Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé)

17 July 2014

Cameroon: Bold Step, but Be Cautious

Parliament has declared its monosyllabic "yes" on the bill to authorise the President of the Republic to ratify the Interim Agreement with a view to an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European community and its member states on the one part and the Central African part on the other.

This particular bill raised a lot of controversy among law makers and other Cameroonians. Two major questions came to mind immediately the bill was tabled; the country is going in for an agreement that will put its competitiveness ability on a scale with nations considered far advanced in production both quantitatively and qualitatively. Secondly, EPA entails readjusting to the exigencies of international competition.

The decision to sign a pre- Economic Partnership Agreement five years ago with the European Union with the view of building up a complete agreement to liberalise 80 percent of importation from the E.U seems to have been taken in cognisance of the challenges that await the new dispensation. At this point in time, what is important is no longer to pose questions but seek possible solutions to the nefarious consequences that may befall the new situation.

From every indication, the major things to readjust is to readapt the economic structures that will enable the country improve the quality and quantity of its products. This is the real challenge and an expensive one for that matter. The good thing is that European nations themselves are aware of the inequality between them and Cameroon economic structures notably production industries.

The issue now is what it takes to readapt the economic machine to coup with the invading market from Europe. The government does not seem to be indifferent to this and that explains why the Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development has been working to ensure that the country does not enter into the deal ill prepared.

Already, an adaption plan has been discussed and needs to be financed. Authorities are talking of FCFA 2,500 billion and Cameroon is expected to provide 80 per cent of the finances, the rest coming from its partners. If this money were to be mobilised, three important things will need to be done to raise the country's level of competitiveness.

These include; capacity building for and improving of company performance level, building of production capacity and development of production standards and norms. In addition to these, the country needs to readjust its fiscal and institutional setup in order to march the exigencies of the EPA.

By ratifying the agreement, Cameroon would have escaped the trap of seeing its products lose preferential access to the European market as adopted in May 2013 by the European Parliament and Council. The country is therefore choosing between losing the market and facing competition with the European market. It's a matter of choice which has been made. The future will tell whether or not it was a good or bad choice.

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