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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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The future of e commerce in Africa, by Chofor Che


On the 24th of May to the 5th of June 2015, Tunisia will be hosting a conference on the importance of the internet, especially in doing business in Africa. It happens that Africa especially states in the Central African region have not adequately taken advantage of opportunities offered to them by the internet especially in e commerce and doing business online. Why is Africa still lagging behind in the e commerce sector? Is it a problem of inadequacy of legislation governing the sector? Is it a problem of inadequate infrastructure? Is it a problem of the actors involved in the sector?

A report was aired over the TV channel, Africa 24 on the 6th of March 2015 during which the Director of the group named World Wide Worx attested that poor infrastructure remains a disturbing factor contributing to the continent’s lagging behind in the e commerce sector. According to Director General of Jumia, Nigeria, Fatoumatou Bah of Sengal, distribution of internet devices remains low, thus those in need of the services which will make them partake actively in e commerce do not have access to these facilities. According to Fatoumatou, there is just 40 percent penetration access to internet in Kenya. In the whole of Africa the penetration is just 7 percent.

Government bureaucracy has equally led a lot of corruption in the e commerce sector. Most African states do not have adequate constitutional and legislative protection for investors and consumers in the e commerce sector. With such a scenario it is difficult to guarantee investors that their interests will be protected. In this same regard in an eventuality of conflict of interest between investors and consumers in the e commerce sector, there remain inadequate protective and preventive measures for both parties.

African states have not done enough to bring on board private actors into the sector. Apart from states like South Africa that give private actors the importance they deserve as equal investors and partners in e commerce, private actors in other states are considered more as secondary and tertiary actors while big governments remain the primary actors in the sector.

Cyber criminality remains a great cankerworm in the e commerce sector. Scammers keep on developing sophisticated methods to hack into accounts and online transactions. The continent is still to boast of adequate experts who can assist states in curbing the ills of cyber criminality, thus furnishing safety nets for online transactions especially the use of credit cards for effecting payments.

There equally remains the problem of accessing concrete information on the portfolio of online business persons. This puts consumers in a fix especially as transparency remains an issue. With such loop holes, e commerce will remain timid on the continent.

African states need to therefore do more to bring on board private actors into the e commerce sector. There is no gain saying that states in the Central African Region like Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic and Gabon lag behind in encouraging state and private sector partnerships in the e commerce sector. This position is corroborated by the World Bank’s Doing Business Report of 2014. States especially in the Central African region like Cameroon, Chad and Gabon thus need to give more importance to private actors as primary actors and not secondary and tertiary actors as is the case. Additionally, there is equally the need to curb government bureaucracy which would definitely curb corruption in the e commerce sector.

Most African states need to also have adequate legislation with respect to the e commerce sector. State constitutions in Africa as well as legislation need to be clear on protective measures for consumers and investors in the e commerce sector. With such constitutional and legislative protection the interests of both consumers and investors will be guaranteed. Constitutional and legislative protections will also go a long way to solve issues evolving around conflict of interest between investors and consumers in the e commerce sector.

African states need to give more attention to training experts in cyber criminality. Apart from having a pool of experts in cyber criminality it is equally important to train forces of law and order, administrative officers, magistrates and lawyers on cyber criminality. The availability of experts in cyber criminality will go a long way to assist states in curbing the ills of cyber criminality, thus furnishing safety nets for online transactions especially the use of credit cards for effecting payments.

The state needs to equally partner with the private sector to verify online information of both investors and consumers in the e commerce sector. This will go a long way to strengthen transparency in the e commerce sector.

Chofor Che is an integral part of the Africanliberty’s Voice of Liberty initiative. He is also an analyst at LibreAfrique.org and Audace Institute Afrique . This article was originally published at LibreAfrique.org on 27 March 2015. He is also blogs at https://choforche.wordpress.com/

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2015 in Africa Development

 

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Challenges of a creation of an African Court of Justice and Human Rights, by Chofor Che, originally published in French at LibreAfrique.org, 2 March 2015


The African Union (AU) in an early 2015 historical summit with minsters of AU countries reechoed the desire for the creation of an African Court of Justice and Human Rights (African Court of Justice). This was after a lot of contestation with respect to the bias role the International Criminal Court (ICC) has played in judging Africans leaders especially. According to a report by Voice of Nigeria dated February, 03, 2015, during the above mentioned AU summit in Addis Ababa, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, who was one of the first Head of State to sign the Malabo protocol establishing the new African Court of Justice, was of the view that the proposed African Court of Justice was here to stay and announced that Kenya was going to contribute 1 million U.S. dollars for the African Court of Justice to go operational. The creation of the African Court of Justice brings to mind several concerns. Now that Africa is composed of several states with varying judicial practices, what legal system will the African Court of Justice opt for in her judgments? How are the judges for this court going to be selected and will these judges be independent and impartial from the whims and caprices especially of African Head of States? Are all member states going to support the running of this court financially or will the court depend on foreign aid as several regional bodies on the continent?

11 African states including Kenya have already signed the protocol on the creation of the African Court of Justice to look into criminal cases referred to the ICC. This revelation was made known to Voice of Nigeria during an interview in Nairobi by Nigerian Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Amina Mohamed. In actual fact, 14 states are supposed to sign the above mentioned protocol for the African Court of Justice to go operational. Kenya has sworn to lobby more African states to sign this protocol on the creation of the African Court of Justice. According to the above mentioned report by Voice of Nigeria, Kenyan President purports that the establishment of the African Court of Justice will put in place a wider African transitional justice police framework.

There is no gainsaying that the African Court of Justice will have to grapple with the application of justice which flows from several legal systems especially civil law and common law. Africa is composed of states with varying legal systems when it comes to justice especially in adjudicating over crimes against humanity.

Experience has shown that the judiciary in Africa is still not adequately independent. Judges are still appointed by Head of States. Even at the regional level judges especially at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights are endorsed by their Head of States. This in actual fact remains an aberration to the independence and Impartiality of decisions on the continent and obviously with respect to the envisaged African Court of Justice. Some analysts argue that the African Court of Justice may be a medium for the impunity of African Head of States and statesmen. These analysts also argue that because of the inadequate independence and impartiality of judges at the African Court of Justice, African leaders will continue to unconstitutionally modify state Constitutions so as to remain in power.

The continent already boasts of an African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The continent also boasts of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights amongst several regional judicial institutions. There is a tendency that the creation of the African Court of Justice will emanate to the duplicity of tasks with respect to judging crimes against humanity.

African leaders have not been able to adequately finance the AU and her institutions. The AU for instance depends greatly on foreign aid which makes the operation of affairs of this institution dependent on the West. Although Kenya has pledged to finance the African Court of Justice with 1 million US$, this institution will in the long run also depend on foreign assistance just like the AU. Decisions of this judicial body will thus be wanting.
There is equally a tendency for the continent to be isolated in an époque of globalisation. The creation of the African Court of Justice should not be a leeway for the continent not to partake in world affairs especially doing business with the West.

If African Head of States want just a Court of Justice which mirrors domestic courts which are currently mired with inadequate independence and impartiality, then this new judicial institution would just be a way of escaping from international justice and will defeat the purpose of its creation. The African Court of Justice needs to be adequately independent and impartial. This judicial institution needs to be financially independent. This judicial institution needs to also be able to judge African Head of States without fear or favour especially those who continue to unconstitutionally manipulate state constitutions.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2015 in African Union

 

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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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Will the Central African bloc grow by up to 5.5 percent in 2014 as predicted by the International Monetary Fund? By Chofor Che, 7 June 2014


On the 5 of June 2014, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that economic growth in the six-nation Central African CEMAC bloc is set to double to between 5 and 5.5 percent in 2014. According to an article by Reuters dated the 6 of June 2014, this growth is supposed to be pivoted on the back of increased oil production.
The CEMAC zone is composed of Central African Republic, Gabon, Cameroon, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville and Equatorial Guinea. Reuters reports that five of these states produce oil, which accounts for 36 percent of the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 87 percent of total exports. Growth reduced to around 2.5 percent in 2013 because of a substantial drop in oil output. The CEMAC zone’s central bank forecast 2014 GDP growth at 6.7 percent in March.
In an IMF statement at the end of a two-week evaluation mission, the team said “The outlook for the remainder of 2014 points to a pick-up in economic growth. Regional real GDP growth is projected at 5 to 5.5 percent, as oil production will increase. The team added that inflation is expected to remain below 3 percent.

The medium-term outlook seemed solid because of strong growth in non-oil sectors, but a projected decline in oil production was expected to bring overall growth down, observed Reuters. It is sad how states in the CEMAC zone depend on oil production to boast their GDP whereas there are sectors which can fire GDP up if harnessed such as the agricultural sector which remains under-exploited. The IMF confirmed that the deteriorating security situation due to conflict in Central African Republic and attacks by the Boko Haram Islamist group in Nigeria could also cut into growth.

The Central African region especially the CEMAC zone needs to get serious about other sectors of the economy rather than just relying on oil production. This zone has great potential in revamping the agricultural sector but has instead open room for land grabbing. Instead of ensuring that the populace in this zone benefits from vast arable farm land, governments in the CEMAC zone are giving away the land while their people languish in poverty.
Countries in the CEMAC zone still have a long way to go with respect to South-South cooperation. Rather than depending heavily on oil production to attain a 5.5 percent growth, which is not so evident, this zone needs to encourage trade amongst states in the zone and beyond. In recent weeks there have been tensions along the Gabonese and Cameroonian boarders. Both countries have accused each other of illegal poaching and trade which have led to arrests and repatriation of citizens from both states. There is need to encourage free trade among members states of this zone. Tensions amongst member states, such as that between Gabon and Cameroon will instead shrink growth in 2014 instead of boasting it.

Corruption also remains a serious reason why I remain pessimistic about the IMF’s predicted 5.5 percent growth in 2014. A recap on the Doing Business Report of 2013 and 2014 shows that states in the CEMAC zone are tailing the list when it comes to doing business. For instance, according to the AtlasFreeTrade.org initiative, Cameroon’s trade freedom ranks 128 out of 158 states and both the cost of doing business and tariffs remain extremely high. This picture mirrors itself with other states in the zone.

There is indeed high potential for states in the CEMAC zone to attain the 5.5 percent growth as predicted by the IMF. The zone is not only blessed with oil production, but has other sectors which need to be exploited. If the CEMAC zone is really serious about attaining the predicted 5.5 percent growth and more, then it is time for a policy rethink and shift. Government leaders need to also concentrate more in encouraging trade between member states as well as revamping their various agricultural systems. Government leaders need to be serious about true privatization and free trade. There is also need for the corruption canker worm to be curbed. Only such measures may project the CEMAC zone to the 5.5 percent target .

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2014 in Africa Development

 

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More action needed towards true liberalisation of the electricity sector in Cameroon, by Chofor Che, 14 May 2014


Cameroon has been hit by serious power outages for a decade now. The rural areas in the country have suffered most from these serious power outages. The situation is worse even in the capital city Yaoundé. According to the lone public electricity provider, AES Sonel, which has for a long time enjoyed monopoly within the electricity sector, the power outages have been as a result of maintenance operations being conducted on the country’s electrical network. According to Cameroon Report dated 12 May 2015, this is indeed paradoxical for a state which is ranked as the second country in sub Saharan Africa with a great potential in producing hydroelectricity. It is indeed amazing to know that Cameroonian legislation has evolved towards the direction of liberalisation. Cameroon Journal reveals that in 2010, Parliament enacted a law liberalising the electricity supply sector. But since the enactment of the law, the situation has become worse. Does it only suffice to enact laws without any concrete action while a majority of the population and business continue to suffer because of lack of adequate electricity supply?

It is obvious that for over a decade of increasing state control, Cameroon has had an industry that has served vested interests rather than the consumer’s interest. Despite the power shortages, electricity prices in Cameroon before taxes are higher than the average of other states on the continent. Electricity could be around 50 percent more cheaper without government interventions.

State authorities recently revealed that it was high time to get small and medium sizes (SMEs) involved in the electricity sector in Cameroon. According to Cameroon Report, of a population of 23 million inhabitants, only 850 000 are connected to the national electricity grid, thus a coverage of just 6 to 7 per cent of the national territory.

Cameroonians wonder whether the precarious electricity quagmire would one day change for the better especially as the state has been long involved in projects like the Lom Panger dam project and the hydroelectric projects of Memve’ele and Mekin, to no avail. Jean Pierre Kedi, Director General of the Electricity Regulations Agency (l’Agence de régulation du secteur de l’électricité) opines that Cameroon can solve this precarious electricity deficiency if SMEs are indeed involved in the sector. Cameroon Report adds that the Cameroonian government has partnered with the European Union and consultants such as InvestElec to make sure that SMEs get involved in alternative sources of electricity supply especially renewable energy. Workshops were even organised in Yaoundé from the 7 to the 11 of April 2014, to train actors of SMEs interested in getting firsthand knowledge on how to get involved in investment opportunities in the electricity supply sector.

African libertarians like Adedayo Thomas and Oyenuga argue that it is necessary for central governments to devolve decision making in the area of electricity supply to other stakeholders. Liberalisation in the electricity sector will thus bring in more stakeholders and trigger competition for better services.

It is thus a laudable idea to rethink the electricity supply strategy of the state. It is obvious that the European Union and InvestElec are going to pump in a lot of money to alleviate the situation. If there is no strict control of corrupt practices of state agents called upon to supervise the usage of these funds to usher in SMEs into electricity management, then the operation will be a waste of time and poor Cameroonians will continue to remain in darkness. Workshops such as that organised from the 7 to the 11 of April 2014 in Yaoundé will have no impact. There is need for the state to thus liberalise the electricity sector and give the opportunity equally for foreign companies to invest in solar energy and biomass energy especially in the rural areas. Only such measures will better the situation of Cameroonians as well as foreign investors who need electricity to alleviate poverty and move the state towards an emerging economy.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Africa Development

 

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