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Author Archives: choforche

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.

Any hopes for progress on the European Union’s Economic Partnership Agreements with Cameroon? Chofor Che, 24 April 2016


Opponents of free trade in Cameroon are of the view that the European Union’s Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are against the national interest, and such agreements will only create unemployment. They add that the national economy is not ready for EPAs.

Most states in Asia like Indonesia that were not completely ready for free trade and that were not even at the current level of development of African economies have seen some progress in economic development because of free trade and economic partnerships. If we take India for example, they even opted for a unilateral opening to economic partnerships with states in the West without reciprocity from the other.
What matters in trade openness is not having the same economic advatage as partners, but to improve its gain relative to the initial situation. By design and default, other states especially European states are far more advanced than Cameroon in terms of resources and it makes sense, as long as they respect the rules of fair free trade.

According to an inteview accorded in late 2015 to Louis Paul Motaze the Minister of the Economy and Regional Planning, EPAS will permit Cameroon import at lower prices equipment which so far are too costly to import, the more competitive the country gets. According to Motaze, another advatage of Cameroon adhering to EPAs is that this will help open her markets. Cameroon has goods and services to sell to Europeans and the European Union is offering Cameroon a chance to open its market with no quota imposed. Considering this, the major problem Cameroon now faces is production which might be insufficient despite markets being opened to the country. Free trade will reduce the costs of local exporters and thus enhance their competitiveness. With free trade, Cameroon will have cheaper imports, thus export cheaper, so more market share in the global market.

The American firm Frontier Strategy Group published, during the month of February 2015, its ranking of the resilience of countries to external shocks. According to Frontier Strategy Group, Cameroon occupies the 21st position in Sub Saharan Africa. The country is above all number one in the CEMAC zone (a six member community comprising Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad and Central Africa) in this ranking ahead of Gabon (24th). Some other strengths include vast agricultural land apart from oil production. The country is blessed with vast hectres of forests.

Critics often advance the argument that doing business with partners who have an added advantage over Cameroon will not be beneficial to the Cameroonian economy. This assertion can remain true if only Cameroonian public and private actors called upon to carry out transactions under the EPAs remain dormant rather than become more comeptitive with thier European partners.

Taking advantage of free trade, does not always necessary mean we must have an absolute comparative advantage over other states with whom we are doing business with. The country can make progress as these transactions are being carried out. South Korea had a comparative advantage in rice, but thanks to its openness to free trade has managed to build its comparative advantage in high value technology products. This is a scenario Cameroon has to copy. Cameroon produces cash crops like cocoa and rubber. At the same time Cameroon has raw materials like iron ore, uranium which can give the country added advantage if well exploited and utilised.

Cameroon is the 114th most competitive economy in the world, out of 140 countries assessed by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The country moves up two places compared to last year, but still comes behind Gabon (103rd), first Central African nation in this ranking 2015-2016. However, the WEF emphasizes, that Cameroon is 10 places ahead of Nigeria (124th), the leading economy on the continent. This equally makes Cameroon ready for EPAs with Europe.

There are several ways Cameroon can meet the challenge of competitiveness, not just by possessing a great natural resource base or a large workforce. By investing in human capital, industralisation and innovation, Cameroon can develop comparative economic advantage which will allow the country to sell on the international market at competitive prices. The country can also exploit the economies of scale related to regional integration, for example to bring out competitive companies.

The argument that EPAs will destroy jobs and local industries, is a façade to protect businesses and industries which have always enjoyed healthy profits thanks to state protectionism. And there is no morality to this especially as poor consumers continue to pay to maintain artificial industries in place. The state cannot continue to subsidize businesses and economic operations with taxpayers money whereas there is an opportunity to take advantage of the EPAs.

All the same issues like corruption needs to be addressed for Cameroon to adequately benefit from EPAs with Europe. The American think-tank Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal recently published the 2016 ranking of the economic freedom index in the world, which measures economic freedom in countries since 1995, using criteria such as protection of property rights, the size of the state, budgetary and monetary policy and the fight against corruption. Out of a ranking of 178, Cameroon is positioned 29th in Africa and 130th in the world. When you have too many regulations (lack of economic freedom), companies face additional burdens and costs of transactions, undermining their competitiveness in the end. Corruption too, is a symptom of too much government intervention, so less freedom of choice for households and businesses. Therefore, with corruption, businesses pay bribes, additional expenses instead of investing them. The result is low competitiveness.

In conclusion, for Cameroon to benefit from the EPAs, the government should properly negotiate contracts with the EU. It is also germane for Europe to respect the principle of free trade by stopping subsidies to producers thus encouraging protectionism disguised as non-tariff barriers especially with respect to sanitary and phytosanitary standards, as well as environmental standards.

This article is originally published in the French language at Libreafrique.org

 

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‘It was a direct path to heaven’: How Boko Haram trains abducted women and girls to be suicide bombers — National Post – Top Stories


Sever your enemy’s head from behind, to minimize struggling. “If you cut from the back of the neck, they die faster,” said Rahila Amos, a Nigerian grandmother describing the meticulous instruction she received from Boko Haram to become a suicide bomber. Of all the many horrors of Boko Haram’s rampage across West Africa — the…

via ‘It was a direct path to heaven’: How Boko Haram trains abducted women and girls to be suicide bombers — National Post – Top Stories

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

‘Deportations to begin’: Boston Globe prints fake front page satirizing President Trump — National Post – Top Stories


BOSTON — The editorial board of The Boston Globe is using a satirical front page to express its uneasiness with a potential Donald Trump presidency. The newspaper has printed a satirical front page for its Sunday “Ideas” section. The page is dated April 9, 2017, and features a large photo of Trump below dominant headline that…

via ‘Deportations to begin’: Boston Globe prints fake front page satirizing President Trump — National Post – Top Stories

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Inaugural Liberty school and book fair, 23 April 2016/ séminaire, 23 Avril 2016


The Central African Centre for Libertarian Thought and Action (CACLiTA) will be having its inaugural liberty school and book fair on the 23rd of April 2016 at the Mont Febe Monastery in Bastos, Yaoundé, Cameroon. We will be offering to participants a cd entitled ‘Idées pour une sociéte libre’ (cds offered by Linda Whetstone of the UK based Network for a Free Society)and two books entitled ‘La moralité du capitalisme edited by Tom Palmer’ and ‘Voices from Africa : For a new Century of Liberty, Peace and Prosperity vol 1 edited by George Ayittey and Mike Duru’. This book reproduction and distribution is possible thanks to a grant from the US based Atlas Network. Students and Young professionals interested in free markets and liberty are thus welcomed to send in an entry of not more than 250 words addressing the issue ‘ revamping the doing business atmosphere in Cameroon’. This entry should be submitted to burnley007@hotmail.com no later than 15 of April 2016. Selected parcticpants will be notified on the 17 of April 2016. Spread the word. Shalom

Asanji Burnley Nguh
President/Co founder
Central African Centre for Libertarian Thought and Action (CACLiTA), Yaounde, Cameroon

Le Centre de l’Afrique centrale pour la pensée et l’action libertarienne (avec acronyme CACLiTA) organise un séminaire le 23 Avril 2016 au Monastère Mont Febe à Bastos, Yaoundé, Cameroun. Nous offrirons aux participants un cd intitulé «’Idées pour une sociéte libre »(cds offerts par Linda Whetstone du réseau basée au Royaume-Uni , Network for a Free Society) et deux livres intitulé « La moralité du capitalisme édité par Tom Palmer » et «’Voices from Africa : For a new Century of Liberty, Peace and Prosperity vol 1 édité par George Ayittey et Mike Duru. Cette reproduction et la distribution du livre est possible grâce à une subvention du Réseau américain, Atlas Network. Les étudiants et les jeunes professionnels intéressés par les marchés libres et la liberté sont donc invités à envoyer une entrée de 250 mots portant sur la question «refonte du climat d’affaires au Cameroun». Cette entrée doit être soumise à burnley007@hotmail.com au plus tard le 15 Avril 2016. Les participants sélectionnés seront informés le 17 Avril 2016. Shalom

Asanji Burnley Nguh
Président / Co fondateur
Centre de l’Afrique centrale pour la pensée et l’action libertarienne, Yaounde, Cameroun

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Cameroon’s decentralisation process needs a push, by Chofor Che, February 2016


On 21 December 2015 President Paul Biya, President of the Republic of Cameroon promulgated Law No. 2015/ 019 of 21 December 2015, Finance Act relating to the Republic of Cameroon for the year 2016. The budget stood at 4 234 billion Francs CFA against, 3 746.6 billion Francs CFA in 2015, an increase of 488.1 billion Francs CFA in absolute terms and 13.02% in relative value. There is no gainsaying that local councils contributed a huge amount of this revenue for the year 2016 especially as these councils house a greater part of economic activities in the country such as raw material exploitation. It remains a paradox that despite the role played by local councils in revenue collection in Cameroon, these councils remain poor and underdeveloped. One would have thought that with the inception of the decentralisation process in the 1996 Constitution of Cameroon a majority of councils in the country should have been developed by now. It was in 2010 that the state began the first transfers of competencies and resources to local councils. Councils cannot booast of road infrastructure like farm to market roads, water and electricity. In 2010 the state transfered 10 percent of taxes (TVA, IS) to local councils. The percentage has increased to 25 percent in 2015 but this remains insignificant. Is there a problem with the collection and redistribution of the taxes. Do the central services cooperate adequately with the local councils in tax collection and distribution ? Is there adequate good governance and transparency in the management of taxes collected so as to target local development ? These are some concerns this contribution seeks to address.

In 2010 just 9 ministries transfered funds to councils to the sum of 23 072 363 000 f cfa. In 2012 the number increased to 17 Ministries after a lot of pressure from government. These 17 ministries transfered 23 071 163 000 cfa, which was not significant despite the increase in the number of ministries. This was done under the banner of the ongoing decentralisation process.

In Cameroon, there is inefficiency with respect to the collection and redistribution of centralised state and local taxes. Taxes especially collected at the local level are centralised for subsequent redistribution. The blind centralisation of taxes affects the proper management of public funds as there is no transparency and no accountability. The end result of this is that even local communities with great economic potential like Mbanga and Penja in the Littoral region of the country remain underdeveloped. Likewise local councils like the Santa Council in the North West region of the country with enormous economic potential remain underdeveloped.

Another very disturbing issue is that in Cameroon, local communities do not have the freedom to set their tax rates. This leaves them no room to partake in tax competition that will allow them to fight against the draining of financial resources by the central government.

The management and use of funds generated from local councils in Cameroon remains an issue of concern. Bad governance and lack of transparency in the allocation of budgets remain a serious ill plaguing the underdevelopment of local councils in Cameroon.

Local councils in Cameroon cannot yet boast of well trained personnel capable of designing and executing large projects for the needs of thier local communities. This is the case of local councils in the economic capital of Cameroon, Douala as well as local councils in remote parts of the country like Nkambe. Not many personnel are well trained nor understand the dynamics of council development projects. According to a study commissioned by the state in 2008, 39% of agents do not have adequate training or have a diploma related to thier duties, but posses only drivers licences. 64% of them have qualifications inferior to the BEPC and only 20% of them attain the Bac level ( BAC + 3, + 4, ou + 5). This creates a scenario where even in rich councils like the Douala V Council we still find abandonned projects, poor roads and lack of other social amenities like waste disposal services.

The average allocation to capital investment to municipalities in Cameroon is very low. In 2007 it stood at 14% and in 2008 it dropped to 11% . On the other hand, recurrent expenditure for the same period was average. In 2009, it stood at 40% and 50% in 2010. Thus, a large proportion of expenditure was invested on general public services (administration) and salaries rather than on capital investment, reason why municipal councils in Cameroon suffer from lack of well trained personnel, poor roads, lack of water and electricity.

The territoriality of taxation needs to be respected in Cameroon. This means that a local council should be able to determine how taxes collected therein is to be channelled for development of that council. Value Added Tax for instance collected at local councils need not be transferred in its totality to the central government. There is need for local councils to be able to make sure that the taxes collected are used to finance its operations, and transfers should be made to the central administration if there is a surplus.

There is equally need for local councils in Cameroon to have the freedom to set their tax rates, which will give them room to partake in tax competition that will allow them to fight against the draining of financial resources by the central government. This competition will also introduce fiscal discipline and encourage good public expenditure management. Such motivation will attract more households and businesses to willingly pay taxes to thier respective local councils as such a propelling factor for development at local councils in Cameroon.

This article was originally published in french as ‘Décentralisation malade au Cameroun‘ by LibreAfrique.org

Chofor Che is founding President of the Central African Centre for Libertarian Thought and Action, Cameroon (CACliTA). He is also analyst with LibreAfrique.org, African Liberty.org and Audace Institut Afrique.

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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2015 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 33 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

From champ to wimp : Nigeria’s power in Africa seems in decline, but perhaps we’re missing the big picture, 21 December 2015, Japheth Omojuwa


NIGERIA’S Boko Haram Islamist militants have stepped up suicide attacks as the military intensified its offensive to meet a December-end deadline by President Muhammadu Buhari to end the six-year insurgency.
The deadline is set to expire without Boko Haram being eliminated. One of many acknowledgements that the fight against the militants will be on for a while longer, was the announcement Monday plans to increase the number of its troops backing Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram to more than 300 next year.

In addition, the fact that the once mighty Nigerian military this year often put Boko Haram on the run due to the critical military support by smaller and poorer neighbours, has spurred commentators to argue that Africa’s biggest economy is, at base, a regional power in decline. A champion with its best years behind it.

On the surface, it looks so, but the reality is more complicated.

This year a sitting Nigerian president was beaten at the ballot by a three-time election loser; the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan didn’t cry, throw a tantrum or call in the generals – he conceded defeat generously and congratulated the winner, Muhammadu Buhari.

Moment of democratic deepening
In a continent where the power-clutching antics of leaders are better known than their honourable exits, it was a valuable moment of democratic deepening in the country.

It also spoke to a possible return of Nigeria offering leadership in the continent, on the back of what had been a good run of booming economic growth.

In 2014, after a rebasing exercise, Nigeria knocked off South Africa from its perch as Africa’s biggest economy, and counted its GDP at $521 billion. The same year, however, the giant of Africa was plagued by terrorism and internal strife with Boko Haram insurgency in the north, and had to suffer the embarrassment of being bailed out militarily by the armies of much smaller countries in the region, including Chad and Cameroon.

Historically, Nigeria has always been a useful force for progress and development on the continent. From the country’s role in the liberation movement across the continent, to spearheading peacekeeping missions in West Africa in the 1990s, Nigeria’s foreign policy might has never been in question.

Big African causes
That’s until recently, when it has taken a relatively more subdued tone on the geopolitical stage, a far cry from the days of the feisty Olusegun Obasanjo’s term as civilian president in the early 2000s, when Obasanjo – and Nigeria – were excellent at championing the great African causes of the day.
What is the place of Nigeria in Africa today? How does this once aggressive African superpower fit into the current power dynamics on the continent? Is Nigeria on a retreat ironically at a time when it has just become the continent’s big economic kahuna?

Njoya Tikum, who works with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as regional policy and programme advisor on anti-corruption and economic governance, doesn’t think so.

“Nigeria hasn’t become soft,” said Tikum in an interview with Mail & Guardian Africa. “Not under the current peace and security architecture of Africa. They are becoming shrewd. We used to criticise them as the continent’s bully but Nigeria has now started to use soft politics without annoying its neighbours.

“On the Security Council for instance, the consensus is that Nigeria should take Africa’s place because of its long history in terms of ensuring peace and security in Africa.” Nigeria has only gone back to rework its tools of influence, Tikum said. “Internal exigencies have caught up with Nigeria. Creating opportunities internally will only make the country more powerful. Nigeria is acting like [President Barack] Obama’s America. There is an inward growth perspective, which doesn’t mean they have given up [on external engagements].”

Tikum’s sentiments found some resonance with that of South Africa’s Tessa Dooms who is a National Planning Commissioner and Director with South African think-tank, Youth Lab.
“You can never accuse Nigeria of cowardice. Just because they are not as cut-throat does not mean they have backed off.”

Another version
Nigeria is simply fitting into Africa’s contemporary realities, Dooms argued. “Africa has new issues. Countries used to be mostly dealing with their issues by themselves, now there is a sense of collective responsibility. We now have regional blocs with leaders and Nigeria and South Africa are respectively leaders in their blocs.”

Nigeria may be looking inwards, but this may not necessarily be to the detriment of its continental influence. “There is an opportunity in offering leadership by example. If Nigeria solves its energy and unemployment issues for instance, it then becomes a model on how you get things right. That certainly is another version of political clout,” said Doom.

Still, former president Goodluck Jonathan also deserves some praise, according to Chofor Che, an analyst at LibreAfrique.org and Audace Institut Afrique, and co-founder and chair of the Central African Centre for Libertarian Thought and Action (CACLiTA). “I think that we should give some credit to Jonathan because it is under his regime that Nigeria beat South Africa to become number one economy in Africa. Under Jonathan we saw more investment opportunities created.
“Many thought that Jonathan did not do much to contain the Boko Haram crisis, but I think tackling Boko Haram needs a regional strategy with assistance from the international community. It is difficult for a single state to combat such a menace.”

But Chofor took a different position on the role of Nigeria on the continent. “I do think Nigeria became soft politically under Jonathan, and Buhari with his military background is struggling to reinstate that position.”

For his part, Nigerian blogger, Abubakar Usman believes Nigeria certainly retreated. “Even as Nigeria became Africa’s biggest economy, we saw a kind of retreat because while the growth figures were good, the successes recorded were largely uncoordinated,” he said.
While not believing wealth has fundamentally softened Nigeria’s political power in Africa, he believes it was more a lack of will to use those powers.
“Nigeria’s prosperity has not made it politically soft, we only had a leader in Goodluck Jonathan who lacked the political will to use its riches to better the lives of the people.” Boko Haram indeed sapped the confidence of the nation, said Usman, but with a new government, the confidence is being restored.
Nigeria is still viewed as a force of stability and leadership in the region, “but [ the perception] is not as strong as it was some years back,” he conceded.

Cultural leadership
But there is a form of Nigerian power Africa cannot afford to ignore, said Tikum, quoted earlier. Nigeria is leading the socio-cultural charge and offering entrepreneurial leadership on the continent.
“The first thing that comes to your mind with respect to music and movies on the continent is Nigeria. People tend to forget about these aspects. It is a soft form of leadership but it is a critical one,” said Tikum.

On the contemporary tech battle between Nigeria and Kenya, Tikum believes that Kenya is perceived as doing better because Kenya has had to focus on external markets while Nigeria can afford to focus inwards because it has a huge internal market.

“What goes on in Lagos in a day happens in Kenya in two weeks!” said Tikum.
What has Nigeria been busy with lately on the continent? Along with South Africa, it is involved with keeping peace in the Central African Republic.

The coup plotters in Burkina Faso ignored direction from the presidents of Benin and Senegal despite both countries promising amnesty to the ambitious soldiers. Nigeria, was willing to send troops but used its power of persuasion and got the soldiers to back down.

In South Sudan, the only non-East African contingent of security forces came from Nigeria; and the country is also involved in stabilising Guinea-Bissau. The overall economy of the West African region continues to be fueled by Nigeria.

Much may be said about Nigeria’s current challenge with terrorism and internal strife, Nigeria’s continued influential role in the region and Africa at large remains largely intact. The challenge for policy-makers is to look at it from new perspectives.

This article was originally published at Mail & Guardian Africa

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 
 
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