15 November 2012

Cameroon: Making a Difference

Another ambitious programme is up and anxiety is building up in actors in the Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs).

Pilot Support Project for the Modernization of Production Tools with Leasing, simply referred to as "Leasing", is the name given to the programme. Coordinated by the Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development in collaboration with ministries that harness activities of SMEs, the programme sets out to enhance the competitiveness of SMEs and contribute to the reduction of youth employment and underemployment. It has taken a leasing-based approach in a bit to reduce constraints of acquiring equipment for SMEs and ensure guarantee for their loan facilities.

The Minister of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi who presided at the official launching of the pilot phase yesterday assured SMEs government was disbursing FCFA five billion from its Public Investment Budget to boost their activities. The programme in effect, consists in injecting the said amount in some select financial institutions with which government signed an agreement yesterday which will in turn give out the money to SMEs as loans without asking for collateral security.

Considering the importance of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises in boosting employment and building capital, this scheme is to say the least quite timely. In effect, of the 96,000 enterprises and other groupings operating in Cameroon, 90 per cent are SMEs. Unfortunately, their contribution to the Gross National Product (GDP) remains staggering at 34 per cent as a result of financial handicap. The Pilot Support Project for the Modernization of Production Tools with Leasing is therefore a welcome initiative for a country that targets emergence by 2035.

Like any other project or programme in the past, this one rekindles lots of hope but the devil that hunted sister programmes in the past remains in the minds of many Cameroonians. Funds disbursed to some groups or individuals were either poorly managed because of lack of follow up or were never paid back to the State. Perhaps the new programme makes a difference in that the money will not be given directly to the beneficiaries. The idea of passing through banking houses is to ensure that the banks use their experiences in recovering the loans and save government from trouble. As to how many SMEs will benefit from the scheme is another issue.

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