On his recent trip to South Africa, President Obama was quoted saying, “No country will reach its potential unless it draws talents of our wives and our mothers and our sisters and our daughters.” Women are indeed the backbone of development in any community. In Cameroon, Olivia Mukam, a driven young woman determined to be part of the solution to various social and economic problems affecting the local population, is doing amazing things.

While still an undergraduate at The Johns Hopkins University, she collaborated with the ‘Engineers Without Borders’ (EWB) of the University of Delaware, to provide clean water in the village of Bamendjou in Cameroon. Thanks to this initiative, the local Bamendjou population of about 5000 people now have access to clean water which has inevitably helped reduce the risk of waterborne diseases. Among peers and elderly alike, she is esteemed and respected for her compassion, ability to follow through on ideas and courage in the face of the many odds that she faces.

Not long after Olivia’s return to Cameroon, she became burdened by the frustration of Cameroonian graduates, at the lack of jobs. Yet again, un-phased by the challenges, herself and others sought a solution to this problem, which resulted in her founding Harambe-Cameroon circa 2010 and co-founding Solutionneurs SARL (LLC) in mid-2012. The latter is a company that specialises in providing business development services and outsourcing project tasks among which are accountancy and translation, while the former is an NGO that strives to inspire the youth to develop and realise their ideas and dreams through skills training programs. To date, both these ventures have experienced great success with Solutionneurs SARL now boasting of 45 part-time staff, only just a year after being created.

Olivia Mukam continues to actively promote job creation initiatives for the many disenchanted an unemployed youth and young adults in Cameroon. Thanks to the many projects launched under Harambe-Cameroon, she has encouraged several graduates to not only become of part of the solution to their current state of unemployment, but also to look beyond themselves, to provide solutions to problems that affect the most vulnerable in society. One such example was the “Fun Rubbish” project where a student at the University of Yaounde, came up with the proposal to deal with the campus’ waste problem by recycling all the University’s waste in green, red and yellow bins and separate waste: cans in one bin, plastic waste in another and finally glasses. The collected waste would then be resold to plastic makers, brewery companies and farmers.

The number of lives she has touched continues to grow. In Bamendjou, Cameroon the locals even enthroned her “Mafoh Sih” meaning queen mother sent from God as a sign of deep appreciation for her efforts. It is without a doubt that Olivia Mukam is a leader in this generation and a woman of great substance and courage. As she continues to motivate and transform the lives of young Cameroonians, as well as build on her existing professional experience, which includes UNICEF in Cameroon. It is with confidence that one can say, “Cameroon’s future is bright.”

By Julia Mukete