Towards Cameroon's Final Sprint Into Africa's Free Trade Area

5 November 2019

Cameroon's comprehensive plan for tapping into a 1.2 billion people Africa-wide market and a more than US$2.5 trillion continental GDP, in the advent of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), will come under review from 11 to 15 November in back-to-back sessions in Douala and Yaounde.

After months piecing together a draft national AfCFTA strategy, authorities of the country's Economy and Trade Ministries, officials of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), a diverse group of policy makers and experts would scrutinize the draft document and consolidate it for its effective implementation.

While a consultation with the private sector in Cameroon's main business hub - Douala - will be held on 11 November, a calibrated review of the draft strategy by Government officials; industrial employers' associations; the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Crafts; consumer and women's associations; international trade specialists and academics, will take place in Yaounde from 14 to 15 November.

The strategy has been developed on the argument that it is important to adopt a coherent and proactive approach and possess an operational plan that would help dismantle all non-tariff barriers to trade and optimize Cameroon's benefits from the continental free trade zone.

It is also a question of identifying the risks that could arise from being embedded in the common market in readiness for eventually applying appropriate mitigation measures.

Developing a national AfCFTA implementation strategy is also part of the growing movement to render the Cameroonian economy more productive, competitive and apt to diversify horizontally and vertically resulting in its greater resilience and expansion.

The plan heralds a new dawn for the systematic processing of local commodities, but also for proud local and regional consumption.

It is beheld as a break from the vicious circle of economic booms and bursts that have characterized the country and it neighbors as a result of their heavy dependence on the export of raw materials and low-end agricultural products, towards a virtuous circle of inclusive, job-producing and sustainable growth.

Following Cameroon's signing of the AfCFTA agreement on 21 March 2018 in Kigali and the adoption of a parliamentary bill authorizing its Head of State to ratify it in June 2019, it has become clear that the country is in pole position to seize the moment and contribute to the emergence of credible regional value chains as well as support intra-Central African trade in intermediate, consumer and capital manufactured goods as well as high value services, as constantly advised by ECA.

During her first official visit to Cameroon last April, ECA's Executive Secretary, Ms. Vera Songwe noted that "the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement is the tool that will help Africa weather the storm of a global environment that is less certain than it was before."

"With the AfCFTA, markets open up, demand for goods and services from other parts of the continent increase, and you have an opportunity to improve on supply" to get income that would help power the double-digit growth crucial for Cameroon to attain emergence, she had argued in a high-level exchange at the International Relations Institute of Cameroon (IRIC).

Cameroon and other African countries party to the AfCFTA Agreement are committing to eliminate tariffs on 90% of the goods they produce destined for other African markets. In this context, intra-African trade is likely to increase by 52.3% by 2040 and attract to Cameroon, a large flow of investments and opportunities, especially for certain products, which the draft strategy has already identified as possible high-income getter across the various African sub regions.

These include: aluminum products, food and agro processed products, vegetable oils, rubber and rubber products, glass and glasswork, electrical equipment, household products, metal products, petroleum products, wood and woodwork, beauty products, chemical products, cocoa butter and paste, horticulture produce, livestock and meat, by-products of slaughter, cotton, textiles and clothing as well as information and communication technologies.

A carefully threaded strategy to make the most of this exciting but complex opportunity is therefore in order, but consulting and refining such a strategy with those would drive business and its interlocking policies, is indispensable.

Media Contacts

Abel Akara Ticha - Communication Officer

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

637, rue 3.069, Quartier du Lac, Yaounde, Cameroon

Tel: +237 222504348

E-mail: akara@un.org

Senait Afework, Associate Communication/Programme Management Officer

African Trade Policy Centre (RITD)

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Tel: +251 115 44 39 29/+251 911 52 32 65

Email: safework@uneca.org

AllAfrica publishes around 700 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.