Cameroon: Improving Business Climate - Going Beyond Years of Speechifying

President Paul Biya at the Council of Ministers' Meeting of last January, 16, instructed the new government to better welcome and grant appropriate facilities to investors.

If the creation of institutions alone could mean effective change, then potential businesses wishing to install in Cameroon and those already operating therein would have heaved a heavy sigh of relief a long time ago. The cry is in every lip, in the streets, among investors, and even within government circles; the business environment is not appropriate enough to attract investors both local and external. The government which holds the supervisory key has created institutional frameworks, formulated reforms, and organized forums, yet the situation remains mitigated. Like many Cameroonians, this has been the worry of the Head of State, President Paul Biya, as can be discerned from his numerous speeches. The Council of Ministers' Meeting of last January, 16, was yet another occasion for him to revisit this thorny issue of business environment. According to the statement issued by the Minister of State, Secretary General of the Presidency of the Republic, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, the President "urged the government to make the necessary efforts to better welcome investors to our country and grant them the appropriate facilities."

The real issue here is whether or not it is the umpteenth time the President is hammering on this issue but how best to put an end to this reminder. President Biya in his inauguration speech before the people's representatives, qualified this seven-year mandate as that of "Great Opportunities." Stakeholders in the investment sector are expected to consider cleansing the investment environment as one of such great opportunities. The question is surely how possible can this happen after over a decade of trials and failures. As the saying goes, there must be an end to everything that had a beginning. There is only one thing that has no beginning and no end; the Almighty God. The President has opened up the valve for rhetoric to be flushed out. This entails going beyond speech making. One no longer needs to be reminded of the creation of structures such as: the Inter-ministerial Committee Extended to the Private Sector (ICEPS), the Cameroon Business Forum (CBF), the Cameroon Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA) etc. but to understand how far decisions and recommendations taken within the framework these structures will be applied.

In effect, the road to an improved business climate might not be as rough as one would imagine. Some schools of thought think the roughness of the road is being determined by stakeholders themselves. Come to think of it, what can be responsible for the lackadaisical implementation of lofty recommendations like the ones arrived at during the Cameroon Business Forum that took place in Douala in 2017? These, in effect, are institutional measures which could go a long way to do the trick, unfortunately, the whole load of cleansing the investment climate goes beyond that. The Doing Business 2017 report, conducted by the International Finance Corporation and the World Bank, ranked Cameroon 166 out of 190 economies for overall ease of doing business, up 1 place from its 2016 rank. This position remains very disturbing and challenging. The ranking takes into consideration a number of factors including; ease of doing business, starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit and protecting minority investors. All these factors need to be improved upon in order to better attract investment in Cameroon. Corruption must be weeded out because it seems to have fully penetrated the born marrow of activities in almost all sectors in the country. There will be no better way to clean the business environment than sincerely work on these factors.

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