We speak to Miranda Oben, Award-winning IT Engineer, internationally reputed multi-lingual presenter and founder of the Returnees Project on why it is so important for Cameroon’s Diaspora to return home.
1. Q: Why do you feel it is so important for the diaspora to return to Cameroon?
A: It’s time to change the narrative for Africans. It is time for the diaspora to roll up their sleeves and look very closely at their home countries. It is time to forget about the bad governance and FOCUS on uplifting the young entrepreneurs/ leaders/ visionaries. It is the right time to believe our generation is called to make that change we all long to see. The time for us all to join those diasporans who have already packed their bags, left the diaspora and RETURNED home! The TIME to clearly “see” this vision and join us to build a strong synergy between the active diaspora, the returned diaspora and the home-based entrepreneurs. It is important for the Diaspora to return home to invest in the economy, create jobs, bring home the know-how gathered from years abroad and take responsibility of investing in the younger generation for nation building with a stronger generation of leaders who in turn groom other leaders.
2. Q: What can diaspora returnees contribute to society?
A: A lot – a whole lot. Education, Infrastructure, Health, Engineering, Agriculture etc. are all domains that need improvement on. The diaspora has the know-how to achieve this. Our statistics indicate that a majority of the diaspora returnees, as we call them, return from the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany and Italy. These statistics also reflect the different professional domains as represented in The Returnees Awards 2017. If many more were like Dr. Henry Nkumbe who has opened and runs the best eye clinic in Yaounde, Cameroon, or Dr Nkwenti Azong-Wara who runs an IT solution for FinTech or Dr. Thierry Nyamen who is a pioneer in the sector of healthy and processed baby food Made in Cameroon; we would NOT need the West or Asia for our supplies. We would eat Cameroonian, drink Cameroonian, dress Cameroonian, get healthy from our own specialists returned to train others etc. This would enable a huge growth in the economy as we would import far less products and expertise. There will be more employment and less hopelessness; just to mention a few. The professional knowledge gained from abroad can be passed on in every field Agriculture, Engineering, Medicine etc and thus improve the standards of services provided in general, create jobs and show others how to create jobs. The returned diaspora will help multiply success stories on the ground and thus invite many more to join in nation building.
3. Q: What would you say to those considering a return?
A: Our first word of advice is, after living in the Western world for decades, do not pack your bags one good day without prior planning and move back home. No hasty decisions please! Take the pains to travel and visit home often and to talk to those on the ground and understand how things function back in Africa. So, make an average of 4 to 5 trips back home over a period of about 2 years and make your findings. We insist on asking the right questions to the right people. Then and only then plan your effective return using the why, how and what method using very strategic phases.
Phase 1, ask yourself why you are returning home? Ask yourself how you plan to do this and thirdly what do you plan on doing when you are already back home? WHO is in your network upon return is also extremely important and so the returnees project has well-established entrepreneurs and returnees who guide the diaspora through these steps.
Our biggest advice is to have enough information and carry out due diligence before returning and note; just like everything in life it takes practice and patience to make it.
4. Q: Please tell me about the Returnees Project?
A: The Returnees Cameroon was launched December 16th, 2016 at its annual international conference. Like we say, if CNN won’t tell our stories, let’s do it ourselves. The Returnees Project remains a pioneer vision for Africa and its diaspora – a unique platform made up of three parts with seasoned entrepreneurs. We tprovide instant and credible contacts and information to the diaspora aspiring to return, we connect the diaspora with people on the ground who have returned home and reintegrated into life back home. We provide information on the different domains in which the diaspora wishes to invest. Our experts on the ground provide guidance on tough topics like the tax system etc. We also link the returnees at home to each other to form a stronger bond of Cameroonians who once lived abroad and are now facing challenges of fitting into the system back home. Through this bond of Returnees, they learn from each other and gain from each other’s networks. The home-based citizens (who never left home) get a chance of having direct exchanges with the active diaspora thus presenting their projects and having diasporans invest in their young and growing businesses thus promoting products and services Made in Cameroon (MIC).