• Cameroon: At the Italian school
  • Cameroon: At the Italian school

Cameroon: At the Italian school

Construction of the Yaoundé sports complex in preparation for the 2019 CAN, social houses; establishment of an urban transport network in the capital; creation of a processing plant for agricultural products … The Italians now appear as the privileged partners of Cameroon in full construction as part of the “pre-emerging” vision, as a result of recently-enhanced cooperation between the two countries.

By Dounia Ben Mohamed

 

President Paul Biya’s visit to Rome last March, one year after the Italian President Sergio Mattarella’s visit to Yaounde, gave a new impetus to Italian-Cameroon relations, which were already well estabished. These relations are in line with converging common interests: Italy, the main gateway for African migrants on the way to the European Eldorado, is seeking allies in the continent to curb down migration pressure in return for a support for socio-economic development; as for Cameroon, faced with two crises – in the north where Boko Haram continues its exactions but also in the East – calls for support from the European Union in general, and Italians in particular. “Cameroon is a priority for Italy,” said Mattarella after discussing with the Cameroonian president who views Italy as a “major partner of Cameroon”.

“Our economy is performing well and our debt is sustainable. The business environment is improving daily. Italy could become one of our major economic partners »

Though security appears as the basis for the new Italian-Cameroonian relations, the economic aspect is not left behind, on the contrary. Again, due to clearly-defined common interests: Italy, a country with more than 80% of SMEs, effective expertise in the industrial sector, meets the needs of Cameroon, a country under construction as part of the 2035 Vision to become an emerging country, and therefore works to accelerate its industrialization. “The conditions we offer investors are, I think, attractive. Our economy is performing well and our debt is sustainable. The business environment is improving daily. Undoubtedly, with more current determination, Italy could become one of our major economic partners, “said the President of Cameroon to the Italian operators in Rome.

Italian offer: expertise and financial solutions

As the Italians, following the model of the Chinese method in Africa, offer a final solution, combining both expertise and financing, though three entities: the Export Promotion Agency, Sace (the Italian Export Credit Agency) and Simest (the Financial Corporation dedicated to the internationalization of Italian companies) which support the export of know-how ‘made in Italia’, especially Italian SMEs, with a priority: “the emerging countries, Africa in particular”, as Salavatore Rebecchini, president of Simest, pointed out. “After the Chinese, we are the largest export credit agency in Cameroon,” said Alessandro Decio, Managing Director of Sace. “With Simest, we deal with all activities in support of Italian companies, with particular emphasis on Africa and Cameroon.”, as Italian exports have grown by 15%. “There are therefore very important development prospects”.

“Enabling Cameroonians to look for other expertise”

And in their approach, they encourage Italian operators to establish partnerships with institutional players and the private sector. This approach is sought by Cameroonian entrepreneurs visiting Rome, such as James Onobiono. The famous Cameroonian businessman, who made a fortune in the industrial production of cigarettes, has since diversified activities in real estate and agribusiness. And obviously he is interested in the Italian model. “It’s the most sustainable model. An entrepreneur, whether Italian, French or Cameroonian, will limit himself to a short-term operation unless he is part of a sustainable investment. While those who come with a local partner, to build factories or housing will fit in with time. They will allow Cameroonians to get other expertise. They also bring financing often difficult to mobilize locally. I return, we bring them ground knowledge and know-how”. That’s enough to promote cooperation between the two nations.

The 2035 Vision: many business opportunities

Meanwhile, the process is already underway in Cameroon. In the wake of the Italian President’s visit to Cameroon in 2016, the two countries signed five agreements resulting in Italian investments in Cameroon. For example, Italferr has positioned itself in the Cameroonian transport; Iveco, a world leader in the construction of equipment, will provide Cameroon with public transport and heavy vehicles; in real estate, Pizzarotti is going to build the first 10,000 houses ordered by the national authorities; Piccini, in the construction industry, is working on the construction of a 60,000-seat omnisport stadium in Olembé, in a suburb of Yaoundé, expected to host the 2019 CAN… The Italians are especially interested in this event as it provides many investment opportunities.

More broadly, the 2035 Vision roadmap offers many business opportunities for Italians who seem determined to take advantage of it … And they are not the only ones. The French, Moroccans, Turks and others crowd the doors of the most populous country of Central Africa – the first economic power in CEMAC zone, with an average growth rate of 5%, inflation at 2.7% and a relatively-controlled debt-to-GDP ratio of 38%, a macroeconomic framework that has not collapsed after falling commodity prices in the markets thank to Cameroon’s  economic diversification in agriculture, mining, hydrocarbons, industries, services with high economic value, especially in ICTs … all sectors that bring national economic diversification … and make the country attractive.


 

Author: DBM // Photos: President Paul Biya, visiting the Pope at the Vatican, in an interview with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro PAROLIN © PRC (Presidency of the Republic of Cameroon)

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