By Boris Esono Nwenfor
The Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation will continue its focus on Africa’s transformation through social entrepreneurship, science and technology, innovation, public health and progressive policies that create economic opportunities for all. This per the Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Fri Asanga, in an interview with Pan African Visions to look back at the year’s activities that the Foundation has organized and what is installed for 2021.
Before joining the Foundation, Fri Asanga was the Coordinator for FinScope and MAP Cameroon where she oversaw the activities of the financial scoping consumer survey in Cameroon on behalf of UNCDF and FinMark Trust.
PAV: 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone and the Foundation is not left out, what measures were taken or have been taken to ensure staff does not contract the coronavirus?
Fri Asanga: The Foundation educated the staff on the virus, its signs and symptoms, how to prevent it, and other measures necessary for them to protect themselves and their loved ones. In a bid to curb the spread of the disease and protect staff, the Foundation closed its offices in March 2020 and everyone started working from home. When office activities resumed in September 2020, the Foundation ensured that all staff wear masks to work, Wash their hands before getting into the office premise, and maintain social distancing while in the office.
PAV: At the start of the Coronavirus in Cameroon, the Foundation moved swiftly to create the COVID-19 taskforce. What successes were recorded? And were there any challenges faced trying to communicate to the population?
Fri Asanga: The covid 19 community pilot project under the covid task force was launched on the 16th of April 2020. The pilot project was launched in a bid to accompany the government in the fight against Covid-19 through community involvement. Through the project, the following activities were accomplished;
- Training of community leaders on the identification of signs and symptoms of Covid 19
- Distribution of flyers and posters in the simbock neighbourhood.
- Training the community on how to locally produce hand sanitizers and wash hands properly.
- Creation of local volunteers at the community level.
- Translation of messages to local languages (Ewondo and Bamileke) Radio sensitization.
- Myth debunking.
- Creation of a WhatsApp group for better monitoring and follow up.
- Organization of a covid Symposium to crown the project.
The COVID-19 Taskforce published more than 10 bulletins to educate the general public and advise policymakers about the pandemic. Each bulletin was written both in French and English to reach a maximum number of people. The bulletins covered specific aspects including the management of the pandemic, its implications for households and companies, and the measures to curb the spread of the virus just to name a few.
Also, the task force organized a series of webinar events where key policymakers and health practitioners were invited to share their thoughts and experiences to promote evidence-informed decisions in the country.
During the entire project, the following challenges were encountered: Most volunteers were students and were not available to fully participate in the program due to school activities. Also, some interested people did not have android phones nor computers to participate in the online symposium.
Another difficulty was encountered at the level of planning and organizing the radio sensitization programme as it coincided with an exam programme of community volunteers where a greater proportion of them was in examination classes. It was a challenge getting community members to attend the virtual symposium via zoom.
PAV: What are some of the activities that the Foundation has carried out this year?
This year we organized the SBEC Activities for the year 2020 which involved; Regional forum on Business Networking on January 31st in Douala. Theme “The Pivotal Role of business networking to entrepreneurs in Cameroon”
– Regional Forum on the business network on February 27th in Yaoundé. Theme “Business networking, a valuable tool for entrepreneurial Growth in Cameroon”
– Business plan training online from May 12th to July 1st (5 modules). Theme “Business plan, an ultimate tool for fueling ambitions and entrepreneurial growth in Cameroon”
– Bookkeeping training online on July 29th.Theme “A Practical Guide for Bookkeeping”
– Webinar on “Surviving beyond the Covid-19 as an entrepreneur in Cameroon” on September 11th.
-Webinar on “The effects of Information Asymmetry on business growth in Cameroon” on 27th November.
The Nkafu Policy Institute organized a 1-week intensive training course on policy analysis. Two Nkafu Debates were organized on the themes; “Will more Taxes Increase fiscal revenues in Cameroon” and “Is market competition good for Cameroon’s Industrialization?
Under our Leadership and Democracy project, we organized about 10 events on Peace and Democracy. As part of our COVID-19 project, we organized about 10 webinars and invited experts to gain more insights on the pandemic, and how Cameroon and Africa are adapting.
We equally organized 2 events to disseminate the research findings of a Thematic Report on Starting a business in Cameroon, and another on Dealing with Construction permits in Cameroon
PAV: Let’s now focus on some activities you carried out this year. Firstly, talk to us about the Emerging Leaders Program for this year and what are some of the peculiarities?
Fri Asanga: The Emerging leaders’ program is a program organized by the Foundation to better equip today’s youths for transformational Leadership in Cameroon. This training program which identified 20 highly skilled and motivated Cameroonians below the age of 35, took place from the 25th to the 28th of October 2020 with renowned speakers based in Cameroon and the United State of America.
The second phase of this program is underway as these youths equipped with knowledge in leadership and democracy will organize similar events financed by the Foundation in their respective regions of origin.
PAV: The Foundation organized the STEM Program last year 2019 but this year there was none. Why so?
Fri Asanga: The STEM Program did not take place this year due to the advent of the COVID 19 Pandemic. The program was scheduled to take place mid-year but during this period, the COVID 19 pandemic was at its peak and all schools were closed.
PAV: What are some of the challenges that the foundation has had to grapple with this year aside from the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Fri Asanga: Moving to the virtual way of doing events was a great challenge as the entire Foundation struggled to adapt to this new system. Participants struggled with attending and using online video conferencing applications.
PAV: How have you found the situation of working from home or using the zoom platform for webinars by the Foundation better as opposed to using physical locations?
Fri Asanga: Firstly is the ability to bring in resource persons from all over the world to contribute to discussions during webinars. The distance barrier is broken through webinars. Next is the fact that participants who were interested in our events could now attend irrespective of their location or what they are doing.
PAV: This year 2020 is about rounding up, what are we expecting from the Foundation in the few weeks left?
Fri Asanga: The foundation has some events planned out for December. They include the following;
- December 04, 2020 – Le Processus De Démocratisation Au Cameroun 30 Ans Après : Quel Bilan à l’Épreuve Des Crises ?(Online)
- December 08, 2020– COVID-19 and Africa: The Path Forward A Conversation with Dr Bernard Kadio (Online)
- December 11, 2020 – SBEC National Forum (Foundation Headquarters)
- December 16, 2020 – Social Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: Lessons for Business Incubation in Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. (La Falaise Hotel, Yaoundé)
- December 18, 2020 – One year into the COVID-19 Pandemic. What Lessons can be learnt? (Online )
PAV: What should we envisage from the Foundation this coming year 2021?
Fri Asanga: The Foundation will continue to work on 4 major projects
- The DBI project which focuses on Liberating Entreprises to advance prosperity in Cameroon
- The COVID-19 Project which is focused on Protecting Liberties while addressing the Corona Virus Pandemic
- The Social Entrepreneurship Project that focuses on Business Incubator Practices in Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Ghana
- The leadership and democracy project which is aimed at Promoting Democracy and Governance in Cameroon
PAV: Is there anything you will like to talk about that we left out? If not, what is your last word as we sign off 2019?
Fri Asanga: The Foundation will continue its mission of catalyzing Africa’s Economic Transformation through social entrepreneurship, science and technology, innovation, public health and progressive policies that create economic opportunities for all.