Africa in miniature
RICHLY ENDOWED WITH NATURAL RESOURCES, CAMEROON HAS DIVERSIFIED ITS COMMODITY-BASED ECONOMY TO BECOME ONE OF AFRICA'S SUCCESS STORIES AS WELL AS A PRIME DESTINATION FOR INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENT

THE SKY'S THE LIMIT
An aerial view of Cameroon’s largest city, Douala.

Cameroon is understandably proud of the Olympic gold medal its soccer team won in Sydney last year, but it now feels it deserves recognition for some of its less publicized but equally admirable achievements.
On a continent too often associated with economic stagnation and political instability, Cameroon is standing out more and more as one of Africa’s success stories. The country’s abundant natural and human resources are beginning to pay dividends as its government puts the economic house in order and makes more room for private initiative.
The current impressive economic growth rate, running at over 5%, is no accident. Back in 1997, “the situation was not very good, but the government took very strong action,” comments World Bank official Robert M. Lacey.
Much of the credit is due to the country’s president, Paul Biya, and his decision to appoint Peter Mafany Musonge as prime minister, according to Mr. Lacey, who until recently was the Bank’s resident representative in Cameroon.
“Since 1997,” he says, “they have successfully completed the three-year program and also partially completed a quite ambitious and complex program of structural reform. Now they are entering a challenging period of second-generation reform.”

The Cameroon government is actively looking to open up its economy to the U.S.


Grégoire Owona
Grégoire Owona
Delegate Minister at the Presidency for Relations with Assemblies

Cameroon is now looking for investment capital to keep the momentum going. Investment from the United States is seen as especially attractive because of the value of U.S. technology and know-how. “Cameroon has always had good relations with the United States and Cameroonians would like to see Americans invest in Cameroon,” comments the Delegate Minister at the Presidency for Relations with Assemblies, Grégoire Owona. “The wish of the Cameroon government is to open up its economy to the United States.”
Prime Minister Musonge regrets that there has been relatively limited U.S. investment, aside from the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline project. “It is a situation we would like to see changed,” he comments. “We think there are very good opportunities outside the oil sector, which has been the dominant sector in which our good friends have operated.”

It is true, Mr. Musonge admits, that “we need money, we lack the funds for investment and for technology.” But, he adds, “I think the African continent has a great deal to offer the world. Given the human potential and the resources here, we think we deserve attention, and we think we deserve to occupy a good place in the world order. That is our expectation.”
The Deputy Minister of Economy and Finance, Jean Marie Gankou, sees the need for still more growth. “It is true that today our growth is around 5%,” he says, “but we believe it is not yet enough for a great majority of Cameroonians to feel it in their daily life and living conditions.”
Cameroon is, in fact, well positioned on the African continent. Oil aside, it has a range of mineral resources, including bauxite, vast forests, a diversity of climates, suitable for growing crops from cotton to tropical fruits, and hydrological resources for irrigation and power generation.

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