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Cameroon: Camrail claims CFAF288bln invested in rail infrastructure since 1999

Cameroon: Camrail claims CFAF288bln invested in rail infrastructure since 1999
  • Comments   -   Monday, 21 August 2023 15:48

(Business in Cameroon) - Railway transport company Camrail has invested over CFAF700 billion in Cameroon since 1999, per company figures. The company made the estimate in a release published, last August 19, following a visit, by a delegation of the national assembly’s trade and production commission, to its facilities. In those 24 years, CFAF288 billion was invested in rail infrastructure, the release stressed. 

"Camrail paid CFAF240 billion in fixed and variable fees, taxes, and duties to the government.  The concessionaire also invested more than CFAF288 billion in infrastructure and equipment maintenance. This corresponds to an average annual investment of CFAF12 billion and an average of CFAF10 billion contributed to the State budget annually. Nearly 200 billion FCFA were spent on supplies and services from local Cameroonian suppliers and subcontractors," the railway company details in an internal document revealing that it paid dividends only once in 24 years since it chose to “reinvest [the profits] in production facilities.”  

The company says it renewed more than 330 kilometers of track (Ka'a-Belabo between 2002 and 2007, Batchenga-Ka'a and the entrances and exits to Douala and Yaoundé between 2014 and 2020), and renovated 224 km of track and 1,800 hydraulic structures (CFAF2.5 billion invested for those works). 

 "In addition, 68 metal bridges were renovated from 2017 to 2021 (CFAF4.1 billion invested). Every year, Camrail maintains its entire network by adding around 16,000 linear meters of rail track and 53,000 rail crossings,” official sources reveal.  Camrail has ensured the maintenance of its entire network with an annual injection of around 16,000 ml of rail, and 53,000 sleepers," we officially learn.  

The national assembly commission’s visit to Camrail comes after the enactment of a new law governing the rail sector in Cameroon. According to MP Guillaume Mbakam Chouga, chairman of the said commission, the visit aims to assess Camrail’s strengths and weaknesses  to ensure a continually fruitful partnership between Cameroon and the rail company with the new law becoming enforceable. 

Eseka rail disaster  

A notable point in the new law is the creation of a public company dedicated to the management and development of the country’s rail infrastructure, an activity hitherto carried out by Camrail. The text also provides for the creation of a railway regulatory authority.

According to Cameroonian authorities, the new law, which replaces that of 1974, "initiates the modernization of the [railway] sector by reconfiguring the institutional landscape, redefining the role of each player and establishing a system for control, regulation, and sanction.”

Authorities explain that the reforms impelled by the new law stem from the recommendations of the audit carried out after the Eseka rail accident (October 2016), which claimed almost 80 lives. Clearly, through the new normative framework, we learn, the government intends to provide solutions to the shortcomings and weaknesses currently observed in the railway sector in Cameroon.  

In the bill finally approved by the deputies, the government listed "the continuing deterioration of infrastructure, the drastic fall in passenger numbers from 1.4 million in 2010 to 600,000 in 2021, and the decline in the volume of goods transported, estimated at 1.6 million in 2021 compared with 1.9 million in 2010, the closure of the Mbanga-Kumba and Ngoumou-Mbalmayo routes, the lack of investment and the deterioration in service quality, the weakness of the State's control and sanction instruments in this sector, which is becoming less competitive by the day." Camrail, which disputes this picture, took advantage of the MPs' visit to present its achievements since it got the concession over the rail network in Cameroon (the concession will run until 2034). 

Brice R. Mbodiam  

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