What are the problems to which are confronted Cameroonians of your country of residence?
The Cameroonians’ Association of Residents in the Emirates (C.A.R.E.) family welcome and heartily extend heartfelt greeting to you and your partners especially CAMDA GLOBAL ,and takes this opportunity to acknowledge your great patriotic and selfless works for the Cameroonian diaspora as a whole. That said, C.A.R.E. feels encouraged by your coming – which she interprets as a strong sign that her tireless work for the improvement of living conditions of Cameroonians living in the U.A.E. is now beginning to draw the attention of the relevant quarters, needed in the struggle.
I will divide the problems faced by Cameroonians living in U.A.E. into two large main categories. First- difficulties related to survival: and secondly- difficulties related to our collective campaign to contribute to our nation building or our national development. Pertaining to the former, two sub categories can be further deduced, namely; survival-related difficulties of general character – as also experienced by the entire Cameroonian diaspora, in every other foreign land; and secondly, survival- related difficulties of only peculiar character; – that is, unique only to U.A.E. and maybe, other Gulf Countries. Again, even these peculiar difficulties are subdivided into three; – first, peculiar difficulties caused by absence of a diplomatic representation for our country in U.A.E.; secondly, peculiar difficulties cause by Cameroonians to Cameroonians and lastly, peculiar difficulties caused by unscrupulous employers to Cameroonian employees.
As to the difficulties related to survival- of general character, it is clear that difficulties such as; inadequate capacity constraints in terms of both budgetary allocations & personnel at diplomatic missions to offer effective and efficient consular services; underutilization of online services due to low adoption and uptake of Information Technology Enabled Service (ITES), thereby inhibiting the effective and efficient provision of services to Cameroonians abroad; inability to source and manage data of Cameroonians abroad, hampering the planning, engagement and support for Cameroonians abroad; the high cost of remitting money back home through the existing formal household names or channels; weak structures and uncoordinated mechanisms to create awareness for Cameroonians abroad on the investment opportunities available back home in different sectors; lack of an incentive framework to promote diaspora investment; government’s inability to attract qualified and skilled human resources from Cameroonians abroad due to lack of a mechanism and financing for skills transfer & capacity building, inhibiting reverse transfer of intellectual capital; no clear coordination and linkage mechanism between various government agencies to enhance harmonization of their policies and initiatives; no bilateral agreement or formal framework to facilitate transferability and portability of social security benefits to Cameroonians; and no policy to ensure full integration of returnees into society etc plague not only Cameroonians living in U.A.E. but in other countries like France, US, UK, Canada, Germany, Belgium, China, India, Kuwait, Quatar, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the entire diaspora as a whole. These difficulties of general character are worth mentioning amongst the crucial problems Cameroonians living in U.A.E. face as observed by C.A.R.E.
Difficulties related to survival of peculiar character- as already mentioned- is caused by; first, the absence of a diplomatic representation of our country in U.A.E. Secondly, by the waywardness of Cameroonians towards Cameroonians; and lastly- by the mischief of some U.A.E. employers of Cameroonian employees.
The absence of a diplomatic representation in U.A.E. makes life very difficult for the thousands of Cameroonians living in U.A.E. and even sidelines the nation and her interest. Acquiring passports, consular cards or other travel documents is a nightmare. The same is true of getting transcription of birth certificates, procuring of marriage-related documents, certification of documents for business transactions, job acquisition, projects and contracts pursuit. This is absolutely suffocating and counterproductive to nation building. Even foreign potential investors and business men who corner C.A.R.E., interested in our country wonder why we do not have an embassy her to facilitate their travel transactions to Cameroon. We need to build on the diplomatic relations that exist between Cameroon & U.A.E. since 24th February 1975; and open an embassy in U.A.E.
The Cameroonian is also the Cameroonian’s problem in the U.A.E. The tragedy begins from day one, when an unscrupulous travel agent takes advantage of the naivety of a poor widow back in Cameroon to sell her U.A.E. “milk and honey” illusions that brings her to mortgage their lone makeshift wooden house and compound for a desperate loan to send a surviving son to “freedom”. We have seen cases where up to 2.5 million was bled out of a poor family that sold their last miserable land inheritance to procure a month’s visa to Dubai. This is a sacrilege! These agents claim that a million fcfa paid air-conditioned office job is awaiting their client in Dubai; that upon arrival at the airport, his company will immediately pick him to their luxurious apartment and that will be it! Who will not borrow even 5 million fcfa for such a deal? It is upon arrival that our dreamer meets reality- no one to pick him at the airport! no job! no luxurious apartment! No one million Fcfa salary! And no agent showing up ! How does our dreamer return home to face a 2.5 million debt? If he stays to battle it out, how does he further bleed an indebted family that has already been bled white? He must stay even in the streets, while hunting for just anything to do- becoming a crucial social problem we could have avoided from departure. The law here gives visitors one or three months to pick a job, or quit. That will be his fate unless he picks a job within deadlines. Now, the same agent usually will apologetically mobilize his clique to appear and propose for sale, a meager-salary mean job to our victim at an unspeakable high rate. We have even seen agents here who will take the money and dribble their fellow country man until his time is up to be repatriated back home. Or simply set him up with an Indian fraudster who will pass for a company owner, needing and employing staff. Such are the companies that send Cameroonians to Kish or Cameroon for visa –change; and abandon them there. This spirit of brother-eats-brother prevails even within our community in the Emirates. C.A.R.E. can quickly cite more than ten cases where when more than three Cameroonians find themselves in the same workplace, they struggle to strangle each other – maybe because of the better performance or promotion of one of theirs- much to the unpleasant surprise of other races, other Africans inclusive. Do you know that orphaned by an entire community with rich millionaires here, a Cameroonian lady who died was shamelessly left to be buried in the Emirati deserts due to lack of funds? This disgraceful incident and others let to the birth of C.A.R.E. – to emphasize the necessity for the duty of care we owe one another.
Also, C.A.R.E. keeps getting workplace complaints from Cameroonians of; arbitrary dismissals, abusive overtime without pay, no days off, no annual leave, no medical insurance etc. And as jobs get scarce, salaries are falling deeply and quickly, generally. In some cases, the salaries are paid always late and/or unduly slashed and/or not even paid altogether while cost of living rises steeply. A recent Asteco report puts an average two (2) bedroom apartment in Dubai at an annual cost of aed 122,000. The 2014 “Cost of Living Middle East Survey” found that Dubai and Abu Dhabi residents spend around 36% of their annual income on rents, compared to only 24% in London, 22% in Toronto and 33% in New York City. And so C.A.R.E. is asking- is it not time for government to consider different more low tax rates for goods imported from U.A.E. by Cameroonians living here? Tax experts know this measure will rather lead to increased aggregate tax returns for our nation’s treasury. So why not institute it?
Lastly, our Cameroonian community C.A.R.E has got collective difficulties related to our collective campaign to contribute to our nation building or our national development. We have many smart initiatives to carry out to boost our country’s development but we have serious diplomatic, political, economic, financial, as well as technical barriers. C.A.R.E. was not just created to organize her members to receive assistance; she was also created to create opportunities for our countrymen and bring wealth to our country. C.A.R.E. is a nation builder and she needs support to carry out this original role within a Cameroon context where diaspora associations are inclined to only receive.
The question as to what problems Cameroonians living in U.A.E. confront is at the very core why C.A.R.E. was created; which is to-. unite all Cameroonians living in the U.A.E.; assist Cameroonians in critical and deteriorating health conditions; look after bona fide Cameroonians in detention or arrest, and to watch over the rule of law and fair trials; help stranded Cameroonians in distress or other emergency situations; sell our Cameroonian culture in its diversities for better welfare; support the burden in Cameroonians that comes with deaths, births, marriages, adoptions, by and between Cameroonians; provide daily legal aid to Cameroonians; lobby for the recruitment and valorization of Cameroonian academic and professional certificates by large multinationals and petroleum companies; promote the travelling welfare of Cameroonians in and out of the country; accompany relevant authorities in the facilitation of resolution of conflicts related to Cameroonians with all second parties; help prevent Cameroonians from losing their jobs and to provide transitional assistance to those who inevitably lost their jobs; facilitate greater access to jobs for all members; improve profitable trade between Cameroonian businessmen, the U.A.E and the rest of the business world; increase growing orientation of Cameroonians in the U.A.E. towards their own self-employment and their own business ownership; promote transfer of investors and investments from U.A.E. to Cameroon; encourage education amongst Cameroonians in and out of U.A.E. by helping those who want to foster their studies while working; work to sustainably improve the great name of our country, Cameroon in U.A.E; and inspire a very great and healthy working relationship between Cameroon and U.A.E.
C.A.R.E. is therefore specially unique in two strong ways;
1. C.A.R.E. was created to care about and take care of the most struggling and less privileged Cameroonians living in U.A.E. We do not call them only when they have made it big!
2. C.A.R.E. is also specially unique because she was created to be a nation builder by drawing wealth from U.A.E. to Cameroon through smart initiatives.
C.A.R.E. is doing a lot within her limited means to deal with these problems and alleviate these sufferings of Cameroonians living in U.A.E. 95% of remedial measures she envisages are still in her drawers because of insufficient means. She has and continues to; grant part time and full time jobs to Cameroonians-free of any charge; carry out a campaign to discourage the common malpractice of sale of jobs by Cameroonians to Cameroonians; grant daily preventive and curative legal aids to many; track down unscrupulous travel agents and provide necessary guidance that saves many Cameroonians from their traps. C.A.R.E. has helped many home-based visiting businessmen scale the potential dangers of Dubai markets especially the looming of conmen and other risks- without any charge. C.A.R.E. promotes the growth of Cameroonian-owned U.A.E. based business by challenging Cameroonians here to consume Cameroonian; continues to encourage salary-earning Cameroonians to get into business by helping those who live in distant states or those who have no time or those who do not know the market and have no experience by providing C.A.R.E. -certified market agents to assist them through the Dubai markets- still free of charge. C.A.R.E. provides reliable C.A.R.E. risk insurance to high-risk less costly business transaction by receiving orders to purchase merchandise in Dubai from Cameroon by Cameroon- based businessmen back home and sending the said ordered purchase to them without them having to go through the high cost of travelling all the way to Dubai to purchase the said merchandise. C.A.R.E. also champions a new spirit of healthy and brotherly communal living amongst all Cameroonians. We have been doing this without any support, whatsoever. It is time for the nation to support C.A.R.E. in order to boost her capacity for more impactful action on the ground. C.A.R.E. proudly does not charge Cameroonian beneficiaries any penny for her services. Her dedicated members sacrifice themselves in every respect for that.
How the Cameroonian community does organizes itself for the establishment of administrative documents?
Our passports expire every five years unlike many other countries which is every 10 years- yet we have no diplomatic representation in U.A.E. through which to pursue a quick and prompt replacement, daily. We have many cases of expiration, loss, theft or destruction of passports and other administrative documents of Cameroonians here on a daily basis. Many Cameroonians have lost great job contracts here because their passport lacked a 6 months validity or they needed an administrative document and the recruiting company would not wait for them to travel since there are thousands of job seekers on the cue, scrambling for the same job. Usually, some have painfully traveled back home to get an express passport, where their new company was more patient – but you can imagine the cost to an average Cameroonian and his family! C.A.R.E. has written to the embassy about this and hopes the days ahead will be better for our members because we trust in the good work and good heart of our caretaker Ambassador, His Excellency Iya Tidjani, Cameroon’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
What obtains is that a visiting team from Saudi Arabia travels to U.A.E. to renew documents if they have indication that a substantial number of collected passports need renewal and if they are readily available. These visits are only periodic and prompted by only an accumulation of cases. It really does not help individual emergency and desperate situations that C.A.R.E. experiences on a daily basis because victims cannot sit and wait until the next visit of the team from Saudi Arabia. The embassy should help C.A.R.E. to help her members on this question. We look forward to cooperating with the embassy and his Excellency, Iya Tidjani, to undermine the damage in the days ahead.
Is there presently necessity to open a diplomatic or consular representation?
It is not an option, it is a necessity that will squarely address not only our dire consular needs but also promote nation building.
The U.A.E. and GCC, need (Sub Saharan) SS Africa and Cameroon now, and we need them too. The question is; how proactive can we be in ensuring we quickly grab the opening as pioneer partners with U.A.E. in our region? It must be noted that the Economic Crisis of 2008 changed the International dynamics of world diplomacy and global economic politics.
It severely hit the GCC traditional partners i.e. Europe & Asia, while the GCC and SS Africa remained relatively immune from this economic crisis due to high prices of oil and the high prices of food especially grain and raw materials. Even the Arab Spring further forced the GCC to turn her attention to SS Africa after a long past of the former’s indifference.
That is why towards the end of 2013, the U.A.E. Ministry of Economy, in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development organized the first SS Africa Emirati Investment and Trade Forum in both Tanzania and Kenya. The forum was attended by a 50 man trade and economic missions from the U.A.E., representing 25 public and private institutions in the country. The two countries were chosen for their excellent air and seaport facilities.
The U.A.E. is looking to spread to the neighboring countries such as Burundi, Rwanda, & Zambia. Until then, the U.A.E. maintained strong diplomatic ties only with Maghreb countries.
So the time is now right for both countries because the stakes have inspired a political will on both sides.
Our country should probably have two priorities at this time: – fight against terrorism and religious extremists; and the striving for economic growth and development. Both Cameroon and U.A.E. are threatened by terrorism and will have mutual interest in comparing notes on the subject. The U.A.E. can help develop social amenities such as primary schools, dispensaries, pipe borne water, electrification etc in the Grand North to reduce the vulnerability of illiterate youths to the easy brainwash of recruiting terrorists. The U.A.E., which is the second largest Arab economy, plays a leading global role in the field of renewable energy and it can assist Cameroon in establishing renewable energy projects such as solar and wind power, thereby improving our business climate. She has earned respect as an effective manager of limited water resources, enhancing year in-year out uninterrupted flow of water taps in the middle of a total desert. Her quickly growing manufacturing industry can help our country develop our agric- business at the primary, secondary and tertiary production stages; creating millions of jobs that will greatly nourish our population boom, check our gross underemployment, curb the wild and explosive informal sector- variables which are all potential threats to political stability. With U.A.E., we can slowly enhance technological transfer as to be able to transform our own minerals, cotton, rubber and other raw materials in our own country with time. We can also sell our tea, coffee, banana, chocolate, fruits, cereals, cotton etc to the U.A.E. Tea drinking is a daily ritual, here. A normal finger of banana costs 165 fcfa- and our bananas taste best. Chocolate –which is usually adulterated- is very expensive here. Our rich chocolate can take over the U.A.E. market. As Expo 2020 fast approaches, C.A.R.E. invites the government to build a great politico-business Cameroonian empire in the U.A.E., ready to outsmart other stakeholders here to benefit from its fallouts. C.A.R.E. herself is positioning as a springboard for our country in that regard. So we need to work with this fastest growing economy in the GCC.
Beyond bringing a diplomatic representation, our country needs to define a diaspora policy that upholds the need for public authorities to erect and support CAMEROONIANS’ ASSOCIATION IN THE RESIDENTS EMIRATES (C.A.R.E.) – type associations in the spirit of the “Domestic Abroad” of Latha Varadarajan of India, who introduces it as “this widespread form of trans-nationalism, produced through state policies and initiatives aimed at institutionalizing the relationship between nation-states and their diasporas”.
In the medium term, C.A.R.E. proposes that government should hatch a concise diaspora policy that will arrest the problems of not only Cameroonians in U.A.E. but the entire diaspora, by calling a national reflection on the problems of the diaspora and possible solutions to be carried out by all relevant stakeholders like; past and current foreign affairs ministers; concerned ministries; ambassadors; diaspora associations; related NGOs, CSOs & multinationals etc because one interview cannot deal with that. But the erection of a diplomatic representation as soon as possible in U.A.E., is now a necessity.
Therefore, C.A.R.E. is officially inviting President Biya through this interview to open an embassy in U.A.E.
Even with that- as a matter of public policy- the ensuring of the existence of a very strong, representative, vibrant, uniting & unifying, patriotic, people-oriented, development –geared diaspora association in the U.A.E. as well as all other countries abroad- of the same philosophy and character like- CAMEROONIANS’ ASSOCIATION OF RESIDENTS IN THE EMIRATES (C.A.R.E.) as mentioned already will go a long way to enhance our nation building through adequately tapping the rich potentials from abroad.
In this light, I seize this opportunity to thank particularly all dedicated C.A.R.E. members and all Cameroonians living in U.A.E., especially those, who, frustrated by the situation of abandonment and lack of care and help for suffering Cameroonians in the U.A.E. by most of our earliest Cameroonian settlers (though, now very well to-do), took the bold step with the association’s founding fathers to create this association that is filling the void. We still have 95% percent of existing potentials within and outside our association, unexploited. With steady, visionary and very hard working leadership; with team work, unity, love, selfless sacrifice and above all, care for one another as one another’s keeper, we shall overcome our limitations, conquer all adverse forces that want to pull us down and go places. We are the change we have been yearning for!
By “La voix des décideurs”