Mutual dependency: Young male migrants from the Central African Republic in urban Cameroon
Abstract. Rural Central and Western Africa is losing its population to cities (Adepoju, 2005). The young men described in this article have left poor economic conditions in the Central African Republic for a better life in Cameroon. They are mostly orphans who left their homes before the age of 15 and, through various paths, found their way to Tongo, a Muslim neighbourhood in the centre of the fastgrowing city Ngaoundéré in northern Cameroon. All those ‘who come’ rely on whatever opportunities they can carve out in the relation between themselves as individuals and the host community. Available work is mostly within petty-service which was the work for slaves in the 19th and most of the 20th century. Drawing on ethnographic material gathered over a period of ten years, this article asks: What strategies are used by the young men coming to urban Ngaoundéré to gain access to work and to survive? In this specific setting, the quality of the relation between the young men who have come and the Muslim women is of special concern. Accepting slave like working conditions, following certain rules of respectability and a reciprocal logic, with the work providers; some migrants find their surviving strategies. Not accepting or not being able to negotiate such work conditions is work access denied, witch is extremely dramatic for young men with out any social network in the city. The article merges approaches from visual anthropology and ‘the ethnography of the particular’ (Abu-Lughod, 1991), and aims at making a fresh contribution to the study of migration and youths in urban Africa.