Bamenda offers an ideal enabling environment for investment on account of its geographical location, its climate, political stability and a people noted for their legendary hard work and astute commitment to results. 65% of the population thrives on agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure development, transport, tourism and petty trade.
The agricultural sector is the people’s way of life; and all the food that feeds the over 400,000 inhabitants and neighbouring regions comes from farms within the inner-city and from the peripheries. Here, we are talking of all kinds of vegetables (green leaves, potatoes, plantains, carrots, green beans) in exportable quantities. We are talking of tubers like yams, cocoyams, cassava, which are transformed locally into different flours for the various stable foods of the region and beyond.
The production of various beans, groundnuts and cereals is also very high. Over 80% of the population lives on these and on locally produced rice and maize; and maize is also used to produce a very popular local drink. This drink, just like palm wine, has the potential of being properly processed and bottled for a larger market. It stands same for the many local fruits that end up rotting away in farms and in local markets for lack of appropriate means of conservation and transformation. Due to lack of food processing equipment, the production of natural juice from the too many fruits produced here is highly limited in scale.
Thus, local farmers deliver their produce directly to local markets and to ever-ready huge buyers from beyond the city. Most of these farmers have organised themselves into little food cooperatives and associations of buyers and sellers, locally called “buyam-sellam.” Since this is mainly in the hands of the women, Bamenda has many Women’s Cooperatives that deal in various food stuffs, helping local farmers to channel their produce to sure buyers. One major actor here in Bamenda is the Farmers’ House, which equally deals with the importation of farm inputs like fertilizers.
The coffee sector makes for the major cash crop of the region, with the famous North West Cooperative Union, located at Nkwen in Bamenda, acting as an umbrella structure to regulate the production and sale of this produce to exporters in Douala. A lot of this produce is also processed for local consumption in the neighbouring city of Bafoussam by the UCCAO company, especially the Arabica and Robusta species. The tea sector has been fully developed, with the Ndawara Tea Estate employing over 3,000 hands, running a four-line factory to supply enough tea for Cameroon and beyond. The specificity of this sector is that it is in the hands of an individual, who uses a lot of foreign expertise.
The agro-pastoral sector is one that is in the hands of mainly the Fulani nomadic minority group, though a lot of other locals are getting involved now because of the high demand for beef in the city and the whole country at large. By-products are fast gaining currency, with companies now producing milk, cheese and yoghurt on the spot, such as SOCAMILK. However, this production is not on a large scale due to the investment required.
Animal husbandry is also carried out in a very large scale, producing all the table birds for local markets, boarding schools and many other institutions. Horney production has never experienced the boom that it enjoys at the moment. Because of its high medicinal value, the production of honey goes hand in hand with that of medicinal plants, and many people have opted to go natural, thereby scaling down on the consumption of chemically processed products.
However, general scarcity, growing unemployment, abject penury and galloping poverty have pushed many households, village associations and youth groups to get involved in the domestication of cane rats, rabbits, goats, and the growing of mushrooms. Many NGOs are now helping local communities and these vulnerable groups to do brisk business in this domain.
Available, cheap, but very hard working hands are the greatest incentive for investment in this sector. It is evident that the biggest needs are those of transforming produce, preserving greeneries, transporting these and actually marketing at profitable rates. Investors are needed, and they shall for sure have a lot of bread on their table to slice.
In the domain of manufacturing, Bamenda is noted for its arts and handicrafts, and the rest of the country buys most of its household furniture, especially upholstery, from this booming industry. The raw materials are available, and the people here are highly industrious, with a high sense of intuition and initiative. This is a sector that employs many disabled people, even the blind and the hard-to-hear. Investing in this sector is doing business with the poor, elevating souls, building capacities and transforming lives. This sector is also directly linked to tourism since all material used here is mostly typical traditional raw material. It is worth noting that this sector can be quickly transformed through investment in appropriate machinery for wood work, clay work and fabrics of all types.
The Bamenda Handicraft Society Limited, created in 1964 by American Peace Corps volunteers, set out to foster handicraft production in Bamenda and to sell hand made products. Today, its production centres are in Bamenda and in neighbouring villages where there are display shops with most of the products sold in handicraft shops in the city of Bamenda.
This is a sector that mainly enhances the cultural heritage of a people, but a sector that can be developed to bring in a lot of income from tourism. For indeed, the tourism industry in Bamenda has a lot of potential. Apart from abundant natural attractions, existing hotels and restaurants still need to be highly furbished in terms of facilities and cuisine, and here partners abound. A lot of business can be done just from the creation of municipal lakes, especially for in-land fishing, tourist relaxation and leisure. Bamenda has two of the very few tourist companies in the country: the Zwinkels Tours that organises excursions and host tourists in its Guest House and Tourist Camp at the outskirts of the city, as well as TEGASUH TOURS. In collaboration with the many inter and intra-city travel agencies in Bamenda, many more tourist tours can see the light of day, considering that the topography of the whole region is in itself some tourism capital that only needs to be harnessed.
Bamenda is indeed an emerging city, with a growing population and a dire need for adapted and appropriate infrastructure: real estate and road network. There are many building construction companies that mainly do business with government through public contracts. But then, the sector of public contracts is froth with too many irregularities and bottlenecks; and this leads to many mal-practices such as poor execution of work, considering that the hiring of heavy duty equipment is exorbitant.
Thus, even though the expertise is available, the machinery is not available. In this sector, mostly used and obsolete machinery is imported, same with spares. There is a whole street in Bamenda, Fon’s Street, where only used spares are sold, and these are from scrapped equipment on the spot and most imported as they are.
Investing in this domain means investing in state-of-the-art machinery to be able to make a difference; and stone crushers and asphalt plants will do the trick here, because the raw material for transformation is available in mammoth quantities. From all studies and business plans, this is a sector that is most likely to boom in the short run.