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Carpenters Find Wealth in Coffins 

By Maxcel Fokwen

CameroonPostline.com — Though the name Fiango is generally associated with fake documents, harassment and recurrent acts that disturb public peace, much has changed, almost unnoticed, in one of the most popular and densely populated neighbourhoods in the Kumba metropolis.

Fiango today is the main seat of the Kumb II Subdivision; its population is growing by leaps and bounds; the booming bike industry has kept most of its youthful population busy. Yet the coffin industry has remained a disregarded industry which has caught the attention of most carpenters. Fiango is today the contemporary hub for coffin shopping in the whole of Meme Division.

Driving into Fiango from the Town Green direction, a commuter can see the Kumba Hill Top area, previously noted only for the manufacture of household furniture, but today an area which is at the foot of the Kumba II Council chambers, with coffin shops and carpenters specialised in building caskets of different designs to meet public demand. The spillover effect of the enormous wealth involved in this sector, given the significance Africans attach to death, is the clustering of funeral service agencies that rent out cars and those who have acquired skills in designing and sewing funeral clothes and wears for the death.

There are those who have become business moguls, owning shops for funeral home decor and every other requirement that would give the dead a befitting burial. In deed, Hill Top Fiango has become a one-stop-shop for gadgets needed to give the dead high-class treatment, which could not be possible while they were alive. According to Patrick Ashu, a carpenter specialised in the making of caskets, he makes as much as FCFA 500,000 a month from the coffin business, compared to other household furniture such as beds and wardrobes.

Ashu remarked that: “Though it is not as easy as people think, the influence of modernism has made us not to be afraid of the death. Nowadays, people show their wealth during funeral ceremonies, that’s why most of us own even the hearses that are rented out. We do not pray for people to die, but we are also rendering a service. We have coffins that cost as much as FCFA 300,000, since we are in a predominantly business and farming zone. It is a profitable business if you concentrate”. For Joseph Mbah, another coffin maker, there are challenges such as getting the right wood, which is often expensive.

“I cannot deny making money from this business. You know when it comes to death, everything is expensive. I have been able to build a house of my own within two years. I am proudly married and the future is bright. I still look forward to making more wealth from building coffins.”
Beyond the testimonies, there are those who shy to publicly admit feeding fat from the business.

Stories abound of women who have divorced their husbands because they deviated from household furniture to mainstream coffin construction. In the meantime, there is hope for Fiango’s booming coffin industry and related businesses because, so long as there are births, there shall be the deaths. Thus, specialising in the building of caskets will, forever, remain business for many carpenters to make fast cash.

First published in The Post edition no 01485

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