Economy & Politics

In Africa, the story of the first billionaire to be buried with his smartphone

Victor Fotso, an emblematic figure of African capitalism.

Cameroonian billionaire Victor Fotso, promoter of the Commercial Bank of Cameroon, died at 94, was buried on Saturday June 20 in Bandjoun (in the West) with his smartphone, his last wish according to his relatives. The businessman Bamiléké, named after this ethnic group present in Central Africa who has the same Mediterranean appetite for trade as the Dioulas of West Africa, died on March 20 in France. The best tribute paid to Victor Fotso probably comes from his daughter, Christelle Nadia Fotso, a lawyer at the Washington bar in the United States: “on a continent where life expectancy is limited, my father built an empire without knowing how to read or write from scratch ”.

Deeply patriotic, attached to his village, Victor Fotso did not want to “succeed alone”, but to carry the family and the village in this continental ideal which sees, from Bobo Dioulasso to Poto-Poto, wealthy businessmen providing invoices for electricity and water from villages and replace failed states to build boreholes and roads.

Grand Officer of the Order of Value and Grand Cordon of the Cameroonian Order of Merit, the billionaire leaves 18 widows and 120 children who were not all able to accompany him to his last home. Precision of size, Victor Fotso was buried with his mobile phone according to the instructions of his daughter responding to his last wishes. The information is also reported by Cameroon radio television (CRTV). But this is, as the other would say, a detail in the story of this extraordinary man, the embodiment of indigenous capitalism which is built on equity, without the support of the banks, and even less of that of the ‘State and tax authorities.

This emblematic figure of modern African capitalism has beaten his fortune brick by brick, first as a farm worker, then a small trader, occasional street vendor, actor of small distribution, guest of large distribution then dominated by Europeans, transporter in independent Cameroon, then financial, donor, and benefactor. It’s the African dream spiral.

After the trade, which leads to everything in Africa, Victor Fotso launched his own funds in the printing of school textbooks in 1970 with the African Society for the Making of Notebooks (SAFCA), then the PILCA (manufacture of batteries) in 1974 and , ten years later, the Compagnie de services (CIS) with a French partner. Mayor of his commune since 1996, Victor Fotso was also the head of a foundation very active in mutual aid and humanitarian aid.

On September 17, two masses will be celebrated in Paris in his honor, at Saint Louis des Invalides cathedral and Saint Sulpice church. In the aftermath, on October 24, another mass is planned at the Cathedral of Saints Michael and Gudula in Brussels followed the day after a conference at the Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren. It was one of his last dreams, fulfilled by his daughter, who will have the heavy task of bringing together his father’s family and partners around his brother, Fotso Ngappe Damien, successor chosen by will read by the notary.

Will the children of the patriarch who clashed for a long time before the French court in Nanterre in Paris (who ultimately rejected the request for an autopsy, a preliminary step for the repatriation of the body) Will they finally bury the hatchet to honor the last of the Bamileke? One of the son of the deceased, John Fotso, who had filed a complaint for the billionaire’s suspicious death under the circumstances of his death, movements on his personal accounts and that of family companies a few days before and after his death, will join the family in this work of sustainability of the group Fotso which awaits it now?

After having created the miracle by founding his empire on work and perseverance, let us bet that, from the top of the sky, Victor Fotso can contemplate behind him his work being perpetuated by using time from his smartphone. Let the empire not collapse behind the emperor. This is one of the problems of African capitalism, capitalism with a human face which must, now that it is constituted, take an interest in the stakes of the transmission of capital and the continuity of service after the disappearance of the founding father.

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