What does your country of origin produce?

My country of origin is Cameroon. Cameroon produces a lot, especially in terms of agriculture, but her industry is still very light and has a long way to go compared to Western industrial standards. Some of Cameroon's agricultural products, like many other African countries, are coffee, cocoa, tea, bananas, palm oil, groundnuts, cotton, and timber, to name a few. Most of these products are exported overseas where they are transformed into finished market goods to be sold back to Africa and other parts of the world at exorbitant prices. Cameroon also produces oil, with France as the chief beneficiary, whereas Cameroonians themselves go around unable to fuel their vehicles because of the alarming cost of gas in their own country.

Are there successful banks in Africa?

Yes, there are successful banks in most of Africa, but most of them belong to foreign investors who come in and make a lot of money by exploiting the people, as the profits these bankers make are not ploughed back into the societies they serve, but to their Western nations. So they are successful in the sense that they are able to plough back a lot of foreign capital into their native economies, without the local economy benefiting that much if at all. The rest of the banks belong to the governments, which are mostly headed by autocrats who care more about themselves and the views of their Western masters than their fellow citizens. Nowadays, in any case, there are private citizens who are trying to start and own their own banks. This has taken so long to materialize because the governments, it is believed, were being influenced to make it tough for the locals to open such institutions so that those banks belonging to former colonial powers could continue to operate without any competition and so make fantastic benefits from these nations.

Another problem with banks in Africa is that the autocratic power of most African leaders makes it possible for them to abuse some of the government owned banks. They, their relatives, and friends, get money in the form of illegal loans, since bank managers usually are bullied into approving such loans from the banks whenever they want it without having met the conditions laid down by the banks. The result is that such loans are never repaid and so, of course, the banks crash. As a result of such corrupt practices by government administrators and their charges, most Africans have lost faith in banks; they prefer private credit unions which the government cannot influence in any way. Accordingly, in Cameroon for example, there is the Police Credit Union, the Azire Cooperative Credit Union and many others that are effectively managed privately, thereby guaranteeing the security of peoples' money and investments.

Another form of "local banking" in force now in Cameroon is called "njangi" houses. Those with the money create a pool of friends who are willing to go into business. What they do is agree on a fixed amount which every member contributes on a monthly basis, usually, and one of the members gets the sum, which he invests in one way or the other. The same contribution is done every month until all the members take turns in receiving the sum of money contributed. Normally, members cast lots at the very beginning of the session to determine the order in which the sum contributed is to be received. After the order is in place, if a member is desperate, he can "buy" the turn of another member by offering a certain amount until the member whose turn he is trying to "buy" accepts, and he can now receive the total contributed at the stipulated date. On the date each member receives the monthly sum, there is a kind of party, the scale determined by the group, during which the members eat, drink, and discuss strategies in business or otherwise. After credit unions, these "njangi" houses have emerged as the most reliable form of financial transaction in most African countries.

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