[Interview] BIBOUM Kléber, Founder and CEO, GO AFRICA Business Sarl, Cameroon
BIBOUM Kléber is the current CEO and founder of GO AFRICA Business Sarl created in 2020, with a specialization in the development of the tourism industry in Cameroon.
Could you tell us about your company?
GO AFRICA Business Sarl is a Limited Profitability Company (Sarl) created in 2020. It was born in a difficult context which caused the opening of the capital of the establishment (of the same name), existing since 2014. The company currently has two shareholders including Hans SPRUNG of German nationality, established in Lunebourg in Germany and Kleber BIBOUM of Cameroonian nationality, established in Yaoundé in Cameroon, head office.
We are specialized in CSR consulting, carrying out socio-economic impact studies, business networking and events. Our areas of interest are mainly agro-industry, renewable energies, mechanical and industrial engineering, mining, multimedia production, information and communication technologies, tourism and leisure.
For each of these areas of activity, we are competent for:
carrying out market studies and business plans;
the establishment of dynamic platforms (interactive and social accountability);
miscellaneous equipment and fittings;
publications of documents and reference works;
the organization of professional meetings.
What industries do you service?
GO AFRICA Business Sarl specializes in the development of the tourism industry. To our credit, three (03) editions of the International Sustainable Tourism Fair, eight (08) Tourism Cafés, two (02) thematic forums and the recent publication of the MERCATOUR white paper on the subject: Cameroon, standards and safety for tourism sustainable, published by Harmattan in March 2021.
With the MERCATOUR concept (African Tourism Market), we enjoy a good reputation in Cameroon and abroad (Equatorial Guinea, Germany, Russia, France, Uzbekistan, Italy, etc.), through the participation:
public administrations (ministries and specialized institutions);
strong institutions such as the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO, Africa region);
major international tourism players such as ITB Berlin, TUI BLUE;
the universities of Yaoundé I, Paris Nanterre;
civil society organizations such as the Syndicat Patronal de l'Industrie de l'Hôtellerie et du Tourisme (SPIHT), the National Syndicate of Travel and Tourism Agencies (SNAVTC), the French association CSR and PED .
Is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic AND the work-from-home trend affecting your operations? How so?
Tourism is one of the sectors that has paid the highest price of the covid-19 pandemic in the world. In Cameroon, we experienced about 7 months without carrying out any activity. Even when we have managed to carry out an activity, it has been done almost entirely on our own funds. The payments that were expected did not go through and some partners were even forced to close the doors. We wonder how much longer this crisis will last...
In the common practice of things, tourism is done on the ground. As a result, working from home, recommended in the early hours of the crisis, is not what could sustain our activity of raising awareness, mobilizing actors and promoting products and services, although information technologies and of communication (TIC) offer enough facilities. This is not enough ! There is painstaking work that must be done upstream in the field! Also, it should be noted that most tourists, who represent the final target of our activities, are looking for living experiences, products and services that they would like to experience.
What is your company’s growth strategy for 2022?
Can we really speak of a growth strategy for the tourism sector in the midst of a crisis? We are first working at the moment on how to get out of it, then on setting up a strategy that holds water without fear of sudden reprisals; because covid-19 and its variants have taught us that we cannot, for the moment, plan something that is projected in the long term.
Nevertheless, to get out of tourism a bit, we have plans to develop projects in the field of agriculture (cultivation of watermelons, cassava, plantain, orchard) and livestock (cattle, fish, poultry). There is also the area of service engineering and the appropriation of current technologies that contribute to the development of organizations, which we would like to explore, through training offers in terms of good governance and service offers, subsequent to a real need. It is clear that, even at the level of Cameroon, the company GO AFRICA Business Sarl does not claim to do it alone; we therefore remain open to forging win-win partnerships in order to be able to set up large plantations, farms and raw material processing units wherever possible. This will contribute to creating jobs, for all the countries that will take part in our development strategy or vision, we will strive to operate there or to establish ourselves there naturally.
What are the long term ambitions you’re aiming for, as an organization?
The name of our company is to bring people to Africa to do business. Our field of action is Africa with the main ambition of setting up a whole market of business opportunities there in priority sectors defined by the governments with which we will work. It will be a question of designing an economic model of accompaniment of the carriers of projects in the assembly, the promotion and the research of financing (which exists) for the best realization of the aforesaid projects.
In Cameroon, for example, we have already succeeded in setting up a MERCATOUR investment fund for the financing of tourism development projects in Cameroon, we have organizations that are ready to finance, but we do not we have not yet recorded any projects that meet the expectations of the latter. It's a beginning. The purpose is to contribute to the development of a framework conducive to the development of the tourism sector at local, national and regional level. We also plan to develop an effective promotion and communication tool, with the organization, every 02 years in an African host country, of the MERCATOUR Fair, which has reached its 4th edition and is being prepared in Cameroon, scheduled from September 27 to October 1, 2022. This show will interest actors from African countries, but also those from non-African countries who have something to show, but above all who have something to share in the context of joint ventures, twinnings, economic missions and many other lasting partnership opportunities.
What government policies can be implemented for companies to thrive in Cameroon?
From my point of view, and in normal times, government policies are quite well developed in Cameroon. There really isn't much to complain about for a business that wants to thrive. Everything has been well thought out so that companies are well supported from creation (in less than a week) until they become operational. The tax system is dynamic, declarative and dematerialized; Everything is done online. Cameroon is attractive especially with regard to the size of the market (about 26 million inhabitants) and the opportunities available to contracting companies or service providers committed by public or parapublic procurement.
However, we must not lose sight of the fact that the volume of the informal sector remains a problem, because it is more important and above all offers ever more interesting offers in terms of price. All these operations with the informal sector have a double consequence: they escape the tax authorities and unfortunately cannot allow compliant businesses to prosper.
So, for the moment, at least for what I observe in tourism, the government should grant a subsidy in an effective way to companies in the sector which are suffering the negative impact of covid-19 in their activities. It would also be interesting to objectively review the quality of fiscal charges (taxes and duties) for the specific case of tourism businesses. The development of housing, health, communication (roads) and telecommunications infrastructure, etc., must continue. Finally, the political will for the development of the tourism sector must translate into a strong act of the authorities who have the heavy responsibility through the taking of measures to develop internal tourism; it is necessary to accelerate the decentralization which is underway today allows a total transfer by the State of competences to the decentralized territorial communities in terms of tourism and leisure. The democratization of public-private partnerships could establish bridges of direct collaboration between administrations and operators. The State must remain a regulator and entrust the promotion of tourism locally or abroad to professionals.