The 'Douala Consensus' for an Economically Viable Central Africa Begins Bearing Fruits

26 February 2018

The Douala Consensus, a clarion call made in September 2017 for the rapid diversification and industrialization of economies of countries across Central Africa, by ECA experts and over a hundred high-level planners and other stakeholders of the sub-region, is producing spinoffs.

Attendees of the Douala-held 33rd session of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE), the body charged with the oversight of ECA's contribution to sustainable development efforts in Central Africa, who prepared the Consensus, would be grinning with delight at the fact that member States are beginning to take action in connection with the call. This follows a recent exchange between the Cameroon Government and representatives of the country's private sector on 'diversification of the economy and local transformation of products,' in Douala - the very same city that produced the call only 5 months ago.

"It is with great excitement that we of ECA have followed the deliberations between Cameroon's Minister of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development (MINEPAT) and a cross-section of businesses in the country, almost in compete synchrony with the language of the Douala Consensus and a recent brainstorming session on the Operationalization of the Consensus, in which Minister Louis Paul Motaze's most senior collaborators played a pivotal role," said Mr Antonio Pedro who heads ECA's Sub-regional Office for Central Africa, located in Yaounde.

The Douala Consensus principally called for Governments and the private sector to speed up the diversification, especially through industrialization, of the economies of Central Africa that have suffered debilitating external shocks due to the fall of commodity prices on the world market. The Consensus noted the importance of prioritizing industrial policy in national development visions and strategies, while ensuring consistency with the rest of macroeconomic and sectorial policies, notably trade and urbanization policies, and called on Governments 'to organize regular high-level regional meetings between member States and private sector players.'

"These messages are in line with the steps that ECA member States in Central Africa, especially the Cameroon Government, are taking to diversify their economies and accelerate the pace of industrialisation in the sub-region. We are witnessing encouraging results already", Mr Pedro indicated.

"In fact, during the brainstorming session on Pathways to economic diversification in Central Africa, which we organized recently in Yaounde, notably on the operationalizing of the Douala Consensus, there was a general consensus that the countries of the sub-region need to rapidly progress with horizontal and vertical diversification of their economies and adjust their policies accordingly" added Mr Pedro.

The horizontal diversification of economies of Central Africa implies the multiplication of areas of economic production, for instance - away from only oil and mineral exploitation (as is the case of some countries), to other areas such as modern agribusiness and the knowledge economy. Meanwhile, the vertical diversification of the economies of Central Africa would entail enhancing productive capabilities within a given sector and developing the full value chain of the sector to the extent that a timber-producing nation such as Gabon does not only focus on the 'first transformation' of logs (sawing and planning), but moves sequentially into the 'second transformation' (the production of high-quality plywood) and into the 'third transformation' (the production of quality doors, furniture and flooring pieces etc.) - to generate more employment, reduce the exposure to commodity price fluctuations, explore better terms of trade and generate more revenue for such an economy.

"Cameroon has embraced the "Made in Central Africa" agenda which is at the core of the Douala Consensus. As such, we welcome the recent launch by Prime Minister Philemon Yang, of a local biochemical and pharmaceutical plant which will produce a billion units of medication per year locally in Douala. We look forward to more such examples across Central Africa to boost intra-regional trade and enhance the resilience of local economies. The adoption of the CFTA will make this route more obvious", the Director of ECA's Central Africa Office went on.

He concluded that "these events sound like music in our ears and we are more resolute than ever before, to follow up on the practical pathways to diversification in Central Africa which we recently agreed would require mobilizing political leadership for action, strengthening cognitive abilities and human capital, expanding the infrastructure stock, improving the business climate, fostering private sector development as well innovating financing and partnership building for development."

ECA will therefore continue working in earnest with its partners to further operationalize the Douala Consensus.

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