For the years 2007-2009, Cameroon’s trade-to-GDP ratio was 58.7. The country exported US$3.4 billion in merchandise while it imported US$4.3 billion in merchandise, making it a net importer of merchandise. For commercial services, Cameroon exported US$1.2 billion while importing US$2.1 billion, so it is also a net importer of commercial services.
Major Export Partners
Cameroon’s major export partners for merchandise are:
- European Union (74.3%)
- United States (6.4%)
- China (3.4%)
- Democratic Republic of Congo (2.8%)
- Chad (0.8%)
Major Import Partners
Cameroon’s major import partners for merchandise are:
- European Union (35.0%)
- Nigeria (23.3%)
- China (6.3%)
- Equatorial Guinea (3.5%)
- United States (2.9%)
Emerging Economic Partnerships
Co-operation with emerging countries is an important alternative in Cameroon’s development funding. Also, the government is committed to increasing co-operation with emerging countries, based on mutual respect and with a leitmotiv of a “win-win” partnership. as part of the implementation of the GESP and the development strategy for 2035.
Of all the countries identified as emerging countries, only three maintain significant co-operative relations with Cameroon and funding projects. They are China, India and Korea. The projects that have benefited contribute to the development of communication and production infrastructure.
The milestones of Sino-Cameroonian co-operation were set out in 1971. This co-operation has developed in important sectors such as health (medical help and health training), support for rural areas, professional training, water and energy infrastructure, culture and sport, and telecommunications. During the past few years, Sino-Cameroonian co-operation has extended to the private sector through the signing of the accord for the mutual protection and promotion of investment in 1997 and the accord for economic and business co-operation in 2002.
Overall, China’s economic and financial assistance to Cameroon’s development is rising. It is estimated today at nearly XAF 200 billion. With the international financial crisis, China appears today to be the funder offering the most secure access to financial resources and without political conditions. Furthermore, the costs are low and the timescales short. Since 2009, funding agreements have been signed between China and Cameroon for an amount of almost XAF 120 billion for the following projects: i) a fibre-optic network; ii) the construction of stadiums at Bafoussam and Limbé; iii) the construction of the paediatric gynaeo-obstetric hospital at Douala; iv) the improvement of the water supply network for Douala (phase 2); and v) the construction of the Mékin hydroelectric power station.
At the end of the fourth Forum on Sino-African co-operation held on 8 and 9 November 2009 at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, China committed to raising its financial and technical assistance to African countries, cancelling or further reducing countries’ debt and opening up its markets to African countries. Cameroon expects to benefit from this new opportunity to deliver important programmes to which the Chinese government has already committed. Discussions and negotiations are under way, notably on: i) construction of the deepwater port in Kribi; ii) construction of the Memve’ele dam; iii) construction of a motorway linking Yaoundé to Douala; iv) construction of 1 500 social homes; v) rehabilitation of the Lagdo hydroelectric dam; vi) construction of a second bridge over the Wouri; vii) promotion of agricultural mechanisation.
The volume of funding sought by Cameroon to achieve these projects cannot be supported only through Eximbank-China. The Chinese government has therefore also offered the country commercial loans. Eximbank requires special guarantees such as contracts for the sale of raw materials, loan guarantees and the opening of escrow accounts with Eximbank-China. Cameroon has given its approval in principle to these new forms of guarantee, and a memorandum of agreement was concluded between the two parties on 24 March 2010 Furthermore, based on the accords for mutual protection and promotion of investments and of economic and business co-operation concluded between the two countries, talks are under way with Chinese private companies on direct private investment in Cameroon (such as a project to build a vehicle assembly plant in the country).
During a visit from 23 to 25 March 2010 by Jia Qinglin, the Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in China, several accords were signed for a total sum of XAF 12.645 billion for: i) a loan of around XAF 6.245 billion for a refurbishment project and provision of materials to Matgenie (national civil engineering equipment park); ii) an interest-free loan of XAF 3.2 billion for economic and technical co-operation projects to be agreed between the two governments; iii) a gift of XAF 3.2 billion, also for economic and technical co-operation projects to be agreed between the two governments.
Co-operation with India is recent but very promising, given the significant level of resources already committed on the Indian side. Cameroon benefited from a gift of 60 tractors in 2005. India gave agricultural training grants in 2010. Even more important, a project to set up an assembly plant for tractors and other agricultural equipment will be funded to a level of XAF 18.825 billion. An accord has been signed between the minister of energy and water and the Indian company Angelique International Ltd, with a view to establishing a line of credit of USD 25 million for development of the energy and water sector; this funding is under negotiation. Also, in the health sector, a telemedicine project at the Faculty of Medicine in the University of Yaoundé I is currently being set up.
Co-operation between Cameroon and Korea is in economic and technical fields and is intensifying over the years. The main agents are: Eximbank of Korea for the Economic Cooperation Development Fund (ECDF), and the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) for technical co-operation and donations. Economic co-operation is expressed in the construction and equipping of training centres for professional excellence, for which ECDF funds provide USD 35 million out of a total cost of USD 48.4 million, and in the funding of a flagship hospital at Garoua. As part of the technical co-operation, the Korean government is helping Cameroon improve the skills of its executives in various economic sectors through training courses and vehicle donations.
A comprehensive co-operation strategy is being developed with other emerging countries, taking account of GESP priorities. The first phase involves 12 countries. These potential partnerships, organised in sub-regional poles, should mature and eventually result in the setting up of permanent economic missions.
The most important sectors – agriculture, telecommunications, energy and transport – should be prioritised with partnership countries to encourage their businesses to fund and invest in the exploitation or processing of local raw materials. To get the most out of this co-operation, the Cameroonian authorities envisage an evaluation of the countries’ strengths and weaknesses.
Sources: World Trade Organization and African Economic Outlook