The great economist of blessed memory, Frederic Bastiat, demonstrates that, every time we make a choice, we give something up. In the economic sphere, an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.
Cameroon still falls short, when it comes to making national and economic decisions. These actions give rise to several effects such as unemployment, effects which are not seen in the short run. Despite cries on the need for the participatory role in development policies whereby development initiatives are conceived with the involvement of the local populace, Cameroon still continues to conceive porous policies. Sometimes, the local communities do not make things easy. This accounts for the increasing poverty levels, poor entrepreneurial initiatives, poor social amenities, weak decentralisation policies, corruption as well as porous development initiatives. Such is the case with the recent decision by the Government delegate of the Douala City Council of Cameroon over the choice of the construction of a recreational park over a cement plant.
Complaints from Ngondo cultural officials in Douala, Cameroon have forced the Douala City Council to halt progress on the creation of a cement plant. The demand for cement in Cameroon has been on the rise with an annual increase of eight per cent. Cameroon imported at least 500,000 metric tonnes of cement in 2010, according to government data, which also proves that the yearly demand for cement is estimated at four million metric tonnes. Government has however been making efforts to increase national production from 1.6 million metric tonnes to about 2.2 million metric tonnes annually. But none of such efforts have met the soaring demand, creating an unavoidable need to encourage multinationals to start-up production in the country. Two companies from Korea and the Nigerian multinational, Dangote Group, signed investment agreements with the Cameroon government.
By September 2011, an agreement was signed between government and the Nigerian Dangote Group, authorising the latter to build a FCFA 55-billion cement plant in Douala with a capacity of one million metric tonnes of cement a year. Base Elf, the shorelines of River Wouri, was the chosen site for the construction of the cement plant. But work on the construction site was interrupted, following an order from the Douala City Council (DCC), raising fears that the 18-month timeline may not be met.
DCC Government Delegate, Fritz Ntone Ntone, stopped work on the site to bring dissenting voices together, following complaints from Ngondo officials. He explained that part of the site allocated for the cement plant belongs to DCC and will be used for the construction of an Urban Park. Much of the site, he said, is by tradition land for Ngondo cultural celebrations. During the Ngondo General Assembly of Saturday March 10, 2012, Sawa Chiefs and elite resolved not to give up the place for whatsoever reason.
Some Cameroonians argue that setting up a cement plant close to the city centre would only increase pollution, which government is trying to curb. But staff of Dangote Industries Cameroon Ltd say they are shipping in ultramodern and pollution-free equipment. One of the staff members of Dangote Industries Cameroon Ltd, explained that their machines are environment-friendly.He added that, these machines can be set up even in the heart of the city, and no one would suffer from noise or smoke.
The 2,000-metre piece of land that lies close to the Douala Ports Authority complex and the Ngondo River Wouri banks cultural ground, was contracted from the government via a lease of 30 years, as explained by a company staff. On 13 March 2012, the company’s delegation from Nigeria told Cameroon Tribune in Douala that they were ready to renegotiate in order to continue the venture.
This indeed is a blow to economic development for Cameroon. Such a move especially by the Government delegate of the Douala City Council causes the great economist Frederic Bastiat, to turn in his grave. The Ngondo officials need to rethink their position of refuting to let out the piece of land for the cement plant, because a cement plant will help in employing their sons and daughters, who continue to languish in poverty. Besides the land is on lease and has not been sold to the investors. It is absurd for the government delegate to prefer an urban park to a cement plant, which would definitely employ Cameroonians, as well as foreigners, thereby increasing economic growth. The government of Cameroon needs to convince the Ngondo officials of the importance of such a plant for economic development. This is not to say an urban park is not also germane. There are many sites in the economic capital of Douala where an urban park can be constructed. It is time for government to be serious about economic development.