Dr Paul Fokam from Cameroon received the German Africa Award in 2005. The economist and banker is founder and main shareholder of Afriland First Bank – the first and at that time the only commercial banking company in Cameroon that was managed by a Cameroonian.
Dr Fokam first studied economics in his home country and continued his studies at the University of Bordeaux, where he subsequently obtained a doctorate in administrative sciences. His academic career was interrupted and accompanied by work for various banks in both his home country and abroad.
At the age of 31 he became self-employed by setting up a small factory for paper products called Sitracel – an undertaking which could not easily be implemented in liberalised Cameroon. Dr Fokam had to stand up to the tough competition not only from his fellow countrymen but also from French competitors. In 1986 he founded Afriland First Bank, which he managed without foreign dominance. The activities of this bank involve granting small loans to people who would have no chance of being considered by other banks. Through these small loans, many people in Cameroon were able to move from the informal to the formal sector. The bank is now one of the largest in Cameroon, with a subsidiary in Cameroon and offices in Brazzaville, Paris and Beijing.
As the initiator of a micro-bank system, he created village banks that granted loans and enabled the generation of capital even in rural areas. Fokam was the first entrepreneur to be selected as a laureate of the German Africa Award. While politicians had previously tended to convince the jury, this time it was Dr Fokam who convinced the jury with his special position in society and the economy as well as with his entrepreneurial inventiveness.
The Award was presented by Federal President Prof. Dr Horst Köhler.