No man can help another without helping himself
- Waldo Emerson

Bertie about Cameroon

‘In the mid-nineties, I visited Cameroon for the first time. During the last few years, I’ve been going there twice a year with increasing enjoyment and interest. I think Cameroon is an exciting, adventurous country.

It is a truly African country: damp, warm, dark people, dangerous in the big cities at night, innumerable taxis, mopeds, dusty or very wet roads, red sand, lush tropical nature, but also wonderful mountain areas, even a desert, and, especially, many people doing nothing: sitting behind a pile of oranges, hanging on a moped. As far as I can see and experience, but also evident from the talks I have with these friendly people, what they suffer from in the first place is lack of work. The basis on which they can shape their lives is formed by work. They will do anything to find work. For example, there are people who live at a great distance from their families because work has brought them to a different city.

It is not easy to set up sustainable economic activities. Often, people lack the required starting capital and the ability to plan ahead. This last aspect is something typically African – the other side of the medal being the ability to live from day to day – and is more than just unwillingness. At the same time, there is an eagerness to learn and everywhere one feels that the country is bent upon doing more.

In the second place, there is a certain kind of loneliness, which oddly enough exists side by side with a relaxed conviviality and strong family ties.  Since practically everybody is struggling for the bare necessities of life people are very inward-looking and viable collaborative ventures are difficult to get off the ground. Whom can you trust?

During the time when I was there, I had many moving and personal conversations. Meanwhile, I have bought a piece of land in Kribi, and, together with my Cameroonian friend Edouard, I am working out plans for a bar/restaurant which in due time will be run by him.