Joint Resolve To Face Challenges

One key message that filtered out of the 15th Conference of Heads of State of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) in Yaounde on 17 March, 2023 was the desire by member-countries to work as a bloc. That was either an indication that the community has not been able to overcome challenges or there are still pockets of resistance to working towards general wellbeing. Since it was also a summit meeting for stock-taking by the outgoing Chair of the Conference of Heads of State, President Paul Biya and the President of the CEMAC Commission Professor Daniel Ana Ondo of Gabon who has also come to the end of his tenure.     
By acknowledging in his closing remarks that integration which they have been engaged in for a long time now is ongoing, President Paul Biya was simply inviting his peers to focus on issues that permit them attain set goals. Clearly, such concerns are numerous. Taking symbolic indicators like the CEMAC anthem reverberating in schools across the sub-region and not only during reception of CEMAC leaders and opening of official meetings to intriguing policy projects that guarantee their autonomy and self-sustenance. It is not even surprising to see some officers remain seated while the CEMAC Anthem is being played. The introduction of CEMAC Day on 16 March some years back was viewed as a salutary step towards bringing the integration project closer to the common man within the sub-region, but the move has so far remained elitist. Scepticism by some member-countries to completely dismantle barriers to free movement of persons and goods which are key levers to closer ties within CEMAC has equally been difficult to comprehend. In addition, dependence on foreign assistance for certain development projects in spite of the rich natural and human resources within CEMAC has been one of the paradoxes that keeps observers wondering why the bloc has been unable to take bolder steps to achieve its vision. But the situation could not be otherwise. Not only are CEMAC States still ultra-conservative, debates like the monetary policy in the community still elude even some of the best economic analysts of the region since it has mostly the preserve of political in-camera discussions. With trans-border criminality which for many years has been a problem in the sub-region and the growing level of insurgency and radical extremism affecting some CEMAC countries, it is important that the countries should join forces against such common enemies.      
The various obstacles notwithstanding, there are both exogenous and endogenous factors that call for a common stand by CEMAC countries. Just during the Chairmanship of President Biya that ended with this summit on 17 March, 2023 there has been some remarkable moments which could not leave anyone indifferent. An extraordinary summit on 22 November 2019 held because of the sudden drop in oil prices between 2014-2016. It had earlier led to the convening of another Extraordinary Summit in Yaounde on 23 December, 2016 by Mr Biya. To evaluate measures taken to redress their level of resilience and economic progress, the Heads of State on 18 August, 2021 could only meet via zoom due to the ravaging Covid-19 which nearly grounded the entire world in 2020. Thus, since 24 March, 2019 that Mr Biya took up the mandate which just ended, the progress of the sub-region has been subjected to se...

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