Rampant joblessness is making young Cameroonians resort to self-employment. For many entrepreneurs, especially those with paltry start-up funds, doing business from home is a solution. This third article in a three-part series on youth unemployment sees how an Obala man doesn’t let the bad economy or his wheechair get in the way of his livelihood.
By Anne Mireille Nzouankeu, Yaoundé
Thirty-four-year-old Hubert Ndjodo Atéba always dreamt of being a journalist. After a badly administered injection at age five, he lost use of his legs and has relied on a wheelchair ever since. For reasons related to his disability, he was unable to finish high school and thus unable to meet the entry requirements for journalism school.
But these obstacles did not discourage pursuit of his ambitions. Hubert hosted some shows and commentated on various soccer matches before finding temporary jobs at different radio stations. And yet their inaccessible offices considerably restricted his movements. “Being paraplegic, it wasn’t easy going up and down the stairs every day,” he recalls.
Failing to find an accessible job elsewhere, Hubert decided to start a community radio station. He was unable to afford an office, so the ambitious entrepreneur turned his own home into a radio headquarters.
Radio Odjila is the only station in Obala, a village on the outskirts of capital city Yaoundé. Delivering programming in French and local dialect Eton, the station has been on the air for almost two years now.
To create the studio, Hubert liquidated a portion of his inheritance and bought equipment. The living room became Radio Odjila’s reception area. Leaving only his bedroom as it was, he had other rooms transformed into broadcasting studios.
“Not easy at all”
It’s apparent that Hubert is driven by the realization of his passion. Although physical obstacles may no longer hamper his vocation, he still faces numerous difficulties, especially financial ones. The eight-person team he manages works on a voluntary basis. “The station survives on money made from announcements. It’s not easy at all. We often spend more than we make,” he says.
Like many other young Cameroonian entrepreneurs, Hubert gets no support from the government. “The Cameroonian government should be assisting the media. People need to be informed and educated, and we need help in order to do that,” he says. For now, he must appeal to the generosity of the people.
Regardless of past or future worries, it’s with a radiant smile that Hubert welcomes visitors to the offices of Radio Odjila. “This station is a dream come true,” he says.
In Cameroon, an estimated 30 percent of the population is unemployed. That figure hits one age bracket really hard: those between 17 and 40 years old, who currently make up 37 percent of the population. What’s worse, a 2011 report by Cameroon’s National Institute of Statistics, states that the “seemingly low unemployment rate, as defined by the International Labour Organization, masks a general underemployment that affects more than 70 percent of the active population”.