As the most robust economy in Central Africa, Cameroon, has in the past decade taken steps to further boost growth, making major advances in providing health, education, and clean water, and launching an ambitious infrastructure investment programme to become a middle-income country by 2035, according to the AfDB’s Cameroon Country Brief released on 2 November 2017.

The report highlights the country’s efforts towards achieving this objective, with the Bank’s support, by aligning its development actions to AfDB High 5 strategic pillars.

“Progress has been impressive, but a big leap in business competitiveness is required, to create a more diverse, inclusive, regional economy,” said Simon Mizrahi, Director of the Delivery, Performance Management and results.

Here are a few highlights and insights from the report:

  • Light Up and Power Cameroon: With abundant sun, rivers, and natural gas reserves, Cameroon could potentially be an electricity exporter to the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC). But for now, the country must address domestic power shortages, strong annual demand growth of 8%, and low electricity access in rural areas.  As of next year, however, 2.7 million Cameroonians will have better electricity access, due to a national plan to expand production and transmission with AfDB’s support.
  • Feed Cameroon: To fulfill its potential in agriculture, which accounts for  40% of GDP, , the AfDB has helped Cameroon double agriculture output, which has lifted the livelihoods of 4.6 million farmers by 15%, including promoting small holders agribusiness, better nutrition, and strengthening food security.
  • Industrialise Cameroon: The economy rebounded to 5.7% growth in 2015, boosted by agribusiness and construction, and the time to start a business shrank to 15 days from 45. However, the country should cut red tape and make it easier for businesses to get loans. Internet use rose 10-fold but stands at 11%, although that will grow: the Central African Backbone will install 1,000 km of fiber optic cables with AfDB financing.
  • Integrate Cameroon: Intra-Africa trade tripled in the past decade, but a big investment gap remains to build transport, energy, and information and communications infrastructure to underpin further growth. Recent trade growth was boosted by an AfDB-backed road, the 535 km corridor in the fertile zone from Bamenda in Cameroon to Enugu in Nigeria, which cut travel time to hours instead of days, and lifted the incomes of traders and farmers.
  • Improve the Quality of Life for Cameroonians: Despite investing heavily in health centers, schools, and clean water – only three-quarters of the population currently  have clean drinking water - Cameroon must create more jobs, especially for its youth. 

To better serve Cameroon, AfDB has recently expanded its Yaounde office, striking new partnerships to leverage more financing, and raising its investment to $2.8 billion.

Looking forward, Cameroon has several ambitious endeavours in its bid to narrow the investment gap in trade, energy, and transport, and to further expand its position as the largest regional trading partner in Central Africa, though projects, such as the AfDB-funded study on the Cameroon-Chad electricity Interconnection Line, one of the largest projects in the Economic community of Central African States (ECCAS).

Cameroon is the economic powerhouse  of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), accounting for nearly 40% of the region's gross domestic product (GDP). It has abundant natural resources, a diversified economic and industrial fabric and a prominent geographical location. With these potentialities, the country meets the challenges that arise on a daily basis and aims to reach the level of emerging countries by 2035. Produce and distribute more energy, modernize agriculture, develop the industrial sector, strengthening regional integration and improving the quality of life of Cameroonians by providing them with access to basic services are at the forefront of these challenges.

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved a line of credit (LOC) of US$ 3 million (synthetic local currency equivalent) to Union Trust Bank Sierra Leone (UTB) to help finance projects and enterprises in transformational sectors such as agriculture, energy, manufacturing and services, with strong emphasis on women-owned businesses.

UTB is the only indigenous private bank in Sierra Leone and an important provider of finance for indigenous micro, small and medium- sized enterprises.

This facility also entails the provision of Technical Assistance support of US$ 320,000 and an additional US$ 300,000 from the Transition Support Facility to subsidize the cost of a synthetic swap associated with conversion of the proceeds of the facility into local currency for ease of lending to local businesses.

The facility is expected to deliver strong development outcomes by enhancing access to finance (under competitive terms and longer tenors than typically available in Sierra Leone) to SMEs, indigenous firms and women-owned enterprises in Sierra Leone as the country seeks to rebuild following the widespread damage caused by the Ebola Viral Disease epidemic and more recently, devastating mudslides which displaced thousands of people.

Most of the funding is expected to be channeled towards women and rural dwellers. The project will enhance private sector development, by demonstrating the viability of investing in growth oriented SMEs. Increased revenue by the beneficiaries at sub-project level will lead to incremental tax accrual to governments. The facility will also support financial inclusion, gender and social benefits as well as fiscal impacts.

This will be the first Line of Credit by the AfDB to UTB and demonstrates AfDB’s continued commitment to assist Regional Member Countries experiencing fragility.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has developed a new initiative called the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) initiative – a knowledge- and innovation-based response to the recognized need to scaling up proven technologies across Africa.

Already, 25 African countries have written letters to the AfDB confirming their interest and readiness to participate in TAAT, and help transform their agriculture.

It will support AfDB’s Feed Africa Strategy for the continent to eliminate the current massive importation of food and transform its economies by targeting agriculture as a major source of economic diversification and wealth, as well as a powerful engine for job creation. The initiative will implement 655 carefully considered actions that should result in almost 513 million tons of additional food production and lift nearly 250 million Africans out of poverty by 2025.

TAAT will execute bold plans to contribute to a rapid agricultural transformation across Africa through raising agricultural productivity along eight Priority Intervention Areas (PIAs).

The commodities value chains to benefit from this initiative are rice, cassava, pearl millet, sorghum, groundnut, cowpea, livestock, maize, soya bean, yam, cocoa, coffee, cashew, oil palm, horticulture, beans, wheat and fish.

“TAAT was born out of this major consultation and brings together global players in agriculture, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, World Food Programme, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, Rockefeller Foundation and national and regional agricultural research systems, ” said AfDB President, Akinwumi Adesina, at a TAAT side event at the 2017 World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa.
“It’s the biggest consolidation of efforts to accelerate agriculture technology uptake in Africa. Technology will address the variability and the new pests and diseases that will surely arise with climate change,” he said.

Adesina explained that TAAT would help break down decades of national boundary-focused seed release systems. Seed companies will have regional business investments, not just national ones, he said. “That will be revolutionary and will open up regional seed industries and markets.”

TAAT, he explained, is to be implemented through a collectively agreed central delivery platform, coordinated by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, with national, regional and international agricultural research centres.

“TAAT is a transformative and landmark partnership effort. The African Development Bank, World Bank, AGRA, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation intend to mobilize US $1 billion to help scale up technologies across Africa.”

The Director, External Communications in the African Region of the World Bank Group, Haleh Bridi, described TAAT as a regional technology delivery infrastructure for agriculture, linking countries across agro-ecological zones.

Bridi stressed that Africa can learn from Asia, which had made “amazing strides” in its agricultural revolution. “This is why we are involved in the TAAT programme,” she said to resounding applause.

The Director for Agricultural Development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Nick Austin, said, “Technology obviously evolves the journey to prosperity, the way economies transform and the way small-holder farmers engage.”

“Locally, there are varieties. Locally, there are new technologies and solutions to small-holder farmers. We are in the position to play a key role in bringing the best technologies available and supporting new ways in delivering this to farmers. We are delighted and excited to be part of this initiative.”

The President of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Agnes Kalibata, stressed that African governments should drive technological development in agriculture.

“What TAAT is going to have to do is work with the governments. We have lots of institutions that are ready for these technologies. We should work with governments to ensure that the technologies are not just ready to work, but become available to their country people. I think that ensuring that the farmers get all the technologies they need to is going to be very important,” she said.

The President of the Rockefeller Foundation, Raj Shah, highlighted the impact of technology on agricultural yields.

Zimbabwe’s visa regime is among Africa’s most restrictive, after it was rated number 21 on the Visa Openness Index out of 54 countries on the continent.

Zimbabwe’s visa regime has three categories, namely A- in which citizens from selected countries are exempt from visa requirements, B – where citizens of the targeted countries apply for visas on arrival and C, where those falling in the group are required to apply for a visa while still in their home country.

The report by the African Development Bank (AfDB) measures how open African countries are when it comes to visas by looking at what they ask of citizens from other African countries when they travel. The report was also done in collaboration with the African Union Commission and the World Economic Forum measures.

According to the report, Zimbabwe at number 21 is tied with Zambia with a score of 0.433 points and in terms of visa openness by category Zimbabwe is ranked number 17 on No Visa, number 8 on Visa on arrival and 29 on Visa’s required.

South Africa is one of over 54% of African countries whose borders are not open to fellow Africans travelling from another country and therefore require a visa before they can enter. The more liberal or relaxed a country’s visa policy for travelers is, the more visa open they are. Data on visa openness was collected between September 2016 and January 2017. 

The data found that Seychelles is the only country that is visa free for all Africans, and therefore ranked highest on the Africa Visa Openness Index. South Africa ranked 34th on the index, up one spot from 35th in 2016, as we provide visa-free entry to 14 countries and require a visa before entry from 40. While Africa has 55 countries, the report only features 54 countries recognised by the African Union. 

Western Sahara is the least visa-open country as it requires a visa from travelers from all 54 countries on the continent. East Africa is the most visa-open region, while North-Africa is the least open.
Visa-openness is important building a bigger, more integrated market to promote greater stability and attract investment, according to the report.

“African countries are on average becoming more open to each other, with indications that travel within the continent is becoming easier. Africans currently don’t need a visa to travel to more countries than previously and they need visas to travel to fewer countries, ” it states.

Four countries moved into the top 20 most visa-open states on the index and over a third of countries put in place efforts to offer more liberal visa policies. At the same time, more countries announced specific measures to improve their visa regimes going forward.

Twenty-one of 55 African countries have moved upwards in rank on the index since 2015. Forty-seven countries have improved or maintained their visa openness scores. “When we started this work, only five African countries offered liberal access [visa-free or visa upon arrival entry] to all Africans. We are making progress, but need to accelerate the pace. For countries who have either visa-free or visa-on-arrival policies you can see the positive impact on the number of visitors to those countries. Over time, you’ll also see it in the trade figures,” said Acha Leke, Director, McKinsey and Company and member of the WEF Global Agenda Council on Africa.

See the full report on African Development Bank (AfDB) Group website.

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