LOVE VERA GOZION ÉPSE EKOUME: A LIGHT-BEARER FOR YOUNG AFRICAN ENTREPRENEURS
Every entrepreneur’s journey starts from a point; Love Vera Ekoume’s is no different. A happy mother of four children with over fifteen years of marital bliss, and also the last child in her family, Love says her most ardent desire is to show women and young people what they can do as entrepreneurs.
She holds a DESS in applied taxation and a Master’s degree in business law. She is also certified in the digitization of archives and in Record Management. She is an international trainer in this field and a consultant for several certification companies. She worked in a legal and tax consulting firm until 2013 when she resigned to create her company in legal advice and tax.
She has been the President of the Cameroon Women Entrepreneurs Network since June 2019. Also, she succeeded in building a strong network for women entrepreneurs and setting up a guarantee fund to allow them to access finance without any obligation to bring guarantors. In addition, she campaigned for women’s development and empowerment, which earned her the position of Vice-President of a coalition of women’s associations. She is also a member of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Commission of the Groupement Inter-Patronal Du Cameroun (GICAM). She has won the 1000 African entrepreneurs, and Women in Africa competitions respectively.
Naija Diaspora Magazine Media Chat with Love Vera Ekoume
What was your key driving force in becoming an entrepreneur?
I often dream of a different life; beautiful, and of independence, and above all, to present myself as a model for my children and others. And by observing my surroundings, I had understood very early that I could only be so if I did things differently. And to be different, I had just understood that you had to work for yourself, start from scratch and build your own life according to your aspirations. My most ardent desire is to show women and young people that they can honestly get whatever they want if they work to achieve their dreams. Besides, I don’t dream; I act according to my thoughts.
You resigned in 2013 to create your own company, which originally was into legal advice and tax, but you switched to archive management. What really motivated you to do that, and what can you say about the profession?
In reality, my academic course was a diploma in taxation, so nothing predisposed me to any documentary management. When I created my business, the objective was to offer services relating to what I had learned in school. But whenever I entered companies to prospect, I was always struck by the document disorder I saw. And to the question of how they managed their business properly by mastering information and data, the answer I received from the people I questioned was that “we had a big problem with our archives, classification problems, storage and research.” I then perceived it as a real niche and decided to train in archiving. But I can reassure you that these two professions are complementary.
What have you enjoyed most about starting your own company?
What interested me the most in becoming an entrepreneur was that I understood that it is not easy and that we learn continuously in the battle of everyday life. We celebrate the little victories that led us to success. I just want to specify that I still do my classes and hope to be among the big businesswomen in Cameroon. It’s difficult, but we will get there.
What challenges did you have to overcome at the beginning as CEO of your company?
My first challenge was to repay the money my mom had lent me to start my business. We had to find a market and provide service quickly. And since when you passionately desire something, even nature agrees so that everything goes in your favor, I quickly found support in the tax follow-up of a company. In three months, I repaid the million my mum lent me with interest.
How has being a mother, an entrepreneur and president of the Cameroon Women Entrepreneur affected your family ties?
Sometimes my absences disturb my children, especially when I travel for long stays. My husband is also often disturbed, but I confess to having the grace that he understands the importance of these trips. For my children, I talk to them a lot and explain to them why I have to travel often. Even if they are often disappointed, they finally understand and support me. To overcome this, I make it a point of honor to talk to them in a video every evening (long live digital), so everyone tells me about their day, and I, too, tell them about my challenges and successes.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Boldness, hard work, and resilience.
What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
I just want to say that I’m not afraid of anything. But I admit that only one thing prevents me from sleeping; it’s when I think my mother, who has always supported me and followed me in all my decisions, is not proud of me. I want to see her smile at me, saying, “Congratulations, my daughter, you made it.”
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My greatest inspiration has always been my father. It’s fun because he has never been an entrepreneur but rather an employee who is very proud of being. Only, every time he had his salary, we knew it because he always said, “I am rich as a prince.” It was fun because I saw his joy, but I also knew we were not rich. So, I wanted to be happy like him, not just at the end of the month, but daily in my life. Also, my father taught me that work is a treasure and that depending on people has never been an oasis; he taught me always to seek comfort and excellence. He spoke of philosophy, and I saw how concentrated he was in his actions. I saw him participate in contests, I heard him talk about the company he would create after retiring, and I listened to him talk about his desire to write books, but unfortunately, death Mangled it before he realized all of this. So, I told myself that I would have to do it like him, if not better than him, so that he would be proud of me. Besides, my business bears his name because “AB” is the name his brothers had given him. I just want to tell my dad that I love him very much.
What advice would you give to women entrepreneurs In Cameroon and Africa at large?
The advice I could give to women entrepreneurs in Cameroon is to know how to combine professional life and family life because we are witnessing more and more tearing of families in the name of women’s empowerment. I just want everyone to know that no female entrepreneur, even if she had all the success in the world, would sleep easy knowing her offspring was counted among the social problems. Let everyone remember that the family, particularly our children, is what we hold most dear. It is imperative we know how to work relentlessly both for the success of our businesses and for the development of our offspring because these are the children who will have to continue to carry the torch of our success when we lay down our arms either because of old age or because of death.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa: A woman of timber and caliber
Dr. Abike Dabiri-Erewa can be described as a strong woman in the midst of millions of active men. She always comes up with creative solutions, stays positive even during hard times, and looks so impressive that little girls want to be like her when they grow up.
She is successively taking on the challenges of her motherland, pushing the boundaries of activism and representation, and being an all-round Amazon. When some Nigerians hear ‘number one tough cookie’ as a nickname for this ever-solid woman, they nod their heads and agree that she is indeed tough to crack but can be relied on to be nothing other than herself.
The war in Ukraine has taught Nigerians many things, including the need to appreciate their peaceful—if leisurely developing—nation. However, while some Nigerians feel sorry for their fellow citizens trapped in Ukrainian soil, others are having a good time stoking schadenfreude in their hearts. But not Dabiri-Erewa or the Nigerians in Diaspora (NiDCOM) team that she leads.
Thanks to the timely intervention by Dabiri-Erewa and company, most Nigerians in Ukraine, especially the students, are back on Nigeria’s shores. Along with gratitude at the prayers that the more compassionate Nigerians back home offered to God on their behalf, these students are beset with joy. After all, as long as there is life, the possibilities for change are endless.
This is something that Dabiri-Erewa has shown time and again: a determined heart will accomplish great things regardless of opposition. It is consequently no surprise she has managed to exceed expectations over and over again. And just when you think a particular challenge will topple her, Dabiri-Erewa turns it into a victory song and the international community is reminded of a force in Nigeria called NiDCOM and a controller surnamed Dabiri-Erewa.
There are women and there are women, some of whom are metallic in their disposition, cold to the touch, and inclined to smite others. Then there are those with a wooden personality, gentle, reliable, but also seemingly uninteresting. Then there are the precious stones like Dabiri-Erewa who have gone through more fire and pressure than their peers. Any wonder that Dabiri-Erewa is still on top of her game?
She knows what she wants, can get her shit together and put the amount of hard work into project in order to get the desired results. She doesn’t pretend to be weak to make others do her job for her, but she delegates tasks when necessary.
An indigene of Ikorodu from the famous Erogbogbo family in Lagos State, she has, right from her childhood till date, been a front-liner, a go-getter, an ice breaker, a workaholic, a detribalised Nigerian, a patriotic citizen and a devoted servant of Allah.
There are not enough words to fully describe this ebullient woman of substance who has consistently demonstrated her efficiency and diligence right from her eventful years at NTA till her sojourn in politics, which made her a three-time parliamentarian in the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2015, representing her people in Ikorodu Federal Constituency, where she played an active and impactful role in all the national assignments she was given.
Her trademark diligence and dynamism were further brought to bear when she was appointed as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora Affairs from 2016 to 2019. This office later metamorphosed into the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) where she is currently serving as the pioneer Chairman/Chief Executive Officer and where she has continued to play her role diligently, effectively and inspirational.
On March 24, 2022, the authorities of Lagos State University bestowed on her a Honorary Doctorate Degree during its 25th Convocation ceremony, an award that award changed her nomenclature to Dr. Abike Dabiri-Erewa. It was one honour too distinctive so truly well-deserved and so uncommonly well-appreciated.
For those who have been following the selfless, proactive, exemplarily motivational life of Dr Abike Dabiri-Erewa, would have seen that it has been rewarded and appreciated with too many awards, honours and recognition of excellence which are, in fact, too numerous to list.
Of all of the awards she has been honoured with over the years, undoubtedly, this latest one, OON, inspires a high sense of fulfillment and elation that comes to one when one’s nation honours a person. This is what Dr Abike Dabiri-Erewa must have felt when she got the surprise nomination letter on October 8, 2022. Of all the awards, honours and recognitions since she has received from 2003 till date, none has changed her status and her nomenclature more profoundly than this latest one; hence, its uniqueness.
An admirer of Abike Dabiri-Erewa said this of the harvest of awards and honours: “It is indeed an honour well-deserved. She has come a long way. She has paid her dues. She has breasted the inclement weather of the media profession, especially in this clime. I still remember her days with NTA. Confident reporter. She made reporting look easy. Congratulations sister. Barakalah fihi.”
Even more remarkably, in his congratulatory message, President Buhari believes Dabiri-Erewa’s sincerity of purpose, meticulous handling of sensitive issues, and capacity to share her vision and others along easily pedestal her for leadership positions, extolling her skillful handling of the Diaspora family and building a mutually beneficial relationship with the government and citizens at home.
CAMEROON: LAND OF LEGENDARY HOSPITALITY
A European visitor once described Cameroon and its marvels as a place where God might have chosen as His own abode to dwell. Others have described the country simply as “Africa in miniature.”
There’s no gainsaying that anything that can be found in any part of Africa can also be found in Cameroon. These bountiful resources and beautiful geographical features of Cameroon are found in its four geographical zones: the beautiful savanna grass fields, through the three Northern Sahel regions, down to the coastal or littoral regions, and back to the Fang-Beti centre/south regions.
This blend brings out the beauty—not only in the country’s geography but, more importantly, in the hospitable nature of the people.
A Cameroonian from the Centre/South may disagree with his brother from the Western Savanna plateau or regions of the West and North West regions. Yet, both cannot afford to disagree with a visitor from a different country or continent.
This is because of the rich cultural and linguistic diversity of the people who inhabit the geographical expression referred to as Cameroon. It couldn’t have been different, given the rich gastronomic delights from the various geographical spheres of the country.
In Chinua Achebe’s book, The Trouble with Nigeria, the renowned African writer argues that the trouble with Nigeria is not about the climate, given that Nigeria has two seasons─the rainy and the dry seasons. The trouble is not about geography, as Nigeria has good topography. It’s not with the people either, as Nigeria has nice and welcoming people. He argues that the trouble with Nigeria is about the leadership not living up to the demands and dictates of its job. The same could be said with the rectitude of Cameroon.
The beauty in Cameroon, and by extension, Africa, is the exceptional welcoming nature of the majority of its local population. This is not only towards Europeans, Chinese and Americans but, more importantly, towards fellow Africans.
Unlike citizens in Maghrebian countries that would have to remind you each time you are visiting any of the northern African countries that “we are brothers,” Cameroonians, in their legendary hospitality, show it in deeds, not just in words.
One of the things that also make Cameroon stand out from others is its rich and diverse hospitality industry. From mouth-watering dishes from the beautiful sandy beaches and eco-friendly forests to the Sahel-Savannah carpet grass fields, hospitality does not come in short supply.
To try to capture Cameroon’s legendary hospitality in one write-up would be to behave like the house owner who thought he could market the beauty of his house by carrying around a bloc specimen rather than just presenting the whole edifice.
So, if you want to feel the hospitality of Cameroon, take Cameroon as your next touristic destination.
See you soon!
GRILLED FISH: A REASON TO VISIT CAMEROON
It is almost impossible to visit Cameroon’s coastal cities, like Kribi, Limbe, and Douala, without making a stop at a grilled fish spot. Each time a visiting tourist or expatriate is asked to recount memorable stories about their stay in the Cameroon, grilled fish is one of their most talked-about delicacies.
This delicious street food can be enjoyed with roasted or fried plantain, fried Irish potato, miondo, bobolo, boiled cassava, or even on alone. Interestingly, grilled fish is low in calories—thus, very suitable for a healthy meal.
The roasting of seafood for commercial purposes has gained considerable ground with time. The activity grew widely and gained more exposure with the influx of visitors into the country during the 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Hundreds of fans from different countries, including Nigeria, who visited Limbe and Douala, employed the services of local grilled fish makers. Fans could be spotted at joints with a plate of beautifully-spiced grilled fish, accompanied by Cameroon’s spicy sauce.
On the shores of Down Beach in the Fako Division of the South West Region is a modest spot called “Bucareaux,” which has become popular owing to its supply of tasty grilled fish and other seafood.
Fish prices at Bucareaux range from 2500frs to 25,000frs, depending on the size and species, and it’s usually overcrowded during the weekend. Tilapia, crabs, lobsters, and shrimp are the most patronized seafood.
Bucareaux also has a pan-African setting, given that many arts and crafts dealers sell their artifacts around the spot. This distinguishes Bucareaux from Rue de la Joie, the legendary neighborhood of Deido Douala, where grilled fish—Poisson braissée, as it is called in French—is sold on a large scale.
Rue De La Joie is known across Cameroon and beyond for its merry traits. It is usually crowded with customers who go there to eat, drink and have fun. Life always seems to be going on happily there. Indeed, it is “the street of joy,” as it is popularly called.
Daily, as the sun sets, vendors prepare charcoal ovens, set to grill different species of fish to their customers’ delight. Music from the snack bars calls customers’ attention.
For the purpose of this write-up, our team visited a local joint called Avenida Fish at the East Entrance of Rue de La Joie, intending to know the secret behind the enticing taste of grilled fish, which has left many returning for more.
We spoke with 23-year-old Mbah Princewill, who manages the place. He assured us that the first secret lies in the deliciousness of the pepper sauce and the freshness of the fish. Mbah’s pepper sauce is prepared with a composition of local Cameroonian spices.
“This delicious and spicy roasted fish recipe is a typical Cameroonian Style. It has got a very flavorful and delicious taste. Cameroonian Roasted fish has many variations, and we try to make it as tasty as possible. We have many quality tropical African ingredients for our Cameroonian roasted fish,” Mbah explained.
The fish sold at Avenida and other joints around Rue de la Joie are gotten directly from local fishermen. Mbah is responsible for selecting the fish and giving directions for their different prices. Some are stored in a 360cm deep freezer to minimize shortages and keep them fresh.
Once a customer places an order, the fish is cleaned, seasoned, and grilled. The grilling process also depends on the quality of fish. Mbah and his team put in the necessary expertise to ensure their clients enjoy their orders while maintaining a friendly relationship with them. This relationship, he says, is important for the business.
Aside from being the economic hub of Cameroon, Douala is also a metropolitan city where business-friendly potentials attract thousands of business people year-round.
It is not unlikely to see business partners striking deals over a bottle of beer and a plate of grilled fish at famous spots such as the Naval base, the Marina Complex in Youpwe, and Petit terrain in Bonamoussadi, amongst others.
The scenario in Douala is not different from that of the seaside town of Kribi in the South region.
Kribi Beach, also known as the Cameroon Riviera, is the best beach in Cameroon. It is located on the Gulf of Guinea shore, in Kribi, 150 km South-West of the capital city Douala. The spacious beach is covered with gray sand and surrounded by a tropical forest
The beach is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, walking in the tropical forest, riding in a canoe, playing beach volleyball and football, diving, and other kinds of water sports
Recreation on Kribi Beach is a perfect opportunity for tourists to get to know the Baka people, enjoy grilled barbecue fish on the beach in Copacabana, and take beautiful photos with the sea as background.
Among the attractions at Kribi Beach are the Kribi lighthouse, the Lobe waterfall flowing directly into the Atlantic Ocean, and the Campo Faunal nature reserve.
Moreso, it’s worth visiting Ebodjé to watch sea turtles, see the Nkolandom caves, and the village of pygmies.
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