Cameroon

Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
Report
July 5, 2016

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Executive SummaryShare    

Despite the collapse of oil prices, the government of Cameroon expects the economy to grow by 4.7% in 2016 (a slow-down from about 5.5-to-5.9% in 2015) and inflation to average 2.7%. Cameroon plans to earmark 33% of the national budget to critical transport, communication and power infrastructure. In 2015, the government was able to raise funds from its first Eurobond issues and also secured loans from donors, notably China. U.S. companies alone invested over $1.2 billion dollars in utility, energy, sports, and housing infrastructure. The country plans to generate more revenues for investment from domestic taxation and by attracting more foreign direct investments.

To meet the goal of becoming an emerging economy by 2035, Cameroon would have to double its growth rate and keep a lid on a widening fiscal account deficit (5.6% of GDP in 2016). The government is trying to address governance issues in the public service, which continue to undermine economic efforts by creating a deleterious business climate. These reforms would send a strong positive signal to foreign investors. Although Cameroon laws enable foreign investors to create, own and operate their business without limitations, the public administration remains an important player in the economy with a large portfolio of State-owned companies, which create virtual monopolies in many economic sectors and contribute to the distortion of the competitive landscape.

In addition to risks stemming from oil prices, Cameroon also faces a number of internal risks. The first stems from concern surrounding the upcoming political transition as longtime President Paul Biya prepares to leave office. There are also deepening social tensions stemming from the country’s widening generational gap, as Cameroonians under 25 years make up to 50% of the population but feel excluded from the socio-economic and political process. In a 2014 report, the World Bank argued that the growing army of disenchanted and unemployed youth is probably already serving as recruiting ground for Boko Haram in the Far North of Cameroon. These internal risks are exacerbated by the spill-over crisis from neighboring countries, Central African Republic and Nigeria, which is bringing an influx of refugees and internally displaced people as well as violence. The World Bank notes that this continued influx is putting pressure on natural resources, land, water, housing and health facilities.

Notwithstanding these issues, opportunities exist for foreign investors. With modern technology and innovative financial mechanism and in some cases the right local partners, foreign investors can gain a competitive advantage in key sectors such as transport, energy, communications, mining and construction. Cameroon lacks trained mid-level technicians although youth are eager to gain professional knowledge. The Institute of National Statistics (INS) estimates that 75% of young people are underemployed with qualifications that do not match requirement of the job market.

The key issues to watch in 2016 are:

  • Uncertainties and potential risks arising from the political transition, as well as from insecurity in the Far North of Cameroon.
  • In 2016 and 2019, Cameroon will host the African soccer nations’ cup. The government is anchoring some of the major infrastructure projects to these events to provide extra impetus for more investment.
  • The government of Cameroon has commenced significant reform of public finances with the assistance of multilateral and bilateral donors, which began with the introduction of program budgets in 2012. The reforms are expected to increase transparency, improve efficiency (notably in the national investment budget) and also curb corruption.

Table 1

Measure

Year

Index or Rank

Website Address

TI Corruption Perceptions index

2015

130 of 168

transparency.org/cpi2014/results

World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business”

2015

172 of 189

doingbusiness.org/rankings

Global Innovation Index

2015

0.22 of 143

globalinnovationindex.org/content/page/data-analysis

U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)

2014

USD 73 m

BEA/Host government

World Bank GNI per capita

2014

USD $1,350

data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign InvestmentShare    

Attitude toward Foreign Direct Investment

The government of Cameroon is seeking foreign direct investment to develop vital economic infrastructure. The government estimates that FDI represented as much as 18.5% of the GDP in 2015. According to Cameroon’s ministry of economy, in 2015, incoming FDI was mainly directed to the oil sector, manufacturing, the financial sector and transport. The national policy on FDI is outlined in a country strategy paper “Growth and Employment Strategy Paper” or GESP (2009), in which Cameroon targets an FDI level of 25% of GDP. In another strategy paper: “Vision 2035”, which charts the road map of Cameroon to economic emergence by 2035, the government, seeks FDIs for major industrialization projects. In this context, Cameroon passed a new investment code in 2012, which has provisions to attract and protect foreign direct investment. In December 2015, the government also announced that the 2016 finance law will contain additional tax provisions to attract investment.

Cameroon does not have laws that prohibit, limit or condition foreign investment in specific economic sectors (see below). However, the investment code has a number of general minimum requirements, which qualify the investor for some benefits. The four criteria, though not obligatory, required to benefit from the code are (i) the number of local staff employed, (ii) the percentage of exports, (iii) the use of natural resources and (iv) the contribution to value added.

The Cameroon Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA) is a State-owned institution in charge of the promotion of private investments. The CIPA's mission, in collaboration with ministries, agencies and private companies, is to contribute to the development and implementation of government policy in the field of investment promotion in Cameroon. The CIPA offers assistance and guidance to foreign and domestic investors, at all stages involved in setting up their investment projects. It is committed to connecting investors with relevant institutions, relevant technical services and to simplify administrative procedures for activities required by the investment code.

http://investincameroon.net/en/

Cameroon law distinguishes between: very small enterprises (VSEs), small-sized enterprises (SEs) and medium-sized enterprises (MEs).

  • A very small enterprise, abbreviated as "VSE," shall be an enterprise with no more than 5 (five) employees and an annual pre-tax turnover of no more than USD 25,000.
  • A small-sized enterprise, abbreviated as "SE," shall be an enterprise with 6 (six) to 20 (twenty) employees and an annual pre-tax turnover of between USD 25,000 to USD 200,000.
  • A medium-sized enterprise, abbreviated as "'ME," shall be an enterprise with 21 (twenty-one) to 100 (one hundred) employees and an annual pre-tax turnover of between USD 200,000 to 1,500,000.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The latest economic review containing elements of investment policy review was published in 2015. Cameroon economic outlook for the coming two years is a collaborative work by the African Development Bank, the OECD Development Centre, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

http://www.africaneconomicoutlook.org/en/country-notes/central-africa/cameroon/

The latest WTO trade policy review was conducted in 2013 and is available at https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s285-00_e.pdf

Cameroon is also cooperating with multilateral, bilateral partners and private companies to produce a report on the investment climate. The Cameroon Business Forum (CBF) is a public-private sector dialogue mechanism, put in place to improve the business climate and support Private Sector development. The CBF was created by the Cameroonian Government with the support of the International Finance Cooperation (IFC) in 2006

Some policy recommendations can be found on the website of the CBF.

http://www.cbfcameroun.org/

Laws/Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Foreign direct investment is governed by the Investment Code (Law No. 2002/004 of April 19, 2002) and subsequent texts (for example Law N° 2013/004 du 18 April 2013), which outlines incentives to private investment in Cameroon. While contracts are regulated by ordinary civil law, some sectors are governed by specific laws.

1) Mining code: Law No 001 of 16 April, 2001
2) Oil and Gas code (www.snh.cm/ReglementationDesHydrocarbures/Gas-Code-in-English.pdf)

The web address hosts the French version of Cameroon's petroleum code. The law governs the upstream activities (exploration, production) of the oil sector. http://www.snh.cm/CodePetrolier/codepetrolier.pdf, (see also http://www.snh.cm/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=100%3Acode-gazier&catid=58%3Areglementation&Itemid=74&lang=en).This law and its application instruments govern the downstream gas sector.

3) The Law No 2011/022 of 14 December 2011 governing the electricity sector in Cameroon
4) The Forestry code

Other sectors may be subject to specific licenses of government concessions, for example transport and telecommunications. For other aspects of corporate finance, such as mergers and acquisition and financial derivatives, OHADA treaties and accounting norms apply.

In principle, there is no deliberate government interference in the court system, but several dysfunctions, weaknesses, and specifically corruption often lead analysts to question the independence of the judiciary.

Business Registration

The Ministry of Small and Medium Size Enterprises is developing an online business registration platform for Cameroon at www.cfce.cm/. Another online resource for business registration is the https://cameroun.eregulations.org/.

In theory, it takes maximum 72 hours to register a company in Cameroon. The government of Cameroon presents the Centre for Enterprise Registrations (CFCE) as “One Stop Shop” for enterprise creation. But administrative bottlenecks, corruptions and several dysfunctions can extend the duration of the registration process to more than one month. Formalities with a notary remain an important part of the registration process.

Industrial Promotion

Information on programs designed to attract investment into specific sectors is generally advertised through public media, and specific information can be obtained from the following sector ministries:

1) Agro-industry--Ministry of Agriculture (www.minader.cm/)
2) Energy--Ministry of Energy and Water Resources (MINEE) (http://www.minee.cm/)
3) Mining--Ministry of Mines, Industry and Technological Development (http://www.minmidt.net/)
4) Infrastructure (including batiments et travaux public, utilities, http://www.spm.gov.cm/index.php?L=1 )
5) Transport
6) Services (education, health, administration)
7) Manufacturing (http://www.minmidt.net/)
8) Telecommunication--Ministry of Post and Telecommunication (http://www.minpostel.gov.cm/)
9) Financial Services--Ministry of Finance (http://www.minfi.cm)
10) Tourism--Ministry of tourism and leisure (www.mintour.gov.cm)

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The laws of Cameroon do not discriminate against foreign investors. Apart from basic standard immigration issues such as the residence visa, foreign entrepreneurs and investors are subject to the same rules and regulations as nationals. The government of Cameroon does not have statutory, de facto or indirect restrictions on foreign investors. Similarly, Cameroon laws do not impose outright prohibition on investment, equity caps, mandatory domestic joint venture partner, licensing restrictions, mandatory Intellectual Property (IP)/technology transfer requirements on foreign investors and entrepreneurs. However, internal dysfunctions and a week legal system can create practical obstructions. In strategic areas such as utilities (electricity and water) or oil and gas, the State often participates, through parastatals in oil and gas exploration ventures and electricity production and distribution. However, although the intervention of parastatals in some cases creates virtual state monopolies, they do not preclude the participation of the private sector.

Privatization Program

Cameroon enacted major privatization policies in the 1990s and early 2000s with the assistance of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The process has been stalled for over a decade, but market pressures continue to mount for additional privatization efforts. Data shows that Government of Cameroon had stakes in 171 entities in 2004. Since then, 30 companies had been privatized. An additional list of 10 companies have been scheduled for privatization since 2005.

In general, the government is moving away from privatization and towards Public Private Partnership (PPP) or some variation of outsourcing of/contractual management, with the State retaining some ownership of assets or of the business. In some cases, the State also prefers to take participation in ventures, such as mining companies, rather than permitting a wholly privately-owned company. The framework for PPP can be found at http://www.ppp-cameroun.cm/uploads/Telechargements/cadre-juridique-des-PPP-recueil-des-textes-en.pdf.

This is evident in the oil and gas sector, where the government has a dominant presence in extraction, refinement, distribution, and storage of oil and gas. Similar dominant positions exist in other sectors of the economy - particularly transport. The GRC controls the vast majority of transport infrastructure (airports, seaports, and road networks) through companies such as Cameroonian Airline Company (Camair-Co), Cameroonian Shipping Lines (CAMSHIP), Cameroon Shipyard and Industrial Engineering Ltd. (CNIC), and Cameroon Rail Network (CAMRAIL).

Moreover, in addition to the 119 state-owned enterprises featured in a recent survey by the International Monetary Fund (2015), the government of Cameroon has in recent years expanded its foothold in the most important economic sectors. In financial services, the GRC is creating two new banks to fund agriculture and provide finance for small and medium size enterprises. These new State-funded banks will compete with 13 already existing domestic and international private banks. In the energy sector, the government created the Cameroon Electricity Transport Company (SONATREL), a wholly owned State-owned company to manage electricity infrastructure. Similar plans are underway to allow the Electricity Development Corporation of Cameroon (EDC) to become a water marketer for hydroelectric dam operators. In manufacturing, the GRC is setting up a fertilizer plant with a German firm, an agricultural tractor assembly plant with India, and cement factories with Nigerian and Moroccan firms. In some sectors, this dominant position of the State could distort the competitive landscape.

Foreign investors can participate in the privatization programs. According to some analysts, of the 30 State-owned companies privatized by 2004, the majority (22) were won by foreign bidders. The public bidding on tender offers is transparent. They are advertised in the media, but the actual process of awarding contracts may still be tainted by corruption, particularly on very large scale projects. The listing of public tenders in the Cameroon Tribune newspaper and publication of which firms received the contract will not, in and of themselves, result in a fully transparent process of awards. Many other practical problems may continue years after the contract has been granted. This is the case in some large government projects where the government has accumulated arrears payments to major road construction companies causing delays and in some cases severe financial stress to the contractors.

Screening of FDI

The government of Cameroon examines incoming private foreign direct investment to ensure compliance with incentive requirements.

Competition Law

The National Competition Commission (of the Ministry of Commerce) is the official body in charge of competition regulations.

2. Conversion and Transfer PoliciesShare    

Foreign Exchange

There are no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment. Funds may be converted to any world currency. The national (regional) currency, the Central African CFA Franc, (or the “CFA”) is pegged to the Euro and fixed at a specific rate.

Remittance Policies

Cameroon has not passed any laws which change or tighten access to foreign exchange for investment remittances. There are no time limitations on transactions beyond the classic banking transactions timeline. Remittances policies and banking transactions are regulated by the regional Central Bank. Foreign investors can remit through convertible and negotiable instruments through legal channels recognized by the regional central bank. Any incidence of currency manipulation tactics is handled by the regional central bank.

Cameroon is a member of the the Groupe d’Action Contre le Blanchiment d’Argent en Afrique Centrale (GABAC), which is an observer organization of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). GABAC is a body of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) and is made up of the six members: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. GABAC was established in 2000 with a mandate to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, assess the compliance of its members against the FATF Standards, provide technical assistance to its member States, and facilitate international co-operation. In Cameroon, the activities of FATF are coordinated by the National Agency for Financial Investigation (ANIF). The ANIF is technically independent but lacks means to implement its mission, with a small budget and it therefore cannot actively conduct or manage investigations with rigor. Website resource is: http://www.anif.cm/.

3. Expropriation and CompensationShare    

The government of Cameroon can expropriate in cases of national interest. Most recent cases of expropriation occurred during the construction of important development infrastructures such as dams, roads, ports, and airports. The government determines the level of compensation. In one example involving destruction of small markets and shanty-residences for a highway expansion project near the city of Douala, Cameroon's largest city, some claimants protested that they were not receiving the level of compensation supposedly advertised and offered by the government.

Illegal expropriations by the government are handled through standard legal procedures, but the judiciary is weak, and legal complaints can take years to resolve and are subject to corruption. Over the past five years, the government of Cameroon has not introduced any laws or regulations that are likely to significantly shift government policy on expropriations in the foreseeable future. There are no specific patterns of discriminating against U.S. persons or entity in terms of expropriation and the risk of expropriation remain unchanged in certain sectors of the economy, e.g. mining or large land holdings.

4. Dispute SettlementShare    

The Cameroon legal system is a combination of sometimes parallel English and French laws and some Cameroonian customary laws. On corporate law, Cameroon is a signatory to the "Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa" (OHADA), a system of business laws and implementing institutions adopted by seventeen West and Central African nations. The starting point for most legal disputes are the first instance tribunals, which have standing to hear intellectual property claims, followed by the Tribunal of Grand Instance on appeals.

In general, corruption is perceived to be rampant in the Cameroonian judiciary, and there are also concerns about the judiciary’s independence, given its “special legal status” within the civil service.

Cameroon courts have wide competence to hear many issues related to corporate laws and contracts, including standing to hear intellectual property claims and unfair labor practices. Problems arise chiefly from the inability of institutions to enforce contracts in a timely and efficient manner, as well as the lengthy bureaucratic processes for resolution of disagreements. Assistance from lawyers may be needed to anchor judgments of recognized foreign courts to enforcement by the local courts. Complaints with foreign investments should be filed in local courts or channeled to arbitrations institutions. The common sources of problems are non-respect of the terms of the contracts and severe delays in execution of financial agreements, dysfunctions caused by poor administration of those laws, and corruption. Accumulations of payments arrears by the government are recurring problems.

Bankruptcy

Cameroon has bankruptcy laws, which recognize the right of creditors, equity shareholders and other types of liabilities for collection and judgments without criminal actions against debtors. Bankruptcy is not criminalized, if it is not a deliberate act collusion to avoid tax or mislead investors.

Investment Disputes

In Cameroon, investment disputes can be handled through the court system, through mediation or binding arbitration. Over the past years, there have not been cases of investment disputes involving U.S. companies.

International Arbitration

The OHADA-signatory nations adopted a uniform act on arbitration (the Uniform Act) on March 11, 1999, which entered into force 90 days later. The Uniform Act sets out the basic rules applicable to any arbitration, where the seat of arbitration is located in an OHADA member state. The Uniform Act is based on the UNCITRAL model law. It supersedes the national laws on arbitration of the OHADA states. Cameroon’s arbitration law is contained in its code of civil and commercial procedure in the third volume, Articles 576 to 601. Cameroon ratified the ICSID Convention on 3 January, 1967 and the New York Convention on 19 February, 1988. But there is no specific domestic legislation providing for enforcement under the 1958 New York Convention and for the enforcement of awards under the ICSID Convention. Similarly, the BIT has been used as reference and as basis for many U.S. investment/labor relations contracts in Cameroon, but there is no record of claims against or under the agreements. Local courts can recognize foreign arbitral awards although this may require the lodging of a legal complaint in a Cameroonian court.

Additional alternative dispute resolution may involve mediation and negotiations, also possibly through third-party binding arbitration. The OHADA system serves both as domestic and primary reference legislation. However, the Groupement Interpatronal du Cameroon (GICAM), the country's most powerful business lobbying group, has an Arbitration Centre (Centre d’arbitrage du Groupement interpatronal du Cameroun), which is based in Douala. Douala is Cameroon's largest city and trade hub.

Duration of Dispute Resolution – Local Courts

The duration of dispute resolution will depend on the complexity of the case, and no standard timeline exists or can be estimated. Dispute resolution can be complicated by the inherent dysfunctions within the court system, such as bureaucratic red tape, corruption, and lack of technical expertise on modern commercial contracts.

As a treaty, the OHADA prevails over domestic laws. An international arbitration award can prevail especially if operating through the OHADA framework. The Common Court of Justice and Arbitration (CCJA) enforced under OHADA are both an arbitration institution and a judicial court, with a remit covering all the OHADA states. Judicial processes are bureaucratic, expensive, time-intensive and lengthy to pursue.

5. Performance Requirements and Investment IncentivesShare    

WTO/TRIMS

The government of Cameroon has not notified the WTO of any measures that are inconsistent with its Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMS) commitments.

Investment Incentives

Cameroon’s 2013 investment law lists several types of investment incentives for investors and also specifies the conditions that they have to meet, in order to benefit from those incentives. This law lays down incentives applicable to Cameroonian or foreign national or legal entities, whether or not established in Cameroon, conducting business therein or holding shares in Cameroonian companies, with a view to encouraging private investment and boosting national production. This law seeks to facilitate, promote and attract productive investment in order to develop activities geared towards strong, sustainable and shared economic growth as well as job creation. U.S. companies and investors must seek regional expertise if they plan to operate in the economic zone of Central Africa (The Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa) as national incentives may need to be aligned with regional supranational rules. CEMAC laws supersede Cameroon laws.

http://investincameroon.net/fr/download/law-n-2013004-of-18-april-2013-to-lay-down-private-investment-incentives-in-the-republic-of-cameroon

Common incentives

Common incentives are granted to investors during the establishment and operation phases. The investor may, during the operation phase, which may not exceed 10 (ten) years, according to the scale of investment and expected economic returns, as applicable, enjoy exemptions from or reductions of payment of several taxes, duties and other fees including corporate tax, tax on profit and stamp duty on loans. In addition, any investor may benefit from a tax credit provided he or she meets one of the following criteria: (1) employs at least 5 (five) graduates each year, (2) combats pollution, and (3) develops public interest activities in rural areas.

Tax and customs incentives

The investor shall enjoy the following benefits during establishment phase, which may not exceed 5 (five) years, with effect from the date of issuance of the approval:

  • Exemption from stamp duty on establishment or capital increase;
  • Exemption from stamp duty if immovable property used exclusively for professional purposes and that is part of an integral part of the investment program;
  • Exemption from transfer taxes on the acquisition of immovable property, land and buildings essential for the implementation of the investment program;
  • Exemption from stamp duty on contracts for the supply of equipment and construction of buildings and installations, that is essential for the implementation of their investment program;
  • Full deduction of technical assistance fees in proportion to the amount of the investment made, calculated on the basis of the total amount of the investment;
  • Exemption from VAT on the provision of services related to the execution of the project and obtained from abroad,
  • Exemption from stamp duty on concession contracts;
  • Exemption from business license tax;
  • Exemption from taxes and duties on all equipment and materials related to the investment program;
  • Exemption from VAT on the importation of equipment and materials;
  • Immediate removal of equipment and material related investment program during clearance operations.

Administrative incentives

Subject to the fulfillment of the obligations incumbent on them, notably with respect to the exchange rate regime and the tax legislation, investors may enjoy the following benefits:

  • the right to open in Cameroon and abroad local and foreign currency accounts and to carry out transactions on such accounts;
  • the right to freely use and or keep abroad funds acquired or borrowed abroad, and to freely use such;
  • the right to freely keep cash abroad dividends and proceeds of any kind from capital invested, as well as proceeds from the liquidation or sale of their assets;
  • the right to directly pay abroad non-resident suppliers of goods and services essential for conduct of business;
  • free transfer of dividends and proceeds from the sale of shares in case of disinvestment.

Also, with respect to foreign staff employed by the investor and resident in the Republic of Cameroon, they shall enjoy free conversion and free transfer to their country of origin of all or part of amounts due them, subject to prior payment of various taxes and social security contributions to which they are liable in compliance with the regulations in force. Finally, the Government shall institute facilities necessary for the establishment of a specific visa and a reception counter at all airports throughout the national territory for investors, subject to their presentation of a formal invitation from the body in charge of investment promotion of Small and Medium sized Enterprise (SMEs).

There are additional incentives in priority economic sectors. In addition to the above-mentioned incentives, specific incentives may be provided to enterprises which carry out investments that contribute to the attainment of the following priority objectives:

  • Development of agriculture, fisheries, livestock, and plant, animal or fishery product packaging activities;
  • Development of tourism and leisure facilities, social economy and handicraft;
  • Development of housing, including social housing;
  • Promotion of agro-industry, manufacturing industries, industry, construction materials, iron and steel industry, construction, maritime and navigation activities;
  • Development of energy and water supply; encouragement of regional development and decentralization;
  • The fight against pollution and environmental protection;
  • Promotion and transfer of innovative technologies and research and development;
  • Promotion of exports;
  • Promotion of employment and vocational training.

Performance Requirements

The government of Cameroon does not mandate local employment except as an incentive to entice foreign investment. The government of Cameroon applies the reciprocity rules to a limited extent, but companies have in the past complained about the difficulty of obtaining work permits or the fact that work visas expire after six months and frequently are single entry. Longer term work permits are now said to be available, but they have not been issued to our interlocutors unless included as residency work permits, a different category with more complicated application procedures.

Enforcement procedures for performance requirements are not yet standardized, but the government generally develops terms of reference on a case by case basis for contract performance. The government does not impose rules on the recruitment of senior management nor impose unusually excessively onerous visa, residence, work permit, or similar requirements inhibiting mobility of foreign investors and their employees. Cases of “forced localization” have not been reported.

Data Storage

The government is trying to build data storage centers in order to manage IT data. In the meantime, all cellphone users have a legal requirement to register their phone number with the government.

6. Protection of Property RightsShare    

Real Property Rights

Interests in property are recognized in the law. For mortgage transactions between two private parties, a proper contract is required for the agreement to be binding and enforceable in the courts. Liens have to be recorded in the contract. A registry of land title exists in Cameroon. The land rights of indigenous peoples, tribes or farmers are recognized in the Constitution.

Records from the Ministry of State Property and Land Tenure (MINDAF, French acronym) indicate that land registration rates have not significantly increased since colonial times. Between 1884 and 2005 only 125,000 title deeds had been issued. On average, this represents approximately 1,000 titles per year or less than 2% of the land in Cameroon. In 2009, a study by the African Development Bank identified other distinctive patterns in land ownership. For example, formal land registration is more common in urban (60%) than in rural areas. Existing legislation does not discriminate against foreign land owners.

Intellectual Property Rights

The legal structure for IPR and corresponding enforcement mechanisms are weak. Infringement on IP rights is especially common in the media, pharmaceutical, software, and print industries.

No new laws have been enacted, and IPR protection remains uniformly weak. The country occasionally seizes and publicly burns counterfeit goods, but these actions are not systematically documented, and no cumulative data exists on the seizures. Imported counterfeit goods, such as fake luxury watches, clothes, copied movies in CDs are prevalent in the local market. Customs officers have authority to seize, store and then eventually destroy these counterfeit goods. National institutions are overwhelmed by the problem and have no influence on the countries of origin for problems, notably China, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan, but Cameroon is not listed in the 2014 Special 301 Report.

https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/USTR%202014%20Special%20301%20Report%20to%20Congress%20FINAL.pdf (?)

Customs officers have seizure authority, but destruction is deferred until detailed review of the property is made by officials, transparent to the property owner and/or rights holder.

  • Counterfeit medication
  • Pirated music, films and software
  • Fake copies of luxury consumer goods (clothes, shoes, glasses, watches, perfumes)
  • Fake car tires simulating major brand names
  • Fake car spare parts

1) Cameroon is a member of the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI --Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle), the main organization that ensures the protection of intellectual property rights in most African Francophone countries. OAPI is located in Yaounde. Individuals and companies can register their IP and brands directly at the OAPI.

2) Once registered there is legal protection and recourse for the inventor or IP rights holder, although protection is realistically more limited once commercial products reach the market.

3) IP protections are deteriorating in Cameroon because of the influence of supply countries such as China and India, both of which illegally export volumes of counterfeit goods. For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.

Resources for Rights Holders

Dr. Derrin R. Smith
Deputy for Political & Economic Affairs
The United States Embassy in Cameroon
Avenue Rosa Parks
P.O. Box 817
Yaounde
Cameroon
Email: Yaoundepolecon@state.gov
Tel: 237-2-2220-1500

AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE IN CAMEROON

Address:
Beneficial Building Akwa 3rd Floor
Douala
Littoral
P.O. Box 4006
Cameroon
Telephone: (+237) 771 15 272
http://www.amchamcam.org

7. Transparency of the Regulatory SystemShare    

Cameroon has laws to foster economic and commercial competition. A key pillar is the OHADA accounting framework, which is applicable in the country, although these standards are becoming relatively obsolete when compared to international norms (International Financial Reporting Standards – IFRS) or to U.S. GAAP. Poor enforcement of laws and accounting standards tends to create confusion for foreign investors. Despite efforts to align OHADA standards to international norms, GRC accounting regulations are becoming obsolete in the context of rapid developments in international finance and capital markets, requiring U.S. enterprises and investors to maintain two sets of accounting records, one in accordance with U.S. GAAP and suitable international standards, and another set to address the OHADA standards and GRC reporting requirements.

There are no restrictions to the participation of foreign companies, institutions, or organizations in the development of industry standards. Due to weak industry standards in effect in Cameroon, international enterprises frequently implement their own best practices, which the GRC can decide to adopt in addition to existing laws. In some economic sectors, especially the so-called “new economy,” there is a de facto uneven competition. Also the quasi-monopoly exerted by some SOEs in certain sectors may create an un-even competitive field. However, the government of Cameroon does not deliberately discriminate against foreign investors in law-making processes.

The procedure that leads to the making of commercial laws in Cameroon is enshrined in the Constitution. There is room for consultations with civil society groups but draft laws are rarely reviewed. The government does not use a consultation process for most laws. In general, laws passed by the Parliament of Cameroon are initiated by the Executive, then rubber stamped by the Parliament. Theoretically, laws and regulations are to be formed by consultative processes involving a cross section of civil society. In reality, laws from civil society rarely get a reading by parliamentary commissions. In general, the corporate law framework follows OHADA standards, which stems from a supranational body. On other corporate issues, existing consultation processes do not discriminate against foreign companies. Cameroon is a member of UNCTAD's international network of transparent investment procedures (www.eregulations.org), which is the foundation of Cameroon's processes.

8. Efficient Capital Markets and Portfolio InvestmentShare    

The government of Cameroon encourages foreign investment in Cameroon or outflows of investment capital from investors. The regulatory system permits portfolio investment, but the market is still in its infancy, suffering from low liquidity and bureaucratic inertia.

There are no governmental restrictions at this time and no policy obstructions are interfering in the investment markets. A stock exchange, nascent but functioning, operates in Douala, which is the financial center of Cameroon. International capital market actors also operate in Cameroon including multilateral institutions like the International Monetary Fund and private equity firms. Such actors support the connection of Cameroon to international investors. There are also major bank credit instruments available on the open market and venture capital operations are gaining traction in the Cameroon business sectors. Cameroon is connected to the international banking payment systems and there are no government restrictions on payments or transfers. Foreign investors, including from the U.S., as well as international banks provide business credit, personal finance, and even mortgage instruments on real estate are beginning to show interest in Cameroon.

Money and Banking System, Hostile Takeovers

The banking sector is regulated, but financial institutions tend to suffer from under-performance on local debt and un-serviced loans from both commercial and individual debtors. Less than 10% of Cameroonians have access to banking services. According to the World Bank, non-performing loans were 10.3% of total bank loans in 2013.

1) Afriland First Bank Group (US$ 2.3 billion, 2011) is a large financial services provider in Cameroon with customer deposits in excess of US$ 951 million (CFA: 460 billion), as of December 2012
2) Banque Internationale pour l'Epargne et le Credit (US$ 2.1 billion 2011)
3) Societe Generale de Banque au Cameroun (US$ 972 million 2011) with global assets of €1.308 trillion (2014)
4) Standard Chartered Bank Cameroon (US$ 706 million 2011)
5) Ecobank (US$ 508 million 2011) with total assets of US$ 22.5 billion (2013)

The Bank of Central African States (Banque des États de l'Afrique Centrale, BEAC https://www.beac.int/) is the central bank that serves six central African countries that form the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) including Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo. BEAC has been in operation since 1972, although rocked by a few embezzlement scandals in 2009 and 2010. The current governor of BEAC is Lucas Abaga Nchama (from Equatorial Guinea).

There are no restrictions on foreigners establishing bank accounts, credit instruments, business financing or other such transactions. Rules on all forms of mergers and acquisitions, including hostile, are governed by OHADA and are detailed in a lengthy body of commercial, legal and accounting codes. The OHADA sections on mergers and acquisitions are the Napoleonic version of our SEC regulations.

9. Competition from State-Owned EnterprisesShare    

The Government of Cameroon has over 130 State-owned companies in which it has majority ownership, and which operate in more than 8 key sectors of the economy including strategic ones such as agribusiness, energy and mining. SOEs are also present in real estate, transportation, services, information & communication, finance and travel (Tourism).

In Cameroon, a State-Owned Enterprise is an enterprise partly or totally owned by the GRC. Some SOE are profit oriented (70%), while others are set up to provide a public good. In other cases, SOEs themselves are so dominant, because of their quasi-monopoly, that they often act as de facto regulators, for example in telecom and in the media. Data on SOEs' R&D and share of public contracts are not publicly available. Inside the GRC’s portfolio of companies, there are intricate cross-holdings, whereby various state institutions mutually hold equities in SOEs. Shareholders in SOEs include the National Hydrocarbons Company (SNH), the Hydrocarbon Price Stabilization Fund and the National Social Security Fund, which together have stakes in more than 30 state-owned entities. The largest holdings are controlled by National Investment Company (NIC) with shares in more than 32 enterprises. In 2010, the NIC valued the GRC’s stakes to be worth $516 million or one fifth of the national budget.

Operationally, the private sector enjoys technological competitive advantages and flexibility to respond to market conditions that bureaucratic and over-staffed SOEs cannot replicate. Delivery of products and services to the markets still depends on price-competitiveness and quality of goods offered, so inferior SOE products and services (e.g. Internet, cable television and cellular telephone offerings) face legitimate private-sector competition. The government does not publish data on percentage of expenditures SOEs allocate to research and development. SOEs can source equipment, purchase goods and services from the private sector, including overseas providers in the United States.

Financially, some SOEs have a legal ability to contract debt and, in so doing, generate contingent liabilities for the state. They also have a history of accumulating unpaid tax arrears while at the same time benefitting from preferential access to land and to public funds through State subventions. Private companies do not automatically have such advantages. The Audit Chambers of the Supreme of Cameroon indicates in its yearly reports that SOEs are not financially transparent. Only about 22% of these structures publish financial accounts. Other reports have highlighted corruptions cases involving managers of SOEs and unveiled inefficiencies, severe dysfunctions and opacity of the management of SOEs. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that over the past years, the government has not imposed any performance targets, productivity requirements and quality of service standards nor any significant budget constraints on SOEs. The governing boards and senior executive teams are political appointees and connected individuals, they have means to avoid tax burdens levied on private enterprises, receive specialized consideration for subsidies and enhanced operating budgets, and obtain generally preferential treatment from the government.

Cameroon is an observer under the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Government Procurement (acronym “GPA”), but SOEs may receive a larger percentage of government contracts/business than their private sector competitors, as it is not clear if SOEs are covered under the agreement.

OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of SOEs

In Cameroon law, ownership in SOEs is regulated by laws. The government claims that its regulations and codes comply with international standards, but over the past two decades the regulations and code governing SOEs have become obsolete since they were introduced when the GRC was the dominant economic actor in most sectors. Since then, new actors, notably domestic and international private companies, have emerged and are finding it difficult to compete in a landscape where the GRC maintains specific privileges in the name of the public good.

Although individual SOEs are generally placed under the tutorship of a sector ministry, the entire portfolio is heavily centralized. The management reports to line ministries but the board of directors are directly appointed by the President of the Republic who also determines the corporate governance structures. The Technical Committee for Rehabilitation within the Ministry of Finance is responsible for the financial surveillance. Most board members are former ministers or leading members of the central committee of the ruling party appointed by the President. In most cases they do not have the expertise, experience and sound understanding of the enterprise or sector they are required to serve in. This misalignment of competence affects the performance of SOEs. In a 2016 report, The International Monetary Fund (IMF) observed that the profitability and financial autonomy of SOEs have deteriorated in recent years, draining scarce budget resources, partly because of weak corporate governance.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Cameroon does not have a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).

10. Responsible Business ConductShare    

Responsible business conduct is not regulated by law in Cameroon. However, the government of Cameroon has enacted laws that cover issues related to what is locally considered “corporate social responsibility” or CSR. For example, all major infrastructure projects in Cameroon are compelled to conduct an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) to establish the impact of the projects on people and nature. Cameroon is also compliant with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Elsewhere, the government set up a human rights commission, which claims to address human rights issues in business conduct, although most executive compensation issues remain private contracts. There are some initiatives in the private sector to foster a corporate social responsibility culture.

11. Political ViolenceShare    

Cameroon is a stable and peaceful country, which over the past 50 years (and unlike many of its neighbors in the Central and West African region) has not experienced major wars or extended periods of civil strife. Stability and peace are therefore Cameroon’s most important advantages when it comes to investment environment. However, over the past three years new threats have emerged in the Northern part of the country with the activities of the radical, militant Islamist group Boko Haram, and also in the East with the influx of refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR). Another potential source of insecurity is the uncertainty about political transition. Cameroon’s President Biya is 84 years old and has ruled the country uninterrupted for 34 years. Over the past five years, questions about political succession have been dominating analysts’ outlooks.

12. CorruptionShare    

In Cameroon corruption is punishable under sections 134 and 134 (a) of the Pena1 code of Cameroon. Since November 2012, 112 serious cases of corruption are in courts. Prior to these cases, the courts had judged and jailed senior government officials for acts of corruption. Since inception, the Special Criminal Tribunal has handled over 123 cases and recovered $5.5 million USD worth of state funds. Most legal observers estimate that this amount is minute compared to the huge sums allegedly stolen. The cases have revealed complex levels of collusion inside and outside the civil services, and some perpetuators are family members of the civil servants. Embezzlements are fueled by several dysfunctions within the civil service, and an ambient environment of conflict-of-interests, notably in government procurement and due to weak supervision.

U.S. firms indicate that corruption is most pervasive in government procurement, award of licenses or concessions, transfers, performance requirements, dispute settlement, regulatory system, customs or taxation. The private sector is also infected although public institutions have historically been more vulnerable to corruption. The government has introduced anti-corruption mechanisms and measures for all economic actors, but provides little support to “whistle blower” cases and especially Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). However, in recent years, private companies have initiated their own peer anti-corruption sensitization measures. Cameroon is signatory to the United Nations and the African Union anti-corruption initiatives, but these international initiatives have practical limited effects on the enforcement of laws in the country.

Resources to Report Corruption

  • NAME: Rev. Dieudonné MASSI GAMS
  • TITLE: Chairman
  • ORGANIZATION: National Anti-Corruption Commission
  • ADDRESS: B.P. 33200 Yaoundé Cameroon
  • TELEPHONE NUMBER: (+237) 22 20 37 32
  • EMAIL ADDRESS: www.conac-cameroun.net infos@conac-cameroun.net

Contact at "watchdog"

  • NAME: Me Charles NGUINI
  • TITLE: Country Representative
  • ORGANIZATION: Transparency International Cameroon
  • ADDRESS: Nouvelle route Bastos, rue 1.839, BP : 4562 Yaoundé
  • TELEPHONE NUMBER: (+237) 33 15 63 78
  • EMAIL ADDRESS: transparency@ti-cameroon.org

13. Bilateral Investment AgreementsShare    

Bilateral Taxation Treaties

Belgium-Luxembourg: Convention between the Union Belgo-Luxembourg Union for the reciprocal promotion and protection of investments 1980

Canada: Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) in Toronto on March 3, 2014

China: Bilateral Investment Treaty Agreement between, signed on May 10, 1997

Egypt: Memorandum of Understanding with the General Authority for Investment

Germany: Treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Federal Republic of

Cameroun concerning the encouragement of investments, 1962

Guinea: Mutual discussions and framework agreement

Italy: Economic, technical and financial development cooperation Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Italy and the Government of the Republic of Cameroon, 1989)
Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Italy and the Government of the Republic of Cape Verde on the reciprocal promotion and protection of investments 12.6.1997

Mali: Cultural Agreement and Commercial agreement signed March 17, 1964 in Bamako

Mauritania: Framework agreement for general bilateral cooperation following recognition after independence

Mauritius: Framework agreement for general bilateral cooperation following recognition after independence

Morocco: Economic and technical cooperation agreement signed in Rabat on June 25, 1974

Netherlands: Agreement signed in 1967

Romania: Agreement between the Government of the Socialist Republic of Romania and the Government of the Republic of Cameroon on the mutual promotion and protection of investments 30.8.1980)

Switzerland: Cameroon-Switzerland Bilateral Investment Treaty signed in 1964

Turkey: Turkey and Cameroon signed a number of agreements, including Cultural and Scientific Cooperation Agreement on (March 06, 2002), Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement on (March 04, 2002), Joint Economic Commission Protocol on (July 08, 2003)

United Kingdom: Agreement between Great Britain and the Government of the United Republic of Cameroon for the Promotion and Protection of Investments March 04, 1982

United States of America: The U.S. and Cameroon signed a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) in 1986 that came into force in 1989

Cameroon is neither on the list of countries which have signed an FTA or a Bilateral Taxation Treaties with the U.S.

14. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance ProgramsShare    

Cameroon and OPIC signed an Investment Guarantee in 1967. In recent years and with this agreement, OPIC has been able to provide insurance and contributed to an increased access to finance for Cameroonian farmers and small and medium sized enterprises.

15. LaborShare    

In Cameroon, over 50% of the population is under 25. The official unemployment is around 4%, although youth unemployment may be as much as 75%. The majority of youth who are employed are under-employed in the informal sector. Unskilled labor is prevalent in the agricultural and service sector, and under-employment is prevalent in manufacturing, commerce, technician or technical trades, and mid-management jobs. A 2010 Survey of Employment and the Informal Sector (EESI) by the National Institute of Statistics revealed an unemployment rate of 3.8% based on International Labor Organization (ILO) standards. The study identified underemployment as a real challenge for employment policy makers in Cameroon, with rates of 12.3% and 63.7%, respectively for visible and invisible underemployment.

There are shortages of technical trade skills, for example, for maintenance and repair of industrial machinery, in every sector of the economy. Truck and automotive maintenance is widely practiced in the informal sector. Rudimentary or artisanal agriculture, fishing, and textile manufacture economic sectors are still in need of significant development, and a lack of skilled workers tends to be the norm across the country. The government of Cameroon does not require companies to hire nationals. However, foreign nationals are required to obtain work permits prior to formal employment. While foreign nationals are automatically issued work permits for companies of the industrial free zones regime, their number may not exceed 20% of the total work force of a company after the fifth year of operation in Cameroon if benefiting from the Industrial Free Zone (IFZ) regime.

Although union and contract agreements vary widely from sector to sector, in general, it functions as an "employment at will" economy, and labor laws differentiate between layoffs and firing. Layoffs are not caused by the fault of the employees. Layoffs are often considered as alternative solutions to dismissing workers based on performance fault or economic grounds. There is no special treatment of labor in special economic zones, foreign trade zones, or free ports. While the Labor Code applies to Enterprises of the Industrial Free Zone (IFZ) regime, some matters are governed by special provisions under the 1990 law establishing IFZ. These include the employer's right to determine salaries according to productivity, free negotiation of work contracts, and automatic issuance of work permits for foreign workers. The Ministry of Labor monitors labor abuses, health and safety standards and other related issues, but enforcement is poor. Labor laws are waived through the regime of Industrial Free Zones to attract or retain investment. As indicated earlier, the waivers include the employer's right to determine salaries according to productivity, free negotiation of work contracts, and automatic issuance of work permits for foreign nationals.

There are labor unions that are independent, and others that are affiliated with the government under existing laws and regulations. Over 100 trade unions and 12 union confederations operate in the country. However, the labor union movement is highly fractured and somewhat ineffective in promoting workers' rights. Some union leaders accuse the government and company managers of promoting division within trade unions to weaken them, as well as protecting non-representative trade union leaders with whom they can negotiate more easily.

In Cameroon labor dispute resolution mechanisms are outlined in the labor code. The procedure differs depending on whether the dispute is individual or collective. Individual disputes fall under the jurisdiction of the civil court dealing with labor matters in the place of employment or residence of the worker. The legal procedure is initiated after the labor inspector fails to settle the dispute amicably out of the court system. Settlement of collective labor disputes is subject to conciliation and arbitration, and any strike or lock-out started after the procedures have been exhausted and have failed is deemed legitimate. While the conciliation procedure is conducted by the labor inspector, arbitration of any collective dispute that has not been settled by conciliation is handled by an arbitration board, chaired by the competent judicial officer of the competent court of appeal. Workers who ignore procedures to conduct a legal strike can be dismissed or fined. For more information (see: https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/WEBTEXT/31629/64867/E92CMR01.htm)

The law provides for the rights to collective bargaining as a means to regulate labor relations between employers and workers. Workers are allowed to bargain collectively and re-negotiate past collective agreements from time to time. In case of an inability to conclude a collective agreement, the National Labor Advisory Board can issue a decree to establish a minimum wage for a particular occupation. In the context of rampant poverty, labor disputes tend to have socio-political ramifications beyond the boundaries of simple legal employment contracts. In February 2008, a strike by transportation workers who were opposing high fuel prices and poor working conditions triggered a series of violent demonstrations in Cameroon. In response to the protests, the government reduced the cost of fuel, reduced the duties paid on cement, suspended duties on essential goods such as cooking oil, fish and rice, as well as raised salaries of civil servants and military personnel.

16. Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade FacilitationShare    

Foreign Trade Zones (FTZ) in Cameroon are specifically designated areas where some standard trade barriers, tariffs, quotas, or other bureaucratic requirements are lifted or lowered to attract investments. Cameroon passed a special law instituting FTZ in 1990.

17. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment StatisticsShare    

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

 

Host Country Statistical source

USG or international statistical source

USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other

Economic Data

Year

Amount

Year

Amount

 

Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)

2013

NA

2014

$32.05 bn

www.worldbank.org/en/country

Foreign Direct Investment

Host Country Statistical source

USG or international statistical source

USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other

U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)

NA

NA

2014

$73mm

http://bea.gov/international/direct_investment_
multinational_companies_comprehensive_data.htm

Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)

NA

NA

2014

$9mm

http://bea.gov/international/direct_investment_
multinational_companies_comprehensive_data.htm

Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP

NA

NA

2014

0.22%

NA


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Although the Ministry of Economy publishes gross figures of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in investment promotion publications, the country does not feature on the IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS) site (http://data.imf.org/CDIS). There is no data on Cameroon either on the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) site (http://data.imf.org/?sk=B981B4E3-4E58-467E-9B90-9DE0C3367363&ss=1424792073105).

The IMF relies on country authorities to submit data for this survey and the Mission is initiating talks with Cameroonian authorities to encourage the government to assist the IMF in the data collection and uploading process. At this time, fields in the provided tables are Not Applicable.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Data not available.
 

18. Contact for More InformationShare    

  • NAME: Dr. Derrin Smith
  • TITLE: Deputy Chief of the Political and Economic Section
  • ADDRESS OF MISSION/AIT: US Embassy Yaounde, Rosa Parks Ave, Yaounde, Cameroon
  • TELEPHONE NUMBER: +237-2-2220-1500
  • EMAIL ADDRESS: yaoundepolecon@state.gov