World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 

Modern Transit System Comes To Cameroon


Modern Transit System Comes to Cameroon, Thanks to U.S. Company

In Cameroon, when 28 new buses moved from Douala, the port and commercial center, to the capital city of Yaoundé in August 2006, excitement was so high that people were lining the streets and the 200-kilometer highway connecting the two cities to cheer the convoy.

The comfortable modern buses brought by Transnational Automotive Group (TAUG), a Los Angeles-based company, were a harbinger of something new for Cameroonians.

At that time, the capital had lacked a functioning mass transportation system for more than 15 years, and its streets were clogged with taxis, motor bikes and other vehicles packed beyond capacity with people, goods and livestock. On intercity routes, several operators competed, but they ran old or salvaged buses and the service was poor and sometimes unsafe.

"There was a screaming need for something better, more reliable and modern," Seid Sadat, TAUG chief financial officer, told USINFO.

In 2005, TAUG's founders, former auto industry veterans with experience in Africa, were asked by Cameroonian government officials to consider running city bus systems in their country.

Considered on a purely commercial basis, such an offer would have been rejected. City mass transportation systems worldwide tend to be either unprofitable or subsidized. But TAUG's corporate mission is to facilitate work force growth and commerce in the developing world. So TAUG agreed to form a joint venture with the government the same year.

Building on economic momentum brought about by official debt relief in 2006, Cameroon's president, Paul Biya, was eager to attract more foreign investment and create some immediate improvements in the daily lives of average Cameroonians, according to TAUG executives.

A well-functioning city bus service was a high-priority project because the government expected it to bring the most tangible benefits to the population in a short time.

TAUG Chief Executive Officer Ralph Thomson says that in the early stages the venture had to deal with some challenges related to cultural differences and different views on the very nature of business.

"We went through a mutual learning curve, both with government officials and the local private sector," he told USINFO.

But the Cameroonian leadership, including the president and the prime minister, was eager to resolve any problems, Thomson said.

As a result, the September 2006 launch of LeBus, a subsidized city bus system in Yaoundé, was "notably smooth" and enthusiastically welcomed by city residents, according to both executives. It has served as a catalyst for positive effects on the city's modernization efforts and the life of its residents, they said.

The biggest challenge turned out to be winning the confidence of ordinary people and convincing them that the company was in Cameroon to stay, Sadat said. TAUG, which employs 700 workers, all but three of whom are Cameroonians, vowed to become one of the largest employers in the country.

TAUG has introduced high-quality customer services and social programs. For example, schoolchildren, who used to walk three kilometers or more to school on unsafe roads, ride LeBus under supervision. Journalists have been promised discounted fares. The company also has promoted women drivers.

TAUG's operations were watched closely by other African governments and local and U.S. investors, who had been somewhat skeptical about the feasibility of infrastructure investment in sub-Saharan Africa. (See related article.)

Those operations are successful by any measure, according to TAUG executives. In a year, LeBus has transported around 5 million passengers. LeCar, a wholly-owned subsidiary launched in December 2006, makes a decent profit running intercity buses between the capital and Douala.

Biya told company executives in October that he had received very favorable comments on the quality and reliability of their company's services from many sources.

TAUG also won a 2007 State Department Award for Corporate Excellence for its work in Cameroon. At the award ceremony in November, U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon Janet Garvey praised the company for employment practices and its clean, comfortable and reliable service. (See related article.)

The company's operations serve "as an example of how our nations can work together to forge win-win situations in Cameroon and serve as a model applicable across the African continent," she said.

But the best evidence of the company's success is invitations from the governments of 13 African countries that want TAUG to invest in their economies.

This success also opened "many doors" in Cameroon. TAUG, which already has increased its investment in Cameroon with support from a U.S. government agency, plans to expand into other sectors including oil, natural gas and renewable energy ventures, auto assembly, low-cost housing and quality hotel development.

ENDS

More: Latest World News | Top World News | World Digest | Archives

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Swing States: Gordon Campbell On Why The US Needs MMP

After the bizarre events this week in Helsinki, the world will be hoping and praying that the US midterm elections in November can put a restraining brake on the presidency of Donald Trump. This may happen, but there’s a highly undemocratic reason why such hopes may be frustrated. More>>

ALSO:

putin, trump scalpGordon Campbell: On The White House Romance With Russia

Tough on Europe over trade, at the G-7. Tough on Europe over defence, at NATO. And utterly smitten as usual by Vladimir Putin at the Helsinki summit. More>>

ALSO:


Gordon Campbell: On This Week’s NATO Debacle

For someone routinely cast as a clown presiding over an administration in chaos, Donald Trump has been very consistent about his agenda, and remarkably successful in achieving it, in the short term at least. More>>

ALSO:

NZ Law Society: Rule Of Law Threatened In Nauru

“The recently enacted Administration of Justice Act 2018 is another clear sign of the deterioration of civil rights in Nauru,” the Law Society’s Rule of Law Committee convenor Austin Forbes QC says. More>>

ALSO:

'Fixing' Family Separation: Executive Order Imprisons Families Indefinitely

Amnesty: President Trump signed an executive order today mandating for children to stay with their parents in detention while their asylum claims are processed. More>>

ALSO: