Hi-tech promoters had big dreams for Silicon Mountain in Cameroon, where a broad plateau was seen as perfect for startup ventures, but their hopes have been shattered by a separatist struggle.
Entrepreneurs in the tech village wanted to launch new technologies and make Cameroon a market player on the model of California, but the bloody insurgency in the country’s English-speaking west has driven many to leave.
“Silicon Mountain is just about alive,” says Valery Colong, one of the workers in the ActivSpaces area modelled on Silicon Valley at the foot of Mount Cameroon, but his voice lacks conviction.
The ambitious Silicon Mountain project bears the economic and social scars of a conflict that has claimed more than 2,500 lives since 2017, according to international NGOs. Many of the dead and wounded are civilians.
“The crisis has badly affected our activities,” says Colong, promoter of the project to make ActivSpaces a key link for business at Silicon Mountain. The walls at its headquarters are decorated in the colours of global internet giants.
The hi-tech incubator site is meant to extend from Buea, the capital of the Southwest Region on the slopes of the mountain, to the chic seaside resort of Limbe on the Gulf of Guinea, about 30 kilometres (19 miles) distant by road.
But several promoters have pulled out, while others have taken their business to Douala, a major port and economic capital of Cameroon, only 50 kilometres from Buea but set in the majority French-speaking part of the country.