CEMAC Needs To Open Up!
As the six member countries of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) redefine strategies to right the wrongs that have bedevilled concreate sub-regional integration over the years, leaders must as well not lose sight of the fact that they cannot afford to function in isolation of the rest of the continent and world. The world is increasingly becoming a global village obliging nations to easily share in failures and successes. Functioning as an island is either not likely or even where it can, the price of solitude is huge.
CEMAC is easily the smallest; should we even add, a least developed economic blocks in Africa. Facilitating movement of goods and persons within and without itself is imperative.
Like Cameroon’s Head of State, Paul Biya, current Chairman of the CEMAC Heads of State said in his message on the occasion of the 11th CEMAC day on March 16, 2020, “connectivity between our States with other sub-regions of the continent remains a main objective towards which we all need to focus.” Logically so as CEMAC, covering six countries, can be nothing on its own vis-à-vis the rest of the 49 countries that make up other economic blocks in Africa.
Solidifying the integration within the Central African sub-region by removing egocentric obstacles and then joining other sub-regions in the continent could greatly open the CEMAC area to the rest of the globe with all the benefits in the usually ‘give’ and ‘take’ partnership.
Quality and quantity infrastructure development, which Mr Biya underlined as a stimulant, should therefore be developed in such a way as to serve the CEMAC, the rest of Africa and even the world. Durable super highways, modern airports and seaports are needed across CEMAC to take care of the movement of persons and goods. Governments would also need to develop modern telecoms infrastructure and try as much as possible to somehow harmonise and make accessible and affordable broadband for a rapid growth of the digital economy.
Success passes through finalising integratory projects in all sectors of the economy. National policies would also need to align with sub-regional and continental visions, especially concerning infrastructure development. For, it would be counter-productive for neighbouring countries to spend huge and scarce resources in providing infrastructure that would end up in unhealthy competition for space rather than comprehending each other for shared gains.
Sufficient transport facilities, adequate and reliable supply of energy, provision of an adequately skilled workforce and facilities for the vocational training of specialised workers are ingredients for a solid base. Facilitating loan acquisition by reforming domestic financial markets to allow home-grown firms respond to challenges and impulses from foreign entrants, would also be an opportunity to arm the local economies to stand the competitiveness that comes with opening up. With the Continental Free Trade Zone now operational, the CEMAC sub-region absolutely needs to sit up, else it faces out in the anticipated business competitiveness. Even more, CEMAC cannot pretend to aspire for substantial growth when its industrialisation is still at infancy. There are little or no economic zones therein. Emulating what other countries have done in terms of cleansing the business climate may not be bad, provided it is not copying and pasting with little or no adaptability. Opening up can help here!
Opening up to the rest of the rest of the sub-regions and world at large would yield dividends if CEMAC solidifies itself as a firm and fully integrated block and face others with clearly defined objectives. In a competitive world wherein partnerships are irresistible, it pays to know what you have and need so as to ascertain the win-win nomenclature of bilateral and multilateral ties. Anything short of this would be sailing on unknown waters. Capitalising on comparative advantages to conquer the huge market within and without Africa could greatly project CEMAC to the limelight. And this is what President Paul Biya is advocating.