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About choforche

Chofor Che is a Cameroonian lawyer and public administrator interested in multi-level governance, federalism and decentralisation. He has a passion for free-markets and human rights and is associate for Africanliberty.org, an Atlas Foundation engineered libertarian project based in Ghana. Currently he is on study leave as a Ford Foundation Doctoral Candidate at the Community Law Centre, Faculty of Law, University of the Western Cape. He also finds time to consult on a pro bono basis for Frank's International Cameroon, an oil drilling subsidiary. He also consults on a pro bono basis for law firms like the Atanga Law Office, Douala, Cameroon.

Tackling the urbanisation quagmire in the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa, by Chofor Che, published in French at LibreAfrique.org, 31 October 2014


The Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (or CEMAC from its name in French: Communauté Économique et Monétaire de l’Afrique Centrale,) is an organization of states of Central Africa established by Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon to promote economic integration among countries that share a common currency, the CFA franc. CEMAC’s objectives are the promotion of trade, the institution of a genuine common market, and greater solidarity among peoples and towards under-privileged countries and regions

There is no gainsaying that CEMAC states face a growing urbanisation problem especially as the United Nations Habitat (UN Habitat) Chief recently predicted that in ten years to come, capital cities like Yaoundé in Cameroon would not be able to contain the growing population. Some states like Cameroon, in partnership with UN Habitat, have even held a national summit like the National Urbanisation Summit, which took place in October 2014 in a bid to redress the growing urbanisation challenges in the state. Does it suffice to keep on holding such summits? Is the affair of tackling growing challenges of urbanisation in the CEMAC region an affair solely for big governments?

Prior to independence most African states including states in the CEMAC region did not have adequate urbanisation plans especially for the capital cities. Most of the towns especially in the CEMAC zone were built without adequate urban planning. In addition to this lacuna most government leaders especially in CEMAC states like Cameroon, Gabon and Chad did not see the necessity to upgrade major cities not to talk about smaller towns. This predicament has started catching up on these states which has triggered the need for brain storming.

In addition to the poor urbanisation planning, the decentralisation process which states like Cameroon, Chad and Gabon embarked on remains timid. Mayors complain on a daily basis of difficulties for them to adequately engage in urbanisation efforts in their various municipalities because the transfer of human and financial resources from central governments remains timid. During the last National Decentralisation Council which took place in Cameroon in September 2014, the Prime Minister, Head of Government re-echoed the need for various government ministers to ensure that human and financial resources are expeditiously transferred to councils all over the country. This position was buttressed upon by the Minister of Urbanisation of Cameroon, Jean Claude Mbwentchou during a programme on the 20 October 2014 broadcast on Cameroon Radio Television Broadcasting Corporation, CRTV.

Indeed the challenges facing urbanisation in the CEMAC region are humongous as expounded above. A start off point in redressing this melee may be to ensure that cities in CEMAC states have an adequate urbanisation plan which will entail redesigning most states in the CEMAC region. Redesigning cities does not mean individual rights should be trampled upon. Most individuals have obtained land and built in conformity with state rules and regulations. It would thus be prudent for states to work hand in glove with concerned populations before destroying property of innocent citizens. States in the CEMAC zone can learn from durable measures in tacking urbanisation challenges like Rabat in Morocco and Durban in South Africa. In Rabat for instance the town has been restructured in such a way that in the next ten years the growing population would be easily accommodated. The state of Morocco in partnership with individuals and business persons has created nearby residential areas very close to Rabat, so as to cater for the growing accommodation dilemma facing Rabat. A tramp system which is eco friendly has also been created in the city to decongest traffic and make inhabitants have quick access to the city.
Accelerating the decentralisation process is also germane in redressing the urbanisation quagmire in the CEMAC zone. There is thus need for central governments in the CEMAC zone to accelerate the transfer of adequate human and financial resources to councils so as to enable the Mayors and their collaborators restructure their communities. For such an endeavour to be successful there is also need for professionalisation of actors engaged in the urbanisation process, be it at the central, regional or local levels. These officials must be trained on state of the art urbanisation processes as well as to manage finances without getting involved in corrupt practices. It may also be important to ensure that lead roles are accorded to women in urbanisation planning in the CEMAC zone.

If such measures are taken into consideration, rather than holding workshops and summits, then tackling the urbanisation quagmire in the CEMAC zone may be sustainably attainable. A lot of tax payers’ money would thus be used judiciously for a durable and sustainable cause.

This article is published in French at http://www.libreafrique.org/ as CEMAC : Sortir du bourbier de l’urbanisation anarchique

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2014 in Africa Development

 

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An argument for national unity and the preservation of diversity against secession for African states, by Chofor Che


There has been a wave of secessionist tendencies in the world and particularly in Africa prior to independence. Some good examples in Africa include the case of Anglophone and Francophone Cameroon which is an ongoing predicament. Another example is the case of Zanzibar and Tanzania which is under scrutiny by the government of Tanzania. Other examples in Europe include the case of the United Kingdom and Spain. Judging from cases like the chaos which has befallen South Sudan after it seceded from Sudan, the question is should Africans continue to clamor for secession or independence rather than find ways to strengthen national unity and diversity? Are there any alternatives to secession which African states should consider?

There is no gainsaying that the issue of secession seems to be en vogue. Recently Great Britain was almost at the brink of secession when Scotland attempted to break away from the union. Had it not been for the verdict of the referendum of the 18 of September 2014 which saw a majority of Scottish voters say ‘No’ to secession, Scotland would have been an independent state.

The issue of secession is also a hot debate in Spain. Section 2 of the 1978 Constitution suggests that the Spanish Constitution is instituted upon the ‘indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible patria of all Spaniards, and guarantees the right to self-determination of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed and the solidarity among them all.’ This has led some scholars to argue that the Spanish Constitution falls short in allowing for national diversity in the case of Spain, because it allows for self determination which to some extent gives room for secession. Presently the Catalonians are using the aspect of self determination as a way to break away from Spain. They claim to be suffering from discrimination when it comes to access to jobs, natural resources and business opportunities. Other authors argue that self determination may not necessary mean secession, but rather a clamor for a more decentralized or federal system of government.

Secession seems to presume that disgruntled groups within a state want to break away, and form their own state. Yet it is not at all clear if secession is the priority of all communities. According to experts like University of the Western Cape (UWC) Associate Professor of Law, Yonatan Fessha, separation may only be a suitable option after investigating on other possibilities and only if there is no possibility of co-existence between different groups in the state. It is therefore agreed that secession should only be considered as the final resort and not the primary option where linguistic and ethnic groups cannot be accommodated in a state.

In the cases of Cameroon and Tanzania respectively major reasons why Anglophone Cameroonians and the people of Zanzibar want to secede is because there is some aura of discrimination which persists against these people in these various states. The distribution of jobs, natural resources, educational opportunities and business opportunities is inequitable.

In the case of Kevin Mgwanga Gunme et al v Cameroon before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission), brought in 2003 by the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC), an Anglophone Cameroon based pressure group fighting for secession on grounds of marginalization, the SCNC argued that the Republic of Cameroon was an extension of French colonisation. They added that Anglophone Cameroonians did not benefit politically and socio-economically from this union. At the 45th Ordinary Session held in Banjul, The Gambia, between 13 and 27 May 2009, the African Commission adopted the decision on the merits of the communication. The claim for secession was rejected by the African Commission especially on mainly procedural grounds that the applicant was not a legally recognised group fighting for the interests of all Anglophone Cameroonians. However, secession remains a real problem in Cameroon despite the verdict of the African Commission, as the SCNC in Cameroon has not accomplished its aim.

An example where secession has turned out to be catastrophic for national unity and diversity is the case of Sudan and Southern Sudan. Ever since Southern Sudan broke away from Sudan there has been turmoil and bloodshed. Property and families have been lost.

A probable alternative for secession may thus be to give more political and socio-economic rights to the disadvantaged group or groups in a state. This must not be at the detriment of individual rights especially as individuals must be allowed to own property, trade and circulate freely.

Authors like Professor Nico Steytler and Professor Jaap de Visser of the Community Law Centre at UWC argue that adequate decentralization to local government may be a great alternative rather than secession. This would warrant giving more financial and administrative autonomy via various national constitutions, to local government especially to disadvantaged groups. Professor Steytler also argues that a federal system of government can go a long way to protect unity and diversity. Adequate decentralization and federalism may thus be alternatives to secession. Such systems of governance allow disadvantaged groups in a state partake equitably in the opportunities found therein, if rightly applied by various central governments.

This article is originally published at LibreAfrique.org as Afrique : Quelle alternative à la sécession des États ?

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2014 in Africa Development

 

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South-South Co-operation especially for African states still to be harnessed, by Chofor Che


The twelve United Nations (UN) Day for South-South Co-operation was celebrated on the 12 of September 2014. The UN created a unit for South-South Cooperation to promote collaboration within its agencies as well as to promote South-South trade and investment. All the same, the idea of South–South cooperation only began to influence the field of development only in the late 1990s.This cooperation is now well known as South America-Africa (ASA) cooperation, mainly because of the geographical spectrum.

South America and Africa posses over one quarter of the world’s energy resources, which include the oil and natural gas reserves in Equatorial Guinea Nigeria, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Algeria, Angola, Libya, Chad and Gabon. This is a major reason why South-South cooperation needs to be harnessed between the two continents as well as between states in the two continents.
Two summits have been organized by the ASA cooperation. In 2006 the first summit took place in Abuja, Nigeria with 12 delegates from South America and 53 delegates from Africa in attendance. In September 2009, the most recent and second summit took place on the Margarita Island in Venezuela, where 12 heads of states from South America and 49 heads of states from Africa attended.

There is no gainsaying that South–South cooperation has to some extent been successful in decreasing dependence on financial aid from developed countries and in creating a shift in the international balance of power. Despite this allusion there is still need to harness South-South cooperation especially in Africa. A good way of harnessing South-South cooperation would therefore be to capitalize on success stories and see how this can be transposed to other developing countries and countries in transition.

One of the major goals of the cooperation is to improve economic ties and foster development. Among several regional trade agreements which were reached during the 2009 summit was South Africa signing an oil agreement with Venezuela. According to Wikipedia, Venezuela equally signed a memorandum of understanding with Sierra Leone to form a joint mining company. Another country in the South which has been very instrumental in South-South cooperation is Brazil. Brazil has been able to develop an increasingly successful model of assistance of over $1 billion annually, way ahead of many traditional donors, which capitalizes on the transfer of knowledge and expertise, rather than solely relying on financial aid. Brazil’s form of South–South development aid has been referred to as a ‘global model in waiting’.

Most recently, the South–South cooperation has acknowledged the importance of a successful and holistic financial policy as a way to better tackle poverty. Because of this holistic approach, financial policy makers from over 100 countries in transition and developing states now form a global knowledge-sharing network known as the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI).

In an op-ed by Business in Cameroon, dated the 12 of September 2014, the Indian High Commissioner, A R Ghanashyam purports that, trade between India and Cameroon is currently estimated at 250 billion FCFA per annum. He revealed this in an interview in the Cameroon government’s daily publication, Cameroon Tribune. He added that although Cameroon is “the country with which trade with India has grown the most in the Central African region over the last few years, this trade relationship’s potential is immense” and still hardly harnessed.

To reverse this trend, the Indian diplomat wishes to bring the Small and Medium Size enterprises (SME) development model implemented in India to Cameroon, which made these structures the backbone of the Indian economy and created a bridge between Indian and Cameroonian SMEs.

Regardless of the continuing interest of many states in Africa and South America, cooperation is still faced with major challenges. Stringent taxation systems still exist in African states which pose as a serious impediment to South-South cooperation.

The Doing Business Reports of 2013 and 2014 expose African states as the worst states to do business in. This indeed is an impediment to South-South cooperation. In addition to this melee remains bad governance and corruption in both African states and South American states. Added to these ills is the precarious conflict situation in states like the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

Areas that some of the leaders intend to see major developments are in the security and political arena. This is to say that cooperation will give the continents more political and financial power when it comes to the global arena. Some leaders hope that the cooperation will offer greater freedom in choosing a political system. The international community and the UN especially should thus continue to support the efforts of the developing countries to expand South-South cooperation. Developing countries and countries in transition need to thus copy success stories from Brazil, Venezuela and South Africa. Issues that need to be addressed for a fluid South-South cooperation are bad governance, corruption, over taxation, peace and security. Only such measures may truly harness South-South cooperation especially amongst African states.

This article is originally written in French and published at LibreAfrique.org as ‘Retard de la coopération sud-sud en Afrique’ http://libreafrique.org/ChoforChe-cooperation-sud-sud-170914 on the 17 of September 2014.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2014 in Africa Development

 

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Aid remains a major problem to the growth and development of the Central African region, By Chofor Che


The Sub Saharan African region (the region) is the largest recipient of aid. Most of this aid goes to states in the Central African region (the sub region) such as Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Despite its position as the greatest recipient of aid, states in the Central African region especially, remain the poorest in the world. The vast resources embedded in the region and in the sub region specifically renders this fact paradoxical. What is really the cause of this very disturbing melee?

The African Economic Outlook opines that the average economic growth rate in the region, rather than picking up, has in fact decelerated from 6.1 percent in 2005 to a projected average of 4.8 percent in 2014. These figures are indeed disturbing as they remain far off the 7 percent growth rate target deemed important for the region and the sub region in particular to meet the targets set by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015.

In an attempt to redress the quagmire of underdevelopment, the region has been the centre of attention for large scale initiatives to redress its economic stagnation via aid increases. The sub region most especially has been part of this drive. Past international endeavors dedicated to poverty alleviation in the region such as the United Nations (UN) $25 billion Special initiative for Africa have not delivered to poverty alleviation in the region. Franklin Cudjoe of IMANI Ghana, Maud Martei and Pilar Rukavina in the 2014 second edition of a publication by Africanliberty.org, sponsored by the US based Atlas Economic Foundation opine that, rather than stimulating development , increased aid has gone hand in hand with increased dependency. According to these authors and other authors like Ayodele T, Noluyshungu T.A and Sunwabe C.K, more than $500 billion in foreign aid was pumped into Africa, with little to show for it. Indeed adversarial trends have been noticed as renewed aid influxes did not correlate with an improvement of economic performance as Gross Domestic Capital (GDP) actually fell. According to 2014 poverty data furnished by the World Bank Group in 1975 there were 140 million Africans living in poverty compared to 204.9 million in 1981, 360 million in 2000 and 413.7 million in 2010.

The evidence furnished in the above paragraphs show that rather than enhancing the region’s position, aid is serving to maintain the status quo by supporting corruption and policy mismanagement. As propounded by Boone P in a 1995 article entitled ‘Politics and the Effectiveness of Foreign Aid’, “aid does not significantly increase investment and growth, nor benefit the poor as measured by improvements in human development indicators, but it does increase the size of government.” This is observable amongst some of the poorest states in the region especially in the Central African sub region. States in the Central African region are all characterized by centralized regimes upheld by corruption and humongous influxes of aid.

The Global Financial Integrity, a Washington D.C. based non-profit organization that traces illicit money estimates that $1 trillion gets stolen from developing states especially in Africa in a typical year. Contrasted against the approximate $134 million that developing states receive, it suggests that foreign aid may simply be a drop in the ocean of a well-oiled corruption industry. In a study conducted in Chad in 2004, it was discovered that of a total sum of money released by the Ministry of Finance destined for rural health clinics, less than $1 of it actually reached the clinics. This is evidence that aid is not reaching its intended benefactors.

Blame for the continued embezzlement of aid money cannot be attributed to African leaders alone. There is clear awareness on the part of donors that such practices are occurring, signaling a disturbing tolerance for their continuation. Patricia Adams of Probe International has asserted that the World Bank was privy to the knowledge that, up to 30 percent of their loans was embezzled by corrupt officials. Despite the World Bank’s firm adoption of a zero –tolerance, good governance stance, corruption remains chronic throughout its projects due to inadequate supervisory procedures.

It is thus time to resist calls for pouring even larger sums of aid into countries in the region and in the Central African Sub region. Foreign aid has not proved to be the solution so far and will continue to elude Africans in particular as the solution to eradicating poverty. What is really needed in Africa is an enabling environment for free market institutions. A good starting point may be to inject the ideas of free markets in African Constitutions which so far have remained devoid of promoting free markets. Such a move must be thus followed by a reform of institutions like the judiciaries and taxation systems which would allow ordinary Africans especially those in the Central African region to take ownership over their own developmental process, thereby reducing the need for foreign financial assistance.

This article is originally written in French and published at LibreAfrique.org. as ‘L’aide : obstacle à la croissance et au développement de l’Afrique centrale’ http://libreafrique.org/ChoforChe-aide-100914 on the 10 September 2014.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2014 in Africa Development

 

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A need for a rapid upgrade of African ports, by Chofor Che


The issue of over congestion at African ports is a serious concern. The World Bank concurs that Sub-Saharan Africa has a serious infrastructure deficit estimated at about $48 billion a year which is hindering the continent’s competitiveness and hence its economic growth. With the exception of Durban, the cargo dwell time (the amount of time cargo spends at ports) averages about 20 days in African ports, compared with 3 to 4 days in most other international ports. None of the past attempts to solve this problem have worked.

In 2013 I was invited by the Cameroon Chamber of Commerce to participate in a special edition of ‘La Chambre’, a journal published by this institution. Amongst the salient issues addressed in this 15th edition of January, February and March 2013, was the dilemma of congestion at the port of Douala. I argued in my piece that a major reason for such delays is that certain public and private actors in the system benefit from such delays. Importers use the ports to store their goods. Customs brokers have little incentive to move the goods because they can pass on the costs of delay to the importers. And when the domestic market is a monopoly, the downstream producer has an incentive to keep the cargo dwell times long as a way of deterring entry of other producers. Another hurdle I identified was that at the Douala port for instance, fiscal pressure seems to play a role in cargo dwell time. The correlation tends to be positive: higher fiscal pressure leads to higher dwell time, with a noticeable exception of duty free items that have a relatively long average dwell time despite the absence of duties. This could be linked to bargaining time between the customs broker and customs agent, a misclassification, a duty free line, or simply the time to furnish additional documents. The net result is inordinately long dwell times, ineffective interventions, and globally uncompetitive industries in African countries. It seems the arguments I advanced in my article fell on deaf ears because as I write this piece, the problem of congestion at the port of Douala as well as several other ports on the continent has become chronic.

In an op-ed by a Kenyan link, Daily Nation, dated the 26 August 2014, Mr. Danson Mungatana, Kenya Ports Authority chairman calls on African countries to expand their ports. In this op-ed according to Mr. Mungatana, it is important for African countries to expand their ports so that they can benefit from the global maritime trade, which is increasingly turning to larger ships. He added that bigger berths are needed to handle the bigger ships being built. He equally calls for the utilization of up to date technology and equipment to benefit from the increased maritime trade. According to Mr. Mungatana “The steady increase in ship sizes, coupled with growing cargo volumes, has put pressure on cargo infrastructure and terminal capacities the world over, in particular for African ports, which have capacity constraints and poor transport infrastructure.”

Indeed the issue of congestion at ports in Africa stifles economic development. African states need to rethink their strategy on managing ports on the continent. The solution to decrease dwell time in these ports relies mainly on the challenging task of breaking the monopoly by state actors as well as some private actors. There is need for collaboration and understanding between public authorities, logistics operators, and some shippers rather than just investing massively in infrastructure which of course is important. Addressing the challenge will also necessitate that there be support from the general public for reforms that will promote their interests. Before they offer their support, the public needs to be informed of the stakes and challenges especially as they are the most affected by this congestion. If such measures are taken into consideration by African states, then we may find a solution to the alarming scenario of congestion at our ports.

This article is originally written in French and published at LibreAfrique.org. as ‘Urgente nécessité de mise à niveau des ports africains’http://libreafrique.org/ChoforChe-port-010914 on the 1 September 2014.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2014 in Africa Development

 

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ADB’s Africa Information Highway Initiative And The Data Centre Market In The Central African Region – Chofor Che, Published by Africanliberty.org on the 25 August 2014


In February 2014, the Africa Information Highway (AIH) was launched by the African Development Bank (ADB). According to a top executive at the ADB, Ivo Njosa, in an op-ed by SciDev.Net, published in early August 2014, a major reason for such an initiative is that development data from the African continent and the Central African region most especially remains porous. Policymakers, governments, international organizations, private-sector organizations, research institutions, and even ordinary African citizens find it difficult to get viable data on development issues on the continent and especially on the Central African region.

The AIH initiative is composed of two types of portals for each participating state, namely an open data portal and a statistical data portal. According to SciDev.Net, open data and new statistical initiatives are being created to correct long overdue barriers to viable development data access across the African continent. These initiatives promise to improve services and increase transparency and furnish better services.

SciDev.Netopines that since the AIH initiative was launched, it has seen an increase in its users, both from the Diaspora and within the African continent. SciDev.Net adds that the most current published report exemplifies Mozambique’s statistical data portal as the most visited.

Amparo Ballivian, a lead economist at the World Bank purports that open data on states in the developing world can be utilized “to improve the efficiency and coverage of public services in a variety of development sectors such as education, health, transport, energy”. According to Ballivian, such initiatives can assist in the creation of job opportunities, improve transparency and generate new businesses both in the public and the private sector. Ballivian informed SciDev.Net that the purpose of the Partnership for Open Data idea is to put in place an extensive partnership of institutions so that they can work together to have better data and not discredit data provided by these institutions.

Lead consultant at the ADB, Ivo Njosa concurs that the AIH will thus furnish a more fluid medium whereby data can easily be shared. According to this ADB top executive, “Open data portals contain data from national and other sources [such as the WHO, the World Bank, or the UN] and allow users to create and share content directly on the open data [portal] or through social networks.”

This is indeed a laudable initiative by the ADB and there is thus need for collaboration with other existing initiatives on the continent. Franklin N. Nnebe, Managing Director of Nnebe Business Services Ltdattests that data centers in Africa are becoming very important for development. South Africa is host of the most sophisticated data center market in Africa. North Africa comes second to South Africa in the Data center market. Kenya comes first in the data center market in the East African region which ranks third on the continent. West Africa comes fourth with Nigeria being the guru in this sub region with respect to data centers. The Central African region tails the list.

Some of the reasons why the central African region comes last in data center creation are partly because of poor institutional and instrumental measures in place. According to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation Report of 2013 this region is ranked the last with respect to infrastructural development and good governance. It is thus vital for the Central African region to embrace free market ideologies that would enable the growth of more viable data collection centers for better development and peace in the region. There is thus need for a revisit of internal factors like governance and infrastructural development in the region. There is equally a need for a vibrant private sector which can take up the challenge in setting up viable data collection centers in the sub region. Such measures may make the Central African region a top hub for data collection centers in the future.

- See more at: http://africanliberty.org/content/adb%E2%80%99s-africa-information-highway-initiative-and-data-centre-market-central-african-region-ch#sthash.kX8ryGek.dpuf

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Africa Development

 

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The Economic Partnership Agreements and the Central African Region: Challenges and Prospects – Chofor Che, Published by Africanliberty.org, 12 August 2014


Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs)are special agreements to put in place a free trade area(FTA) between the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP)and the European Union(EU). According to Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, EPAS are an answer to ongoing criticism that the discriminating and non-reciprocal preferential trade agreementspresented to Africa especially by the EU are not in line with rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The EPAs are a major component of the Cotonou Agreement, the most current in the history of ACP-EU Development Cooperationand were supposed to go operational in 2008.

The Central African Region is one region of interest to the EU. The EU is presently in negotiations for an EPA withCameroon. Cameroon and the EU agreed on an interim Economic Partnership Agreementin 2007. According to a report in Jeune Afrique dated the 11 of July 2014, this agreement was adopted by the European Parliament in June 2013 and ratified by Cameroon in July 2014. According to the European Commission this agreement is supposed to furnish duty-free, quota-free EU access for all goods from Cameroon to Europe. This agreement is supposed to also gradually eradicate duties and quotas over 15 years on 80% of EU exports to Cameroon. Apart from trade in goods, the interim agreement also focuses on institutional issues, dispute settlement and aid for trade. The European Commission adds that the EPA also includes “rendezvous” clauses giving room for additional negotiations on other trade-related matters such as intellectual property and competition policy.

Cameroon is not the only country in the Central African region the EU is interested in. The EU is equally interested in establishing EPAS with Chad, the Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Gabon. Congo (Brazzaville) and Gabon are yet to sign EPAs with the EU. According to the World Bank, Congo does business with the EU under the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences, as an upper-middle income state. Gabon is no longer qualified for the new Generalised Scheme of Preferences scheme as of 1 January 2014.

The European Commission adds that as Least-Developed Countries, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and São Tomé all benefit from duty-free, quota-free EU access under the EU’s “Everything but Arms” scheme.

There is no gainsaying that regional integration remains a great hurdle for the economies in the Central African region. Compared to other regional groupings like the Economic Community of West African States, the Southern African Development Community, the East African Community, the Caribbean Community + Dominican Republic (CARIFORUM)and the Pacificregion, the Economic Community for Central African States (ECCAS) remains the weakest. Part of the reason for this melee is because of poor governance, the non encouragement of interstate trade within the region and porous economic policies such as double taxation.

The European Commission concurs that imports from the EU into the Central African region are dominated by vehicles, pharmaceutical products, machinery, equipment, mechanical appliances, foodstuffs. Still according to the European Commission, oil dominates (70%) of exports to the EU from the Central African states. The only state in the region that does not export oil to the EU is the Central African Republic. Other major exports from Central African states are wood, copper, bananas, diamonds and cocoa.

The ongoing negotiations for comprehensive EPAS between Central Africa and the EU are laudable, but there remain serious challenges especially at the level of individual states. In the aforementioned report by Jeune Afrique dated the 11 of July 2014, Protais Ayangma Amang, a Cameroonian activist argues that there is no fiscal compensation envisaged in the eventuality of financial losses on the part of the Cameroonian government. The government of Cameroon estimates a loss of about 1500 billion Frs. CFA (2, 3 billion Euros) in 2020 and around 2500 billion CFA Frs. (3, 8 billion Euros) by 2030. This will be a great destabilizing factor for markets within the national territory.

It is thus clear that there is need for fair trade negotiations to be arrived at by the EU and Central African states. In as much as Central African states demand for fair trade conditions, it is also germane for issues like corruption and heavy taxes to be revisited in the region. Central African states thus need to reform their governance systems so as to better benefit from EPA agreements.
– See more at: http://www.africanliberty.org/content/economic-partnership-agreements-and-central-african-region-challenges-and-prospects-chofor-c#sthash.pSagHItM.dpuf

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2014 in Africa Development

 

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