The plethora of SMEs in Cameroon remains a reflection of the anxiety to participate in building the economy, but the network of hurdles need to be dismantled.
Small and Medium-sized Enterprises [SME] have proven their reliability in most economies as major vector for job and wealth creation and continue to gain credibility in their capital role in poverty alleviation. In Cameroon, activities of SMEs received an added boost in 2010 following the signing of the law on the promotion of SMEs and other legal and institutional instruments paving the way for the creation of many more enterprises.
Going by statistics of the Ministry of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Social Economy and Handicraft, SMEs constitute about 95 per cent of the country's enterprises operating mostly in the areas of: processing, agriculture and livestock, trade, construction and public works, and information and communication technology among others. Even though SMEs are considered the main engine for growth in Cameroon, they barely contribute about 36 per cent to the country's Gross Domestic Product [GDP].
Public and private authorities are quite aware of the major role SME can play in changing the country's economic landscape and have been working to an extent to ensure that the sector is promoted. This is translated by the creation in July, 2015, of the Bank for Small and Mediumsized Enterprises in a bid to assist in financing their activities, the setting up of an office in charge of upgrading the technical capacities of SMEs, creation of an agency to promote SMEs and reforms to improve the business environment. The launching of the Centre for the Development of SMEs by the Groupement Inter-Patronal du Cameroun [GICAM] is expected to valorise the sector and render SMEs more competitive.
The Centre according to GICAM will help in promoting entrepreneurship, developing and following up SMEs, advising the Diaspora, and in general building the capacity of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises. The centre, one must admit, is coming at the time many other similar initiatives have produced unconvincing results. SMEs in Cameroon are into a veritable chequered board of obstacles, some of which include: poor financing, low level of expertise, and too much adventurism.
For this reason, a good chunk of the SMEs die naturally while still in the incubator stage. This, experts say, is equally as a result of poor or absence of market research as well as the good choice of area of specialty. The Douala Centre has an uphill task to partly contribute in dismantling all these obstacles so that SMEs should not only grow in numbers but equally in performance.