Cameroon Catching Up With Modernity

With the announced arrival of the first department store in Cameroon, the country will bridge the ga

A Hypermarket is an enormous retail facility with full lines of groceries and general merchandise which provides a customer with his routine weekly or monthly shopping requirements in one trip. This concept is however strange to many Cameroonians who have not seen that kind of large format stores in their towns and cities. The announcement by the Group CFAO-Retail-Carrefour-Sogimcam for the imminent construction of a FCFA 30 billion worth Hypermarket in the Ekoudou neighbourhood in Yaounde is greeted with enthusiasm by both government and the public. Cameroon considered an economic hub in the central African sub-region in particular and West Africa in general, is catching up with its peers such as Congo Brazzaville and Cote d’Ivoire that saw their hypermarkets inaugurated in 2016 and 2015 respectively. Even though Cameroon passed an Investment Charter Law in 2002 that liberalised local market markets and other investment incentives put in place, the country has until now still to get hypermarket for several reasons. Economist Dr, Ariel Ngnitedem attributes this to low purchasing power of citizens that hitherto characterised most people with the economic crisis of the 90s which deterred international retails. The conception of Cameroonians that such a facility is a place of luxury, reserved for people of high social status insociety also compounded the situation. “Retailing business is a mid to long-term investment. Investors need to be sure of their return investment. Hyper market has a specific target that is the middle class. Whenever the investor comes, it means he has found that the middle class has enough purchasing power for its business. The problem was the size and purchasing power of Cameroon,” he affirmed. Cameroon despite being a distribution hub in West Africa, was ignored by major international retail until 2015 when a compe-
titive landscape changed with the entry of ‘System U’ in the distribution chain in Cameroon to add to the national and few international distribution chains that exist. Cameroon which prides itself now with some 34 retail distribution chains (supermarkets) lacked the scale of Nigeria (first largest African economy), Democratic Republic of Congo, or the accessibility of Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire or Senegal. The grocery distribution retail market in Cameroon is immature, fragmented and more concentred in Cameroon’s two largest and cosmopolitan cities of Douala and Yaounde.

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