The eight session of the Cameroon Business Forum held on the 13 of March 2017 at SAWA Hotel, Douala, Cameroon and was chaired by the Prime Minister of Cameroon, Mr. Philemon Yang. The theme of this forum was ‘Boosting economic competitiveness through the facilitation of external trade’ The Prime Minister’s speech highlighted two things. Firstly that the government has taken measures to stimulate economic growth via the creation of more enterprises and more jobs. Secondly, strengthening the rule of law with a new healthy business environment is vital for every business player and entrepreneur. This very important forum was attended by members of government, parliamentarians, representatives of international organisations such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC), business persons from home and abroad as well as a cream of Cameroon’s civil society.
On behalf of the IFC, the Regional Representative for Central Africa congratulated the government of Cameroon for efforts towards establishing a conducive and attractive business environment. She congratulated the government for efforts made so far in modifying and simplifying doing business procedures in the country. All the same she insisted on the need for quick reforms in the domain of private entrepreneurship. Other speakers like the President of the Cameroon Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Crafts emphasised on a couple of issues in other to boost competition in Cameroon’s business environment. Emphasis was made on the need to create trade courts as well as the dematerialisation of public procurement procedures. The opening of an earmarked account to refund VAT credits as well as the opening of electronic payment points were issues also raised. The issue of land reform in a bid to facilitate investor’s access to land mostly in the agro-industry was also highlighted. The computerisation of the trade register was also mentioned.
At the end of the first phase of speeches, participants listened attentively to the progress report by the Permanent Secretary of the Cameroon Business Forum. According to his report, it was revealed that recommendations such as easing access to land, adopted during the 2016 session were implemented at a rate of just 7%. With respect to the Doing Business Report, he highlighted the relative improvement of Cameroon’s ranking and was categorical that the country was going to do better in up coming years as a result of recent reforms put in place by the government.
There is no gainsaying that the government of Cameroon has the good will in improving the doing business environment in the country. The truth is that there are still several factors still hindering this progress despite the holding of numerous sessions of the Cameroon Business Forum. First of all the complexity of the tax system, the ineffectiveness of certain external trade facilitation levers as well as the poor state of the country’s infrastructure remain a handicap. In addition to these problems, corruption still remains a major canker worm eating into the country’s doing business agenda. If these measures are looked into, then there shall be some hope for a better doing business atmosphere in Cameroon.
Njikta Lynda Ngwi is business analyst with CACLiTA.