Things are looking up in the land of Bikutsi and Makossa.
The Africa Rising story often features a few high profile countries that have dominated investors’ attention: Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and a few others are where most of the deals seem to happen.
Meanwhile, flying under the radar is Cameroon. Lately we are seeing an increase in business and entrepreneurial activity in the public and private sectors that leads one to think that this market deserves a closer look.
ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL PROFILE
The Republic of Cameroon is officially a democracy with executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Paul Biya has been president since 1982.
Like most of Africa, the economy is based on natural resources, chief among them, timber, aluminum, agriculture (particularly, cocoa, palm oil), and oil & gas.
In addition there are hints of entrepreneurial activity that could lead to a larger private sector contribution to the nation’s economy.
Just this year we’ve encountered several examples of entrepreneurial ventures and development initiatives that could be attractive to investors:
- Ovamba is a financial services company that uses an innovative lending model to provide short term capital to small and medium sized businesses.
- An American entrepreneur has made a big bet on palm oil in Cameroon. His business produces substantial volumes and has strong support from the local community.
- We have been made aware of a major initiative by government to improve the Cameroonian infrastructure. Contractors an financial investors can select from dozens of projects in several sectors including transport, agribusiness, and electric power.
Anglophone meets Francophone. Though mostly French speaking, Cameroon has a significant English speaking population, making partners, and staff available for both language groups.
Bridge to West and Central Africa. Cameroon often identifies and is identified by others as a Central and West African nation. For this reason, and due to its location Cameroon can serve as a base of operations for Central or West Africa.
On the verge of becoming an LNG exporter. Oil and gas are fields have been developed on and off shore on the West African coast. Cameroon is a part of the west coast African oil story. LNG reserves are large enough that Cameroon may soon become a gas exporter.
President for life? President Biya his held office for 35 years. The country seems stable so far, but one wonders about the succession plan and whether an orderly transition will occur.
Anglo & Franco living together. The combination of Anglophone and Francophone that is a source of strength for Cameroon can also be a source of division and instability. So far that has not occurred and we consider this to be a minor issue.
We would love to hear from other business people about their experiences and impressions of the business climate in Cameroon. Your comments are welcome.