Diaries of an AFCON reporter – The cultural shocks in Cameroon no one prepares you for

Cameroon is hosting the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations

Tue, 11 Jan 2022 Source: Daniel Oduro

Day 3

The day is Tuesday, January 11, 2022. Ghana has just lost 0-1 to Morocco in the opening Group C game. A day after a disappointing Black Stars defeat is never good for a journalist covering the national team. The mood is sombre, tensed and there is a general unwillingness to grant interviews to the media. I can understand them.

They are crestfallen, dejected and even anxious about the reactions of the Ghanaian fans back home. It is tough for them but tougher for journalists because what shall we do without interviews and reactions for our media houses that have sponsored us here? No one wins. They are tough days.

The upside, however, is that today is calmer. The chaos of the last 72 hours is somehow making way for a bit of rest. It’s no holiday, trust me but to have some calmness and to catch a break after these crazy last few days is a priceless gift.

The ‘madness’ will soon resume but for now, let me bask in this calmness.

Before we swing into action again, chasing the Black Stars as they take on Gabon on Friday, let me tell you about some of the big cultural shocks I’ve discovered in Yaoundé since I arrived.

No Uber in Yaoundé, Cameroon


Maybe it is not news to you, but we are in 2022 and to find out that there was no ride-hailing app in Cameroon’s capital city was shocking to me. In a desperate attempt to beat this glaring extortion from these taxi drivers who hike their prices 5 folds and over I hop onto Uber, hoping that I will find some respite only to be told the service is unavailable in the city. Like how is that possible? In fact, it is not just Uber that is unavailable here, there are zero ride-hailing apps in Yaoundé. One guy says there is Yango in the second city, Doula but I have not been there and cannot independently confirm this.

No KFC, McDonalds or any known big food giant here


I have been in Yaoundé for only a couple of days and so naturally I will definitely not know it all when it comes to everything and some of my observations may be hit and miss. That said, I found out with real shock that there is no KFC, McDonalds or any of the big food brands in Cameroon. Finding food that I am familiar with has become an impossible task here. There is plenty of meat, fried on the streets and it is usually served with rice and ripe plantain but that is as familiar a food you will get. I definitely cannot eat that for the next one month and inquiring from the indigenes to find out if there was KFC, McDonald's, or any European or American food giant here proved shocking. There is zilch.

I still haven’t eaten anything ‘solid’ since I arrived and I am beginning to worry about my health when I am hooked on meat, fizzy drinks, croissants and biscuits. Usually, I will come along with some gari, sardines, shito, Milo and food items I am familiar with but this time I decided to try out local foods on this trip. Boy, if I had known. These are trying times and the hustle is real.

Recycled, resold bottled water


Look I have struggled to come up with this sub-heading. I have been trying so hard to find the words that capture and describe what I want to portray.

So, in my last episode, I mentioned that in Yaoundé, Cameroon people still buy bottled water, drink it and give the empty bottle to the seller to be washed, re-filed and sold to the next customer. I am not kidding. This actually happens in 2022 and It is pretty normal here.

Remember the days when Ghanaians use to buy drinking water from vendors who sold them in buckets with ice cubes (call it ice blocks) in it and with shared cups, yeah, the aluminium ones which later was changed to plastic cups? Yeah, that kinda thing is what I am talking about it freaked me out, lol.

Apparently, washing the empty bottle when someone is done drinking from it is to prevent communicable diseases from spreading. When I and my roommate Benedict Owusu chanced on one woman who was selling this type of recycled bottled water and he started asking the woman questions about it, her responses shocked me.

Watch part of the interaction here

Nothing else moves when President Paul Biya moves


Paul Biya has been the president of Cameroon for the last 40 years. Yes, you read right, 40 years making him one of the longest-serving head of state in the world and his powers are so extensive that when he moves, nothing else moves. To explain, if the president is to attend a programme at any venue, the roads leading to that particular venue will be blocked to any human or vehicular activity and this happens hours before he arrives and hours after he has left the programme.

Uniformed policemen and military men line up the streets when the president is to attend a programme and when you have an indigene explain the rationale behind the war-like approach they simply tell you not to get in the crosshairs of the security agencies. That is shocking because I am not sure even the American president wilds that much power.

Let’s end here for today. In the next episode, I will tell you about the plantain craze and the general infrastructure in Cameroon.

As usual, send me feedback of what you think via my Twitter handle @daniel_oduro

GhanaWeb’s 2021 AFCON coverage is supported by Ice Gold Mineral Water

Source: Daniel Oduro
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