Yaoundé — Cameroon's minister of commerce, Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana, has described the upcoming meeting of the Inter-Governmental Committee of Experts for Central Africa (ICE2017) as "an excellent initiative," given its focus on promoting industrialization, regional integration and the consumption of products made in Central Africa.
Mr. Atangana was speaking during a meeting with Antonio Pedro, Director of ECA's Sub regional Office for Central Africa, on 12 September 2017 in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
Mr. Pedro told the minister that the choice of theme for ICE2017, "Made in Central Africa: from the vicious to the virtuous circle," was in accordance with a decision by Central African heads of state - during their summit in December 2016 - to stabilize and diversify their economies.
Both men agreed that the sub region's excessive dependence on the exportation of raw materials is not a good recipe for sustainable structural transformation. They discussed progress made by other RECs in promoting intra-Africa trade, noting that "Central Africa has not made much progress in this area" despite the fact that "countries in the region will benefit more from trading with each other than with the external world."
The commerce minister stated that with a population of more than 150 million, Central Africa provides a "big market" that will be tremendously beneficial to all its member states, "especially if we effectively promote free movement of goods."
He cited a "positive example" of Cameroon, which imports palm oil from Gabon for its refineries that produce things like vegetable oils and soap. "We need to do more of this," said Mr. Atangana who then deplored the fact that Cameroon's textile industry does not benefit much from the country's cotton production since, "only about 4% is transformed locally. The rest is exported."
Mr. Atangana said ECA's continental knowledge and expertise in these issues will be of great benefit to Cameroon and the entire Central African sub region.
Against this backdrop, Mr. Pedro urged Central African nations to "carefully and strategically position themselves" vis-à-vis the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). He congratulated Cameroon for ongoing efforts to promote locally produced goods in supermarkets and other strategic areas around the country. "This is in line with our own vision at ECA," he added.
The ECA director reassured the minister of ECA's support, stating, "ECA is available to provide evidence-based analyses on the potential of free trade areas within Africa and also support all other efforts to boost economic diversification and the productive capabilities of countries in the sub region. We look forward to collaborating with you and your ministry in advancing this agenda."
Addressing the media after his meeting with the minister, Mr. Pedro said:
"I was pleased with my meeting with minister. It will be essential in our efforts to promote economic diversification in Central Africa through resource-driven and trade-induced industrialization. So we've found a very good partner in Cameroon."
ICE2017 will take place in Douala from 26 - 29 September 2017. It provides opportunity for experts to reflect on how to break the vicious circle of non-inclusive growth through the constitution of a diversified and competitive industrial fabric in Central Africa, among other things.