Cameroon has a relatively high rate of unemployment with the most affected demographic being the youth. The public sector for years has been the major employer leading to stiff competition in the examinations one has to pass to be recruited in different domains in the public service. As a result, in recent years there has been an increasing wave of young persons who have taken an interest in entrepreneurship. Strengthening the private sector is crucial in building our economy and generating more jobs. With this in mind, our youth of the month is one active in the startup environment whilst contributing to the community, we bring to you Babila Emmanuel Tafon.
Who is Babila Emmanuel Tafon and what does he do?
I am a Debate activist and an enterprise development advocate with an accumulated experience of over 3 years in both the civil society and the start-up ecosystem in the South West Region of Cameroon. I believe talent is evenly distributed but opportunities are not, based on this, I participate in the process of cutting down unemployment through our debate activities with the Cameroon Debate Circuit where individuals gain self-esteem, critical thinking, and fear assassination abilities. These activities have contributed to breeding a new generation of about 150 “debatepreneurs” in less than 5 years.
I received my educational training in Banking and Finance from the University of Buea which provided me the platform to be involved with entrepreneurship as a FinTech enthusiast, making use of modern technology tools like WhatsApp to provide tailored financial solutions to rural communities and the underserved population.
As a ‘debatepreneur’, I am creating a new breed of debaters from the primary to the secondary level of the environment by enshrining debate into all facets of the society in which people would gain mental emancipation, self-esteem and apply the principles of critical thinking. Thereby contributing to the development of the ‘Africa We Want’ and its Agenda 2063, Cameroon’s Agenda 2030 and the global Sustainable Development Goals.
You served as chapter president of Junior Chamber International (JCI), University of Buea. How did that experience form you and how did you effectively balance your academics and extracurricular activities?
JCI is a learn-by-doing organization and with this in mind, I will like to quote: – John F Kennedy, late US President who said: “Harvard gave me an education, but Junior Chamber gave an education for life”.
That is the summary of the experience I had while serving because to me it was a springboard and the value of service to humanity is still drives me every day.
I would say; – at times it was challenging because it went beyond extracurricular activities to no parental support. However, it is part of history now, because I could balance all these through a positive attitude, planning, and hard work not forgetting the indefatigable team that worked with me that year.
You have worked as a business analyst, served as a member of the International Center for Environmental Education and Community Development and are a co-founder of the ‘Ampire Media Group”. What motivates and drives you to take part in or found these initiatives?
As I said earlier; I believe that talent is evenly distributed but opportunities are not and because the opportunities are misplaced in our context, man has to be a fighter and a gold getter. To me, it is the search for constant opportunities and the necessity to serve mankind that drives me.
As the national vice president of Junior Chamber International Chamber and a presidential candidate in 2017, what advice do you have for young Cameroonians aspiring to be leaders?
Junior Chamber International (JCI) is a one year to lead organization in most capacities. With this philosophy, I lobbied the support of JCI Cameroon members in 2017 to serve as the 2018 National President but I didn’t make it. Contrarily, it was a very rich experience that I think gives me the barometer of knowledge to share with my peers. Based on the aforementioned, I encourage my friends aspiring to be leaders to:
You presently serve as the president of the Cameroon debate circuit, what do you hope to accomplish as the leader of this organization?
We see debating as part of the solution to so many societal issues and also the socio-political crisis affecting Cameroon that emanated from the fact that people’s ideology was repressed. We, therefore, strive to have debate activities be part of our primary to secondary school’s extracurricular activities like any other on the national territory. More so, we are currently marshaling resources to secure Cameroon’s participation at the 11th Pan African Universities Debate Championship (PAUDC 2018) to be held in Tanzania from the 5th – 12th December 2018 in the University of Dar Es Salaam. Besides obtaining the legal framework of the organization, these are some of our immediate objectives.
Why should Cameroonian youth get more involved in the debate scene and how can they be part of the debate community?
One of the greatest challenges in the world, Africa and Cameroon, in particular, is ideological repression. This puts many young people in a mental state of low self-esteem and constant fear of expression. Today, this is part of most conflict around the globe, when the people decide to raise their voices. This is where we position debate in all its forms as an alternative to violence whereby people inquire and advocate a reasoned judgment on a proposition (ideology). Through our debate activities in Cameroon, more than 150 young Cameroonians can now apply the principles of critical thinking and self-confidence in expressing and advocating for a proposition. So far, we have debate Clubs/societies in the University of Dschang, University of Bamenda, University of Buea, Pan African Institute for Development, Higher Institute for Management Studies, Catholic University Institute of Buea, University of Yaounde II (a.k.a Soa), Maroua, etc. I hope that through this interview, many other Cameroonians would join the debate movement through this clubs/societies.
What challenges do you face?
My challenge remains my constant battle with family over my life path and the lack of institutional and legal framework that provides the practicing environment for many of the adventures. Additionally, many people with whom we decide to work with, end up being spectators no matter the efforts put in.
What current projects are you involved in our readers should know about?
Debating is a Listening, Reading, and Speaking (LRS) sport that makes an individual a critical thinker and an active participant in the happenings around him. This should motivate the readers to be involved in any of the series of projects we are currently having, such as the: Regional Debate Championships, National Debating Championships and Cameroon’s participation at the Pan African Universities Debating Championship (PAUDC) 2018 hosted by the University of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania from the 5th – 12th December 2018 and subsequent editions.
What should we look out for from you in the future?
There is a common saying which goes, “When you look at your dreams, they should scare you”. My perspective on this is, the dreamer needs to be constantly motivated. As a result, my political aspirations are very high, I would one day love to lead this country.
On an economic perspective, we are working on a couple of business and social solutions to cut down unemployment and contribute to a sustainable development of the economy and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Finally, what do you think Cameroonian youth need to know or do to be the Better Breed?
I think the challenge here is, we have been made to believe that someone somewhere has all the solutions to our problems. The problems we face today can only be solved by us and no one else. This means that Cameroonian youth need to DARE, to come out of their shell and own back their future. That is what it takes to be a Better Breed.