UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) to play pivotal role in retooling Cameroon’s industrial masterplan

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KIGALI, Rwanda

Cameroon’s Minister of Mines, Industry and Technological Development, Mr. Gabriel Dodo Ndoke has solicited the support of the Subregional Office for Central Africa of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in the updating of Cameroon’s Industrial Development Masterplan (PDI, in French) and coordinating the contribution of a league of development partners in the implementation of its next phase.

The PDI is seen as a switchboard for Cameroon’s sustainable development, especially with the advent of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which requires a transformation of production systems in favor of the manufacturing sector from any country that wants to reap substantial benefits from it. This would contribute to an increased share of trade in intermediate and manufactured products.

During a meeting with a team of experts from ECA’s Office in Central Africa led by the Director – Antonio Pedro, a wide gamut of actions to be undertaken to overhaul Cameroon’s second generation Industrialization Masterplan, were explored.

Minister Dodo Ndoke said that although the PDI, which was formulated in 2016 and presented to the public in March 2017, would continue to be the foundational document which would inform Cameroon’s industrialization drive, it was necessary, at this stage, to sharpen it and render it more current, dynamic and responsive to the new opportunities, including the AfCFTA.

He noted that the concourse of SRO-CA to coordinate the exercise was justified given the Office’s networks across Africa and beyond, its credentials on economic diversification and industrialization processes as well in coordinating the work of development partners. The parties agreed, that it would be vital for the success of the review process and its implementation to bring on board the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the African Development Bank (AfDB), in particular.

Mr. Antonio Pedro of ECA was upbeat about the vote of confidence in ECA’s work and indicated that ECA has strategic partnerships with both with UNIDO and the AfDB at operational and leadership levels. He added that the physical presence in Yaounde of both ECA’s and AfDB’s (as of July 2019) subregional offices for Central Africa, would certainly facilitate consultations.

The PDI is seen as a switchboard for Cameroon’s sustainable development, especially with the advent of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)

“Coordination among key ministries to review and operationalize the Industrialization Masterplan is also crucial as an industrial policy and strategy must federate efforts from across several government departments to render it successful,” Pedro told an attentive Minister Dodo Ndoke. “This included the ongoing work to formulate Cameroon’s AfCFTA national strategy”, he added.

The parties agreed that developing and operationalizing a masterplan that speaks seamlessly to Central Africa’s regional value chains, was vital. It must therefore collocate, for instance, with CEMAC’s Regional Economic Program (PER CEMAC, in French), which, by coincidence, would be the object of a regional consultative review process in Douala, Cameroon, on 5-6 July 2019.

Addressing binding constraints such as inadequate infrastructure and poor quality of services was considered vital to industrializing the region and boosting Central Africa’s competitiveness. ECA experts noted that Cameroon was well-endowed with natural and human resources to lead the subregion along this path, including the production of renewable energy.

On Cameroon’s endowments, Pedro rejoiced and said “The recently announced discovery of over 300 new mineral occurrences in the country (including cobalt, nickel and manganese), the largest since independence, places Cameroon in a good position to join DRC, the world largest producer of cobalt, in the development of a profitable regional battery and electric car value chain”.

He noted that it is projected that the global electric vehicle market would grow from the current 2 million vehicles/year to 160 million vehicles/year by 2050, a factor which the PDI should not ignore. Lomie, in the East Region of Cameroon has one of the largest, if not the largest, lateritic cobalt deposit in the world.

The privileged place of the digital economy, its transformational processes and its architecture for the success of Cameroon’s overall industrialization strategy was also in focus as the discussions with the Minister of Industry and his team, comprising Secretary General – Mr. Fru Jonathan and Director of Industry, Mr. Ntakeu Bruno Armel, progressed.

In all of these, the ECA delegation which comprised of Mr. Adama Coulibaly , Head of the Subregional Initiatives Section and Ms. Mama Keita, Head of the Economic Diversification Section
Of ECA’s Central Africa Office, stressed the need for experience-sharing with other African countries, including Ethiopia, which have made considerable progress in industrial development.

The Government of Cameroon considers its Industrialization Masterplan as indispensable for achieving the status of an upper middle-income country by 2035. According to the Minister, the plan is being reviewed against a backdrop of three urgent goals for the country: accelerating the pace of economic growth, regaining Cameroon’s leadership in the industrial sector and cushioning the country against structural or systemic shocks, through deeper economic diversification.

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