Intra African Trade : Urgent Need For Cameroon’s Reposition

Just like most African countries, Cameroon do little trade transactions within the continent compare

Intra-African trade is still stubbornly low among African countries with Cameroon being no exception. The cost of doing business in Africa, characterized by lengthy port handling, poor inland transport, cumbersome border procedures, numerous road blocks and many non-tariff barriers, is extremely high compared to other regions of the world. According to statistics contained in the African Economic Outlook 2017 (a flagship report published by the African Development Bank), trade among African countries only slightly expanded from 10 per cent in the year 2000 to about 14 per cent in 2014. Even the creation of Regional Economic Communities (RECs) has not helped matters. In the Economic Community for Central African States (CEMAC), where Cameroon is the powerhouse, trade between Cameroon and other member States accounts for just about 6.4 per cent in exportation and 2.3 per cent in importation, according to 2015 statistics of the Regional Economic Service of the French Embassy in Cameroon. Thus, the just ended 9th African Union Sub-committee meeting of Director Generals of Customs that held in Yaounde with focus on addressing the issues in the Trade Facilitation Cluster of the Action Plan on Boosting Intra-African Trade (BIAT), exchange views and reflect on the way forward. The meeting was indeed timely as Cameroon must draw inspiration from the recommendations of the conclave to reposition itself in the African market, especially given its strategic location on the continent (proximity to Africa’s first economy and most populous nation, Nigeria). Cameroon will need to revisit its trade links with traditional partners in the continent, especially with its huge potentials in agricultural production and natural resources.  In the CEMAC zone where trade between Cameroon and other member States represent just 6.4 per cent, Chad tops the list with 2.4 per cent, Gabon 1.1 per cent, Congo 1.19 per cent Central African Republic with 0.76 per cent and Equatorial Guinea 0.59 per cent. Cameroon’s import from CEMAC countries is rated at 2.3 per cent in 2015, with the bulk coming from Equatorial Guinea. Cameroon’s main export to CEMAC countries are fuel and lubricants, chocolates and cocoa derivatives, cement, iron steel, amongst others. As it stands, Nigeria (17.9 per cent imports) is naturally Cameroon’s first trade partner in Africa and second in the world after China (18 per cent of import). Other partners in West Africa (ECOWAS with 6 per cent of Cameroon exports) include Togo, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Benin, and Burkina Faso. Main products exported to West Africa are fuel and lubricants (50,000 tons at FCFA 22.3 billion in 2013), iron bars and non-alloyed steel (19,000 tons), household soap (19,000 tons exported to Nigeria), aluminium works and parts (4,000 tons), sawn-timber (28000 m3 mainly exported to Senegal), spirit drinks (4,000 tons exported to Burkina Faso) amongst others.  Cameroon also entertains trade exchanges with North Africa though on a very small scale. According to France-based “Ordre des experts comptables (OEC)” 2015 statistics, Cameroon export to Tunisia was 0.16 per cent, Algeria 0.25 per cent, Morocco 0.089 per cent and Egypt at 0.061 per cent of its total export. The 2013 Cameroon Customs statistics evaluated total exports to North Africa at FCFA 5.6 billion in value and 16, 000 tons in volume. For Southern Africa, FCFA 20 billion financial value and 56 tons in volume were exported to the zone in 2013 according to the Customs department.   

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