Every now and then the question of if Cameroonians support each other come up; usually it happens when we see some Nigerian do something and receive an outpouring of love on social media. The most recent incident is that of the celebrity chef Hilda who set out to break a Guinness World Record.
Opinions are panned with more people leaning towards the direction of ‘Cameroonians do not support each other.’ This particular view seems to come more from those in the creative industries – artists and filmmakers who believe they are performing at the same level with artists in Nigeria but are cursed with a public that is not supportive.
The second group believes Cameroonians support but the support is usually one sided. This is a view held by many in the general public who usually accuse celebrities of the lack of social activism. This view is also held by those micro entrepreneurs who are looking for endorsements from celebrities. They show up to the movie premieres and the concerts. They share the work of the artists and celebrities but they never get those artists to share their own work or talk about their own little efforts.
The third group believes Cameroonians support but they only support nice things.This group in my opinion has the most accurate answer but this answers is actually where the problem is. For the first two groups, we can just say it is normal in any society to find people who are entitled and people who are selfish. The third group is where most Cameroonians fall; they are not entitled or selfish but they just do not understand what support is and it is something that is true for both those who want support and those who give support.
Let’s take a child that is trying to walk for example. If they stand up and take one step, we cheer for them. When they take three steps before falling, we are ecstatic. The child sees our excitement and it encourages them to continue trying until one day, they finally start walking. That is what support is. For many Cameroonians however, when you take those first few steps and fall, they dismiss you. What they are looking for is an olympic athlete in a child that was barely creeping a few days ago. That is what they mean when they say, Cameroonians support but they like nice things.
On the receiving end of the support, we have those who take those few steps and start to think themselves as olympic athletes just like a child would feel. Many children get a superman cape for their birthday gift and start believing they can actually fly. We even join in to encourage their belief because that is what we should do. As an adult however, you cannot let encouragement become achievement.
We have all heard of the proverbial artist that releases one song and starts wearing a hoodie to hide their face whereas no one recognizes them and no one will be chasing them down the street -The artist that will not help his struggling mother carry her bunch of plantains because he has music video with 5k views on YouTube; the ones that confuse branding and packaging. These are the ones that come out saying that Cameroonians do not support.
Let me show you what support looks like.
We have a fashion brand that is locally made. We do our best to design and make high quality products. Someone who wants to support us will be considerate of the fact that we manufacture locally with a lot of limitations. We once had a customer who bought a bag and it got damaged after a few uses. He reach out to us and we offered to fix it if he will send it back. He said he just wanted to let us know what had happened in case we can figure out how to reinforce the stitch during future productions or adjust the design. He opted to find a shoe mender beside him to do the work rather than ship the bag back and forth. He has since bought three other bags from us and recommended our products to other people.
That scenario could go multiple ways. He could reach out to us and we tell him it’s his fault that the stitch got damaged. We could argue that we do not do refunds or we cannot do repairs or we can repair for an extra fee. We rather acknowledged that we are not perfect and it is possible that we had that faulty copy because we have not had many of such complaints. Support is two way street.
We have people who hate our brand name and will rather buy a fake Louis Vuitton. We categorize those people as competitors. Sometimes, they are not doing the same thing you are doing but they just wish they were in your place or wish they were the only ones doing something – this is the lack of support that exists between entertainers and social media personalities. Then, we have people who just cant afford what you sell. Every negative opinion they have about you is actually because they cannot afford it. We call them broke people and pray one day they get money.
In conclusion, Cameroonians are generally supportive if you provide great customer care and support. These people are not the ones that talk the most online. Those who don’t support are competitors and they are usually the ones with a huge following online, don’t rely on them. Learn marketing skills and reach out to people who are not online trying to sell something too. The people who support have stable jobs and live mostly private lives not trying to start a business like you or be notorious online. The rest just can’t afford what you are selling.
There is support but we keep seeking it in the wrong places.