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Last week, a high-level Tunisian delegation was in Cameroon with some new lessons. A few years ago, Cameroon enthusiastically received Tunisia’s proposals to propose low-cost comfortable housing for Cameroonian citizens. The initiative was received enthusiastically as part of Yaounde’s south end was given out for the project.

Four, five, six or… even more years, we are yet to see a spectacular display of new housing units in a city in dire need of houses. Did Cameroonians really need foreign expertise in a situation where the country offers virtually all essential material necessary in the building of houses? This question is all the more pressing when one examines all the advantageous offers made by MIPROMALO, the national agency responsible for the promotion of local building materials.

The MIPROMALO offer is really attractive and one is really at odds to imagine that with such an offer, our country should go out, literally cap-in-hand, praising foreign expertise in the provision of low-cost housing whereas numerous possibilities exist within the country.

We have no problem with Tunisia. No problem at all. But the recent outing by a Tunisian delegation that came visiting a few days ago and the conclusions of their visit after a short stay, leave such to be desired.

One of the conclusions of the stay of the Tunisian delegation suggests that with Tunisian technical assistance, a unit will be created at the Ecole Pratique d’Agriculture of Binguela, an agricultural technical training outfit situated on the outskirts of Yaounde, to henceforth train Cameroonians in wood work. Where are we?

In each of the two cases mentioned above, there is obviously a gross ‘misappreciation’ of national capacities and expertise. Our houses, especially built with sun-dried bricks, are solid, cheap and affordable. They can also be adapted to many architectural forms. Why then must we seek foreign expertise?

Wood is our business. And as much as we know, Tunisia is a Sahelian country or, at best, a temperate country without much reputation for the treatment of wood. How do we, Cameroonians, suddenly renounce our competence and knowledge of wood to foreigners who, in the first place, ought to have been coming here to learn?

Granted, Tunisia is said to import 95 per cent of all the timber it uses and has developed recognised expertise in the treatment of wood. But rather than invite these experts into our backyards, one could imagine other strategies, even if only to save our honour.

The same remarks have been made about our oil palm seedlings in high demand in foreign lands. The same is said of research results which are often available. But as it is said, Cameroonians hardly ever give these results the importance they actually have, leaving their good fortunes to foreigners. And along the line, Cameroonians find themselves inviting foreigners to come and give them lessons on issues over which they have absolute mastery, but are unable to acknowledge this mastery. Or let alone, use all that they possess to their own advantage. These are paradoxes hard to explain.


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