By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Economic experts say for Cameroon and Nigeria to continue benefiting from their long-standing relationship, both countries should normalize, standardize and digitalize the process of trade between the two neighbouring countries.
These experts were speaking Thursday, August 19 at the Mua Foundation in Cameroon’s political capital Yaounde during the second edition of the Nkafu Open Trade Initiative, NOTI under the theme: “Championing the benefits of Cameroon – Nigeria trade: A quest for Favourable trading terms.”
The Nkafu Policy Institute is a think-tank of the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation with discussions centred on the benefits of Cameroon – Nigeria Trade for the different sectors of activity; critically assess the implications of Cameroon – Nigeria Trade on economic growth, employment, and industrialization.
The outline of the development implications of the Cameroon – Nigeria trade on health, education, climate, employment, and consumption was also a point of focus while the experts equally assessed the appropriateness of current procedures in encouraging and supporting trade between Cameroon and Nigeria.
“Cameroon and Nigeria have strong cultural ties. Unfortunately, numerous exports and import ban has severely distorted the trade between the two countries,” Fri Asanga, interim CEO of the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation said in her welcoming statements.
Given the socio-economic context plague by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nkafu Policy Institute organized this session to discuss “the benefit of the trade between Cameroon and Nigeria with the hope of finding solutions and bringing consensus on how trade can be facilitated to make a more prosperous Africa,” Fri Asanga added.
Some salient issues were discussed upon with several questions on how government can facilitate trade between the two countries. “Free circulation should be facilitated” according to Steve Tametong while Hermine Mbarge proposed “administrative procedure should be digitalized and quality of products controlled.”
“Businesses in Cameroon need government support to enjoy the benefits of trade with Nigeria. This support must not be financial but mostly technical especially in terms of packaging,” Henri Kouam, an economic policy analyst at the Nkafu Policy Institute said on championing the benefits of Cameroon – Nigeria trade.
Cameroon and Nigeria have a long-standing trading relationship between the two countries. Nigeria is one of Cameroon’s largest trading partners with a market of almost one hundred and seventy million consumers. According to Cameroon’s Ministry of Commerce, Cameroon imported 22 per cent and 17 per cent between 2011 and 2012 respectively and her net export worth to Nigeria was 382 billion FCFA,
This relationship, however, has been affected recently with both countries banning certain products and even instituting a border closure. In 2020, Cameroon banned cereal exports including millet and corn to Nigeria due to a drop in production. Meantime, Nigeria the year before had closed its land borders with several nations including Cameroon in August 2019 and only opened the border in September 2020 according to the Institute for Security Studies.
“The security issue is fundamental and must be addressed if we want to benefit from trade between Cameroon and Nigeria,” Dr Steve Tamentong said.
“When trade is created, there is automatically the diversification of trade that will follow,” Hermine Mbarga said on promoting trade between Cameroon and Nigeria.
At the end of the discussions, several recommendations were made amongst others that SMEs can benefit from free trade between Cameroon and Nigeria and not necessarily as importers but as intermediaries in terms of exportation; the two countries should have a good strategic vision in terms of free trade; the collaboration of private enterprises is also important; Cameroon and Nigeria need to have a common meeting point to reduce the procedure that business owners face to go through before exporting their products.
Cameroon and Nigeria need to be very transparent in their procedure; Cameroonians should know that this is the procedure in Nigeria and same as Nigerians know that this is the procedure in Cameroon. The procedure too needs to be published; collaboration with stakeholders to needs to be facilitated.