Strategic geographical position in Central Africa and Political stability
With a surface area of 475,442 sq km, Cameroon is situated at the heart of Africa, within the Gulf of Guinea.
Although open to the Atlantic on a 600 km coastline and sharing in the west a long border with the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a country belonging to the group of countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Cameroon is part of the Central African countries and is bounded to the east by 5 (five) countries of this vast economic zone (Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea). It therefore happens to be a privileged strategic crossroads between Central Africa and West Africa.
Such exceptional geographical position is boosted by the cultural proximity with both the Anglophone (Nigeria) and Francophone (Central Africa) communities, which stems from the rather broad knowledge of English and French, its official languages.
Its membership to the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States (CEMAC) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the intra-community trade enable Cameroon to benefit from a market estimated at more than 300,000,000 consumers, if one were to include Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.
The solid and stable political and administrative institutions, together with the will of the State of Cameroon to become an emerging country by 2035, are translated by:
-economic and public finance structural reforms which began in the 1990s;
-institution of a business-friendly and incentive framework;
-human capital development through promotion of worker training and capacity building;
-prioritization of investments in the infrastructures and production sectors;
-creation and use of new sources of growth by constituting competitiveness poles;
-the permanent need to accelerate economic growth in order to improve peoples’ wellbeing and honour international commitments.
A liberal economy and growth prospects
Cameroon’s considerable natural (a variety of climates, reliefs, soils and ecosystems, reason why it is referred to as “Africa in miniature”) and human resources are a powerful sign to potential investors and constitute undeniable assets in the promotion of private investments. Indeed, Cameroon has the following advantages:
-17 million hectares of exploitable forests, which makes Cameroon the second forest massif of Africa. In this space, 9.7 million hectares of land are arable but barely 19.5% are occupied (representing about 1.9 million ha);
-a dynamic and well-trained population estimated at 23.25 million inhabitants in 2017, 75% of which are young people below 25 years of age;
-sustained economic growth, with an annual average growth rate of close to 4% since 2013;
-reforms to improve the business climate and promote private investment;
-a diversified economy.
Stabilization of the business climate, private initiative and investment opportunities
The will to improve the attractiveness of destination Cameroon for investors has led to the following:
-creation of entities devoted to improving the attractiveness of destination Cameroon, including bodies like the Competitiveness Regulation Board, the Cameroon Business Forum, Enterprise Creation Formalities Centres, Foreign Trade One-Stop Shops, etc.;
-organization of international meetings such as the International Economic Conference organized in Yaounde on 17 and 18 May 2016, which provided an opportunity to the Government, local and regional authorities and private businessmen to showcase their projects to funding bodies;
-organization of the Cameroon Investment Forum (CIF) by the Investment Promotion Agency, together with an investment market;
-enhancing good governance and transparency in public finance management though the creation of control and monitoring institutions such as the National Anti-Corruption Commission (CONAC), the Supreme State Audit, the Audit Bench, the National Financial Investigation Agency (ANIF), etc.
Actions to promote private initiative in Cameroon were multiplied since the reforms undertaken by the State, as recalled above, in the 1990s. The potential offered by Cameroon’s economic market and the investment opportunities were highlighted through the liberalization of certain sectors of activities like telecommunications, energy, air and sea transport and public contracts. Such liberalization enabled the emergence of private operators in sectors like mobile telephony, ICTs, electricity production, water distribution, distribution of oil and gas products, etc.
This will to develop a liberal economy was given concrete expression through:
-the setting-up of several decisive instruments such as the Investment Promotion Agency (IPA) established by Decree No. 2005/310 of 1 September 2005, the SME Promotion Agency, the Small-and Medium-Sized Enterprises Bank and the Standards and Regulations Agency (ANOR) which lend decisive support to the deployment and performance of local and foreign enterprises, even though the latter are not considered under the World Bank ranking (Doing Business) or the Davos Forum (The Global Competitiveness Report);
-signing of various legal instruments that provide for specific incentives to investment projects that help to attain Government’s priority goals. These include the Law of 18 April 2013 to lay down private investment incentives in the Republic of Cameroon and its various implementation orders, notably that of 3 July 2014 on the composition of the application file to benefit from the advantages set forth in the Law of 18 April 2013;
-promotion of programmes aimed at enhancing entrepreneurship in general, and particularly among the youth, such as the Programme for the promotion of entrepreneurship among the youth, launched by Cameroon’s SME Promotion Agency (APME) in partnership with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
All these assets and potentials make Cameroon a leading country in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), the driving force for integration in Central Africa and a “good risk” for foreign investors.