Biya admits hardship of Cameroonian youths but discourages “bush falling”

By Ndi Eugene Ndi

President Paul Biya has expressed concerns over the growing obsession by young Cameroonians to leave the country for greener pastures abroad locally known as “bush falling”, warning against the illusions and perils of emigration at all costs.

In his traditional address to the youth on the eve of the National Youth Day celebrated every February 11, Biya who will clock 91 on Tuesday February 13 said he understands the hardship of young Cameroonians, but said leaving the country is not the solution.

President Paul Biya addressing Cameroonian youth on February 10, 2024| Photo by PRC

“The growing desire of a fringe of our youths to emigrate to other countries is increasingly a cause for concern, especially when it becomes an obsession and even affects people who are well integrated into their local communities,” Biya who has been in power since 1982 said in his televised address on Saturday February 10.

The President admitted that Cameroon, like many other countries around the world, is facing difficulties. “However, leaving is not always the solution. Emigrate? Yes, but not at all costs,” Biya warned.

Cameroon has a large population of young people with 70% of the population under the age of 30 according to the National Employment Fund (NEF). However, despite this demographic advantage, young people in the country face a myriad of national challenges, such including but not limited to unemployment, vulnerable working conditions, poverty, lack of access to basic social security services and marginalisation in decision-making processes among others.

The country has in recent decades witnessed a surge in youth emigration with professionals in the medical and educational fields top among the emigrants.

According to the Cameroon Medical Association, some 4,200 Cameroonian doctors, mostly specialists, have chosen to work abroad, leaving the country with a mere 800 doctors-too small a number to cater for the health needs of a rising population.

Last month, security officials at the Douala airport in the country’s commercial hub said Cameroonian civil servants especially nurses, teachers and security forces were emigrating at an “alarming” rate.

President Biya said in his address that the young people emigrating should know that while they yearn to leave, many foreigners are trying to settle in Cameroon, “thereby confirming that ours is a hospitable country and a land of opportunities,” he said.

Rather than leave the country, Biya said Cameroonian youth should remember that they are country’s present and future. “It is your lofty task to persevere, with faith and determination, in the exalting task of building this strong and prosperous nation,” Biya urged.

First published in NewsWatch No 169 of Tuesday February 13, 2024.

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