‘Call box’ business is booming in Cameroon

Yaounde (Cameroon), May 20 (IANS) There’s no official figure to determine its role in the Cameroonian economy but there is evidence that the “call box” business is a booming informal business in the country’s mobile telephone sector.

The informal business, practised by thousands of Cameroonians in both in the urban and rural areas, entails one getting a mobile phone and a table in an open area on a street, reports Xinhua. This is linked to the rapid growth of the mobile telephone sector in a country where the first license for mobile phone operator was given to the local subsidiary of the French operator Orange in 1999.

This activity consists of selling airtime of the three main mobile phone operators in the west-central African country.

It is commonly known as “call box” because it involves one sitting with a wooden table and a big umbrella to protect himself from the sun and rains. Besides the purchase of airtime, the customers can also make calls and pay for the charges.

From ordinary citizens to public officials, the customers vary and come from all social groupings. The business has been invaded by people of different ages, gender as well as the literate and the illiterate, all of whom are seeking for a way to escape high unemployment affecting a huge section of the 20 million Cameroonians.

While the government is celebrating the completion of the project to lay 6,000 km of the fiber optic cable funded by China, it’s shocking to see majority of Cameroonians being served by the informal “call boxers” whose number has been increasing.

Take the case of 18-year-old Cedrick Minsia who left his home in 2010 after selling second-hand cloths to earn a living. He came to capital Yaounde and now runs a “call-box” along a street the capital. Through this business, Minsia is able to pay for his school fees.

“With the call box, you can work even at night, sell airtime and make your profit right there,” he said.

“With the airtime, someone can knock on your door at any time, you transfer the airtime to him and he gives you the money,” he said.

With a working schedule from 7.30 a.m. to 10 p.m, he says that on a day he makes around $180 using three mobile phones, one of which is his own while two others are rented from other people.

Generally, for airtime of 30,000 Fcfa ($57) bought from the operators, the “call-boxers” have a profit margin of about 2,000 Fcfa ($38). However, due to the disruptions of the networks that affect the quality of mobile phone service in Cameroon, the guarantee of profits is not permanent.

For Eric Kane, another young call-boxer, the earnings from the business have been diminishing.

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