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Cameroon’s Civil Society Makes Strides in Employment, Gender Equality, Citizen Participation and Innovation

September 23, 2011

  • Through the Governance Partnership Facility, the World Bank launched the Development Marketplace competition in April 2011.
  • The competition provided a forum for civil society groups to present innovative ideas to help solve problems that impact the country's development.
  • The competition winners receive up to CFAF 12 million to implement their ideas.

YAOUNDÉ, September 23, 2011 – Employment, gender inequality and climate change were on the agenda of the Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund held Sept. 23 – 25, 2011 in Washington, D.C. 

In Cameroon, the Development Marketplace competition has demonstrated the capacity of civil society to propose innovative initiatives related to these topics.

The World Bank, through the Governance Partnership Facility (GPF) trust fund, launched the Development Marketplace competition in Cameroon in April 2011 with the aim of expanding civil society involvement in the management of local public affairs.

Under the theme Strengthening Community Participation for Better Local Governance in Health, Education and Forest Resource Management,” the marketplace served as a forum for sharing ideas on local governance issues that impact the country’s development. More than 200 civil society organizations submitted project proposals, 30 of which made it to the final round of the competition held in the country’s capital, Yaoundé, in July 2011.

Following two days of discussion by a joint, independent jury composed of national and international experts in the education, health, and forest resource management sectors, the winners were announced by the world football legend Roger Milla. Fifteen organizations received funding to implement their projects, ranging from CFAF 7 million to CFAF 12 million per project.

Innovative ideas for local good governance combining job creation for women with sustainable natural resource management

The Development Marketplace provided an opportunity for civil society to offer concrete proposals aimed at resolving problems that impede local development and access to public services, and those associated with women’s employment and sustainable resource management.

For example, one of the winning projects, submitted by the African Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology (ACREST), proposes a participatory environmental management model for community waste, using biomass briquettes and improved cooking stoves. The idea is to convert biodegradable agricultural waste into cooking fuel, reducing charcoal use and, in turn, the rate of deforestation. By training young people in the use of these new techniques, the non-governmental organization (NGO) ACREST would be playing a role in combating climate change and contributing to self-employment opportunities.

The Cameroon Gender and Environment Watch (CAMGEW ) group, which focuses on women in particular, plans to use the funds to launch revenue-generating and environmentally-friendly activities by providing assistance with forest beekeeping activities, among others. In Cameroon, the participation rate of women in the labor force stands at 54.5 percent among adults and 38.2 percent among young people (15-24 years), rates that are below the average in Sub-Saharan Africa (62.5 percent and 50.7 percent, respectively), according to available data.

Another winning idea includes a project by AC Corruption, which views the distribution of subsidized drugs in hospitals as ineffective and rife with corruption. The group proposed the use of the Ushahidi crowd-sourcing system to facilitate on-line, geo-referenced, monitoring of citizen complaints to track cases of violation of access rights to drugs at hospitals.

“It is a source of pride to be selected by the World Bank, given the path we have traveled,” a representative of Sustainable Alternatives for Development said.

“I must admit that this is a special initiative for Cameroon and for my organization, colleagues, and the members of our administrative board…. and I think the real challenge lies in changing attitudes on the ground.”