Doorstep Services Bring Relief To Households

Yaounde door to door services

At minimal cost, nail cutters, shoe menders, tailors and hairdressers are easily spotted in residential areas; o?ering indispensable services to households in Yaounde

At minimal cost, nail cutters, shoe menders, tailors and hairdressers are easily spotted in residential areas; o?ering indispensable services to households in Yaounde

Idris Sheyu is a man whose destiny is pegged on shoe mending. Sweating profusely under the sweltering heat, the middle-aged man looked completely exhausted. He had been walking for more than two hours hunting for customers, without success.

But he is not discouraged. He knows the day cannot go by without him making money for at least a meal. Idris Sheyu is an itinerant shoe repairer in Yaounde: "I have been in Yaounde for two months now. It is difficult scouting neighbourhoods to repair shoes. I save between FCFA 1000 and FCFA 2000 each day. I pay FCFA 15,000 for rents. I intend to save money and return to the north and get married.''

Idris Sheyu is just one out of a record number of young repairers and nail-cutters especially of northern extraction, who are making life easy-going for Yaounde city dwellers, by taking their services to their homes and offices. They are present in every nook and cranny of Yaounde, never getting tired of making their presence felt through the beating of their working instruments (scissors for tailors and nail-cutters; a small hammer and a small box for shoe repairers). Apart from braving the scorching sun and the serpentine neighborhoods in Yaounde on a daily basis, these itinerant repairers and nail-cutters also face communication difficulties. They can barely express themselves averagely in any of Cameroon's two official languages.

Thus their bargaining power is low because they would easily succumb to any price that a customer would propose, rather than ''wasting the precious time'' bargaining in broken French. Coins, a major challenge The job of these repairers consists in mending torn shoes and dresses while nail-cutters trim nails. These repairers and nail-cutters are making gains from their trade. Gains which have been sustaining their families for years now.

"It costs just FCFA 200 for individuals to have their nails trimmed. Before the trimming is done, we use a chemical substance to neutralize any bacterial. In cutting the nails, one needs to be very careful not to harm the individual," said 24-year-old Ahmadou Bello, who has been involved in nail-cutting for ten years now. He added that he saves between FCFA 30,000 and FCFA 50,000 monthly from his trade. Itinerant tailors are not left out. Abdoulaye Djallo is one of them we cornered: "We mostly patch torn dresses and other pieces of cloth. The prices vary between FCFA 50 to FCFA 1000, depending on the volume of work to be done. At times I save FCFA 50,000 monthly. I'm a family man and I have itinerant tailor told Cameroon Insider.

Another challenge hampering the activities of these itinerant repairers and nail-cutters is the issue of change. ''At times we lose customers because we do not have coins to give them as change. We are even obliged in certain occasions to forgo a portion of our money because we do not have coins to give as change,'' said Idris Sheyu, a shoe repairer.

Services appreciated Yaounde inhabitants appreciate the activities of these mobile repairers and nail-cutters. "I really appreciate the work of these repairers who have decided to bring their services right into our homes. It saves  time of taking shoes or dresses to markets or shops when they get bad, where it is hardly repaired immediately. With as little as FCFA 50, you can have shoes or dresses repaired,'' said Ernestine Amungwa a trader and a mother of four residing at the Biyem Assi neighbourhood in Yaounde. "These mobile repairers are really making life going for us. You just sit comfortably in your home or place of work and they will come calling. Many are they who even accept to work on credit when you don't have money handy,'' Peter Amandeng, a carpenter said.

"I do not longer use razor blade to trim my nails and those of my children. We hire these mobile nail-cutters, with FCFA 200 per person and we have our nails cut. They do it professionally and you even like looking at your nails given its uniformity. I really appreciate their activities. It is helpful,'' explained Pauline Akum, an inhabitant of Yaounde. Shoe mending, tailoring and nail-cutting constitute traditional trades that many people depended on and continue to depend on especially in rural settings in Cameroon.

Now, many young Cameroonians in Yaounde and even in other urban settings, are revolutionizing this sector by taking their services to homes and offices. And given the cosmopolitan nature of a city like Yaounde, most inhabitants have welcomed the initiative. Mobile shoe mending, tailoring and nail-cutting and even hairdressing, just like many other informal businesses today, constitute a promising sector for many young Cameroonians who cannot easily find jobs. After all, the demand is there.



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