Internet Marriage Agency Booms in Cameroon
The marriage of 22-year-old Abiba, who has spent weary years searching for a dream husband, was certified last weekend at the New Bell neighbourhood in Douala. The youngster is married to 79-year-old Christian, a truck driver who lives and works in Bordeaux. Abiba and her two childen plan to join their internet-connected husband and foster father in France next month.
Christian and Abiba are just one out of a dozen couples that Dolly matches via the internet-dating- service every month. Dolly's "intercontinental marriage consultancy" discreetly situated at the New Bell main roundabout, is busier than a liberal paymaster's lodge. As from 3 p.m, every day, scores of anxious ladies, including disgruntled married women, university graduates, secondary school students and city loafers, who lustfully lift their wavering breasts with synthetic strings right beneath their chins, throng Dolly's corridors, carrying their most enthralling photos which they upload on the date website.
At Dolly's doorsteps, the eager customers are required to pay a non-refundable consultancy fee of FCFA 25,000 before proceeding to the expert's cosy office where they receive comprehensive counselling. Dolly starts off by schooling her clients on crucial techniques necessary to win a dream husband. Her lectures focus on profile writing, caressing picture postures, agreeable terminology which better describes the client's social past and present, educational level (including blatant lies), cooking skills, parents and siblings, likes and dislikes. Thereafter, Dolly and partners, based in Paris, provide intensive guidance and advocacy for two weeks, time the FCFA 25,000 deposit expires.
Life at the "intercontinental marriage consultancy" is an accurate mirror of contemporary world; a theatre of joy and sorrow; a landscape of pain and pleasure. At one end of Dolly's long corridor, a clumsy stunted woman leaps and darts from end to end. She hugs the air and chants and waves her floppy muscles for heaven's sake. Then, her telephone rings. She jilters and dives towards a quiet corner. She twists her nostrils and concocts an assent which is neither Britannic nor Caucasian. A soul healing communication begins. The woman speaks with a sugar-coated tongue. It's her day. She has found a white man, a dream partner. At the other end, a slim lanky lady, seemingly starved for weeks, tears her tainted hairs with sorrow. The guy with whom she had charted for years is a liar. He is married, and cannot come to Cameroon. Exasperating revelations! The hard-earned FCFA 25,000 not refundable. Tears stream down her cheeks; she secretly dries them with a piece of lotus and walks off the corridor. And, the drama continues.
Onlookers have however raised several questions about Dolly and her customers. Do these couples really live happily ever after, or are they likely to meet with divorce lawyers? Do love stories created from online matches always have fairy tale ending? Aren't women afraid to enhance their personal lives with digital technology?