SMEs : Levers For Competitiveness!

Small and Medium-sized Enterprises form 95 per cent of the country’s economic landscape, but its con

Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in Cameroon (SMEs) constitute the bulk of the country’s enterprises. In fact, Law N° 2010/010 of 13 April 2010 on the promotion of SMEs in Cameroon and other legal and institutional instruments paved the way for the sector with many such enterprises being created. With other accompanying measures for a level playing ground created, the SMEs, according to statistics from the Ministry of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Social Economy and Handicraft (MINPMEESA), constitute 95 per cent of Cameroon’s enterprises. The sectors concerned are; transformation, agriculture and animal husbandry, general commerce, construction and public works and most recently Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Going by the Research and Analysis Centre on the Economic and Social Policies of Cameroon (CAMERCAP-PARC), 61,366 SMEs were created in Cameroon between 2010 and 2016, with 59,200 being local enterprises and 2,166 foreign. 72.24 per cent of the enterprises, according to CAMERCAP-PARC are inexistent on the taxation department database as at May 2016.  According to the 2016 annual statistics of the Ministry of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Social Economy and Handicraft, Cameroon SMEs considered as the main engine for economic growth, contribute only 36 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). «Imagine that SMEs contribute 50 per cent to GDP, we would already be an emerging country. So SMEs have to make an effort so that their contribution to the national economy can attain 50 per cent. The government expects SMEs to improve with all the accompanying structures at their disposal,” Minister Laurent Serge Etoundi Ngoa, stated in one of his interviews with the national bilingual daily newspaper, Cameroon Tribune.  Cameroon SMEs have one fundamental problem, a short life span. A good chunk of the SMEs die naturally while still in the incubator stage. This, experts say, is as a result of poor or absence of market research as well as the good choice of area of specialty (niche). The Research and Analysis Centre on the Economic and Social Policies of Cameroon (CAMERCAP-PARC) in its 2016 study show that 66.43 per cent of SMEs in the transformation sector, 46.84 per cent in Agriculture, 31.64 per cent in general commerce, 28.16 in Associations and training and 25.86 per cent of enterprises in the construction and public works sectors survive the hurdles.  Despite huge potentials available, experts say Cameroon’s SMEs are not very competitive. Their performance is therefore unmatched with their numerical strength. Désiré Makan, an expert in the sector posits that there is a need for a change of entrepreneurship mentality in the country. He points out lack of structuration, professionalism and engagement in networking as well as difficulty in accessing to financing as major hurdles to an efficient performance of the enterprises in Cameroon. The SMEs most often lack technical materials of production and thus unable to meet up with demand and competition with their foreign counterparts especially with the coming of the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union which went into effect last year. The management style of these SMEs, which are considered as family business also leaves much to be desired, coupled with lack of training and professional associations to guide actors. These difficulties including fiscal bottlenecks, lack of qualified staff, technical production materials amongst others which impede performance have also been highlighted in the 2016 Statistical Year Book of the tutelage ministry.

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