On Camera in Cameroon... and learning some business lessons

I just got back from Cameroon, and oh my, what a trip! We went to host the Building Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Africa Conference, which was a success and extensively commented on in the press, like in The Sun and the Cameroon Tribune:

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Here with my co-hosts Monica McCoy and Natalie Nkembuh (the main brain behind the conference), as well as STEM power house and speaker Sophie Ngassa:

 

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...but it was just a start...  Even before the conference, my up-until-then virtual friend and power journalist Amy Banda made sure I had my voice heard in her radio show. And from then on, there was no stopping me. So many more amazing things happened in those 12 days!

Just two days later, I found myself teaching a workshop to a room full of power ladies, at an event pulled together by Santher Mbacham and her Imagenation Team, where I was honored to share the stage with Gladys Viban and Leila Kigha, two top names in the Cameroonian speaker scene. Amy Banda joined us as well, and Clovis Delaure volunteered to film the event. I was humbled by Santher's determination to make this event happen within just 3 weeks, and everyone's enthusiasm. That's what I call business spirit! 
 

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Meetings after meetings were on my calendar: ministries, schools, consultants, press... And one morning, when a business friend picked me up in his car for a business meeting, we got stuck in the mud of what was supposed to be a street but got turned into a fruit market -- a colorful medley of fruits, motorbikes and carts all mixed together. I was already picturing myself stepping out into the clay in my high heels and pushing the car, when a smart guy looking to make some profit from the situation guided us backward through the masses of people and fruits, frantically gesticulating all the way. Incredibly enough, we made it out of the muddy grounds without having to leave the car (although with our windshield covered in brown molasses)... Believe it or not, the below was our view from the car (as long as the windshield was still clear), even if it may seem like there was no space for a car.
 

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Cameroonians are business people without excuses. They do business anywhere. They choose a spot and put up their shop, even in the middle of a street. Lesson learned: Don't let yourself be held back by seemingly impossible circumstances.

As part of my travel experience, I also learned to take and bargain fares for collective taxis in a city where I had no clue how to orient myself. Admittedly, I may have paid a bit more than the locals at times (I didn't even know in what direction I was going), but I got pretty good at making firm offers very soon. Great negotiation practice. And just when I was thinking, Cameroonians drive as if their vehicles were made of fabric, a car bumped into my taxi's non-existent rear bumper guard and five minutes later a motorbike rammed the left front part of our car. Although his car was actually made of metal, this didn't seem to disturb the driver; he was used to it and stayed calm... Another lesson I learned every day anew: stay calm and eat some fried plantains. 

Then, one morning the phone rang, and four hours later, I found myself on the CRTV Midi Life show with Myra Nangeh, who made me dance to traditional Cameroonian music with live musicians. So much fun (especially for the audience)!  

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We also recorded a few more TV and radio interviews with Amy Banda and Suzanne Belle Essengue... airing soon. 

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When I left NYC with three suitcases on March 24 (one for clothes, one for my books and one carry-on), I thought I'd come back with one of them empty after leaving my books in Cameroon... But to my surprise, it was filled with gifts from my new Cameroonian friends: dresses, shoes, a handbag, books, jewelry, fabric... Oh wow! If Cameroonians were to win an award, they'd surely win it for their hospitality and generosity.  

Apart from all these gifts, I also came back with a heart full of new friends, amazing memories and some future collaboration opportunities, feeling fulfilled and happy... and recharged for my activities here in New York and beyond.

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