By Babila Dorinda
Forty-five-year-old Ajeck Nora, a Douala business magnet, looks at what she has accomplished and smiles back at her past.
From Batibo, in Cameroon’s Northwest Region, Nora found herself in Douala where life was not a bed of roses.
At 8, she started hawking ‘acra banana’ – fries made out of cassava and banana – in the streets of Batibo. That was because life was challenging and, hawking was the way her family could generate money.
“At times I will earn FCFA300, sometimes FCFA 500 a day,” she told The Post.
At 17, things changed. Her father had decided to marry her off to a “stranger” – a decision she objected and, as such, vamoosed to Cameroon’s commercial capital, Douala, through the help of a man called Christopher Mbah.
Christopher had visited the village and, since Nora’s uncle was not in support of his brother’s decision to marry her off, that was how the uncle linked her to Christopher who facilitated the escape. That was in 1995.
In Douala, she worked as bartender for some months where she was being paid FCFA 5,000 a month.
However, her village savior would later want to compensate himself.
Christopher impregnated her and ran away. With no one to rely on, life became challenging and, as such, she was back in the street, this time, hawking boiled eggs and bread.
“I had to pay light bills, pay rent, buy my unborn child’s needs and cater for myself,” she said. Even after birth, her old habit was yet to die.
No family member knew her whereabouts during her stay in Douala. She later switched from boiled eggs and bread to yogurt, fulere and cold water. To her, it was lucrative.
With this venture, she profited FCFA 4,000, unlike FCFA 2,500 when she hawked bread and boiled eggs.
Nora did all these by herself and her baby’s father, Christopher, never reached out.
Nora’s breakthrough came when she opened a small retail store in front of her house, with savings from hawking. A friend of hers introduced her to a bank where she saved for three years and decided to open a bigger provision store still in front of her house. She continued saving. After two years, she took a loan of FCFA 1.5 million from the bank and added to her savings and opened a provision shop at Mboppi, a market in Douala.
“I struggled and paid back the loan in less than two years.” She explained.
“But I had another plan to open another provision store in Marche’ Central,” she added.
Now, she is the bread winner of her family back in the village. “Family first, family is gold regardless of what they did to me,” she recalled.
Now, she owns a provision store at Mboppi and another wholesale shop at the Douala Central Market.
Today, Ajeck Nora is a proud, promising business woman and a house owner, thanks to hawking.
Although Cameroonian authorities discourage child hawking, it is very rampant in the country. It is common to see children at the tender ages of five, six and seven years hawking groundnuts, banana, bitter cola, among other items, on the streets.
To many, it is an eyesore, but to Nora, it was gold. “I see hawking as capacity building not child abuse,” Ajeck Nora said.
Just like Nora, Numvi Emmanuel, 35, who started hawking at nine, had proven to be exceptional and prided in his hustle.
He owns a shop at Clerks Quarter, Buea. At a tender age, his father died, making life difficult for the family and, thereby, forcing him to hawk.
Emmanuel had to hawk snails on the streets of Buea with his siblings to support their mother. Ten years later, a friend introduced him to a business of buying dresses from Douala and selling in Buea. Hawking dresses, he earned FCFA 15,000 daily as profit and, at times, FCFA 25,000.
“My plan was to open my own costume shop,” he said. After five years of hawking, he saved money, opened his first costume shop at Clerks Quarter and now he is planning to open another one in Mutengene.