Cameroon: abundant resources with a rich cultural diversity to match | 340 (November 2017)

LUKOIL managers regularly visit Cameroon for business meetings in both Yaoundé, the capital, and Douala, the country’s economic center. This is their story.

2017-11-28 10:25 Views 491

LUKOIL managers regularly visit Cameroon for business meetings in both Yaoundé, the capital, and Douala, the country’s economic center. This is their story.

Elnur Gurbanov

Bruce Falkenstein

In Before our plane even touched the ground, the sigh of Mt. Cameroon magnificently rising 4000 meters above sea level welcomed us into the country bearing its name. The mountain dominates the hilly lush rainforest landscape, and you may be treated to a similar sight flying into Cameroon provided the weather conditions are right. The volcano was appropriately named Mongo ma Ndemi (“Mountain of Greatness”) in the language of the local communities.

Cameroon is less than 500 kilometers from the equator and relatively limited in hydrocarbon riches when compared to neighbors Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. But the country abounds in other resources, including plentiful sea life, mighty rivers (which power hydroelectric plants) and the rainforests that blanket much of its territory. It’s also been gifted with an educated and highly industrious population.

Cameroon

Gamba

The Portuguese were the first European explorers to arrive here, and they named the region Camarão for the river of shrimp they encountered in the low-salinity Wouri Estuary. The area remains an ideal environment for gastronomic delights to this day. The nation of Cameroon was thus appropriately named: the shrimp, known locally as gamba, are enormous in size and remain a national symbol to this day.

One of the great joys of visiting Douala, a major port in southwest Cameroon, is enjoying the local fish and giant gamba found in the city’s abundant seafront restaurants. Though not always as picturesque as one might expect, the eateries are complimented by local fishermen on the adjacent Wouri Estuary. Fish and gambas don’t get any fresher than that.

Douala

Cameroon’s heat and humidity are not for the faint of heart (although they pose no challenge to somebody accustomed to Houston weather). Upon arrival, most visitors will drive through long stretches of humble homes, small kiosks lining the streets and locals commuting by foot and motorbike (which also serve as taxis).Douala is an historic port city, and remains a major export center not only for Cameroon, but the Central African Republic, Chad and Congo. The city appropriately constitutes a unique mixture of homes, warehouses, offices, small businesses and major industry supporting the port. This can occasionally be unsettling for first-time visitors. And while it’s easy to get outside the city limits and enjoy solitude on weekends, during business hours Douala can be overwhelming.

Some may find peace in their hotel, sometimes a seeming oasis of tranquility. But reminders of Douala’s businesslike nature are never far: just steps away from the hotel one can overlook the great port, container warehouses, thousands of giant rainforest hardwoods stacked ready for the next container ship and Mongo ma Ndemi 40 kilometers away.

Cameroon

Voodoo

Cameroon’s abundance of natural resources is matched only by its social riches. The country is described as a home to more than 200 different linguistic groups, each with its own tribal heritage, and is known as “Africa in miniature” because of this diversity. It was originally created by unifying two former British and French colonies, and both languages enjoy official status to this day.

Christianity, Islam and local religions exist peacefully side-by-side in Cameroon. Churches and mosques operate freely throughout the country while local tribal practices and beliefs remain highly salient in society. Just as the diverse social structures of religion, family, business and tribal village politics have found a vibrant balance here, practices such as voodoo, or juju, are also not unusual. One can see this with the abundance of wooden masks and elephants for sale at local markets and hotels; the juju doll is similarly available for purchase.

This sets Cameroon apart from most African countries, where juju dolls are rarely seen in public. In Ghana the practice is outlawed. But here most people don’t find any cause for alarm: the jujus are considered to be good luck for the home. But beware: no pins are provided with the dolls!

CameroonSocial Responsibility

Cameroon’s literacy rate exceeds 75% (83% among youth). Educated professionals from its various tribes warmly socialize and work together; differences are a point of interest rather than division.

The Cameroon office staff of LUKOIL’s local partner, New Age, is no less diverse than the country itself. It consists of an American and several Cameroonian professionals, each from a different tribe. Learning all the tribal names can be a challenge for a first-comer: one employee hails from the Buea, another from the Ewondo tribe. All of them speak both English and French, and conversation can shift flawlessly between the two languages.

As a responsible member of the community, LUKOIL is actively engaged in training local oil and gas professionals from Cameroon’s national petroleum company, La Société Nationale des Hydrocarbures du Cameroun (SNH). Together with its partners, the company provides $150,000 annually to this effort. Since its inception, the Etinde joint venture has funded more than $2.5 million for this training program. SNH has invested these funds into developing a highly professional local workforce that contributes its own expertise to the supervision of joint ventures.

Lasting Impact

A visit to Cameroon leaves one with a warm impression of a society successfully assimilating its diversity of cultures, traditions and histories. No matter the circumstances, its people are always prepared to welcome and help colleagues, neighbors and strangers alike. This will be no small factor as LUKOIL makes its plans in Cameroon.

LUKOIL IN CAMEROON

LUKOIL obtained a 37.5% share in the Etinde gas project in 2015. The project covers an area of 460 square kilometers in the Gulf of Guinea, 20 kilometers offshore and in the vicinity of the border with Equatorial Guinea. The depth of the sea ranges between10 and 75 meters. Operator New Age, along with partners LUKOIL and Euroil, are currently conducting design and engineering activities at the site.

Elnur Gurbanov is Asset Manager for the Cameroon Etinde and Ghana Tano projects.

Bruce Falkenstein is Joint Operations Manager, License Management & Compliance.

Similar articles

Society
Oil Journal | 340 (November 2017) 2017 | Looking to E-Future
2017-11-28 10:26

LUKOIL teams up with the Basra Education Directorate to bring digital learning to local schools.read more

Employees
Oil Journal | 333 (March 2017) 2017 | LUKOIL trains top talent in Uzbekistan
2017-04-15 13:59

LUKOIL Uzbekistan and state-owned Uzbekneftegaz join forces in training highly qualified personnel. Farid Yangaliyev, chief specialist, LUKOIL Uzbekis...read more

Society
Oil Journal | 340 (November 2017) 2017 | More than oil wells: the key to success lies in social responsibility
2017-11-28 10:25

A LUKOIL project manager in Mexico shares his experiences working with local communities.read more