(Business in Cameroon) - In 2020 Cameroon recorded a surplus in its trade balance with neighboring CEMAC countries [Gabon, Congo, Chad, the Central African Republic, and Equatorial Guinea]. According to foreign trade data released by the National Institute of Statistics INS, the surplus was XAF95.7 billion, down by XAF9.5 billion (-9%) year on year.
"This change in foreign trades during 2020 was one of the consequences of the measures like border closures and partial or complete lockdown, taken around the world to curb the coronavirus pandemic," the INS explains.
Over the said period, the drop in trade surplus was notably caused by export earnings which fell by XAF23.2 billion (-14.7%) year on year, we learn. Specifically, those earnings dropped from XAF158.3 billion at the end of 2009 to XAF135.1 billion on December 31, 2020.
Overall, the XAF135.1 billion generated by Cameroon by exporting goods and services to its CEMAC neighbors in 2020 represented just 7.4% of its export revenues during the period. In the CEMAC region, Chad was its leading client by providing 3.8% of its overall export revenues during the period. Next came Gabon (1.2%) and the Central African Republic (1.2%).
During the period, Cameroon’s exports to CEMAC countries "was mostly constituted of soap and detergents (11.7%), iron or steel bars (10.5%), hydraulic cement (5.9%), Soups and broths and preparations (5.8%), etc.," INS experts list, citing customs data.
At the same time, the country’s imports from CEMAC countries fell by 25.9% year-on-year or XAF13.8 billion in value (from XAF53.2 billion in 2019 to XAF39.4 billion in 2020). Its main CEMAC supplier was Gabon, which supplied 0.5% of Cameroon’s overall imports during the period. It was followed by Equatorial Guinea (0.4%) and the Republic of Congo (0.3).
According to the INS, in 2020, Cameroon imported mostly liquefied butane (48.2% of its imports from the CEMAC region) as well as animal and vegetable fats (36.1% of its imports from CEMAC).
The institute nevertheless remains cautious about the trade figures. As it reminds, with the porosity of the borders between CEMAC countries, some trade exchanges could go unnoticed by customs. Also, most of the products Cameroon exported to neighboring countries were food products and since such products are not taxed by importing countries, customs authorities could have failed to record some trades, it believed.
Brice R. Mbodiam