Will Cameroon Benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area?

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CONCEPT NOTE

WILL CAMEROON BENEFIT FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENTAL FREE TRADE AGREEMENT? 

The African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) was officially launched on July 7, 2019, during the 12th extraordinary summit of the African Union held from July 4 to 8, 2019 in Niamey, Niger. On July 19, 2019, the Cameroonian authorities finally ratified the ACFTA signed on March 21st, 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, along with 43 other African countries.

For a large majority of economists and analysts, the ACFTA has many advantages. First, it will bring together 1.3 billion people, create a $3.4 trillion economic block and usher in a new era of development on the continent. Second, it will enable African economies to strengthen South-South cooperation, conquer new markets and diversify sources of supply. Third, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), intra-African trade could increase by more than 50% and even double within 10 years after the entry into force of the ACFTA compared to approximately 15% currently.

However, in an increasingly globalized world, only the most competitive countries (i.e. countries with strong economic fundamentals and strategic frameworks or with diversified sources of growth) are likely to gain the largest market shares in trade.

The Cameroon economy, considered as the driving force of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), is currently facing major structural challenges. Indeed, according to a 2018 report by the Nkafu Policy Institute, 79.1% of Cameroonian believe the economic situation of the country is bad or very bad. The report also notes that the poverty level is alarming as less than 17.65% of Cameroonian adults earn more than 200,000 FCFA (i.e. 400 US dollars approximately).

In addition to the above statistics, the Small and Medium Size Enterprises landscape in Cameron is very young and fragile. For example, in 2016, the General Enterprise Census reports that 77.5% of the companies listed were at most 6 years old. Also, some obstacles prevent entrepreneurs to fully establish and grow their enterprises. These obstacles include taxation, the cost and access to credit, and formalities just to name but a few.

In view of all this, the following set of questions could be asked: Does the Cameroon economy have all the tools to become competitive within the framework of the ACFTA? What can be the potential benefits it can derive from the ACFTA? Will it be resilient to the transmission of negative shocks that could result from the ACFTA? Will the agreement enable the country to achieve strong growth in order to achieve the vision of an emerging Cameroon by 2035?

Purpose of the event

The objective of this debate is to compare the views of the different Cameroonian experts on the opportunities and challenges offered to Cameroon by the African Continental Free Trade Area.

This is a public debate on the theme: ”Will Cameroon benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Agreement?”. Indeed, some observers believe that this area will strengthen economic growth in Cameroon through increased foreign trade. Others, on the other hand, believe that the fundamentals of the Cameroonian economy are not solid and that the benefits of this area will be minimal or even non-existent.

Target audience

This event will bring together participants from various fields of expertise: economists, government officials, speakers, entrepreneurs, humanitarian organizations, non-governmental organizations, academics and researchers, students, the general public and civil society actors.

Number of participants

We are expecting 80 participants.

Participation fees

This event is open to the target audience with no registration or participation fee.

 

Areas of concern

Economic development; International trade; Free trade; Competition; Competitiveness; Economic emergence; Public policies.

 

Location

Hotel Mansel (Quartier Fouda), Yaoundé-Cameroon.

Expected results

At the end of this event, participants should:

  • Understand the nature and the objectives of the ACFTA;
  • Link the objectives of an emerging Cameroon by 2035 to the objectives of the ACFTA;
  • Understand the benefits and challenges of free trade;
  • Understand the tools that can be mobilized by Cameroon to take full advantage of the ACFTA;
  • Understand the obstacles that Cameroon may face in the context of the ACFTA.

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