Entrepreneurial Training of African Young People who Live in Italy and in Central-West Africa in Order to Set Up an Italian-African Enterprise Incubator in Douala, Cameroon

Project location: CAMEROON, Douala
Project start date: December 2013 - Project end date: December 2014
Project number: 2013-053
Beneficiary: Società Geografica Italiana - ONLUS


Timeline of this final report: from December 2013 to December 2014

The general aim is to foster development of a breeding ground for Cameroonian social innovators, while the specific goals are to:

• Understand the needs and capabilities of the business startup community in Cameroon and promoting a collective answer;
• Identify an incubation model fitting the needs of the community;
• Strengthen a business model by setting-up an innovative and financially sustainable business incubator in Douala;
• Transfer the know-how about the incubator's management;
• Train young African talents to startup social businesses in Cameroon;
• Incubate at least 10 startups in the first 18 months;
• Disseminate and give visibility to the project

The first phase of the project (December 2013 - June 2014) answered to all the above mentioned goals, particularly regarding the first two goals.


1. The team has identified and met different typologies of stakeholders:

- Would-be-entrepreneurs: thanks to the video-spot broadcasted by Canal 2 International, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJPpu8xz9e0, many young Cameroonians came to our base-camp to propose their business idea focused on themes such as food, health, ITC and arts. They ask to be supported in planning and realizing their own business.

- Entrepreneurs: meetings have had with several Cameroonians and Italian entrepreneurs active in the fields of housing, publishing, arts and crafts, who are planning either to expand their activities overseas or to open a branch. In most of the cases, they cannot expand because of lack of information about the other Country, as well as a solid network of stakeholders to partner with.

- Business consultants, incubators and NGOs: four incubators, one NGO and several consultants are active in Cameroon in business startup field. They complain lack of human resources, money, network or professionalism. Furthermore, there is no collaboration among these local actors, so that impact is small and hyper-local.

- Policy makers: the City Council of Douala 5th (main executive and financing project's partner) explained us the citizens' needs and they asked us to set a methodology and to give them management tools, know-how, co-funding and international networking.

- Academics: three local universities (Dschang, Douala, IUC) are interest in Douala Incubator with the aim of creating in-house income and linking students with their future work.


2. Incubation models: after the analysis of all sub-mentioned stakeholders' information, we designed a peculiar incubation model fitting Douala environment, inspired by Impact Hub, a worldwide network of 54 hubs. Every Impact Hub is a mix of innovation lab, business incubator and community centre, which offers resources, inspiration and collaboration opportunities to grow social impact.

Douala incubation model consists in:

- Free membership, given to incubated would-be-entrepreneur according to private agreements that regulate the collaboration among would-be-entrepreneurs and incubator community.

- Specific incubation methodology: studied and tested by Micro Progress Onlus and approved by a local consultants and incubators group, it's based on the worldwide spread "lean startup approach";

- International networking facilitation. On the Cameroonian side, we connect young talents with Italian partners, suppliers and other stakeholders; on the Italian side, we introduce Italian entrepreneurs into Cameroonian economic and legal system, as well as connect them with young local talents to start their activity with.

- Strong public participation in the Steering Committee (two members out of four are represented by the City Council), although the management remains private;

- Local microcredit as primary form of funding for successful entrepreneurs.

- Missions in Douala. Each month, the project responsible spent 1 week to present the Incubator at local and national level. The project coordinator stayed one month in Cameroon to study and test the methodology. Two Cameroonian students specialized in video-making and ITC spent 2 months to promote the incubator.


3. Douala Business Incubator has been set-up in the place Bangue of the district of Kotto, Douala 5, rented by Douala 5th City Council and exclusively assigned. The administrative office is located in a specific place of the City Council Douala 5.


4. Know-how: an expert business consultant, founder of a social impact accelerator in Yaoundé (IT KOLA), has been hired as part-time senior consultant and mentor for the incubated startups. He is in charge of the implementation of the incubation methodology, ideated together with the coordinator of the incubator, as well as the learning-by-doing-training of the junior staff, in the field of business consultancy. The junior consultants are two graduated students in economics and law.


5. Training courses offered to 10 would-be-entrepreneurs followed by incubator's coordinator during his permanence in Cameroon. The training consisted in a short collective introduction to the incubator and its tools, plus three weeks of individual tutoring, focused on planning a business model in an innovative and feasible way.


6. Incubation: two membership contracts have been signed (with a group of engineers and with an African fashion stylist). Four other startups have been assisted to define their ideas, as well as analyse the economic feasibility. Four Italian companies operating in the field of social housing, drilling and publishing have offered their availability in transferring know-how and equipment to the startups.


7. The community has been informed (with an appropriate and understandable language) about the project, its outcomes and its relevance for a multiplicity of stakeholders. A dissemination strategy has been implemented through:

• a website

• a Facebook page

• a TV spot broadcasted on Canal 2

• an international conference, with a simultaneous translation provided, held on June 10th in Rome in ISG's Headquarter.


The remaining five goals have been completed through the following activities:

To strengthen the effectiveness of incubator's management team and to develop co-working space through:

• Inauguration of the desk office of Douala Business Incubator, based at the ground floor of Douala 5th City Council. The event held at the presence of the new Italian Ambassador in Cameroon Mrs. Isopi and of dozens of would-be-entrepreneurs, interested in being involved in the incubation program, 36 of them presented their ideas;

• Identification and employment of the Manager of the Incubator in the figure of Dr. Nathalie Nzekwa, and set up of the Office;

• Front Office daily activity with the local young population interested to develop their business idea, and to be enrolled at the Incubator;

• Identification and service contract with IT-Kola, a local start up company expert in Business Development Services.


Training courses of young African talents

At the Universities of Douala and Dschang, and at Incubator Front Office of Douala several meetings have been done to identify the youth interested to set up a start up in Cameroon. Other meetings have been done in Italy (Rome, Parma and Camerino) to identify participants to the Cameroon Startup Lab (CSL), an innovative program of business startup, designed by the technical partner Micro Progress Onlus.

CSL is a selective, practical training program composed of:

• an initial workshop, aiming at training the participants to the main instruments of designing and planning of an innovative idea, as well as an explication of the rules of the following phases. The initial workshop has been held in Douala-Cameroon (October 30th - November 1st), addressed to the local entrepreneurs, and in Rome (November 5th and 8th), addressed to the Cameroonian diaspora in Italy. Globally, 45 entrepreneurs have actively participated in the two workshops.

• An online phase (November 10th - November 29th): once received and understood the instructions on how to use the tools, every participant has been guided in the process of carrying out his/her idea in order to test its effectiveness and feasibility. The core of this phase was the "Missions" - exercises that the staff published every few days - that all the participants had to solve in a short time. They are extremely useful tools for the growth of the business ideas. After that the participants have completed a Mission, they uploaded it on the web-site, the staff evaluated it and gave it a score. At the end of this phase, a final classification has been published and the best projects have been admitted to the final phase.

• The five best projects (JUDITH MAGNE "Production et Commercialisation des Poussins - PROSEMC Sarl", ALVINE DJATSA "Confection et vente de vetements et accessoires de luxe", FOKOU BERTIN "Publicite Mobile", KHENTACHE ROLY "Professional Club Card - Bimbia Sarl", MULLER NANDOU "Production du charbon écologique à partir des déchets ménagers organiques biodégradables") have been selected on the basis of both objective data and subjective evaluations emerged from the behavior of each participant. The prize for the winners have been both the admission into the 2015 incubation program of Douala Business Incubator and the participation to Promote.

Implementation of the incubation program:

- Incubation of the five winners of CSL.

- Incubation of the first batch of startups, admitted on March 2014 (11 Startup). Two of them (Maison Alvine DeManou and Dolce Gelato) have already completed the program and are now on the process of raising the funds they need to start. Whereas other four are completing the Incubation program.

- Activation of an Italian-Cameroon joint company in the sector of Water Drilling with the Italian company APT (Dr. Pietro Torino) which has transferred to Douala all drilling equipment and know how. Ten Water Drills have been already completed and 3 technical local staff are in training.

- Activation of an Italian-Cameroon joint company in the sector of building social house with the Italian company SYSTEM + (Sig. Renato Schiavolin) which has transferred to Douala some example of pre-built panels and walls, and know-how to built low-cost, eco-friendly and easy to install social houses. Honorary contract with Ing. Peguy Moumbe Tamenou with previous experience and training in the company SYSTEM +.

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