(Business in Cameroon) - Minister of Transport Jean Ernest Massena Ngalle Bibehe, on August 16, 2023, granted a renewable one-year authorization allowing the digital platform Yango to operate cab services. There is something puzzling about that authorization, however. The Minister's letter notifying this decision is addressed to Michel Guy France Awana Ateba, CEO of Enangue Holding Sarl. Similarly, the special S10 license is issued in the name of Enangue Holding Sarl while Yango –which is controlled by Russia’s Yandex– is operated by MLU Europe BV.
In fact, explains an internal source, owing to its difficulties in explaining to Cameroonian authorities that Yango is a digital platform that connects users with urban transporters, not a road transport company, MLU Europe BV teamed up with Enangue Holding, a company with a representative office in Cameroon. After Yango suspended operations on February 6, 2023, this company applied for the S10 license. According to the decree of October 10, 2022, implementing the law of July 23, 2001, governing road transport in Cameroon, this license is required to offer passenger cab services operated via digital platforms.
In his letter to the CEO of Enangue Holding Minister Bibehe stressed that the authorization will remain valid only if Enangue Holding remains the local representative of MLU Europe BV.
According to the agreement between MLU Europe BV and Enangue Holding, the latter will manage the cab drivers using the digital platform Yango. It will notably ensure they are compliant with company rules. In its bid to secure the authorization required from the Ministry of Transport, on February 15, 2023, Enangue Holding even signed a partnership agreement with leaders of the urban transport unions. This 5-year renewable agreement officially aims to "upgrade the offer of secure urban cab or chauffeur-driven vehicle (VTC) transport with Yango.”
Based on those developments, on March 15, 2023, Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute approved the issuance of authorization for the Russian platform to operate in Cameroon. In July 2023, the S10 license was issued but the case was still not resolved at the Ministry of Transport.
That's when Russian diplomacy came into play. According to corroborating sources, on the sidelines of the second Russia-Africa summit (July 27-28, 2023), Yandex officials discussed the Yango case with the Cameroonian delegation. On August 16, 2023, the Minister of Transport notified the CEO of Enangue Holding of the authorization and sent the license. Minister Ngalle Bibehe also invited the company "to reach out to the road transport department to sign the binding contract.”
"It was becoming untenable for [Cameroon], which wishes to enhance its cooperation with Russia, to continue to prohibit Yango's activities," comments a source close to the matter. The authorization now secured, the Russian platform is planning a communication campaign for the next few days. According to internal sources, the company also intends to expand its fleet and acquire 300 new vehicles following a lease-purchase scheme. For the platform, Cameroon has great potential.
The regularization of Yango’s activities is a key factor in optimizing government tax revenues. According to Cameroonian authorities, "the ever-increasing dematerialization of economic transactions is leading to hardly quantifiable tax losses." In Côte d'Ivoire Yango, Uber, and Taxi Jet have also been accused of illegally offering road transport services. In that country, these operators are estimated to have officially caused the Ivorian tax authorities to lose around 10 billion CFA in revenues in 2021.
In Cameroon, urban transport unions were seeing Yango as indulging in unfair competition and the transporters affiliated with its platform were “illegal.” In that light, the new authorization restores healthy competition between urban transporters.
Aboudi Ottou et Frédéric Nonos