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Cameroon Business Forum: Theoretical Successes Aplenty, Practical Deeds Skimpy 

By Divine Ntaryike Jr

CameroonPostline.com — The third session of the Cameroon Business Forum, CBF, got underway in the country’s economic nub Douala on March 5.  Deliberations are unfolding under the auspices of PM Philemon Yang, and planners are trumpeting his personal engagement as a pointer to the government’s commitment to see the venture bear palpable fruits.

Ranked high on the discussion agenda is an appraisal of strides made since the last forum held in 2010.  Attendees will also focus on strategies to remove obstacles encumbering the thoroughgoing ventilation of the country’s business climate, as well as seek ways to advance interchange between the public and private sectors.   

Initiators have been touting the CBF as an instrument tasked with propping government efforts towards rendering Cameroon’s business environment more user-friendly via sustained public and private sector dialoguing.  Its establishment followed years of grumbling by investors over excessive taxation, cumbrous enterprise creation procedures and chronic graft among others.

Observers agree that since its foundation, dialogue between the government and the business community has meaningfully progressed.  They cite the creation of hubs or one-stop counters for the creation and registration of businesses, the simplification of taxation procedures and the ongoing diminution of business transaction time among others.  According to government officials, these advances are direct outcomes of the enactment of recommendations from previous CBF meetings.

The International Finance Corporation, a World Bank group affiliate and point of convergence of the CBF reports that the government has scored a pass mark regarding the implementation of proposals stipulated in 2010.  Out of 48 recommendations, 16 have been fully implemented, 7 have been partially accomplished while 11 are in the course of fulfillment for an overall execution rate of 73 percent. 

In fact, it is believed that the ongoing efforts helped the country improve its World Bank Doing Business report standing when it made a five-place gain in 2011.  In other words, the country’s investment milieu became more attractive, while the economy marked progress in terms of its willingness to compete with others worldwide. 

And so ostensibly, the government appears quite committed to enacting reforms designed to add spice to the country’s investment destination, especially with the heralded colossal spending spree on energy, transport and agriculture infrastructure. 

On the ground nonetheless, critics note that the chest-pounding by the government remains far abstract.  On several occasions, representatives of the business community like the association of employers, GICAM, have decried the superficial impacts of the implemented recommendations.  Businessmen and potential investors say corruption is still stubbornly lingering within the public sector. 

They cite examples in which individuals coming to startup businesses in the country have been turned back by bribe-seeking officials.  Others note that access to financing remains rugged, while import duties and transactions for factory equipment [for example] are still nightmarish.  They are also decry protracting energy supply shortfalls as well as the wild circulation of contraband goods.

For many, until such problems are effectively dealt with, the country’s economic growth will remain dwarfed for years to come.  They are tabling these and more impediments at the Douala session holding under the theme: Enterprising in a Simplified Environment.
 

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