“Cameroon will ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement,” the country’s Prime Minister – Joseph Dion Ngute assured UN Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Commission – Ms. Vera Songwe, Wednesday.
Mr. Dion Ngute gave the assurance on the first day of Ms. Songwe’s official visit to Cameroon, at the ‘Star Building’ that hosts the Office of the Prime Minister in Yaounde, during a charged audience.
Ms. Songwe’s maiden visit to Cameroon is intended to improve cooperation ties with the country on development issues with focus on macroeconomic policies for poverty reduction, job creation and economic diversification, the African Continental Free Trade Area and programs of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
“The African Continental Free Trade Area is more than just a trade agreement – it is a recipe for engendering domestic growth,” Ms. Songwe iterated to Cameroon’s Head of Government.
ECA’s Executive Secretary catalogued further advantages of ratifying the continental common market agreement, saying it would be a lever of investments, job creation and tax revenue.
“The big party for ratification of the AfCFTA will be in July so we keep our fingers crossed that Cameroon becomes one of the founding members by then,” she went on.
“We stand to gain from the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement,” Prime Minister Ngute concurred, while clarifying that his Government was getting all stakeholders to appropriate the agreement, and adapt Cameroon’s national laws and other legal instruments on trade with the spirit of the AfCFTA.
This process, he said, would be completed before Cameroon’s two houses of parliament meet in session in June, just in time to conclude the process ahead of the July African Union meetings.
Both personalities also explored the role of the digital economy in driving economic growth, job creation and in serving as anchorage for the continental common market itself.
Ms. Songwe argued that Cameroon was a gifted country but needed to further develop the right telecommunications infrastructure on which the digital economy would thrive.
The country could become a hub for world-class digital service provision given its important English-French bilingualism, which other countries on the continent do not have.
“The digital economy is very important for us and we are hoping with can leapfrog from 3G to 5G” in good time, Prime Minister Dion Ngute posited, in response.
After Ms. Songwe made the case for economic diversification and industrialization, the Prime Minister was quick to point out that “industrialization is the hallmark of my leadership in the Government.”
He said Cameroon was going to overhaul its industrialization masterplan in order to reduce imports while increasing exports. “We have the capacity and will put some energy into that,” he concluded.
His guest from ECA followed up on the question of the importance of beefing up the provision of energy to leverage industrialization.
Ms. Songwe also underlined the importance for Cameroon to get aboard the digital identification revolution, taking place elsewhere in Africa, in other to give its less advantaged citizens opportunities to access especially formal education that holds the key to poverty reduction.
The Resident Coordinator of the UN system in Cameroon, Ms. Allegra Baiocchi, who accompanied the head of ECA to the audience with the Prime Minister said the UN Country Team in Cameroon would pick up on the digital ID campaign and work with government to bring it to fruition in the country.
She said the UN was actively supporting the Cameroon in pursuing the attainment of the SDGs and that creating jobs to stimulate growth was of prime importance.
The first day of Ms. Songwe’s visit to Cameroon also featured meetings with the Minister Delegate at the Ministry of External Relations in Charge of Relations with the Islamic World – Mr. Adoum Gargoum and the Minister Delegate in the Ministry of Finance – Mr. Yaouba Abdoulaye.
They discussed governance, the linkage between peace, security and development, improving the climate for doing business as well regional integration, with particular focus again on the AfCFTA.
Before returning to ECA’s headquarters at Addis Ababa, the visiting Executive Secretary would have met with Cameroon’s members of Government, civil society leaders and members of the private sector.
Culled from UNECA