Cameroonian Made It In U.S., Struggled To Do Business In Africa

Cameroonian Made It In U.S., Struggled To Do Business In Africa


From How We Made It In Africa.

Tech entrepreneur Rebecca Enonchong was living the American dream.

The Cameroon native founded AppsTech, a provider of enterprise application solutions, in the U.S. in 1999. The next year, she expanded to Canada, France and the U.K., but she always had her sights set on Africa.

Prepared to be in it for the long haul, in 2001 Enonchong opened an office in Ghana and in 2002, she established AppsTech in her home country of Cameroon. It was a decision that almost destroyed her company, she said in an interview in How We Made It In Africa.

“It was devastating to our company because we went from having seven worldwide offices to having two offices, all because of our Cameroon investment,” she said.

Enonchong anticipated challenges in the Cameroon market but underestimated them, she said. The biggest challenge doing business in Cameroon in the early 2000s was corruption. “We had planned on public sector corruption…but we were really surprised to discover most of the private sector is just as corrupt as government.”

Another challenge was what she described as an unwillingness to mentor entrepreneurs. “There’s a very confrontational relationship between supplier and customer,” she said.

The challenge she found most disheartening, she said, was “that Africans do not trust Africans with technology.”

Enonchong survived and rallied. She is now a mentor and adviser to several Africa-based technology start-ups and is on the board of VC4Africa, an online community helping entrepreneurs and investors build companies in Africa. She spoke at the inaugural Women, Inspiration and Enterprise symposium in Cape Town earlier this month.

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She said she has seen some improvements in the Cameroon and African markets in the past 10 years. She plans to reopen AppsTech Ghana and enter the Côte d’Ivoire market.

Read more at How We Made It In Africa.