By Yerima Kini Nsom
The President and the Chair of the Board of Directors of the African Export and Import Bank, Afreximbank, Prof. Benedict Oramah, says Cameroon has a vibrant economy that can support the business venture of his institution in the Central African Sub Region.
He made the remark to the press recently shortly after inspecting the piece of land on which the bank’s Trade Centre for the African Sub Region will be constructed, at the Etoudi neighbourhood in Yaounde.
Prof. Oramah visited the site with his collaborators in the company of the Minister of State Property and Land Tenure, Henri Eyebe Ayissi. Stating why the bank was pitching tent in Yaounde, Prof. Oramah described the Central African sub region, in which Cameroon is found, as an important region for the bank. He said the region remains an enticing business hub for them, especially within the context of the support the bank is giving to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement implementation. While describing Cameroon as a country with a vibrant economy, Prof. Oramah, said they were opening an office in Yaounde because it will bring them closer to other countries in the sub region. He said the bank was doing business with other countries in the Central African sub region through its Abidjan’s office in Ivory Coast.
Talking about the bank’s business roadmap in Central Africa, the Afreximbank boss expressed a lot of optimism. Hear him: I think we have targeted that we should be doing investments in the next five years of not less than 5 billion US dollars by starting this office. We expect that within the next three years, we will deliver this project. Given our experience with other projects we are doing elsewhere, we expect that this project will cost between 120-150 million US dollars”. The character and the aesthetics of the construction indicate that the Afreximbank Africa Trade Centre in Yaounde will be a piece of architectural marvel. The complex will harbour the bank’s regional offices, a trade centre, information centre, a conference centre, a trade show centre as well as an international class hotel among other structures.
For one thing, the Africa Trade centre in Yaounde will only be a byword of Afreximbank’s ambitious programme to transform its regional offices into a network of trade centres. Afreximbank is a pan-African multilateral financial institution that shoulders the responsibility to fund and promote intra and extra-African trade. The bank deploys innovative structures to deliver financing solutions that support the transformation of the structure of Africa’s trade. It also helps to accelerate industrialisation and intra-regional trade, thereby boasting economic expansion in Africa.
Given Afreximbank’s success story in funding business projects, the President of Cameroon’s Employers’ Union, GICAM, Celestin Tawamba, has appealed to the officials of the bank to fine-tune its funding policies to suit local realities in Cameroon. Talking to the bank officials in Yaounde, Tawamba regretted that the bank specialises in funding export and import operations. He said if the bank does not adjust their policies to suit the local realities, the majority of Cameroon’s business people will not benefit from the bank’s funding scheme because they run mostly small and medium-sized enterprises. He said such enterprises are barely surviving given that they have been hard hit by the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. For his part, the Minister of Trade, Luc Magloire Atangana Mbarga, urged the bank to streamline its funding schemes to suit the frames of the public and private sectors in Cameroon. He appealed to the bank to domesticate its funding policies that would help accelerate the implementation of the National Strategic Development Programme, 2020-2030 put in place by the government. The Minister lauded the efforts of the bank, describing it as an outfit that would, through its financing scheme, accelerate Africa’s industrialisation.
Speaking to the press, the Global Head of Client Relations at Afreximbank, Rene Awambeng, a Cameroonian, blamed the low intra-African trade on lack of access to market information by the various stakeholders. He said many African countries do not know that there are export opportunities for their products in other African countries. Going by Awambeng, Small and Medium Size Enterprises, smallholder farmers and informal cross border traders lack the capacity to export and comply with trade regulations. He further said: “Many of them carry small quantities of goods to sell across the borders where they receive cash for their transactions. Even large scale producers and manufacturing companies at times do not have market intelligence that enables them to source raw materials efficiently and to export their products to the best markets”.