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Cameroon's position in the CEMAC region

  • Wednesday, 14 July 2010 10:00

(Business in Cameroon) - Its economic and demographic weight as well as its strategic geographic position at the heart of CEMAC makes Cameroon the Central African natural locomotive.



Its economic and demographic weight as well as its strategic geographic position at the heart of CEMAC makes Cameroon the Central African natural locomotive.

Cameroon is the natural leader of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) through its economic potential, its strategic position at the center of the sub-region and its demographic weight.

A leadership that the Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Chad could not contest because even combined, these countries hardly achieve the economic importance of Cameroon, which alone accounts for 52% of CEMAC' GDP and a little bit over 55% of the total population, approximately 20 million people of the 35 million accounted in the region.

Commercially, Cameroon serves as a locomotive. This is by far, if not almost the only country in the area which exports to all other Central African countries, without importing anything from its neighbors. For some countries, such as Central Africa and Chad, 80% of their trade depends on Cameroon. Most of the products for the north of Congo transits Cameroon, while Gabon and Equatorial Guinea have their food supplies from Cameroon.

Its proximity to Nigeria and the vitality of the port of Douala makes Cameroon a crossroad almost unavoidable in Central Africa.

Impassable crossroads

Regarding the infrastructure, the country has a dense road network linking it to neighboring countries. The corridors Douala-N'Djamena and Douala-Bangui are an obvious example. With support from donors including the European Union which has invested over 150 billion FCFA, the goods leave now the port of Douala towards Chad and CAR on approximately 1500 km of paved roads.

The Douala – Yaoundé - Sangmélima (Cameroon) - Ouesso (Congo) route, whose work will soon begin, with funding, among others, from the African Development Bank (ADB) and from the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), will allow the connection between the two countries.

Gabon and Equatorial Guinea can also be reached by road from Cameroon, which is the only country in the region that has borders to all the others. Similarly, in human terms, at least one ethnic group from Cameroon is found in every country in the area, which is an advantage for the community integration.

A leading position

This role as a locomotive is reinforced by the strength of Cameroonian businesses, which are always leading runners of the largest companies of the region in the area of banking, insurance and heavy industries. Its leading position admits no dispute.

As an example, it is the only country in the sub-region which domestic companies have subsidiaries in other countries of the CEMAC.

The best public and private universities in Central Africa, the best training schools, as well in the defense sector, administration and management of trade are also in Cameroon. A president of a country from Central Africa summed up the predominant position of Cameroon in CEMAC, saying that "when Cameroon sneezes, CEMAC is stifling."

Although Cameroon is one of the few countries that don't have for two years a national flag, Douala International Airport is a natural hub for neighboring countries.

Taking into account these advantages, even without forcing too much, the Cameroonian diplomacy remains impassable. Cameroon' official position is summed up by a "diplomacy of presence and discretion", reason why the country of Paul Biya has often been the source of conflict resolution, particularly those from Central Africa and Chad, with little fuss.

By Achille Mbog Pibasso, Douala