From the field: Bamenda, Cameroon
Last week, Marc Stephan Nkouly, a young man who works in a cyber cafe in Bamenda, Cameroon, offered to share how the Internet access stands in Cameroon. He is interested in promoting ICT and has provided a wealth of information from both his cafe and experience in Bamenda, along with links to statistics representing Cameroon. Although the connection speeds in Bamenda are not greater than 512kps, the bandwidth is enough to access Facebook – a site that has actually drawn people into the cyber cafe for the first time. Additionally, at least in Bamenda, Internet is accessed via desktop rather than mobile. And, promising business opportunities exist, especially as government initiatives (national policy and backbone project) near completion.
The following is an edited version of oAfrica’s interview with Nkouly:
oAfrica: What types of sites are popular to visit:
Marc Stephan Nkouly: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and dating web sites.
oA: How fast are your connection speeds?
M: 3 connections in the cyber café: 2 Wimax of 512 kps from Orange and 1 from 250 kps from Camtel – unsure how many people are sharing it from the ISP but there are 20 second-hand Pentium 4 PCs in the cyber cafe.
oA: How much does Internet access cost?
M: At the cyber, charge is 1000 fr for 4 hours, 600 fr for 90 min, 400 fr for 60 min, 250 fr for 30 min. [100 cfa = $0.22 USD]
oA: What types of computer skill learning programs are there and how interested are people in learning about technology?
M: Mostly basic training Office suites, Cisco certification, and hardware training. Most training centers are not accredited by awarding bodies like Comptia or even Cisco.
oA: How popular is mobile Internet? Social media like Facebook?
M: The mobile internet is not really popular because of lack of devices and the cost of data charges but people are really interested in it. Facebook is surely one of the most popular web sites in Cameroon because most of the first time browsers came in to the cyber cafe for Facebook.
- Hasn’t noticed scammers with the .cm domain
- Camtel backbone: Bameda is covered but Bambili that has a university is not yet covered. (More details to come)
- Not sure if the connection in Yaounde is better than in Bamenda but, even as the optic fibre reaches Bamenda the cafe is connected through the “ADSL copper cable”.
- There’s a huge market potential in Africa for small business…less than $50,000cfa is more than enough to start something similar [another cyber cafe] and the ROI can be done in less than a year.
Marc Stephan Nkouly also shared links to some statistics on Cameroonian ICT. Highlights from the publications are listed below:
Source: GISWatch – Lange (2008), BuddeComm
- 1 national telecoms operator
- 3 mobile operators
- 25 ISPs
- 14.5% mobile penetration
- 1.4% Internet penetration
- Connected since 1998
- Fiber optic cable in 2005 along the Chad-Cameroon pipeline
- Landing point of SAT-3 is in Douala (2.5 Gbps)
- National ICT Policy enacted in 2007 to adapt to the demands of the information society
- Internet available for $68 per month in households
- Wireless ranges from $225 (CAMTEL) to $450 (Orange)
- Mobile Internet during day on CAMTEL costs $2.70/hour
- 86.1% of Internet users use Internet cafes
- 28.2% have access at work or at home
- Cyber café hourly cost of $0.67
Source: Xinhua/Cameroon Voice, June 2010
- Central African Backbone project decided in May 2007
- Laying of 2,660km of optical cable
- First phase: connect 1,000 miles from Cameroon and Chad
- Will allow access to SAT-3 landing point of Douala
- Completion date: 2012
Source: State of E-Governance in Cameroon (PPT)
- Laws under promulgation/elaboration: cyber security, electronic communication, e-commerce
- 2007: 360,000 Internet users (2% rate)
- Pilot Committee for monitoring and implementing National Strategy for the Development of ICTs created in August 2009
For more information: Peter Lange, “The Case for ‘Open Access’ Communications Infrastructure in Africa: The SAT-3/WASC cable,” APC, 2008. http://www.apc.org/en/node/6142/