Cameroon might be Central Africa’s largest economy, but its ICT sector appears to be lagging far behind most of its regional counterparts.
The shocking proof is the 3G technology, which is still seen as a ‘rare precious stone’ in this country of 20 million pople, where the Vietnamese group Nexttel (through its Viettel brand) is the exclusive holder of this technology.
But come 2015, 3G licences will be handed over like buttered bread to all telecom players – to the delight of MTN and Orange, global cellphone giants which feel that they have been treated unfairly in this aspect by the government of Paul Biya.
When the minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Jean-Pierre Essam, told the National Assembly that the state would open up the 3G space, nobody believed him.
Analysts who have welcomed the move said the government has been holding on to this sector for too long.
Despite the opening of the 3G space, the government has ensured that Viettel stays with its special status – although no one knows yet how this will work.
Many observers believe the access of 3G technology to all the players will bring the price of internet down, and improve the quality of connection.
“There is a popular saying that states: the more people you’ve, the merrier,” US-based Cameroonian journalist Jessica Foumena said in the capital Yaoundé.
“Of course, competition will be fierce when everyone gets 3G, and this will definitely challenge the current price and the quality,” IT student Marie Obam Onyango said.