(Business in Cameroon) - The Cameroonian government and the African Development Bank group (AfDB) signed on 19 July 2017 in Yaoundé, a memorandum on the feasibility studies for the project to extend the Cameroonian railway to Chad, from the Cameroon Railways (Camrail) terminal in Ngaoundéré, the Adamawa regional capital, in northern Cameroon.
According to the Cameroonian Minister of Transport, Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o, this memorandum is a guidance document to set up the framework for the negotiations for the release of FCfa 3 billion by the AfDB to carry out the feasibility studies for the project to extend the Cameroonian railway to Chad.
The Cameroonian and Chadian governments have expressed their ambition to implement this comprehensive project on 3 June 2014 in the Chadian capital, with the signature of the bilateral agreement for the creation of the Cameroon-Chad Railway Commission, to expand the Cameroonian railway to Chad. This project was mentioned for the first time during the 22nd session of the extended Cameroon-Chad mixed Commission held in December 2010 in Yaoundé.
Under Article 6 of the agreement signed between the two countries on 3 June 2014, the contracting parties chose Bolloré Africa Logistics as technical partner on this project.
In practical terms, the role of Bolloré Africa Logistics, whose subsidiary in Cameroon (Camrail) holds the concession for the railway, will consist in, we learned from authorised sources, “supporting producing the studies; providing support for the preparation of project presentations for financial backers; preparing meetings with financial backers; contributing to the reflections and institutional and financial montages”.
Visiting Douala on 19 October 2015, Cyrille Bolloré, President of Bolloré Transport Logistics, had nonetheless expressed the ambition of the French logistics company to play a more important role in this project, by providing the funding necessary for its implementation. After resorting to AfDB to finance the feasibility studies, the Cameroonian and Chadian governments may very well remember this open invitation from the Bolloré group, to carry out the actual construction works.
Based on statistics from the Cameroonian customs, approximately FCfa 340 billion in Chadian goods transit through Cameroon every year, and are transported to Chad by road. The expansion of the Cameroonian railway to Chad is predominantly meant to facilitate transport for these goods, or even increase their volume and therefore increase the level of commercial exchanges between these two countries in the CEMAC zone.
Even though the agreement signed between Cameroon and Chad specifies that the two sides will later on agree on the route for this sub-regional railway, credible leaks indicate that the parties in this project have already discreetly agreed on the final route.
According to our sources, the route chosen for this railway will go from the Camrail terminal in Ngaoundéré (Cameroon) to Ndjamena, the Chadian capital, over 1,400 km, for an investment of FCfa 1,400 billion. This route excludes the second option considered by the project, which consisted in expanding the Cameroonian railway from Ngaoundéré (Cameroon) to Moundou (economic capital of Chad), to serve northern Chad.
Brice R. Mbodiam