- Internet shutdown in Cameroon's English-speaking provinces
- Blackout causing economic damage and hitting start-ups
- Anglophone provinces have longstanding grievances against largely-francophone government
(CNN)A crippling Internet shutdown is entering a third week in the English-speaking region of Cameroon.
The government suspended services for Southwest and Northwest province after a series of protests that resulted in violence and the arrest of community leaders.
The shutdown has proved particularly damaging in the city of Buea, the capital of Southwest that has been lauded as Cameroon's "Silicon Mountain," where dozens of successful start-ups have been launched.
"(The ban) has affected us very badly," says Otto Akama, community manager of Activspaces, a tech hub and incubator that serves many of the city's young entrepreneurs.
"We have empty offices all over the city. All tech companies are down. Most banks are down and ATM machines are not working so people don't have access to cash."
With no resolution in sight, conditions are likely to deteriorate further.
The shutdown is occurring at the worst possible time, says Akama, as fledgling companies struggle to scale up.
"January is the month when businesses start employing new strategies (and) this will kill energy in many companies," he says. "The cash-flow issue might lead to poverty in the next weeks if this does not stop."
Entrepreneurs are having to adapt to survive now. Akama makes a two-hour commute to work in the French-speaking city of Douala. Others stay in hotels or offices.
ActivSpaces is playing a supportive role during this crisis, offering free office space to tech workers and fundraising to cover their hotel bills. But the company cannot maintain this arrangement much longer, and Akama fears that hard-earned gains could be lost.
"People have taken the last seven years to build the Silicon Mountain community with their bare hands and no government support" he says. "But the government's one move is about to crush all that. It is so frustrating."
Leading entrepreneurs will soon flee Cameroon, he believes, and the nation will be poorer for their loss.
Cameroon's Ministry of Communications did not respond to a CNN request for comment, and has made no statement on the shutdown.