President Paul Biya’s country is undoubtedly the epicentre of the sub-region as it shares borders with all CEMAC member countries. Her geo-strategic location, coupled with adaptable government policies to improve on the business climate of the country places Cameroon as the hub of economic activities in the Economic Community of Central African States (CEMAC).
Cameroon’s economic resilience in the face of a severe economic down-turn in the sub-region caused by the drop in oil and raw material prices, further compounded by security challenges in some parts of the country as well as its consequent upsurge in refugee and internally displaced people fleeing the violence. Cameroon remains the largest economy in the sub-region thanks to measures that have been taken by the President of the Republic. Several reasons explains Cameroon’s resilience such as diversification of the economy (not dependent of oil revenue alone) and promotion of the private sector through incentives like reduction of procedures to create an enterprises to just 72 hours in ‘One stop shop,’ creation of Small and Medium-sized Bank to fund business projects, organisation of consultation forums (Cameroon Business Forum) to exchange experiences on how to improve the business climate amongst others.
Cameroon is also a transit to some landlocked countries of the sub-region notably Chad and the Central African Republic. Thus, President Paul Biya has created infrastructure like trans-border roads linking Cameroon and all her neighbours to facilitate transit of goods and persons. The construction of the Kribi Deep Seaport is another milestone achievement for President Biya as it is the largest (container capacity in the sub-region) to handle goods from across the world destined for the sub-region. The port which comes to decongest the existing Douala Seaport, is a hub for trade in the Central African Sub-region.
According to a Senior Economist at the Standard Chartered Bank Global Research, Victor Lopes, Cameroon is the leader in the sub-region. Its nominal GDP in the CEMAC stands at 31.41 per cent, followed by Gabon with 14.19 per cent. Equatorial Guinea and Chad are on 10.14 and 10.13 per cents respectively while CAR is on 2.3 per cent. The challenges in CEMAC are not however specific but general in Africa. Though growth has remained weak, it is however stabilising with the Extended Credit Facility agreement signed by some five countries of the CEMAC with the International Monetary Fund, IMF.
Cameroon, it should be noted played the leading role with President Biya using his foresightedness to convene an extra-ordinary meeting of CEMAC Heads of State in December 2016 with IMF Director General to address the situation. The result of which is today the three-year Extended Credit Facility Agreement. Cameroon’s leading role in the CEMAC, helped the sub-region to stabilise its reserves especially with the IMF ECF and the gradual increase of oil prices. Victor Lopes stated that CEMAC is surviving because of Cameroon judging from its huge nominal GDP in the sub-region.