“50 years after many countries became independent, Africa is at a turning point. We are on the cusp of change. We must now take our destiny into our own hands.”
Kah Walla is doing just that. Last October 23rd, the 46-year old announced that she is a candidate for the presidency of her country, the Republic of Cameroon, and she thinks she has a real shot at winning.
In 2007, Walla was elected to the city council in Douala, the largest city and financial center in Cameroon. There, she says, she got an education in “why things don’t get done.” Since independence, her country has had two presidents. The first one ruled for 22 years and Walla says he was a brutal dictator but an excellent manager. The second one has been in office for 29 years. Walla describes President Paul Biya as being less of a brutal dictator. “But he is a lousy manager,” she says. “Everything has gone downhill.”
Cameroon should be an economic powerhouse. It has oil, minerals, a great climate for agriculture, and a wealth of recently discovered diamonds. 68 percent of the women and 72 percent of the men are literate. “There is no reason why 40 percent of the population should live on less than $2 per day,” Walla says. “There is no reason why one out of two people has no access to safe drinking water when we are the number three country, globally, in the consumption of champagne.”
And so, Kah Walla says, “The time for change is now.”
She began her career as a business strategist, helping major corporations and non-governmental organizations. Her Douala office attracts clients from Africa, Europe, and the United States. The female-owned and female-run firm, Strategies, boasts annual sales of $500,000 and continues to grow.
In 2008, Walla spent a year as a fellow with the International Women’s Forum and launched a pilot program with female merchants in one of the largest produce markets of Douala, where 900 women traders had no voice in market operations. Through the program, female merchants formed an association to advocate collectively for improved conditions, elimination of double-taxation, and for the creation of a level playing field for women in the marketplace.
While visiting the United States to discuss her successes to date and her goals, Walla explained that she is now energizing the women and the young people in Cameroon to register to vote, to train to serve as polling agents and to support her candidacy.
The winds of change currently sweeping through Northern Africa and the Middle East might not be especially friendly to women. But Walla believes there are lessons that Cameroon can draw. “Since November, the continental winds are favorable to change. People Power is possible. You can organize and get rid of someone in power. My parents always taught me that you should stand up for what you believe in and I’m doing that now.”
Kah Walla has five months left to campaign. The presidential election in Cameroon is scheduled for October of this year. If she is successful, she would become the second woman to lead an African nation.