The Ukraine crisis is likely to aggravate liquidity issues constraining recovery, increasing food insecurity, see how.
SRO-SA Director, Eunice G. Kamwendo, noted that African countries are most affected by the pandemic and the combined impact of the COVID-19 and the Ukraine crisis are likely to further aggravate liquidity issues constraining recovery. She reminded that as a region Southern Africa contracted the most out of all the sub-regions in Africa due to Covid-19.
“According to estimates by the African Development Bank (AfDB) the region’s GDP contracted by as much as 6.3% in 2020, compared to a 2.1% recession for the rest of Africa,” said Ms Kamwendo.
She pointed out that Africa faces a high risk of food insecurity because Russia and Ukraine are major global suppliers of agricultural commodities such as maize, wheat, oils and fertilizers. “The two countries, combined, provide 30 per cent of the world’s wheat and barley needs; supply nearly one-fifth of maize globally, and account for over half of the global market share in sunflower oil, among other commodities.”
The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Zahira Virani added that the war in Ukraine is forcing Africa to revisit its strategies. “Angola is leading the side event because Angola is in a unique position of facing adverse impacts and opportunities at the same time”. She said the African Continental Free Trade Area provided a great opportunity for intra trade and new markets for the country.
Angola Minister of Economy and Planning, Mario Augusto Caetano Joao, informed the meeting that to counter shocks Angola has engaged deep reforms and changed its business model by prioritizing local production and diversifying from focus on oil production to heavy investments in agri business, fisheries, and transport to give the country a comparative advantage.
“Ten years ago, Angola’s oil dependence was 43% and now oil dependency is only 20% showing that the investments are bearing fruit and the country’s economy has stabilized despite the crisis”.
Southern Africa participants benefited from the exchange of experiences from East Africa. Hon. Amos Lugoloobi, Uganda Minister of State for Finance, Planning and Economic Development encouraged Southern African countries to increase local food production to prevent the dependency on wheat. He gave an example of his country which has increased the production of its staple food and products such as bananas, maize, cassava, palm trees and potatoes.
Mr Lugoloobi noted that Uganda is a net producer of its food supplies and export to neighbouring countries. The country has also embarked on increasing the production of sunflower oil to counter rising prices and be self-sufficient and able to face shocks.
On policy responses to the Ukraine crisis and COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting listened to three other presenters: Dr. Yamungu Kayandabila the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Tanzania; Mr. Marcos Souto, IMF Country Director in Angola, Dr Eklou Attiogbevi-Somado, Manager for Agriculture and Agro-Industry for West Africa, African Development Bank and Mr. Mtho Xulu, President of South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The meeting, moderated by Joseph Atta-Mensah from ECA’s Macroeconomics and Governance Division, closed with an interactive Question and Answer session involving the panelists, journalists, and representatives of member States African member States, who reiterated to ECA the importance of the annual Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (CoM) as a platform that allows stakeholders to debate key issues of relevance to Africa’s development.
The Economic Report on Africa has recommended that African governments adopt targeted social protection; provide short-term social assistance to the most vulnerable people; ensure health protection for all.
The EAR 2021 launched on May 15 suggests that in the long term, “African countries need to build resilience by investing in health protection for all, which also offers high potential for employment creation; Build a national and regional health emergency preparedness and response system for future pandemics; Build domestic capacity for vaccine production through initiatives such as the Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing; Leverage the African Continental Free Trade Area and other Africa-wide initiatives to create decent jobs and reduce poverty”.
Launched on the sidelines of the Economic Commission for Africa annual conference of Ministers of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, the report suggests that disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic pushed an estimated 55 million Africans into extreme poverty in 2020 and reversed more than two decades of progress in poverty reduction on the continent.
Titled: “Addressing Poverty and Vulnerability in Africa during the COVID-19 Pandemic”, the report shows that pandemic has caused job losses, reduced income and further limited the ability of households to manage risks. An estimated 12.6 per cent more people are likely to be pushed into poverty in one year alone more than the combined total of the additional poor since 1999
Furthermore, poor households move into and out of poverty because of exogenous shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic and that their inability to manage uninsured risks only increases their vulnerability. So, achieving sustained poverty reduction requires thoroughly understanding the nexus of poverty, risks and vulnerability.
“Under current projections, the pandemic is likely to increase the number of people living in extreme poverty, in Africa and globally,” says the report.
The report was produced by ECA’s Strategic Planning, Oversight and Results Division; the Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division; and the Macroeconomic and Governance Division.
Hanan Morsy, ECA’s Deputy Executive Secretary said the report analyses the implication of COVID-19 in terms of poverty, but brings a new dimension stressing the vulnerability in Africa. It brings the element of people centric analysis of what has been happening during COVID-19 and what we need to do to ensure that the vulnerable population are protected in terms of social safety net and putting up the right policies.
“This report is particularly relevant given to what we have seen as the implications on the continent. The most critical implication of COVID-19 has been the reversal of the very hard-won gains that the continent had managed to achieve in reducing poverty,” said Ms Morsy.
While presenting the key findings of the report, Adrian Gauci, an Economic Affairs Officer at ECA said African countries responded to the poverty effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in part through expansionary fiscal and monetary policies to maintain consumption and aggregate demand and prevent firm closures and job losses.
“A major contribution of the report is the emphasis on the centrality of risk and vulnerability to shocks in the design of poverty reduction strategies in Africa,” said Mr Gauci.
“The report calls for an urgent need to explore innovative and affordable market-led insurance schemes which can insure the poor from future shocks. Collaboration of governments with the private sector is paramount.”
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the report says is an opportunity to build forward better Most African countries still depend on exports of raw materials and on imports of essential goods such as food items and pharmaceuticals.
“If AfCFTA is effectively implemented, intra-Africa trade is expected to be about 35 per cent higher than without the grouping by 2045,” says the report
“The AfCFTA would help Africa industrialize and diversify, reducing trade dependence on external partners and boosting the share of intra-Africa trade from roughly 15 per cent today to over 26 per cent.”
The key highlights of the report are on the economic trends, monetary policy performance, exchange rate, fiscal deficit and external debt and Africa’s trade trends.
The COVID-19 pandemic has heavily disrupted the movement of people, goods, services and capital, and its impacts led Africa’s GDP to contract by an estimated 3.2 per cent in 2020. The pandemic is expected to weigh further on already slow economic growth.
Monetary policy performance
In 2018 and 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, most African countries had accommodative monetary policy as inflation remained stable or declined
Exchange rate performance
In 2019, many African countries experienced exchange rate volatility as their currencies depreciated, mainly on trade-related uncertainties and capital outflows, as well as country-specific factors such as widening fiscal deficits, declining foreign exchange reserves and lower capital inflows.
Rising fiscal deficits and external debt
Africa’s fiscal deficit narrowed from 5.3 per cent of GDP in 2017 to 3.0 per cent in 2019, mainly because of government fiscal consolidation efforts.
Africa’s trade trends
The share of global exports decreased from 2010 to 2019 in Africa but increased in other global regions. The continent’s share fell from 2.48 per cent in 2019 to 2.14 per cent in 2020, though Asia and Europe were resilient, owing partly to continued supplies of consumer goods and medical goods during the COVID-19 pandemic
The President of the Cameroon Football Federation, Samuel Eto’o Fils on Wednesday meet with Nigeria’s billionaire Tony Elumelu, promoter of the Pan African Union Bank of Africa in Abuja for the second time. The visit is a giant step taken by Eto’o to bring more investors in sponsoring the Cameroonian league.
After signing deals with MTN, Orange and SABC Group, the four times African Best Player of the year has sealed a business partnership between Fecafoot and UBA justified by the firm and exciting had shake between both personalities as projected on the image at the end of their encounter.
The Cameroonian FA head is announce in the days ahead for an exchange with Aliko Dangote proprietor of the Dangote Cement Company.
Elumelu is a die-heart supporter of the Pichichi following his brilliant performances on the African and European football scenery. The goleador will soon be identified on numerous postals advertising the Pan African Bank’s services.
In April 19,2017 the Cameroonian striker had paid a courtesy visit to Tony Elumelu during the Easter period at his Abuja residence, at the end of which the business magnet was offered a nine shirt jersey bearing the national colours from Samuel Eto’o.
The money will also boost bilateral trade and also support jobs. This come as UK marks the first anniversary of its trade agreement with Cameroon.
The United Kingdom and Cameroon signed an economic Partnership agreement last year for businesses in the two countries to trade freely without additional tariffs or barriers.
Data shows UK trade with Cameroon increased by 40% from last year with the value of trade between the two nations reaching £231 million at the end of 2021.
The new deal underwritten by UK Export Finance (UKEF) will support the expansion of the Douala East Entrance Road, which connects the capital in Cameroon with vital trading ports. When completed the expanded road will dramatically improve the transport of goods in Cameroon and strengthen economic ties with landlocked neighbours Chad and the Central African Republic.
Mike Freer MP, Minister for Exports, said: “Africa is one of the most exciting continents on which to do business. That’s why this government worked so quickly to ensure trade agreements were rolled over and exports could continue unabated.”
This new deal backed by UK Export Finance is a huge boost to the UK’s growing trade with Cameroon. It will help keep the wheels of trade turning and provide opportunities for British companies to showcase their world-class expertise.
UKEF will provide a mix of Buyer Credit and Direct Lending support worth FCFA 74.8 billion and the transaction was arranged by Standard Chartered Bank.
UKEF can help foreign countries with financial support to make their projects happen, if they commit to sourcing goods and services from the UK. This helps open new doors for world-class British suppliers to trade overseas.
International company Magil Construction will undertake the works on the Douala Road project with crucial assistance from the UK supply chain, which will support jobs and boost trade in the UK.
Magil has strong credentials in Cameroon, working on some of the largest projects in the country. They have recently completed the construction of the Douala Soccer Stadium used at the recent African Cup of Nations.
According to Ralph Tropea, Executive Advisor at Magil Construction, “We are grateful for the assistance provided by UKEF with its team of professionals, at every level, to make this deal for the Douala East Entrance Road Project a reality. Magil Construction is proud partner in this Project which is a testament to economic and business cooperation by the UK, Cameroon and stakeholders from conception to construction.”
Mustafa Sajjad Hussain, Executive Director, Structured Export Finance, Standard Chartered Bank, said: “We are very pleased to support the Republic of Cameroon by structuring a competitive financing package to deliver critical infrastructure in the country. The newly restored road will bring social and economic benefits to Douala’s inhabitants and communities in the surrounding areas, helping to build long-term sustainable growth in central Africa.”
UKEF has up to £2 billion available to support UK exports to Cameroon and can continue to back projects in Cameroon with its financial support.
A safe haven for women to bond, look out for each other and become financially independent in the crisis ridden Northwest village-Fungom Farms
Odette Fin, 32 years, mother of four, is proud to have been trained to be the first woman sweet potato bread baker in Menchum Division, Northwest Cameroon.
Like most women in the area, Fin made a living from farming but now she sees her life differently.
Her story to becoming the first woman sweet potato baker stated in 2019 when the Fungom Farms set its base in her village.
First, with other women, she farmed potatoes, harvested, cleaned and transformed to flour, stocked it in bags.
Then, an opportunity came knocking to train in baking. Fin and two other women enrolled but they preferred farming, so she was the only person completed the training.
Fungom Farms, a family business that owns the IR company- a sustainable development cooperative, working together to ensure food security in the village, brought in a baker who trained Fin.
Today she is the pride of the community as the first female sweet potato baker.
“I learnt baking for three months and now I am happy with my new life”, Fin said.
“My day starts with preparing my kids for school. When they are gone, i also head to the bakery. I sweep and keep the environment clean, clean the baking kit, measure and weigh the quantity of sweet potato flour that I mix with wheat flour”, she recounts.
On a typical business day, Fin can bake about 10,000 loaves ranging from FCFA 100, 250, and 500.
“The population are marveled because they did not know bread could be made from sweet potatoes. They love the bread”, she said.
As a baker, Fin says her life has changed, that she is living a good life compared to when she was farming.
“I pay school fees and buy books for my kids, I am grateful to Fungom Farms for investing in me, giving the new skill.
If there are any women interested, I advise them to learn baking.
The company which started in 2019, baking normal bread turned to sweet potato bread thanks to the research carried out by the manager.
Besides sweet potato bread, Cameroonian bakers are trying their skills in baking bread from cassava, cocoyam, plantain and yam to seduce customers.
In a way, they transform farm produce, for the population to eat organic food and reduce post-harvest losses.
The Fungom Farms , produce about 25 tons of potatoes every year and buy more from the villagers, one of the farm hands, Tchinda stated.
Fungom Farms based in Mekaf village, covering 25 villages does not only farm potatoes, but also vegetables, maize, groundnuts, soya bean, palms, cassava.
The farm sustains 370 families, 80 contributors, supplies five villages, and many customers.
With the ongoing crisis in the Northwest and Southwest regions, the idea of a cooperative has been a survival strategy as people could not go to their farms individually.
“Working as a group, a cooperative has built a bond among the members”, the Manager, Henry Bung stated.
Though women work as a cooperative where they are paid, they also own individual sweet potato farms, Bung added.
Brazilian Ambassador to Cameroon, Vivian Loss Sanmartin says the South Atlantic Inter Link (SAIL) that connect links the two countries will make Cameroon becomes a communication hub in Africa.
The Brazilian Diplomat made the assertion on August 27 after visiting the SAIL cable landing station in Kribi, South Region of the country.
Vivian Loss Sanmartin was accompanied by the Director General of CAMTEL, Judith Yah Sunday alongside officials from the Minister of External Relations, Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, Telecommunications Regulatory Agency, ART and dignitaries of the South Region.
“This is a great initiative and we appreciate it in maintaining our relationship in general and technology in particular. We support all kinds of initiatives that brings us together and we believe that Cameroon has an opportunity to become a hub in this region of Africa,” Brazilian Diplomat said.
She added that, “I believe that investors in Brazil will be interested in joining this beautiful initiative.”
On her part, the Director General, DG of CAMTEL said, the infrastructure constitutes and make Cameroon a hub of digitisation in the Central African Sub-Region as far as content (multimedia, telemedicine, videos, streaming, cloud computer) among other things is concerned.
Judith Yah Sunday added that the construction of SAIL is inscribed as top priority of the development of communication infrastructure in the country.
In the meantime, Georges Mpoundi Ngolle, Head of Business Unit Transport at CAMTEL highlighted the benefits of the interconnection stating that, among other things, it is going to allow more fluency on connectivity from Cameroon to the rest of the world and vice versa, fast and more affordable internet connection.The South Atlantic Inter Link (SAIL) otherwise known as Cameroon-Brazil Cable System or (CBCS) is a submarine communications cable in the South Atlantic Ocean linking Kribi, Cameroon with Fortaleza, Brazil.
in addition, SAIL is an intercontinental submarine cable across the South Atlantic sea area, connecting the continent of Africa and South America establishing new Internet channels for Africa-South America, Africa-North America and South America-Europe.
The cable landing points are operated by Camtel in Kribi and by China Unicom Brazil in Fortaleza. China Unicom provided the project management and business operation support, while the engineering construction was contracted from Huawei Marine Networks. The whole project lasted for 14 months and was completed in August 2018.
The cable measures approximately 6,000 km in length and contains four optical fibre pairs, each capable of transmitting 100 wavelengths with a bandwidth of 100 Gbit/s (gigabits per second), for a design capacity of 32 Tbit/s (terabits per second).
The project was financed through the Concessional Loan and Preferential Export Buyer’s Credit of China Exim Bank.
China Unicom and CAMTEL jointly invested and constructed the SAIL submarine cable.
About half the vaccines Cameroon acquired in April are yet to be administered, as of July 19, 2021, only 316,445 persons had a jab, according to statistics from the Enlarged Programme of Immunization, EPI.
Antonio Pedro, Economic Commission for Africa, ECA Director for Central Africa has urged Cameroonians to acquire and administer vaccines as a sure way to end the double threat covid-19 is imposing on health and the economy.
Pedro made the plea as Cameroon through the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Louis Njock received the first consignment of 158,400 doses of Johnson & Johnson.
ECA, AFRIMBANK and Africa CDC procured the vaccines for Cameroon and more are to follow as Cameroon intends to acquire up to 5million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
The procurement is the fruit of months of long negotiations. “For months we’ve been meeting with African Ministers of Finance, Economy, Health and other stakeholders to underscore the importance of facilitating access to vaccines to end global vaccine inequality,” said ECA’s Director for Central Africa.
At the Nsimalen Airport on August 8 when the vaccines arrived, ECA boss said, “This calls for celebration as we’ve reached a milestone in the acquisition of vaccines manufactured in Africa [South Africa] for Africans!”
“This symbolizes Cameroon’s resolve to move towards herd immunity”, Pedro said congratulating Cameroon on being at the fore of the initiative.
The latest acquisition has has brought the total of vaccine doses in Cameroon to 1,052,650 Sinopharm, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson.
The procurement follows donation of 303,050 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines by the United States.
Africa has the least access to vaccines in the world and vaccination is still pegged at 2 percent, 1.25 percent in Cameroon.
The continent has received slightly more than 103 million doses of vaccines but vaccinated only 24 million people, (1.7 percent ) and would need about 183 doses to vaccinate 10 percent of the population in September, 2021.
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa- Vaccine Champion announced the shipment of vaccines to Africa by August 5 through AVAT,AU / African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) in collaboration with the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP).
On the above premise, a total of 6.4m doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is being shipped across Africa this August. The figure is expected to have reached 50 million by the end of the 2021. By January 2022 supplies will be ramped up to surpass 25 million per month.
But, the vaccination up take remains low as misinformation and misconception are fueling hesitancy.
As of July 19, only 316,455 persons had taken a jab and even worse, only 48,999 had taken their second dose.
Being a single dose vaccine, Johnson & Johnson may be the answer to disappearance observed after the first dose for vaccine like AstraZeneca and Sinopharm.
According to Prof. Wilfred Mbacham those who do not take the second jab are not protected and are as exposed to the virus as those who have not had a jab.
Many IDPs like Brenda Ache and Tita Bless have dark pages about the ongoing conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon, but are ready to step into another page.
After five days running in the bush, Ache found her way to Yaoundé. A tribe’s man helped her and her sisters, then, her sick father later joined them and life has not been easy.
Tita’s situation is not different as he has been surviving by washing plates, guarding houses and doing other menial jobs.
But, Hope and Rehabilitation Organization, HaRO is striving transform the lives of IDPs by training them on income generating activities and entrepreneurship.
One of the trainees, Evelyne Saah drilled the IDPs on pastries, fish pie, meat pie, Korean donuts, cakes and icing.
“We are going to take those interested for follow up”, she stated.
“My passion is to train people to be able to make money on their own, have a side hustle, given the financial difficulties in Cameroon”, she added.
“Learn to make use of the skills learnt, put them into practice”, she advised the trainees.
Ache, Tita and about 30 other IDPs can now boost of skills to step into making pastries, soaps and oils.
“I can now be an entrepreneur on my own, she said after five-day training.
“With the skills, I can also help myself, my sisters and employ some people to work with me”, Ache visibly elated added.
Ache, for five days learnt many things that are important for her life, production of bathing soap, powder and liquid soaps, glass cleaners, hair oil and body lotion and pastries.
Like Ache, Bless Awa says he wished he had this opportunity to learn long ago.
“I already have plans to start up a small business”, Tita said.
HARO organized the training to take away some IDPs from the streets as most of them go into illegal means to earn a living, like prostitution.
Besides, the humanitarian organization was training within the premise that when IDPs learn income generation activities like pastries, they can market them and earn a living for themselves.
“We give food and they still go and come back, so we thought of something sustainable, this training”, HARO National Coordinator, Frtz Kwa Mendi said.
“You can be trained on income generating activities but if you don’t master the skills of entrepreneurship you will not be productive,”, he stressed.
“We have funders who have told the IDPs they would assist with finances after the training, all they need is to produce a sample, that will be a motivation that they are learning and willing to practice. Most of them will receive financial assistance” he said.
The trainees are given coaches to follow them up in the course of their production, they can call in case of difficulties and the coach will tell them what to do. When the coaches have contracts they go along with the trainees.
“We are training Cameroonians who can fend for themselves without depending on the state, as we have to accept the fact that Cameroon is suffering from high unemployment”, he maintained.
Dr Lilian Ngwna, HaRO Executive Director used the opportunity to share re-useable sanitary pads to IDPs who most often do not have the money to offer themselves the luxury of sanitary pads during menstruation.
It should be noted that HaRO was recently awarded the Sub-regional Prize for Humanitarian Excellence 2021 for their assistance the vulnerable people in society.
The interconnection is expected to reduce the digital divide, communication costs in the sub region and ensure security in communication
By Etienne Mainimo in Gabon
The Cameroon government, through its telecommunications company, Cameroon Telecommunication, CAMTEL, has inaugurated the interconnection line between with Gabon.
The 96-strand G652 type optical fiber laid underground goes from the city of Bitam in Gabon to the city of kye-Ossi in Cameroon.
The line covers a total distance of 22 km making it possible to connect the telecommunication transport networks (Backbone) of the two countries.
The interconnection is expected to reduce the digital divide as well as reduce communication costs in the sub region. In addition, it is going to ensure security in communication.
Approximately 100 terabytes/second is to be offered as well as eLearning and other advantages.
The launching ceremony took place in Bitam, Gabon on July 14 to 17. The ceremony was chaired by the Minister of State, Minister of Telecommunications and the Economy of Gabon accompanied by the Cameroon Minister of Telecommunications as well as the Equatorial Telecommunications.
Cameroon’s Ambassador to Gabon as well as Gabon’s Ambassador to Cameroon alongside other dignitaries from the three countries took part in the ceremony.
The Optic Fibre connection would be linked to equatorial Guinea in the days ahead.
Pundits are wondering if there is a deliberate attempt to cut off the Northwest from the rest of the country.
The Babadjou-Bamenda road which observers describe as a byword of neglect, is part of what was referred to in 2010 as part of the Bafoussam-Bamenda road project.
The contract to construct the road was awarded to the French company, RAZEL. RAZEL constructed the road from Bafoussam to Babadjou in Bamboutous Division of the West Region.
As soon as RAZEL got to Babadjou, it declared that it could not continue with project because what was left of the money allocated to the project, was only FCFA 1.9 billion. The company said such a paltry amount was too small to enable them continue with the project.
In a bid to solve this pecuniary equation, RAZEL wrote to the Cameroon government, proposing that funding could be sought from a French Bank.
In reaction, the then Prime Minister, Philemon Yang, asked for advice from the Minister of Public Works. According to inside sources, government finally rejected the RAZEL proposal on claims that the interest rates of the French bank in question were too high.
Government finally resolved that the remaining FCFA 1.9 billion be used for maintenance of the Babadjou-Bamenda stretch as the state searched for funds to construct the road. RAZEL finally left.
The maintenance works were carried out by two Cameroonian enterprises, MAG and EDGE up to 2017. Government later signed a loan agreement with World Bank to finance the construction of the Babadjou-Bamenda road.
According to government prescriptions, the 35-kilometre stretch from Babadjou to the gateway to Bamenda where there is a billboard with the inscription: “Welcome To Bamenda”, was going to be constructed as modern highway.
From there, there was going to be the construction of a double carriage way (between 19 metres to 30 metres wide in some sections). This double carriage way has to pass through Government Bilingual High School, GBHS, Mendakwe, the new Governor’s residence, the Chantal Biya Foundation, Hot spot and Amour Mezam junction along the new road.
The dual carriage way will continue through the Bayelle junction at Mile 2 Nkwen, Mobile Nkwen, Finance junction, Ngen Junction, Veterinary junction, Sonac Street, City Chemist Round-About, Metta Quarters, T-juctison, Ayaba Street and Veterinary junction.
The Babadjou-Bamenda road project was estimated to cost a circa FCFA 55 billion. Given that RAZEL had quit the project, the contract for construction of the road was awarded to another French company, SOGEA-SATOM.
The project was launched in a solemn ceremony in Santa, Mezam Division in the Northwest Region in September 2017. The Minister of Public Works, Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi, who chaired the ceremony, said the road construction would go on as planned.
Almost all the property which was earmarked for destruction in order to construct the road, had already been paid off by 2018.
SOGEA-SATOM started work, but eventually stopped due to the burning of their equipment, including five trucks by unidentified armed men in Akum in 2018.
The Minister of Public Works, Factfinder learnt, repeatedly, requested the company to continue work from Babadjou to the gateway to the Northwest Region at Matazem which is 17 kilometres. The company seemingly did not yield to the Minister’s pressure.
It is mooted that it was pressure from the Presidency of the Republic that caused the company to start work on the stretch during the rainy season last year.
Not much work was done since SATOM abandoned the contract as far back as January 14 this year. Going by government sources, the company is asking the state of Cameroon to pay them a sum of FCFA 2 billion as the collateral damages they incurred following the burning of their equipment at Akum in 2018.
SATOM, going by inside sources, equally abandoned the project on claims that government is yet to pay their bills for some projects that they executed a long time ago in the country.
It was even alleged that the company was no longer interested in doing business in Cameroon and has been progressively transferring its equipment to Mauritania where they have so much work to do in a less corruption-infested environment.
It is such a situation that is a veritable headache to the Minister of Public Works. For one thing, the technical evaluation of the stretch is almost complete.
The evaluation is tailored to enable the government to know how much work SATOM has done so as to award the contract to another company. Yet, the fact stands here that the Babadjou-Matazem road contract awarded to SATOM has not been officially cancelled.
According to experts, such a situation is a little complicated because in tandem with administrative procedures, it is easier to award a contract than to terminate one that is already under execution.
Given the fact that SATOM had to construct the road only up to Matazem as per the second arrangement, the government took an administrative decision to bring in three Cameroonian companies to construct the stretch of the road from Matazem to Bamenda.
The companies are: BUNS, BOFAS and EDGE. These companies were officially confirmed by the project sponsor, the World Bank. The bank gave a go-ahead for government to speed up the procedure for the award of the contracts.
Since then, the Ministry of Public Works has only issued administrative documents to the companies, not contracts. Such documents which are signed by the Minister of Public Works are called “service orders”.
Going by the administrative decision, BUNS has to construct the stretch of the road from Matazem to the area where there is the “Welcome To Bamenda” billboard which spans over 18 kilometres.
BOFAS will take the portion from “Welcome To Bamenda” through GBHS Mendakwe to the Chantal Biya Foundation area which covers a distance of 5 kilometres.
EDGE will take the relay from the Chantal Biya Foundation, Hot Spot, Amour Mezam junction, Bayelle junction at Mile 2 Nkwen, Finance Junction, Ngen Junction, Veterinary Junction, Sonac Street, City Chemist Round-About, Food Market, Hospital Round-About, Metta Quarters, T-Junction, Ayaba Street, and back to the Veterinary Junction. This stretch covers a distance of 11 kilometres.
EDGE’s enthusiasm to start work even before its signs an official contract with government, has stirred hiccups in Bamenda town.
According to experts in the Ministry of Public Works, the company did not follow all the administrative and technical norms. For one thing, the outfit is said to have started work without the approval plan.
The company is also faulted for not following the technical specifications prescribed by the project owner which is the government. As a result, some property which had not been paid for, has been destroyed.
Such a misstep calls for another evaluation commission. Such a situation has reportedly sparked off some tension between the Northwest Regional Delegate of Public Works and General Manager of EDGE.
Stakeholders have held several meetings with commissions from Yaounde in an attempt to soothe nerves on the issue.
Another headache is the portion of the road at Akum which often becomes impassible whenever it rains heavily. The BUNS Company would have taken responsibility for such a situation, but for the fact there is no official contract between the outfit and the government.
BUNS did the maintenance of the stretch from Matazem to the gateway into Bamenda in November and December last year, but has not yet received a dime of its payments from government.
The company did the maintenance works after a verbal agreement with the Ministry of Public Works, while waiting for the official signing of the contract.
Cameroon Factfinder learnt that the procedure to officially award contracts to the three companies could have long been completed as far back as November last year, but for some unscrupulous and corrupt officials who continue to play the game of personal interest.
Thus, a combination of factors that equally betrays government’s weak political will, has stalled the construction of the Babadjou-Bamenda road for over seven years.
Otherwise, it remains a curious coincidence that money reportedly got finished only when it concerned the construction of the Babadjou-Bamenda road that links the crisis-hit Northwest Region to the rest of the country.
In many other areas in the country road construction is going on hitch-free. For instance, all the major roads in Dja and Lobo Division of the South Region are either under construction or earmarked for construction and the funds are already available. Pundits are wondering if there is a deliberate attempt to cut off the Northwest from the rest of the country.