West Africa

Cameroon’s time to scale up AfCFTA-ready local manufacturing

Yaounde — Minister of Trade of Cameroon — Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana joined with officials of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Subregional Office for Central Africa, Thursday evening, COVID-19 gave sub-regional countries the opportunity to re-appropriate their economies’ structure by first improving local manufacturing of domestically consumed goods and taking advantage of the upcoming African common market to sell to broader markets.

“We absolutely need to address the market supply problem, as we use the lessons learned from COVID-19 to accelerate the implementation of the National Master Plan for Industrial Development (PDI) with a focus on agribusiness and the pharmaceutical industry,” said Minister Mbarga Atangana, who took the words literally out of his guest’s mouth-Antonio Pedro, head of the Central African Office of the ECA.

Mr. Pedro met with the Minister to review Cameroon ‘s readiness for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) following the formulation of an ECA-supported draft national strategy.

“Cameroon and other Central African countries combined to import trillions of dollars of food products annually with similarly high estimates on pharmaceutical imports,” said Mr. Pedro, who used the opportunity to continue to highlight the country’s crucial role in the roll-out of the eventual masterplan for subregional industrialization and economic diversification.

He said member states of the CEMAC and ECCAS will capitalize on the masterplan to rake-in AfCFTA benefits once it goes into effect by January 2021.

“I insist on developing our supply chain but it would be difficult to sell goods and services profitably if there is no base market,” the minister underlined.

“ECA is quite ready to use tools such as the Trade Decision Support Model (DSM) and undertake product-space analysis with a view to identifying market / export opportunities for Cameroon products and assessing specific segments of regional and global value chains in which the country would have the highest chances of succeeding,” Mr. Pedro said.

These are some of the practical steps in determining where efforts should be placed to manufacture induced by trade, based on the comparative advantages of Cameroon, “he added.

Ministry of Trade experts suggested that Cameroon will need technical assistance from ECA on several other fronts as it participates in the second phase of the AfCFTA negotiations, in addition to these analytical support.

These include building capacity for the establishment of the national AfCFTA implementation committee, organizing additional stakeholder mobilization forums on the continent’s common market agenda, and building a data collection and analysis platform on non-tariff barriers to free trade in Central Africa.

“It’s also time to increase production in our broad and promising agriculture sectors, including white pepper, honey, cereals and fish products-for which we need special plans,” Minister Mbarga Atangana reasoned.

It was well discussed the issue of placing Cameroonian goods on the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP), which promotes business-to – consumer (B2C) sales.

The Minister of Trade has been informed that UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ECA-Ms Vera Songwe has been challenging for more African products to join the 2016 Alibaba Business Group platform to help small-scale global brands with compelling products reach broader international markets easily.

As such, he set his team immediately to work on consolidating a list of Cameroonian goods that have the merits of being on the site.

Messrs Mbarga Atangana and Pedro also agreed that a Made in Central Africa Label, on which ECA’s Central African Office works to federate efforts across the sub-region, is an important component in the positioning of sub-regional products on both the African and global marketplaces.

The Minister called for more regular meetings with the ECA Central Africa Office as these discussions provide a unique platform for collective brainstorming on the role of
Trade in development and how Cameroon is better able to take advantage of AfCFTA and other opportunities.

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