National News

Cameroon – Internet Shutdown: The balance sheet will be very heavy

By weaning the anglophone part of the country from internet for 93 days, Cameroon broke the record for the longest Internet shutdown on the African continent.

93 days is the length of time the populations of the South-West and North-West regions were deprived of the Internet connection. The Government’s decision of 17 January 2017 to make it impossible to circulate images showing police brutality against lawyers or students demonstrating since November 2016 has been lifted on Thursday 20 April 2017, on instructions from the Head of State.

The government’s resistance to multiple pressures to end this digital isolation has been remarkable. The campaign #Bringbackourinternet, the multiple outings of Internet Without Borders, the indignation of the famous American computer scientist Edward Snowden and several other political personalities in Cameroon (Barrister Akere Muna) and around the world left her marble. The least that can be said is that this cut of the Internet in the anglophone part of Cameroon caused enormous disturbances. I saw people clustered on a bridge because at this point smartphones were able to connect, so they come here a few minutes, time to download their emails, before leaving. “Reports to Jeune Afrique Franck Fokam, the boss of an Internet service provider.

Economically, the losses will have been enormous. Companies based in these two regions of the country have suffered martyrdom. “We came back to the Stone Age. In the absence of an internet connection, we were obliged to physically transport the data on CD or USB stick.” One of the executives of the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) lamented. The banks whose servers are mostly installed in Douala and Yaoundé have been particularly penalized. Some of them have had to introduce new procedures including the use of the telephone while other more fortunate have invested in the acquisition of a V-Sat a means of satellite communication allowing in particular to transfer data, Bashir Ben Yahmed reported.

We do not forget the young start-uppers of Silicon Mountain who have been forced to three months of inactivity. “It is regrettable that a faction of” securocrats “has inspired such an approach to the highest political authority in the country. Most of these young people [the Silicon Mountain start uppers] started their business with meager means, often helped by family and friends. The government would do well to support their efforts rather than hinder them. Christian Penda Ekoka, an economist and technical adviser to the presidency, criticized the “unimaginable financial consequences” for these young people.

Finally, there are mobile phone companies that have diversified into the provision of Internet access. According to an entrepreneur in the sector who told Jeune Afrique, the inevitable decline in their turnover will inevitably have a tax impact. These large contributors to government budgetary revenues had paid CFAF 617 billion of taxes and duties over the period 2010-2014. With the introduction of a new tax on telephone communications and internet services in 2016, the government was planning to increase this pool. “His angry reaction to the anglophone crisis is likely to thwart his expectations,” notes Jeune Afrique.

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