a visit to relaunch economic ties between them

The French president is going to Cameroon to try to revive ties between the two countries. Economically, these ties tend to break, with France losing ground for several decades in favor of China, but also ‘India. If France is Cameroon’s second supplier, it is only its seventh customer, exports are stagnating and imports are falling.

The bottle must not hide the increasingly empty glass. The French group Castel’s recent takeover of the British Guinness’s activities for 300 billion CFA francs (more than 450 million euros) is hardly an illusion. In Cameroon, French economic influence is declining. In the 1990s, French companies accounted for 40% of the economy, they will represent only 10% in 2021, according to calculations by the French Embassy.

It is true that the country still houses 200 companies and subsidiaries of French groups in areas as diverse as oil extraction, timber, agro-industry or distribution, but French investments are in decline. The stock of French foreign direct investment represented 853 million euros in 2019, that is, three times less than in Senegal.

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If France remains Yaoundé’s second supplier, on the other hand, it is only its seventh customer. Cameroonian exports to France are steadily decreasing (260 million euros in 2021) and imports are stagnant (535 million euros in 2021). If the balance is positive for France, Paris is no longer Cameroon’s leading trading partner. This title now goes to China.

Yaoundé has diversified its economic partnersFor in recent years, Yaoundé has diversified its economic partners. Beijing has become decisive in the awarding of major infrastructure contracts. Starting with those from the African Cup of Nations. Chinese activism is also reflected in roads and electricity. Paris’s loss of economic influence can also be measured by the increasingly fierce competition from India and Turkey. But Cameroon also exports its products to the Netherlands and Italy, its second and fourth. As for Russia, last year it took the place of third supplier, just after China and France.

With a traditionally diversified economy that has returned to growth – it should reach 4% this year – Yaoundé has the support of its development partners. The IMF, which is pushing the government to avoid soft loans and rationalize its spending, approved a three-year financing deal in 2021 under the extended credit facility for a total of $690 million. This will help the country reconnect with a more ambitious public investment policy.

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