Kah Walla is one of Cameroon’s most successful female entrepreneurs. When she started her consulting firm 20 years ago, she says she never stopped to consider how unusual, and challenging, it would be for a woman in her 20s to begin a business in Cameroon. Despite being a woman and facing the hurdles of the Cameroonian tax system at the time, Kah successfully established her consulting firm. Her company; Strategies is now across the world, serving both domestic and international clients, and draws in an average annual revenue of $500,000. Kah’s consulting firm, which makes over 90 percent of its turnover outside Cameroon. It offers services in leadership, strategy and organisational development to multi-national firms and development organisations.
Kah’s business reach and outstanding impact throughout Africa, Europe, and the US, has given her recognition and many awards. In 2008, she was recognised by the World Bank as one of the seven women entrepreneurs working to improve the African business environment. Today, Kah says now is the best time for entrepreneurs, especially women, to start a business in Cameroon. This, given that Cameroonian laws now grant women new rights, such as travelling without male companions, opening bank accounts and registering businesses on their own, without their husbands’ consent. This is something which didn’t exist before.
In the following excerpt, Kah shares more tips on starting a business in Cameroon.
Do research: Know the country’s laws and what the people need
Any entrepreneur willing to start up any business in Cameroon has to do some professional homework regarding the country’s business and tax laws, including general marketing analyses. You also need to know what the people really need in a bid to understand if your business project will be people-friendly.
Cameroon’s business law is harmonized under the OHADA treaty like other countries in West and Central Africa, and is at face value gender neutral. But there are customary laws and traditional practices which sometimes disadvantage women in business dealings. So knowing the laws is a salient point to consider before starting out.
Put down your plan on paper
The next step in starting businesses at any level is creating a plan. You must create some kind of plan before going into business. Putting something down on paper will remind you of your objective and goals. Then you can continually develop this plan, but make sure to always have one from the get-go. At some point –even after you’ve started a business, return, rearrange things, and reflect. Just put your plan together first!
Be proficient in the country’s two languages.
Cameroon is a bilingual country with English and French as its two official languages. Any young entrepreneur who wants to succeed should know how to manoeuvre between English and French.
Get the right information, meet and create the right network
“Meeting and creating the right network is very important. There are many businesses that have not seen the light of day simply because they didn’t get the right information. Connect with people who have different strengths but are like-minded in their entrepreneurship and development interests. Being a business owner or entrepreneur can sometimes get lonely, particularly in the start-up phase.
The government of Cameroon has been striving to assist entrepreneurs in setting up and running their own businesses in Cameroon through the One-Stop Pilot Centre. The Centre is one of out of the many other investing paltforms in Cameroon. These centres unite all administrative services for creating a business –including taxation, insurance, treasury and customer service. There are places where people can find out what documents they need to prepare and fees they need to pay in establishing their businesses. Any person willing to start up a business should go to these places to get the right information. These centres have eased the process of creating businesses in Cameroon, which now is supposed to take between three to five days.”
Have the right mind-set
There are certain basic mind-sets which are critical to becoming the ultimate entrepreneur. They include:
- Everything is possible,
- Passion first,
- We are connected,
- 100 percent accountability,
- Attitude of gratitude,
- Live to give, and
- The time is now.
All challenges have solutions
“All challenges and problems have solutions, and in order to be successful, one has to be innovative and creative. Successful business women must remember that everything is possible. When I started out in my 20s, I didn’t realize that the markets would be a challenge for me. But what I had was the will and desire to make it and to start my business venture. With that alone and my passion, I think I have been extremely successful in my life.
Summarily, I will advise entrepreneurs to create businesses that provide what Cameroonians need and to welcome any challenges as added motivation for innovation. The keys to success are sticking to a plan, being creative, remaining optimistic and doing one’s homework. The Cameroonian government has made starting a business faster and easier here. So the time to start-up is now!”