Business Missions To Cameroon: Maximizing Opportunities

Cameroon is a land of promise. Day-in day-out, several business stakeholders and institutions parade the corridors and offices with mouth-watering proposals in their suitcases. Their field of interest ranges from agriculture, mining, energy, cocoa, oil, new communication technology to timber exploitation. The arrival of these numerous business missions to Cameroon has never been by chance. It is thanks to the country’s political stability, a cheap workforce, abundant natural resources, a diversified economy for export, many on-going modern infrastructural projects, monetary stability as the country is part of the CFA franc zone. The lack of fiscal pressure on the private sector, viable anti-corruption policy, resilience and stability of institutions, freedom of establishment, since in Cameroon access to the profession of trader is free with a regulation on equity participation. It states that foreigners can own 100% of a company. Coupled with all these advantages is government’s resolve to make some sectors priority for investments namely; transport, agro-industry, tourism and rural development. This explains why in order to attract more investors, large-scale programmes are being implemented by the authorities. With the support of donors to improve the justice system, increase energy supply, strengthen economic information, simplify procedures, support and ensure the protection of businesses throughout the country.
Because of these measures and with more in the pipe, Cameroon’s investment landscape has become more attractive to many investors. In the past decade at least, never has a month gone by without business gurus knocking at the doorsteps of the government to inquire on how to invest or improve on the already existing investments. While some of them do come in to invest in small and medium-size enterprises and multi-sectoral areas, others are multinationals with heavy budgets, gigantic projects and ambitions to create impacts in terms of job creation and dividends. It has become a common ritual to see dozens of business persons on international trips organized by business people and government representatives to discuss business issues and facilitate trade. Some of these trade missions are led by federal, state or regional representatives. They may be organized by industry associations or by specialist agencies that target specific investment programmes. All these with the aim of creating connections and opening new doors that might lead business officials to increase their understanding. 
But despite the flow of business missions into the country, most observers are of the opinion that Cameroon is not maximizing the numerous opportunities due to certain social ills that are fast becoming norms like corruption, kickbacks and truncated bureaucratic procedures. Several stories are reported by the media on how, many multi-billion business companies were forced to withdraw and relocate to a neighboring country due to the unhealthy business environment. Received in pomp and fanfare, after the green light or approval, the multi-billion agro-industrial company, failed to take-off due a wrangling that sprouted following the none-payment of a 20% kickback to some well-placed officials who made sure workers of the company never stepped foot on the allocated land. Stories like this do not only tarnish the image of the country, but also scare other business missions or persons from coming. Those who have been doing business at very high level know how difficult it is to woo business missions into the country, talk less of convincing them to put pen on paper. While dealing with these business missions, don’t assume but continue to build on and learn from the relationship. Must make sure their company’s strengths match the market opportunities, analyze the company’s readiness to export, carry out a thorough market research to ensure the company offers a good opportunity for business, identify potential customers, understand market competition and how to also best compete.



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