BY NDUMBE BELL JOSEPH GASTON IN DOUALA
The 4th edition of the International Forum for Investors organised by the Chamber of Commerce (CCIMC) under the distinguished chairmanship of the British High Commissioner, representative of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland took place in Douala from October 25 to October 26, with hundreds of economic actors of the private and public sector seriously in search for partnerships and financing with not only British businesses but also among Cameroonian businesses.
Import substitution was the key focal point recommended to local investors in search of partnership because of the potential role this plays in promoting economic development everywhere and in particular, in Cameroon.
The speaker from the United Kingdom-Cameroon Chamber of Commerce stated that the economy of Cameroon is hinged in the development and financing of SMEs which contributes to a high percentage GDP in the state. So, UK small and medium-sized economic actors are poised to promote or create partnerships with Cameroonian SMEs to promote the development of import substitution in Cameroon.
Import substitution briefly is simply reducing reliance on mostly imported goods by creating an enabling business atmosphere to promote the direct investments at the domestic level through agro and other sectors of industry for made in Cameroon goods that can as well be exported to increase our foreign reserves and be less dependent on imported goods.
The President of the Chamber of Commerce Honourable Christophe Eken stressed on the values reaped from import substitution but that promoting import substitution required the legal frameworks to protect each other’s interests. After a long list of appreciating the presence and efforts of stakeholders and participants, the Chamber’s president claimed that the massive attendance was unalloyed testimony that both the British and Cameroonian businesses are ready to engage in B2B and hereafter build concrete partnerships.
In front of Dr Fuh Calistus Gentry, the Interim Minister Mines, Industry and Technological Development (MINMIDT), Hon. Christophe Eken said they have realised many projects to promote start-uppers and agro-industry such as the archipelago program, the pilot incubation centre (PIC) and more, to boost a sound future basis for agro-industry.
Alternative flour for the bakery has already been packaged at the incubation centre. School children on holidays were able to make bottled fruit juice at the centre. This means production can be done at a large scale to satisfy domestic needs through partnerships.
The chamber’s President in miniscule detail sold the existence of their created business platform since 2021 to promote the exchange of ideas, the access to information and seeking financial investors. He thanked the collaboration of MINEPAT for the setting up of this digital platform adding that, through it, more agro-industry has been promoted. Economic operators now have access to all the enquiries that they need, the president added.
The UK commissioner disclosed that he was very excited by Cameroon’s economic potential mentioning further that bilateral trade between the two countries have reached one billion pounds (£1 billion). He was heard stating that he was fascinated by Cameroon’s young entrepreneurial actors. He continued that areas of interest include agro-industry, road and other infrastructure, among others. He repeated their desire to hold talks with our economic actors on a win-win partnership bases but that in everything they should be ready to meet and overcome some challenges.
The MINMIDT said the organisation of this forum was valuable contributions to promote the national development strategy:” Our country is under construction”, he told the British. He said Cameroon is moving to become a full mining country. He hailed the Chamber’s digital platform and called the economic actors to support the Chamber’s digital platform. He talked at length at the advantages of the digital platform.
Looking at the quality and diversity of attendants the MINMIDT commented that this year has registered 154 businesses, unlike the last which had only 85 business registrations in this 4th edition, representing FCFA 2.5 billion. The Minister used this opportunity to invite the U.K. during the May 24 international mining conference in Cameroon. He said that when this sector is developed it will only be second to that of South Africa.
The Chamber signed some MOU’s with some four institutions such as the Association of commerce and Land Transport (G.C.T.C), Institue Universitaire du Golf de Guinea, the Cameroon-Ethiopia Chamber and the Chambre de Cooperation Économique de la Diaspora. More were to be signed but didn’t.
A member of the British Financing Agency made presentations on how to exploit their financial opportunities with long-term guarantees. This was followed by the launching of the mini exhibition by the Chamber’s entourage.
At 14:57 pm, presentations were made by MINFI, UBA, Barrister Nico Halle and a plethora of others including B2Bs. Barrister Nico Halle, a member of the Chamber’s Arbitration service focused his call on business leaders to change their mindset and mentality against corruption and embrace the right ways of doing things. He warned that if we do not change our mindset, we will fail to attain our development goals, in brief. There were over 65 economic actors who presented their investment projects to attract financing. That page continued until the following day.
In the closing remarks, Mme EKOKA, on behalf of the president who was unavoidably absent, reiterated the objectives of the Chamber’s business platform. It is to exchange ideas, seek partnerships and also financing, she added. She then thanked everyone for the confidence shown to the Chamber and disclosed that another event will be organised at the end of the year. “The meeting is not ended. Use the platform, she cemented.”