Cameroon continues to implement an Extended Credit Facility from the IMF but has fallen behind on most of the reforms outlined in the agreement. In May, the IMF approved the disbursement of a $226 million Rapid Credit Facility to support the “urgent balance of payment needs” stemming from the COVID-19 crisis. A resurgent Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa in the country’s Far North Region, combined with separatist violence in the Anglophone Northwest and Southwest Regions, continue to undermine Cameroon’s security and distract the government from needed economic reforms and infrastructure improvement. In January 2020, Cameroon lost its eligibility in the African Growth and Opportunities Act due to human rights concerns. Collapsing oil prices in early 2020 and the economic slowdown related to COVID-19 will hamper public finances and growth prospects, which will limit the government’s ability to make much-needed investments in physical infrastructure, education, and health.
Foreign investment continues to focus on extractive industries and infrastructure, most notably minerals and energy. The government regularly calls for expanded international investment in utilities and myriad state-owned enterprises but has little appetite for removing bureaucratic impediments and tackling corruption.
Cameroon has a unique mix of natural resources and geography that make it attractive to investment. The country shares a 1,000-mile border with Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, and is the economic engine of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC). Cameroon is a bilingual country, with significant swathes of the population speaking French and English. Continued conflict in the two Anglophone regions and the incursion of Boko Haram and ISIS-WA in the Far North undermine the country’s security. State-owned companies with monopolistic power often function as regulators in various sectors and distort the business climate. Cameroon struggles with rampant corruption which pervades an inefficient and slow public administration. The result is underinvestment in infrastructure, education, and health.
Sectors that have historically attracted significant investment are:
Extractive Industry (Oil/Gas, Mining, Timber)
Cameroon has been an oil exporter since 1977. Oil production has stagnated as prices fluctuated, but the country can count on untapped gas reserves estimated at 3.5 billion cubic meters, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The government dominates the sector and generally operates a revenue-sharing business model with foreign investors. Cameroon also has dozens of deposits of valuable minerals, including gold, cobalt, magnesium, nickel, iron, and bauxite. Cameroon’s immense tropical rainforests contain valuable hardwoods and softwoods.
The Cameroonian government has invested heavily in agriculture over the past 30 years, with minimal results. Cameroon is often described as the breadbasket of Central Africa because it supplies foodstuffs to Nigeria and CEMAC members. Market opportunities exist in the transformation of raw crops into finished or semi-finished products. Access to credit, poor infrastructure, securing land rights, and ongoing fighting between separatists and government security forces in the cocoa and coffee-growing regions are significant obstacles.
Information & Communication Technology
Information and communication technology is the fastest growing economic sector in Cameroon, though internet penetration is still one of the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa. The mobile sector is still concentrated in the hands of four companies, including the state-owned Cameroon Telecommunication (CAMTEL), which also functions as the market regulator. Despite CAMTEL’s monopoly on the communication backbone, including underwater fiber optic cables, faster internet broadband and 3G-4G offer lucrative investment opportunities.
Banking and Finance
The financial sector of Cameroon has 15 banks, 26 insurance companies, a state pension fund, and a state-owned mortgage bank. In addition, the country has over 400 microfinance institutions, a state-owned postal bank, and a nascent stock market based in Douala. According to the International Monetary Fund, total financial assets represent 40 percent of national GDP, two-thirds of which is held by banks. Less than 15 percent of Cameroonians have access to financial services. There are investment opportunities in subsectors of the financial industry, particularly in conventional banking, risk protection, or in the increasingly popular mobile money business.
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2019||153 of 180||https://www.transparency.org/
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2020||167of 190||https://www.doingbusiness.org/
|Global Innovation Index||2019||115 of 129||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions)||2018||USD 14||https://apps.bea.gov/international/
|World Bank GNI per capita||2018||USD 1,468||https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
Cameroon has good laws, most of which are consistent with international business and legal norms. Weak implementation and investigating capacity, a lack of understanding of international business practices, and corruption in the judiciary limit the effectiveness of the rule of law. In many circumstances, judicial loopholes persist, leading to arbitrary interpretations of the texts.
Some government ministries, though not all, consult with the general public and private sector organizations through targeted outreach to stakeholders, such as business associations or other groups. There is no formal process for such consultations. Ministries do not report the results of consultations, but it is not believed that such processes disadvantage U.S. or other foreign investors.
Cameroon’s National Assembly and Senate pass laws. The President proposes bills and then executes laws. Though there is technically a separation of powers, the Presidency is the supreme rule-making and regulatory authority. Regions and municipalities have little additional regulatory authority beyond that of the central government. Cameroon is a member of CEMAC and is thus subject to its regulations, though implementation is a weak point. CEMAC’s central bank, BEAC, controls monetary policy and is the de facto finance regulator, in coordination with the Ministry of Finance.
Cameroon does not meet the minimum standards of fiscal transparency. Many of the state-owned enterprises do not have public accounts. There are only three publicly listed companies on the Douala Stock Exchange. All three use the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA) accounting system, which does not conform with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) or Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) standards.
Draft bills and regulations are not made available for public comment. The website for the Office of the Prime Minister (www.spm.gov.cm ) contains PDF versions of most new regulatory actions published in the Cameroon Tribune, the country’s newspaper of record.
Cameroon has administrative courts that specialize in the application and enforcement of public laws. From a strictly legal perspective, the Supreme Court has oversight on enforcement mechanisms, but a lack of separation of powers prevents the judiciary from carrying out its responsibilities. There have been no new regulatory or enforcement reforms announced since the last Investment Climate Statement.
Ministries and regulatory agencies do not develop forward regulatory plans, i.e., a public list of anticipated regulatory changes or proposals intended to be adopted/implemented within a specified period. Ministries do not have a legal obligation to publish the text of proposed regulations before their enactment. There is no period of time set by law for the text of the proposed regulations to be publicly available. There is no specialized government body tasked with reviewing and monitoring regulatory impact assessments conducted by other individual agencies or government bodies.
The National Institute of Statistics (INS) conducts surveys and produces statistics, which are meant to inform policy decisions. Some of these statistics are cited in government documents when ministries are drafting legislative proposals or during parliamentary debates. Quantitative analysis conducted by the INS have often been used by multilateral lenders such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank. However, scientific or data-driven assessments of new regulations are limited; public comments are not the main drivers of regulations.
Cameroon does not meet the minimum standards of fiscal transparency due in large part to the opacity of state-owned companies. A public national budget is produced each year, but there is little adherence to the document. Thanks to the IMF’s Extended Credit Facility conditionality, information on public debt is fairly reliable and available.
International Regulatory Considerations
Cameroon is a member of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC). In theory, CEMAC regulations supersede those of individual members, though recent reforms by CEMAC’s central bank, BEAC, have met stiff resistance from individual member states, including Cameroon.
The government requires use of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA) accounting system. No other norms or standards are referenced in the country’s regulatory system.
Cameroon joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) on December 13, 1995 and was previously a member of the General Agreement on Taxes and Tariffs. On March 11, 2019, Cameroon was suspended from the WTO for failure to meet its designated 180 million Central African Franc (USD 308,000) contribution to the organization. The government of Cameroon is expected to notify all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
Legal System and Judicial Independence
The Cameroonian legal system is a legacy of French, German (Codified Laws), and English (Common law) colonization. There is also the traditional ethnological legal system, which varies for each ethnic group. The government wants to harmonize these different legal traditions to equip Cameroon with laws that are applicable across the country and to reduce the need to navigate different legal systems. This project, however, is being met with stiff resistance from English-speaking lawyers, who claim that the initiative will undermine their heritage.
In terms of standards, Cameroon’s commercial legal system follows the OHADA rules, which are supposed to be aligned with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Enforcement is weak partly because of lack of capacity. Cameroon does not train enough specialized judges in the commercial and economic fields. Consequently, poor enforcement of laws and accounting standards tends to create confusion for foreign investors. Despite efforts to align OHADA standards to international norms, government accounting regulations remain obsolete in the context of rapid developments in international finance and capital markets.
To circumvent the problem, U.S. enterprises and investors often maintain two sets of accounting records, one in accordance with U.S. GAAP or suitable international standards, and another set to address the OHADA standards and government reporting requirements.
The judicial system is not independent of the executive branch. The executive regularly interferes in judiciary matters. The current judicial process is not procedurally competent, fair, or reliable. Endemic corruption, lack of funding, and political considerations makes the courts unable to function as independent arbiters of disputes.
Arbitration is becoming the solution of choice to solve business disputes in Cameroon. Arbitration is in the OHADA corporate law. Since OHADA is a supra national law, Cameroon is bound by its decisions.
Regulations and enforcement actions are appealable, and they are adjudicated in the national court system. Due to the court’s lack of objectivity, few businesses attempt to appeal unfavorable rulings.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
Foreign direct investments are governed by Law No. 2013/004 of 18 April 2013, which defines incentives for private investment in Cameroon, while proposing generic and special incentives and affirming the government’s responsibilities with regard to private investors. The law remains valid for domestic and foreign investors. Additional laws and regulations that refer to specific economic sectors are available on the website of the Ministry of Finance (http://www.minfi.gov.cm/index.php/en/documents ).
The 2020 finance law, passed in December 2019, is the main new legal instruments to have been published in the past year. It contains new taxes and two exonerations notably on the Value Added Taxes. Full implementation is expected over 2020, and many of the results are not fully understood. The text of the law can be found here .
The Cameroon Investment Promotion Agency is the primary or “one-stop-shop” website for investment that provides relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors (https://investincameroon.net/en/ ).
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
The National Competition Commission handles anti-competition and anti-trust disputes. In some cases, the regulator of a specific economic sector can play the anti-trust role. State-owned companies are often granted monopoly or monopsony status in their markets.
Expropriation and Compensation
Decree N°.85-9 of 4 July 1985 and the subsequent implementation of Decree N°.87-1872 of December 16, 1987, lay down the procedure governing expropriation for public purposes and conditions for compensation. Some of the provisions of these legal texts were repealed by Instruction n°005/I/Y.25/MINDAF/D220 of December 29, 2005. Essentially, for the general public interest, the State may expropriate privately owned land. The laws also lay down the formalities to be observed within the context of the procedure, both at the central and local levels.
In recent years, the government of Cameroon has expropriated property in the context of the construction of large infrastructure projects such as roads and hydroelectric dams. The government has a compensation process in place to meet the losses of those affected by such decisions.
Despite weakness in the actual implementation and execution of laws on the ground, compensation after expropriation generally follows a due process. There are no cases of indirect expropriation, confiscatory tax regimes, or regulatory actions that deprive investors of substantial economic benefits from their investments. However, serious allegations of corruption have plagued compensation procedures over the last decade. These incidents, often carried out by civil servants, have undermined trust in the process.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Cameroon ratified the “International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes” (ICSID) Convention on January 3, 1967 and the New York Convention on February 19, 1988. 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.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The OHADA-signatory nations adopted a uniform act on arbitration (the Uniform Act) on March 11, 1999. 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 United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (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 has a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) with the United States. There have been no claims against the BIT since it came into force in 1989. While there have been disputes between Cameroonian partners and U.S. companies, few have risen to the level of requiring arbitration. Misunderstandings between partners have led to conflicts, but such cases have been infrequent over the past 10 years.
Local courts may recognize foreign arbitral awards issued against the government, but they are not well equipped to enforce such decisions. Post is aware of several such awards against state-owned companies that have not been enforced. In general, foreign investors complain more about administrative harassment or bottlenecks, and less about extrajudicial actions.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
The OHADA system serves both as domestic and primary reference legislation for alternative dispute resolution but is rarely used. GICAM, the country’s largest business lobby group, has an arbitration center based in Douala. In principle, local courts have the power to recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government if found at fault.
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. This is true even for domestic and state-owned companies, which like their foreign competitors, also suffer from the weaknesses of the legal system and are not guaranteed any better treatment in case of dispute.
In a prominent November 2019 case, the general manager of a state-owned hydrocarbon distribution company complained that debts owed by the state-owned electricity company, in combination with frequent power cuts, had caused millions of dollars in financial losses. Instead of addressing the issue or seeking arbitration, the company fired the manager.
Cameroon has bankruptcy laws which recognize the right of creditors, the equity of shareholders and other types of liabilities. Bankruptcy is not criminalized unless it can be proven that it is a deliberate collusion to avoid tax or mislead investors. In 2020, Cameroon stands at 129 in the World Bank’s ranking of 190 economies on the ease of resolving insolvency. According to data collected by Doing Business 2019, resolving insolvency takes 2.8 years on average and costs 33.5 percent of the debtor’s estate, with the most likely outcome being that the company will be sold piecemeal. The average recovery rate is 15.8 cents on the dollar.
4. Industrial Policies
Cameroon’s 2013 investment law lists several types of investment incentives for investors and specifies the conditions that they have to meet, in order to benefit from those incentives. This law specifies incentives available to Cameroonian or foreign 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. For example, during the establishment phase (which cannot exceed five years), the new code provides for exemptions from VAT and duties on key services/assets (including an exemption from stamp duty on the lease of immovable property). During the operation phase (which cannot exceed 10 years), further exemptions from, or reductions of, other taxes (including corporate tax), duties (such as stamp duty on loans), and other fees are granted. Overall, the 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. In a context where businesses have to navigate between national and regional incentives, U.S. companies and investors must seek local and regional expertise if they plan to operate in the CEMAC region.
Common incentives are granted to investors during the establishment and operation phases. During the operation phase, which may not exceed 10 years, the investor may 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 five graduates each year, (2) combats pollution, and (3) develops public interest activities in rural areas.
The investor shall enjoy the following benefits during establishment phase, which may not exceed 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.
- 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 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; and,
- 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 Enterprises.
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 agroindustry, 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; and,
- Promotion of employment and vocational training.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
In Cameroon, Foreign Trade Zones (FTZ) are demarcated and fenced geographic areas, with controlled access, 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. Applications for an authorization to establish an industrial free zone are submitted to the National Office for Industrial Free Zones. The authorization to establish an Industrial Free Zone is granted by the Minister in Charge of Industrial Development. Some of the benefits of the FTZ are built into commercial, fiscal, custom, and labor codes. The status of FTZ has not changed since the last reporting period.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
The government of Cameroon does not mandate local employment except as an incentive to entice foreign investment. The government of Cameroon encourages investors to create jobs and employ local labor.
There are no compulsory or legal requirements on senior management and boards of directors either, although local managers can facilitate the understanding of the domestic business environment.
Prospective investors and their employees can travel to Cameroon on standard intentional visas. The fees may vary per country of application. Once they settle in Cameroon, they can apply for long term residence permits.
The government of Cameroon applies the visa 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. The government does not impose rules on the recruitment of senior management nor excessively onerous visa, residence, work permit, or similar requirements inhibiting mobility of foreign investors and their employees
The government does not impose conditions on permission to invest in Cameroon. The government gives incentives to investors to transform local raw materials, goods and services in their production or their projects. There is no “forced localization” policy.
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 has not stated intentions to maintain, increase, or decrease performance requirements.
Investment incentives, described above, are available to both domestic and foreign investors. Foreign information technology providers are not required to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption, but they can be required to provide them in cases of cybercrime under the national cybercrime law. Post is unaware of any measures designed to prevent or impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside of Cameroon.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Property rights are recognized by law, but Cameroon’s weak judiciary makes enforcement sporadic. 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, and farmers are recognized in the Constitution. Existing legislation does not discriminate against foreign landowners.
Records from the Ministry of State Property and Land Tenure (French acronym “MINDAF”) indicate that land registration rates have not significantly increased since colonial times. Between 1884 and 2005, only 125,000 title deeds were issued. On average, this represents approximately 1,000 titles per year, covering less than 2 percent of the land in Cameroon. In 2009, a study by the African Development Bank (AfDB) identified other distinctive patterns in land ownership. For example, formal land registration is more common in urban (60 percent) than in rural areas.
Land disputes are common between Cameroonian citizens. The disputes are generally caused by non-respect of commercial sales contracts or by informal sales of land. Illegal occupations of lands are also common. Globally, Cameroon stands at 177 in the ranking of 190 economies on the ease of registering property in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020.
Intellectual Property Rights
The legal structure for Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and corresponding enforcement mechanisms are weak. IPR infringement is especially common in the media, pharmaceuticals, software, and print industries. Theft is common. To secure a trademark registration right, a Cameroon attorney must prepare and file a trademark application with the African Organization for Intellectual Property Rights (OAPI). The courts are responsible for enforcement.
There were no new IPR-related laws or regulations enacted during the previous year. The government seizes and publicly burns counterfeit goods. These actions are not documented systematically, and no cumulative data exists on the seizures. Cameroon is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List. For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The Cameroonian government is open to portfolio investment. With the encouragement of the International Monetary Fund and the regional Central Bank, Cameroon and other members of the CEMAC region have designed policies that facilitate the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets.
The Financial Markets Commission (CMF) of Cameroon physically merged with the Libreville-based Central African Financial Market Supervisory Board (CONSUMAF) in February 2019. CEMAC heads of state mandated the regional Central Bank to conduct additional mergers (regulations and regulators, stock exchanges trading and listing, central depositories, settlement banks) by 30 June 2019. The project has suffered delays but remain on course to turn the Douala Stock Exchange (DSX) into a regional stock exchange for six countries. The DSX has struggled to win the support of private enterprises and currently has three stock and five bonds listed. Private enterprises are wary of the oversized role that Cameroonian government, which generally suffers from many dysfunctions, are playing in the administration of the exchange.
Cameroon’s financial sector is underdeveloped, and government policies have limited bearing on the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets. Foreign investors can get credit on the local market, and the private sector has access to a variety of credit instruments. Cameroon is connected to the international banking payment system.
CEMAC’s central bank, known by its French acronym BEAC, works with the International Monetary Fund on monetary policies and fiscal reform. BEAC respects IMF Article VIII by refraining from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions. Despite generally respecting Article VIII, BEAC has instituted several restrictions on payments in an effort to boost foreign exchange reserves. Throughout much of 2019, financial institutions and importers complained of a backlog of requests for foreign exchange. BEAC is currently negotiating with several international oil companies about repatriation of revenues before external payments. While the situation has improved over the last six months, investors should be aware that timely repatriation of profits may be a stumbling block.
Money and Banking System
Less than 15 percent of Cameroonians have access to formal banking services. The Cameroonian government has often spoken of increasing access, but no coherent policy or action has been taken to alleviate the problem. Mobile money, introduced by local and international telecom providers, is the closest tool to banking services that most Cameroonians can access.
The banking sector is generally healthy. Large, international commercial banks do most of the lending. One local bank, Afriland, operates in multiple other countries. Most smaller banks deal in small loans of short duration. Retail banking is not common. According to the World Bank, non-performing loans were 10.31 percent of total bank loans in 2016. The Cameroonian government does not keep statistics on non-performing assets. Cameroon’s largest banks are:
1st Afriland First Bank (USD 3 billion)
2nd: Societe Generale Cameroon (USD 2.5 billion)
3rd -Banque Internationale Du Cameroun Pour L’epargne Et Le Credit (USD 2.1 billion)
4th EcoBank (USD 1.4 billion)
5th BGFI Bank Cameroon (USD 918 million)
6th Union Bank of Africa Cameroon (USD 811 million)
(Source: Jeune Afrique, December 2019)
Cameroon is part of the six-member Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), which maintains a central bank, known by its French acronym, BEAC. The current governor of BEAC is Abbas Mahamat Tolli (from Chad).
Foreign banks are allowed to establish operations in Cameroon. Most notably, Citi and Standard Chartered have operated in Cameroon for more than 20 years. They are subject to the same regulations as locally developed banks. Post is unaware of any lost correspondent banking relationships within the past three years.
There are no restrictions on foreigners establishing bank accounts, credit instruments, business financing or other such transactions.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
In 2019, BEAC tightened regulations on foreign exchange as reserves plummeted in the aftermath of the 2014 oil shock. The IMF estimates that the volume of foreign exchange assets illegally held outside the CEMAC zone by local firms and institutions at five trillion CFA (USD 8.3 billion). This is about the same amount of foreign reserves in CEMAC countries’ current account on June 30, 2019. While tightening the rules did not mean legal restrictions, each request for a foreign exchange transaction required a “dossier” that would include various documents. The documents required vary based on the type of transaction to demonstrate the “legitimacy” of the planned purchase in foreign exchange that BEAC would approve. The formal list of required documents from BEAC includes a significant number of required supporting documents.
The IMF has stated that forex transactions of less than one million U.S. dollars only require approval by local BEAC representatives in each country and should take place in a matter of days. Forex transactions exceeding one million USD require approval from BEAC headquarters in Yaoundé and should occur in no more than 48 hours. Banks and other financial institutions complain that requests are often rejected on minor technical grounds. In practice, approved requests often take more than two weeks to process.
As of May 2020, BEAC is requiring international oil companies to repatriate all proceeds from the sale of oil and gas and then submit an application in order to receive dollars or euros. Several Ministers of Finance and/or Energy in CEMAC countries have assured oil companies that they do not need to comply with the regulation, creating uncertainty for the operators.
In theory, funds associated with any form of investment can be freely converted into any world currency , but the current BEAC restrictions are causing currency conversion concerns at financial institutions and oil companies.
The Central African CFA Franc is the currency of six independent states in Central Africa: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. It is administered by the BEAC and is currently pegged at roughly 656 CFA to one Euro.
Apart from the tightening of foreign exchange rules in 2019, post is unaware of any recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies that either tighten or relax access to foreign exchange for investment remittances.
There are no time limitations on transactions beyond the classic banking transactions timeline. BEAC regulates remittances policies and banking transactions. Foreign investors can remit through convertible and negotiable instruments through legal channels recognized by BEAC, subject to the recent issues mentioned above.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
Cameroon does not have a sovereign wealth fund.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Cameroon has at least 200 SOEs. Roughly 70 percent of SOEs are profit-oriented, though most are a net negative on government finances. Some provide public services. Many SOEs are so dominant in their markets that they act as de facto regulators, specifically in telecommunications and media. The Government of Cameroon has over 130 state-owned companies in which it has majority ownership, and which operate in key sectors of the economy including agribusiness, energy, and mining. SOEs are also present in real estate, transportation, services, information & communication, finance, and travel.
In 2017, the National Assembly voted into law a new regulation to govern SOEs. The stated objective is to improve the services offered and the competitiveness of public companies, in line with the development objectives of the country. Some of the innovations of this law include the diversification of the investment universe of SOEs, modern control through reporting requirements, and compliance with modern governance principles. As of 2020, it does not appear that any of these objectives have been completed.
SOEs competing in the domestic market receive non-market based advantages from the Cameroonian government. They receive taxpayer subsidies, and in many markets, serve as de facto regulators. 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 interventions.
The Supreme Audit Chamber of Cameroon indicates in its yearly reports that SOEs are not financially transparent. Only about 22 percent of these structures publish financial accounts. Other reports have highlighted corruption 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. The SOEs 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 (including courts).
Cameroon enacted major privatization policies in the 1990s and early 2000s with the encouragement of international donors such as 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. We estimate that 30 companies have undergone some form of privatization since 2004. The government has openly discussed privatization of the national airline, telecommunications company, the oil sector, and agribusinesses, but little has occurred.
In general privatization appears to be on hold. The government favors Public Private Partnerships or some variations of outsourcing of/contractual management, with the State retaining some ownership of assets or of the business, rather than outright privatization. In some cases, the State also prefers to take participation in ventures, such as mining companies, rather than creating a state-owned company. Yet, in at least one case, the government has appeared to be reversing privatization. This is the case for the country’s water provider, CAMWATER. Until 2019, the government had outsourced distribution to a private operator. In April 2019, the State regained control of infrastructure management, distribution and commercialization of potable water throughout the country, and there are no indications that this situation will change in 2020.
Foreign investors can and do participate in the privatization programs. According to some analysts, of the 30 State-owned companies were privatized before 2004, foreign bidders won the majority (22). For example, British private equity firm owns the controlling share in ENEO, the country’s electricity monopoly.
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 large projects. The listing of public tenders in the Cameroon Tribune newspaper and publication of which firms received the contract do not guarantee a fully transparent process of awards.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
Cameroon does not have laws that regulate responsible business conduct. However, the government of Cameroon has enacted laws that cover issues related to what is locally considered corporate social responsibility. There are additional initiatives in the private sector to foster a corporate social responsibility culture.
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’s ESIA law strives to follow World Bank standards. A Ministry of Environment and Forestry was created in April 1992 with a mandate to elaborate, implement and follow up the national policy of environment; a master law August 1996 related to environmental management prescribes environmental impact assessment for all projects that can cause environmental degradation. The ESIA is fast becoming an important and unavoidable compliance step for foreign and domestic companies.
Post is unaware of a formal definition of RBC within the Cameroonian government. It does not have a national ombudsman for stakeholders to get information or raise concerns about RBC. The government has not conducted a national action plan on RBC. The government does not factor RBC into its procurement decisions. Post is not aware of any recent high-profile instances of private sector impact on human rights.
The Cameroonian government struggles to effectively and fairly enforce laws, including in relation to human rights, labor rights, consumer protection, and environmental protection. There is little corporate governance law in Cameroon, mostly due to the fact that very few companies are open to portfolio investment. Few large Cameroonian companies are financed through equity, so the need to protect shareholders is small. The Business Council for Good Governance, the American Chamber of Commerce, Rotary International and Transparency International promote RBC in Cameroon, thought their ability to monitor RBC is limited.
Post is unaware of any government efforts to adhere to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas. Cameroon participates in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. Domestic transparency measures requiring the disclosure of payments made to governments are lacking.
Corruption is punishable under sections 134 and 134 (a) of the Pena1 Code of Cameroon. Despite these rules, corruption remains endemic in the country. In 2019, Cameroon ranked 153 (of 180 countries) in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. Arrests of high-ranking officials for corruption are widely viewed as political.
Anti-corruption laws are applicable to all citizens and institutions throughout the national territory. If Cameroon has laws or regulations to counter conflict-of-interest in awarding contracts or government procurement, Post is unaware of them. 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, and taxation.
The National Anti-corruption Commission (CONAC) recently began encouraging private companies to establish internal codes of conduct and ethics committees to review practices. Post is unaware of how many companies have instituted either program. Bribery of government officials remains common. While some companies use internal controls to detect and prevent such bribery, Post is unaware of how widespread these internal controls are.
Cameroon is signatory to the United Nations and the African Union anti-corruption initiatives, but the international initiatives have practical limited effects on the enforcement of laws in the country. Post is unaware of any NGO’s involvement in investigating corruption. The government prefers the state-controlled anti-corruption commission, CONAC, to investigate potential cases. 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, and taxation.
Resources to Report Corruption
NAME: Rev. Dieudonné MASSI GAMS
ORGANIZATION: National Anti-Corruption Commission
ADDRESS: B.P. 33200 Yaoundé Cameroon
TELEPHONE NUMBER: (+237) 22 20 37 32
EMAIL ADDRESS: www.conac-cameroun.net
NAME: Barrister 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
10. Political and Security Environment
Cameroon faces several security challenges. An armed secessionist uprising is entering its fourth year in the English speaking Southwest and Northwest Regions. Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa are resurgent in the Far North Region. In the Adamoua and East Regions, a wave of kidnappings and the presence of refugees from the Central African Republic has led to increased military presence. Terrorists and secessionist alike have targeted economic assets in order to affect political change. The country is growing increasingly more politicized and insecure.
In the Anglophone regions, secessionists leaders have claimed responsibility on social media, for the arsons that destroyed hospitals, schools, bridges and roads. Secessionists have also posted videos of executions and beheading on the internet while also claiming several kidnappings for ransom. Human rights organizations have accused soldiers for burning down houses in many villages. In the Far North of Cameroon, Boko Haram fighters have looted villages and cattle and also kidnapped and abused women. Consequently, several infrastructures projects have grounded to a halt.
Cameroon is growing increasingly insecure. While the government has made platitudes toward resolving the Anglophone crisis, little of note has actually been done. Security forces are stretched thin, allowing Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa to maintain a footprint in the country’s Far North Region. Political dissent is immediately stamped out.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
In Cameroon, over 50 percent of the population is under 25. The official unemployment is around 4 percent, although youth unemployment may be as much as 75 percent. Empirical research puts the rate of unemployment at 11.5 percent. The majority of youth who are qualified 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. Officially, unemployment rate hovers around 4 percent based on International Labor Organization (ILO) standards, but the reality is that it this rate is much higher. Under-employment is even higher and remains a real challenge for Cameroon, with rates of 12.3 percent and 63.7 percent, respectively, for visible and invisible under-employment according to academic research.
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 foreign 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 percent 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, Cameroon 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 independent labor unions 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.
Cameroon’s 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 from the ILO, see here .
Strikes occur regularly, and are generally repressed by the police, though they are often due to lack of payment by the employer and are resolved quickly. No strike occurred that posed an investment risk.
Cameroon labor code lays down principles of labor laws regarding employment, dismissal, remedies for wrongful dismissal, compensation for industrial injuries, and trade unions. But most jobs do not have binding contracts and employers generally seem to have the upper hand in labor disputes. There is informality even in the formal sector, which is against the law. Because of this landscape, it is important for U.S. companies to ensure compliance with the local labor laws and to abide by international best practices. There were no new labor related laws or regulation enacted during the last year. Post is unaware of any pending draft bills.
12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs
The Cameroonian government has expressed strong interest in working with the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation. The government has experience working with OPIC and U.S. EXIM Bank and has rudimentary understanding of the requirements.
The Government of the Republic of Cameroon and OPIC signed an Investment Guarantee in 1967. DFCC has one operational program in Cameroon. In January 2018, a delegation of executives from OPIC visited Cameroon to evaluate an ophthalmology hospital, funded by OPIC, which treats 18,000 cataract cases every year. An OPIC team visited a local cocoa and coffee producer in Nkongsamba in late 2018. In 2019, the Cameroon Ministry of Economy and Regional Planning wrote to the Mission to request a meeting with the economic affairs officer to discuss a workshop on DFC programs. In 2020, the Ministry of Economy had plans to visit the United States and meet with DFC to discuss investment opportunities in Cameroon.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
|Host Country Statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
|Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)||2019||$37,700||2018||$38,675||www.worldbank.org/en/country|
|Foreign Direct Investment||Host Country Statistical source||USG or international statistical source||USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||N/A||N/A||2018||$14||https://www.bea.gov/international/
|Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP||N/A||N/A||2018||18.8%||https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
* Source for Host Country Data: 2019 Cameroon Finance Bill, page 13 (converted at $1=600 Central African Francs)
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.
14. Contact for More Information
NAME: Mamouda Mbemap
TITLE: Economic Specialist
ADDRESS OF MISSION: Avenue Rosa Parks, Yaounde, Cameroon
TELEPHONE NUMBER: (237) 22220-1500
EMAIL ADDRESS: email@example.com