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Tackling the urbanisation quagmire in the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa, by Chofor Che, published in French at LibreAfrique.org, 31 October 2014


The Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (or CEMAC from its name in French: Communauté Économique et Monétaire de l’Afrique Centrale,) is an organization of states of Central Africa established by Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon to promote economic integration among countries that share a common currency, the CFA franc. CEMAC’s objectives are the promotion of trade, the institution of a genuine common market, and greater solidarity among peoples and towards under-privileged countries and regions

There is no gainsaying that CEMAC states face a growing urbanisation problem especially as the United Nations Habitat (UN Habitat) Chief recently predicted that in ten years to come, capital cities like Yaoundé in Cameroon would not be able to contain the growing population. Some states like Cameroon, in partnership with UN Habitat, have even held a national summit like the National Urbanisation Summit, which took place in October 2014 in a bid to redress the growing urbanisation challenges in the state. Does it suffice to keep on holding such summits? Is the affair of tackling growing challenges of urbanisation in the CEMAC region an affair solely for big governments?

Prior to independence most African states including states in the CEMAC region did not have adequate urbanisation plans especially for the capital cities. Most of the towns especially in the CEMAC zone were built without adequate urban planning. In addition to this lacuna most government leaders especially in CEMAC states like Cameroon, Gabon and Chad did not see the necessity to upgrade major cities not to talk about smaller towns. This predicament has started catching up on these states which has triggered the need for brain storming.

In addition to the poor urbanisation planning, the decentralisation process which states like Cameroon, Chad and Gabon embarked on remains timid. Mayors complain on a daily basis of difficulties for them to adequately engage in urbanisation efforts in their various municipalities because the transfer of human and financial resources from central governments remains timid. During the last National Decentralisation Council which took place in Cameroon in September 2014, the Prime Minister, Head of Government re-echoed the need for various government ministers to ensure that human and financial resources are expeditiously transferred to councils all over the country. This position was buttressed upon by the Minister of Urbanisation of Cameroon, Jean Claude Mbwentchou during a programme on the 20 October 2014 broadcast on Cameroon Radio Television Broadcasting Corporation, CRTV.

Indeed the challenges facing urbanisation in the CEMAC region are humongous as expounded above. A start off point in redressing this melee may be to ensure that cities in CEMAC states have an adequate urbanisation plan which will entail redesigning most states in the CEMAC region. Redesigning cities does not mean individual rights should be trampled upon. Most individuals have obtained land and built in conformity with state rules and regulations. It would thus be prudent for states to work hand in glove with concerned populations before destroying property of innocent citizens. States in the CEMAC zone can learn from durable measures in tacking urbanisation challenges like Rabat in Morocco and Durban in South Africa. In Rabat for instance the town has been restructured in such a way that in the next ten years the growing population would be easily accommodated. The state of Morocco in partnership with individuals and business persons has created nearby residential areas very close to Rabat, so as to cater for the growing accommodation dilemma facing Rabat. A tramp system which is eco friendly has also been created in the city to decongest traffic and make inhabitants have quick access to the city.
Accelerating the decentralisation process is also germane in redressing the urbanisation quagmire in the CEMAC zone. There is thus need for central governments in the CEMAC zone to accelerate the transfer of adequate human and financial resources to councils so as to enable the Mayors and their collaborators restructure their communities. For such an endeavour to be successful there is also need for professionalisation of actors engaged in the urbanisation process, be it at the central, regional or local levels. These officials must be trained on state of the art urbanisation processes as well as to manage finances without getting involved in corrupt practices. It may also be important to ensure that lead roles are accorded to women in urbanisation planning in the CEMAC zone.

If such measures are taken into consideration, rather than holding workshops and summits, then tackling the urbanisation quagmire in the CEMAC zone may be sustainably attainable. A lot of tax payers’ money would thus be used judiciously for a durable and sustainable cause.

This article is published in French at http://www.libreafrique.org/ as CEMAC : Sortir du bourbier de l’urbanisation anarchique

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2014 in Africa Development

 

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The 23rd Ordinary Summit of Heads of States and Governments of the African Union and African Monetary Fund exaggerated ambition, by Chofor Che, 7 July 2014


The 23rd Ordinary Summit of Heads of States and Governments of the African Union (AU) ended on Friday the 28th of June 2014 after two days of discussions in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. In attendance were the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Ban Ki-moon, the Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy and the Vice President of Cuba, Salvador Valdes Mesa.

The official theme of this summit was “Agriculture and Food Security in Africa”, but according to Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari, a Senior Research Fellow at the South African Institute of International Affairs in an op-ed dated the 26 of June 2014, few if any of the decisions during the summit focused on farming or food. He added that this is evidence that summit themes are merely symbolic and are hardly followed by intensive discussions around the subject matter. This notwithstanding, certain sources argue that the 23rd Summit is historic because at the end of deliberations, though much did not focus on farming and food, a gigantic step was made towards the financial autonomy of Africa as a continent with the adoption of the Establishing Protocol and Statutes of the African Monetary Fund (AMF) one of the AU’s Financial institutions.

Founded in 2009, the AMF has as aim to contribute to the economic stability and the management of financial crisis in Africa, giving preference to macroeconomic development and business by promoting trade amongst states in Africa. It is expected to create a common market amongst African states by 2017. Having its sit based in Yaoundé, the political capital of Cameroon, this institution is supposed to forge for a single African currency in a bid to encourage rapid regional economic integration which for the moment remains a dilemma especially with the numerous currencies on the continent. Some analysts even argue that the multitude of currencies on the continent has grossly weakened business between African states.

The putting in place of the Establishing Protocol and Statutes of the AMF arrived at in Malabo on Friday the 28th of June 2014, does not in any way mean that the African continent will suddenly become financially independent. 15 African states need to ratify the statues for the institution to go operational. An organigram for the institution needs to be set up before the recruitment of staff including a Director General.

This is indeed an ambitious agenda my Heads of State who have decided to put the cart before the horse. Many African states are still plagued by precarious financial hurdles such as heavy taxes, trade barriers and corruption. In addition to these hurdles, the Central African Republic remains mired in armed and bloody conflict, Nigeria remains tortured by the activities of the notorious Boko Haram Sect and Kenya is still seeking solutions to the Al Shabab dilemma.

In addition to the various hurdles faced by various states on the continent, Africa is still not a force to reckon with in the United Nations (UN) Security Council. Hengari in his op-ed argues that in light of a meeting which took place in May 2014, UN Security Council reform agenda in the AU remains stalled due to the rigid proposals which propped up from the Ezulwini Consensus. Hengari argues further that concerning the current institutional setup, the AU remains state-centric. While the AU accepts regional economic communities as vital building blocks in regional integration, there is no serious formal institutional rendez-vous with the assembly or the commission.

It is high time for states to resolve domestic issues like barriers to trade, over taxation and corruption. African states need to open up their boarders for trade and not close up boarders under the pretext of fighting illegal immigration just as what has been transpiring between Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and Gabon.

It is germane for Heads of State to try and resolve the ongoing conflicts on the continent including terrorists’ attacks from groups like Boko Haram and Al Shabab. It is important for the AU to equally engage heads of communities and officials within the frame work of the commission and assembly, especially in conflict resolution and regional integration.

Considering these suggestions is germane for the AU. If such proposals are not taken seriously then the AMF dream may be another waste of time and Africa’s tax payers’ money.

 

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Will the Central African bloc grow by up to 5.5 percent in 2014 as predicted by the International Monetary Fund? By Chofor Che, 7 June 2014


On the 5 of June 2014, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that economic growth in the six-nation Central African CEMAC bloc is set to double to between 5 and 5.5 percent in 2014. According to an article by Reuters dated the 6 of June 2014, this growth is supposed to be pivoted on the back of increased oil production.
The CEMAC zone is composed of Central African Republic, Gabon, Cameroon, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville and Equatorial Guinea. Reuters reports that five of these states produce oil, which accounts for 36 percent of the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 87 percent of total exports. Growth reduced to around 2.5 percent in 2013 because of a substantial drop in oil output. The CEMAC zone’s central bank forecast 2014 GDP growth at 6.7 percent in March.
In an IMF statement at the end of a two-week evaluation mission, the team said “The outlook for the remainder of 2014 points to a pick-up in economic growth. Regional real GDP growth is projected at 5 to 5.5 percent, as oil production will increase. The team added that inflation is expected to remain below 3 percent.

The medium-term outlook seemed solid because of strong growth in non-oil sectors, but a projected decline in oil production was expected to bring overall growth down, observed Reuters. It is sad how states in the CEMAC zone depend on oil production to boast their GDP whereas there are sectors which can fire GDP up if harnessed such as the agricultural sector which remains under-exploited. The IMF confirmed that the deteriorating security situation due to conflict in Central African Republic and attacks by the Boko Haram Islamist group in Nigeria could also cut into growth.

The Central African region especially the CEMAC zone needs to get serious about other sectors of the economy rather than just relying on oil production. This zone has great potential in revamping the agricultural sector but has instead open room for land grabbing. Instead of ensuring that the populace in this zone benefits from vast arable farm land, governments in the CEMAC zone are giving away the land while their people languish in poverty.
Countries in the CEMAC zone still have a long way to go with respect to South-South cooperation. Rather than depending heavily on oil production to attain a 5.5 percent growth, which is not so evident, this zone needs to encourage trade amongst states in the zone and beyond. In recent weeks there have been tensions along the Gabonese and Cameroonian boarders. Both countries have accused each other of illegal poaching and trade which have led to arrests and repatriation of citizens from both states. There is need to encourage free trade among members states of this zone. Tensions amongst member states, such as that between Gabon and Cameroon will instead shrink growth in 2014 instead of boasting it.

Corruption also remains a serious reason why I remain pessimistic about the IMF’s predicted 5.5 percent growth in 2014. A recap on the Doing Business Report of 2013 and 2014 shows that states in the CEMAC zone are tailing the list when it comes to doing business. For instance, according to the AtlasFreeTrade.org initiative, Cameroon’s trade freedom ranks 128 out of 158 states and both the cost of doing business and tariffs remain extremely high. This picture mirrors itself with other states in the zone.

There is indeed high potential for states in the CEMAC zone to attain the 5.5 percent growth as predicted by the IMF. The zone is not only blessed with oil production, but has other sectors which need to be exploited. If the CEMAC zone is really serious about attaining the predicted 5.5 percent growth and more, then it is time for a policy rethink and shift. Government leaders need to also concentrate more in encouraging trade between member states as well as revamping their various agricultural systems. Government leaders need to be serious about true privatization and free trade. There is also need for the corruption canker worm to be curbed. Only such measures may project the CEMAC zone to the 5.5 percent target .

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2014 in Africa Development

 

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Regional Integration in the CEMAC zone under the peril of implosion – Chofor Che , 11 january 2014


In June 2013 Head of States of Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Chad met during their last summit and agreed amongst other issues that visa requirements would henceforth not be obligatory for citizens of member states circulating in these states. This move was to take effect as from January 1, 2014. These six member states out of the eleven member states of the Economic Community for Central Africa (ECCAS) region share a common currency zone (the CFA Franc) and a monetary zone union called CEMAC (Communauté economique et monetaire d’Afrique centrale). I argued in an article published on the 22 July 2013 by Africanliberty.org that the huge population in these six member states makes it potentially a lucrative consumer market, yet regional cooperation arrangements amongst these countries have not succeeded in unleashing this full economic potential and move it towards economic integration.

Equatorial Guinea and Gabon most especially seem not to be in agreement with decisions arrived at during the June 2013 summit. In other to travel to Gabon for instance, citizens of member states are still requested to obtain a visa. As one who has worked closely with the Gabonese Embassy in Yaoundé, obtaining a visa is expensive and documents especially an invitation letter have to be notarized by local authorities in Gabon and sent to concerned individuals and organizations before they can obtain a visa. The process is very frustrating especially for citizens of the same regional group. The situation in Equatorial Guinea is even worse. On the 6 of January 2014 Cameroonians working at the Equatorial Guinean and Cameroonian border town of Kyo-Ossi were dismayed that the border was closed. Cameroonians who worked across the border were not allowed to carry out their operations. The Equatorial Guinean and Gabonese borders were also shut down. What an aberration when we are clamoring for regional integration. Analysts have argued that a state like Equatorial Guinea is afraid that opening up its boarders to citizens of members states will encourage massive illegal immigration of citizens of member states of the CEMAC zone to the detriment of Equatorial Guineans. This precarious situation in the CEMAC zone impinges on the development of the market for consumer goods while stifling local entrepreneurship. Local producers are left with no choice than to be involved with smuggling and illicit exportation. Why can’t the leaders of the CEMAC zone especially Equatorial Guinea and Gabon not copy from other regional groups like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) by eradicating barriers like visas for citizens of member states?

The authorities of Equatorial Guinea and Gabon are definitely making a great mistake. Eradicating visa requirements for member states of the CEMAC zone remains a laudable initiative especially as such an initiative would go a long way to facilitate business transactions and economic gains amongst member states of this region. This would definitely unleash the full economic potential and facilitate the move towards economic integration in the region. The eradication of the visa requirements for these six concerned states of the CEMAC would ease the circulation of goods and agricultural produce in these member states. Closing the boarders by Equatorial Guinea is definitely a wrong policy move especially in an era of globalization. Such a move has never stopped illegal immigration and illicit smuggling of goods. The Head of State of Equatorial Guinea needs to rethink fast about such a measure before it causes diplomatic and economic tensions between member states of the CEMAC zone. It is also important that Heads of State of these member states put in place other measures like curbing heavy taxes in their respective member states so as to encourage local business initiatives as well as small and medium size enterprises. Encouraging partnership cooperation among the private sectors of these member states so as to facilitate rapid regional integration and economic growth is also very vital for regional integration. If such measures are not taken into consideration, the CEMAC region will continue to be considered a failure in terms of governance, democracy and economic growth because such porous policies have contributed to the region’s poor image regionally and internationally.
– See more at: http://africanliberty.org/content/regional-integration-cemac-zone-under-peril-implosion-chofor-che#sthash.Gk2z8lhV.dpuf

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2014 in Africa Development

 

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Fuel shortages in Equatorial Guinea: An aberration to Africa’s liberty by Chofor Che, 29 July 2013


Equatorial Guinea is a state situated in Middle Africa. With an area of 28,000 square kilometres (11,000 sq mi), Equatorial Guinea happens to be one of the smallest states in Africa. It is composed of two parts, a mainland and an insular region. The mainland region, Río Muni, is bordered by Gabon on the south and east and Cameroon on the north. The insular region is composed of the islands of Bioko (formerly Fernando Pó) in the Gulf of Guinea and Annobón, a small volcanic island south of the equator. Bioko island is the northernmost part of Equatorial Guinea and is the site of the country’s capital, Malabo.

Equatorial Guinea is one of sub-Sahara’s largest oil producers. With a population of 650,702, it is the richest state per capita in Africa, and its gross domestic product (GDP) per capita ranks 69th in the world. However, the wealth is unevenly distributed and just a few people have benefited from the oil riches. According to the United Nations, less than half of the population has access to clean drinking water and that 20% of children die before reaching five.
On the 25 of July 2013, the government of Equatorial Guinea announced that the state had suffered from a shortage in petroleum products especially fuel. This news came as a big shock to Africa and the whole World. According to a report from the Economist dated 25 July 2013, tensions between France and Equatorial Guinea are set to rise as the regime blames a French company for the shortages.

Some experts were invited over the weekend to a special programme to the popular broadcasting station of France 24, to share their views on why Equatorial Guinea has to suffer from fuel shortages despite its oil rich status. Some of these experts were of the view that the West especially France has always had a strategy to distabilise regimes in Africa by making the population riot against these said regime. These analysts added that France caused the fuel shortages to make the population of Equatorial Guinea riot against the regime in power. Other invited analysts added that the regime in power was the cause of fuel shortages. For long now, just a few corrupt officials have been benefitted from the proceeds of oil and gas production in Equatorial Guinea. Oil and gas multinationals especially from France have been given the lee way to manipulate regimes at the expense of the populace.

In as much as the government of Equatorial Guinea blames France for fuel shortages, the bigger share of the blame rest with the government of Equatorial Guinea. This was a scenario which was foreseeable especially as the state allowed few corrupt individuals to benefit from the oil and gas sector in Equatorial Guinea. The state of Equatorial Guinea like many other states rich in oil and gas in Africa, has allowed multinationals from the West in complicity with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, to manipulate oil and gas production as well as the prices of finished products. Despite the oil and gas wealth in Africa, states like Equatorial Guinea are still plagued by underdevelopment.

Africa can indeed benefit from oil and gas if the people and not corrupt government officials are put first. States in Africa like Equatorial Guinea need to start rethinking their development policy especially in the oil and gas sector. Local content needs to be amplified upon. Talking about local content and holding workshops on local content is not enough. Africans need to be adequately employed and remunerated in the oil and gas industry. Africans especially Equatorial Guineans need to be involved in deciding on policy on fuel prices, especially as these products are necessary for human survival. Such measures can save Africa and Equatorial Guinea from an aberration.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in Africa Development

 

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The end of the visa quagmire plaguing six member states circulating within the Economic Community for Central Africa, By Chofor Che, 24 July 2013


Lying over about one third of the African continent, Central Africa is adjacent to all of Africa’s sub regions. This sub region is the region in Africa most endowed with natural resources especially crude oil and forests reserves. It also holds the largest water reserves on the African continent. Despite such wealth, the manufacturing base in the Central African sub region remains very narrow and although there is availability of relatively good agricultural land, food production is still below the needs of the population.

Many organisations have been created in the sub region with the aim of attaining economic cooperation among the member states. This is notably with the case of the Economic Community for Central African States (ECCAS) which was founded in 1983 and became operational in 1985. Six out of the eleven member states of the sub region share a common currency zone (the CFA Franc) and a monetary zone union known as CEMAC (Communauté economique et monetaire d’Afrique centrale). These six states include Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Chad. The large population in these six member states makes it potentially a huge consumer market, yet sub regional cooperation arrangements have not succeeded in unleashing this full economic potential and move it towards economic integration. Goods manufactured in Central Africa do not circulate easily in the ECCAS zone. Citizens for instance, of Cameroon, are still requested to obtain visas before travelling to Gabon. In contrast citizens of other sub regional groups like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are not requested to obtain visas to circulate in member states. This precarious situation in the above mentioned six member states of ECCAS, impinge on the development of the market for consumer goods while stifling local entrepreneurship. Local producers are left with no choice than to be involved with smuggling and illicit exportation.

The Head of States for the above mentioned six states of the Economic Community for Central Africa (ECCAS) met during their last summit in June 2013. During this meeting the Heads of State for the six states in the ECCAS zone, agreed that visa requirements would henceforth not be obligatory for citizens of member states circulating in these states. This move is to take effect as from January 1, 2004.

Eradicating visa requirements for these six member states is indeed a laudable initiative which would go a long way to facilitate business transactions and economic ties amongst member states of the ECCAS zone. This would indeed unleash the full economic potential and facilitate the move towards economic integration in the sub region. It is also hoped that the eradication of the visa requirements for these six concerned states would facilitate the circulation of goods and agricultural produce in these member states. Eradicating visa requirements without ensuring that stringent barriers like heavy taxation of goods and agricultural produce are equally dismantled would serve no purpose. While citizens of the six member states of ECCAS that share the CFA franc await to benefit from the ‘no visa’ requirement move, it is important that Heads of State of these member states also put in place other measures like curbing heavy taxes. It is also important for these Heads of State to encourage partnership cooperation among the private sectors of these member states so as to facilitate rapid regional integration and economic growth.

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2013 in Africa Development

 

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