the uncontrolled global financial system. Our inspiration came from the experiment of other regional currencies in the world.  Among these currencies is the WIR system that started in 1934 in Switzerland. By 1993, it had a turnover of _12 billion and 65,000 corporate members. Another local currency was the Ithaca HOURS (valued at $10 each) popularized in upstate New York. It did not carry neither positive nor negative interest and was backed by real goods and skills, as a way of providing more money in a local economy. Furthermore, in 1997 a decision was taken by the European Commission to sponsor four experimental regional currencies that could be used by organizations, charities and small businesses as an alternative to cash. From all the four launched in 1998/9, only one survived, the Scotbarter system, run by the Scottish/Duth currency consultancy Barataria. In addition, Gerry McGarry an Irish engineer invented the roma (ROscommon-MAyo) currency to encourage the businesses in his area to do more trade among themselves and to raise the money for local charities, etc. All these experiences or experiments taught us that local, regional or federal policymakers could think about a monetary system that help businesses and people to convert their skills, goods or goodwill to notes or cash to fuel the economy and empower communities.

You might remember that all educated Cameroonians wanted to be appointed in the government. Now, people refuse this appointment due to the pressure the cabinet ministers of the states or federal governments go under to perform high. The iron lady, as she was nicknamed by the population, is a workaholic who understands every single stake and challenge of public and corporate policies. She serves as an example to government officers who have adopted her patterns in the daily undertaking. I personally refused to stay in the government as cabinet minister of planning and development for more than two years. I did prefer to keep my freedom of movement while playing the interesting role of special adviser to the President. I am happy to be a member of the National Economic Council that I chaired since eight years.

Being 66 now and a grandfather of 4, my intention is to quit this office in the coming two years. I would like to see a new bread of executives taking more responsibilities in our public affairs. My children are respectively 33, 27 and 24. I believe it is the right time for me to spend more time advising them to develop their career while best managing the businesses I built during half a century. I talked above about Bryan who is COO of the Battanga oil refinery corporation here in Cameroon. He married a dentist from Fiji islands three years ago. Lucrece Angela, the elder is the Vice-president of the family investment holding Ronyo. She is a very bright young lady who completed her advanced business degree in Germany at age 23. She married a troublesome architect who is however finding his way too within the UN system. My youngest son John Roger is the one who causes a lot of concerns to the family. He is interested in nothing but the military although we encouraged him to complete medical studies. He joined the army after his bachelor degree in sciences and now serves in a Peace Keeping mission in Papua-New Guinea.

My companies now employ 6,007 people in five industrial sectors: finance, oil, counseling, transports, and health. My wife Gloria was very instrumental in the development of all these undertakings. Being a journalist, in addition to her career, she devoted herself working to maintain a credible image of our family while taking care of the children during my absence and busy times. I really owe her their education as well as a deepest gratitude for my whole life.

I don’t know if you remember the author Richard Bartlett I recommended you back to 2007. In his book Matrix Energetics , he states that: “You generally get what you expect out of life. I have found that people’s expectations can suck. Not to bet a dead horse, but what you ask consistently and congruently for, you will get. If you always focus on avoiding what you don’t want, that has a way of attracting those things into your life as well. I am not speaking here about the power of positive thinking. You can say all sorts of positive affirmations to yourself, and visualize all goods things coming up to you. In my experience that is sometimes not enough to change things. Another deeper part of you may still be focused on what you don’t want or think that you can’t have. If you have a problem with self-steam, then opt for a different mode of transportation!” . He further insisted that “If everything in nature, including the quality of your thoughts and feelings has a morphic resonance, then you need to choose extraordinary examples of what you want. Choose a role model until you roll up the old disgruntled self. Replace its essence with the values and qualities you would need in order to be the person who has what you truly want. When you really know, and not just believe that you deserve it, you can have it.”

Richard Bartlett inspired me a lot keeping my dreams alive despite all the hindrances I faced in my life. I also remember authors such Anthony Robbins, David Straus, David Doyle, David Swartz, Joseph Murphy, Everett M. Rogers, Wayne W. Dyer, John C. Maxwell, Dale Carnegie, Jim Collins, Jerry Porras, Maxwell Martz, Bobbe Sommer, Alan Greenspan, Georges Soros, Benjamin Graham, Julia Morgenstern, Patrice Malidoma Some, etc. whose influence is still present in my daily actions and thoughts. I can not forget the mentoring and support of IIGL associates like Michael Lightweaver, Ward and Brigitt Williams, Deb Rosen, Naomi Stauber, Rev. Wanda Gail Campbell, Debra Silver, Lynne Murguia, Julia Cuervo Hewitt, Andras Nevai, Al Steele, Corine Wilson, etc.

Donald H. McGannon first stated that, “leadership is action, not position.” I remain determined, for the rest of my life, to support education and constant political change for the wellbeing of the grassroots. I am happy I achieved this along my countrymen as a result of the education I got specifically from the International Institute for Global Leadership. As you know, “leaders have a profound effect on the cultures of their organizations and communities. The support of leadership is essential if an organization or communities is to build a collaborative environment…”  I have reached the conclusion that one reason that kept our countries back before was the lack of collaboration between the elite and the grassroots, as well as among the elite and the grassroots themselves.  Since I learned how to build consensus through the six-phases method (Perception of the problem; Definition of the problem with its limits or boundaries; Analysis of the causes; Generation of Alternatives or possible solutions to the problem; Evaluation of the best alternatives; and Decision Making), I never avoid to address any problem. As a leader, I see myself as just a facilitator. Therefore, I popularized this method to communities and institutions I worked with. Consequently we always find a creative way forward. This determination based on the five principles of collaboration taught by David Straus: “involve the relevant stakeholders, build consensus phase by phase, design a process map, designate a process facilitator, and harness the power of group memory”  has never betray me. Instead of conflicting endlessly for the matters that challenge them, many communities and institution of Cameroon widely implement these principles now.

It is amazing that our people achieved these important changes in just twenty six years while two consecutive regimes of twenty two and thirty two years could not. As a spiritual perspective notes, “nothing is impossible to those who believe”.

Please, do not forget to put the visit to our motherland on top of your schedule for coming holidays. Gloria and I will be glad to welcome you here. We will pay visits to villages and all places that marked our youngest years. We will still found some cousins and elders around. I anticipate that it will be highly emotional to live this experience together.

Please pass my compliment to Sadie.

All the best,  Roger Yomba N.