Executive Summary


The strength of the Cameroonian economy stems from its diversification, its geographic advantages, and natural resources, including its people. In 2017, Cameroon continued to attract foreign direct investment in hydro, oil and gas, transportation, and sports facilities – in particular stadiums and infrastructure for the Africa Cup of Nations 2019 soccer tournament. Cameroon has completed the construction of some key infrastructure, including the deep sea port of Kribi and a second bridge over the Wouri River in Douala. Unfortunately, most road and energy projects remain mired in red tape. Persistent dysfunction within the civil service and the legal system are major weaknesses. Administrative obstructionism and opaque, top-heavy decision-making on the part of the government remains a drag and systemic corruption scares some private sector investors.

The global collapse of commodity prices, combined with numerous domestic security threats, continues to negatively affect Cameroon’s external and fiscal balances. Cameroon’s donors acknowledge the country’s economic resilience, but public finances have deteriorated. In July 2017, Cameroon agreed to a three-year Extended Credit Facility (ECF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Cameroon is expected to improve its economic performance once the program concludes in 2020. The World Bank, the IMF, the African Development Bank, and the European Union continue to support Cameroon on legal and public finance reforms. In order to reduce the operational, legal, and financial risks that can develop in Cameroon, foreign investors often engage a reliable local partner or counsel to serve as an interface with officials or local suppliers.

Table 1

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2017 153 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2018 163 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2017 117 of 127 http://wwww.globalinnovationindex.org/
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD , stock positions) N/A N/A U.S. Census Bureau does not
have Cameroon specific data
World Bank GNI per capita 2017 USD 1,400 https://data.worldbank.org/

Government of the Republic of Cameron (GRC) from the President on down regularly state that they want to attract more foreign direct investment, particularly in infrastructure. In 2017, the GRC undertook several initiatives to attract FDI, including the second annual Cameroon Investment Forum in Douala. President Biya attended the EU-Africa economic summit and visited France and China, with the aim of inviting greater investment inflows.

Cameroon does not have laws that prohibit, limit, or condition foreign investment in any sector of the economy. The investment code has a number of general minimum requirements, which can also qualify the investor for some benefits. Local content, specifically in terms of local jobs going to Cameroonians, is increasingly becoming a requirement of contracts, though not yet enshrined in law. In general terms, the four criteria, though not obligatory, required to benefit from the code are (i) the share of local staff employed, (ii) the percentage of sales derived from exports, (iii) the use of local natural resources and (iv) the value-added contribution to the economy.

The Cameroon Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA), in collaboration with other authorities, is in charge of implementing these measures. CIPA promotes the image of Cameroon abroad, contributes to the creation of an enabling business environment in Cameroon, proposes measures to attract investors, and tries to improve implementation of sector codes. The GRC prioritizes and maintains ongoing dialogue with investors through private-public formal and informal institutions. An example of these institutions is the Cameroon Business Forum, which works to improve the business climate. Another example is the Groupement Inter-Patronal du Cameroun (GICAM), Cameroon’s largest business group, which also works with government to address specific sectoral issues. The GRC also consults with businesses on a broad range of issues such as taxation and industrial and labor regulations.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

In Cameroon, foreign businesses can set up and own their businesses independently. There are no compulsory requirements to have a local partner. Subject to specific sector regulations, companies can engage in all forms of remunerative activities. There are no limits to foreign ownership or control. The GRC is the main economic actor in dozens of sectors, including upstream oil, telecom infrastructure, and electricity production. These sectors have specific regulations detailing the conditions under which the private sector may invest. These regulations are not outright prohibitions, but the State may grant a license (telecom) or operate through a production sharing contract (oil and gas sector). The government may screen some investment proposals in the context of standard due diligence in order to verify the credentials and professional competence of investors or investing companies. The GRC does not impose restrictions on outward or inward investment.

If an investor is prohibited from owning an assets it has built in Cameroon, the public private partnership (PPP) framework offers opportunities for a “Build, Operate and Transfer” (BOT) model, which enables investors to recoup their investment over time. The PPP framework is the main model recommended for foreign direct investment in large infrastructure projects. The government PPP Commission claims to have approved PPP projects worth USD 500 million since its creation.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In recent months, the GRC and donors have conducted several economic policy reviews in the aftermath of the oil price collapse. In June 2017, the IMF approved a USD 666 million, three-year extended credit facility (ECF) for Cameroon to support economic and financial reforms. The ECF should help Cameroon control deficits and boost growth.

Cameroon sovereign rating





Moody’s B2 Stable 2017
Fitch B Stable 2017
S&P B Stable 2017

Despite the continued crisis in the two Anglophone regions, Cameroon perception from international sovereign rating agency is stable for 2017-2018. Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch each forecast a “stable outlook” for Cameroon. Authorities have endeavored to reassure investors and donors by stating that the country is “borrowing cautiously and spending wisely.” Strong internal factors support Cameroon’s economic resilience.

Cameroon has immense natural resource potential, in oil and gas, mineral deposits, forests, and arable land. Agriculture, services, transportation, and oil and gas drive the economy. An emerging consumer culture holds promise. Over half the population is under 19. A small but growing urban middle class seek new technology and are increasingly brand conscious.

Cameroon important economic sectors and their contribution to the GDP (2017)


Key Sectors

percent of GDP








Extractive industry (Oil, Gas, Mining)



Public Administration






Banking and Finance






Information & Communication Technology



Real Estate and Infrastructure Construction



Utilities (Electricity, Water)



Tourism, Media and Leisure


Business Facilitation

In order to facilitate the creation of new enterprises, Cameroon has business creation centers around the country. These are known in French as the Centres de Formalites de Creation d’Entreprises (CFCE ), which can finalize the creation of a new enterprise within 72 hours. The CFCE also provides start-up tool kits for new entrepreneurs, and is referred to as a “one stop shop” for small- and medium-sized companies. Cameroon is also a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law and Accounting in Africa (known by its French Acronym OHADA, or Organisation pour l’harmonisation en Afrique du droit des affaires). OHADA aims to create a better investment climate by regional standardization of laws to attract investment and to foster more economic growth in the markets of the 17 OHADA member countries.

Cameroon’s Ministry of Small- and Medium-size Enterprises is developing an online business registration process. The government is assisted in this project by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). More information can be found on https://businessfacilitation.org/countries/ .

The Institute of National Statistics provides quantitative indicators on the economy and sectors. http://www.statistics-cameroon.org/ 

  • 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 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
  • 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 (August 30, 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 United States and Cameroon signed a Bilateral Investment Treaty in 1986 that entered into force in 1989

Cameroon does not have a Free Trade Agreement or a Bilateral Tax Treaties with the United States.

The World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2018 found persistent challenges in enforcing contracts in Cameroon. Globally, Cameroon stands at 163 out of 190 economies on the ease of enforcing contracts, with one being the easiest. However, the report also indicates that Cameroon made enforcing contracts easier by creating specialized commercial divisions within its courts of first instance, the Francophone equivalent of trial courts. In principle, Cameroon has transparent policies and effective laws to foster competition on a non-discriminatory basis. Officials argue that these represent clarity and fairness, but in practice, the courts have severe logistical and other challenges. For example, court data is manually recorded because the legal system is not computerized. In many courts around Cameroon, court records are filed in paper and stored in folders, which make them subject to fire, deterioration, and tampering.

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). Unfortunately, enforcement is weak in part 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, GRC accounting regulations remain obsolete in the face 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 and suitable international standards, and another set to address the OHADA standards and GRC reporting requirements.

In view of dysfunctions and weaknesses in the courts, arbitration is becoming an increasingly common solution to business disputes. It is possible in Cameroon to solve some complex legal disputes through arbitration; and OHADA corporate law includes arbitration as an alternative to courts. Since OHADA is a supranational law, Cameroon must abide by its decisions, which follow international norms.

The National Assembly is the source of regulatory power, recognizing that the National Assembly, like the Senate and the Judiciary, are subservient to the President. Ministries initiate draft legislation and review some laws on a yearly basis. The public finance law is subject to scrutiny annually. Institutions and groups can also initiate legislation. In rare cases, draft bills or regulations are available for public comment. The National Institute of Statistics provides quantitative analysis that may be used during the review. However, public involvement is limited and enforcement mechanisms are weak, leading to poor oversight of administrative processes. Appeal and pressure mechanisms are limited, as the government does not consider the observations of civil society groups in final draft legislation. Consequently, the executive branch is responsible for 98 percent of laws, including the most relevant texts for businesses. President Paul Biya’s Cameroon Peoples’ Democratic Movement holds an overwhelming majority in the legislative body and draft legislation from the executive branch is rarely challenged.

Approved legislation is recorded in the Official Journal, a paper-based record system. The GRC does not have an electronic or online version of laws. The legislation process is completed when the President issues an implementation decree, which generally details the ways in which the law will be implemented. The power to issue decrees gives a high level of influence to the Executive branch. Individual ministries and bodies in the civil administration, all components of the executive branch, are responsible for the implementation of laws and regulations.

In recent years, with the support of donors, Cameroon has undertaken reforms to improve the efficiency of the legal system and public finance procedures. The budget reform process, for example, is ongoing. If fully implemented, public finance reforms could have a positive impact on foreign investors, create a better investment climate, and lead to more broad-based inclusive growth.

International Regulatory Considerations

Cameroon is a member of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC). The treaties of this regional body supersede the laws of the member states. Cameroon is also a member of the United Nations system and a party to many international conventions. Cameroon has been a member of World Trade Organization since December 1995 and a member of GATT since May 1963.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Cameroonian legal system is a blend of French civil law and English common law. This dynamic creates tension within the judicial system, as lawyers and judges are rarely competent in both systems. Courts are structured in a pyramid system, with the Supreme Court functioning as the highest court in the land. Regulations and enforcement actions may be appealed and adjudicated in the national court system. Contracts are enforced through the courts or through arbitration. The country’s commercial law is the OHADA law.

The President of the Republic is also the supreme head of the judiciary. This constitutional status gives the executive branch immense power over the judiciary. The President of the Republic can appoint and demote judges, and he can decide on the internal and territorial deployment of legal institutions such as courts. In the absence of proper checks and balances, the current judicial process is unpredictable. The outcomes of the legal process are uncertain because judges are not immune from political pressure. Simple logistical challenges, such as the lack of computers to digitally process court documents, can create serious delays.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Law No. 2013/004 of 18 April 2013 defines incentives for private investment in Cameroon and makes explicit that government’s stated commitment to protect investors’ rights. The law is valid for domestic as well as foreign investors. Additional laws and regulations are available on the website of Cameroon’s Ministry of Finance http://www.minfi.gov.cm/index.php/en/documents). Cameroon’s Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA) offers a one-stop-shop website for investment, with relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors. The National Competition Commission of the Ministry of Commerce is the official body in charge of competition regulations.

Expropriation and Compensation

Decree No.85-9 of July 4, 1985 and the subsequent implementation of Decree No.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 No005/I/Y.25/MINDAF/D220 of December 29, 2005.

In the name of public interest, the State may expropriate from any person or entity previously 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 GRC expropriated private property for 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. In practice, over the past 10 years, serious corruption schemes have marred several compensation cases. These incidents have diluted public trust in the expropriation process.

Dispute Settlement

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 1988 New York Convention and for the enforcement of awards under the ICSID Convention.

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, when 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.

There have been cases of disputes between Cameroonian partners and U.S. companies, but they are often solved through arbitration. Misunderstandings between partners about contractual commitments tend to cause conflicts, though such cases have been infrequent over the past ten years. Issues related to a Bilateral Investment Treaty or a Free Trade Agreement with an investment chapter with the United States have thus far not emerged in claims by U.S. investors. Local courts may recognize foreign arbitral awards issued against the GRC, but they are not well equipped to enforce such decisions. In general, foreign investors complain more about administrative harassment or bottlenecks and less about extrajudicial actions.

The Embassy has engaged key government officials for some cases in which U.S. companies faced disputes or harassment. In practice, the duration of dispute resolution will depend on the complexity of the case, and no standard timeline exists. This alternative approach can be further complicated by the inherent dysfunctions within the public administration, such as bureaucratic red tape, corruption, and lack of technical expertise on modern commercial contracts.

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. The Groupement Interpatronal du Cameroon, the country’s most powerful business lobbying group, has an arbitration center based in Douala.

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) is both an arbitration institution and a judicial court, with a remit covering all the OHADA states. Judicial processes are bureaucratic, expensive, and time-intensive. 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.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Cameroon has bankruptcy laws, which recognize the right of creditors, the equity of shareholders, and other types of liabilities. Bankruptcy is not criminalized, if it is not a deliberate collusion to avoid taxes or mislead investors. Globally, Cameroon stands at 122 in the ranking of 190 economies for the ease of resolving insolvency. According to data collected by Doing Business 2017, 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.

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 these incentives (http://investincameroon.net/fr/download/law-n-2013004-of-18-april-2013-to-lay-down-private-investment-incentives-in-the-republic-of-cameroon/). The law lays down incentives applicable 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 encourage private investment and boost national production. 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 university graduates each year, (2) combats pollution, and (3) develops public interest activities in rural areas. The law seeks to facilitate, promote, and attract productive investment in order to develop activities geared towards strong, sustainable, and shared economic growth. 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 CEMAC.

According to the code, investors enjoy the following benefits during establishment phase, which may not exceed five years:

  • Exemption from stamp duty on establishment or capital increase;
  • Exemption from stamp duty if immovable property is used exclusively for professional purposes and is 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 are 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; and
  • Exemption from VAT on the importation of equipment and materials.

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.

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 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 Cameroon, they shall enjoy free conversion and free transfer (to their country of origin) of all or part of the amounts due them, subject to prior payment of various taxes and social security contributions for which they are liable in compliance with the regulations in force. Finally, the GRC has instituted facilities necessary for the establishment of a specific visa and reception counter at all airports 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 sectors as well as plant, animal, or fishery product packaging activities;
  • Development of tourism and leisure facilities, social economy, and handicrafts;
  • 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; and
  • Promotion of employment and vocational training.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

In Cameroon, Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs) are demarcated and fenced geographic areas, with controlled access, where some standard trade barriers, tariffs, quotas, or other bureaucratic requirements are lowered or removed completely to attract investments. Cameroon passed a special law instituting FTZs in 1990. Applications for authorization to establish industrial free trade zones are submitted to the National Office for FTZs and are authorized by the Minister in Charge of Industrial Development. Some of the benefits of the FTZs are built into the commercial, fiscal, custom, and labor codes. The status of FTZs have not changed since the last reporting period.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The GRC does not mandate local employment except as an incentive to entice foreign investment, but it does encourage investors to create jobs and employ local labor. These are not compulsory and there are no legal restrictions on senior management and boards of directors, although local content (goods, raw materials, technology, and labor) tends to ease bureaucratic burdens. Prospective investors and their employees can travel to Cameroon on standard business visas. The fees may vary per country of application. Once settled in Cameroon, investors can apply for long-term residence permits. Companies have complained about the difficulty of obtaining work permits and that work visas expire after six months and frequently are single entry. Long-term work permits are technically available, but are exceedingly rare.

Enforcement procedures for performance requirements are not yet standardized. The government generally develops terms of reference on a case by case basis for contract performance. Cases of forced localization have not been reported and the GRC has not stated any intentions to maintain, increase, or decrease performance requirements. Foreign information technology providers are not required to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption. They can be required to provide such data in cases of cybercrime under the national cybercrime law. The same legal principle applies to the transfer of business-related data. All cellphone users have a legal requirement to register their phone number with the government.

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 must 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 Lands, Surveys, and State Property 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 identified that formal land registration is more common in urban (60 perecnt of total) than in rural areas. Existing legislation does not discriminate against foreign land owners, but 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 occupation of land is also common. Globally, Cameroon stands at 177 in the ranking of 190 economies on the ease of registering property.

Intellectual Property Rights

The legal structure for Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and corresponding enforcement mechanisms are weak. Infringement on IPR 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, DVDs, and music CDs are prevalent in the local market. Customs officers have authority to seize, store, and then eventually destroy these counterfeit goods, but have no leverage over the countries of origin, notably China, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan and are susceptible to corruption. Cameroon is not listed in the 2017 Special 301 Report.

Cameroon is a member of the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) and hosts its headquarters in Yaounde. The organization ensures the protection of intellectual property rights in most Francophone African countries. Individuals and companies can register their IP and brands directly at the OAPI.

IPR 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/ . Cameroon is not listed on the Notorious Markets List 2017.

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Cameroon is open to foreign investment and has been able to attract global brands. U.S. companies such as General Electric, Boeing, and Oracle have projects in the country. There are no governmental restrictions at this time and no policy obstructions are interfering in the investment markets. In October 2016, JP Morgan led senior executives from five investment management companies to Cameroon. These investment firms – Franklin Templeton Investments, Fidelity, Lazard Asset Management, Grantham Mayo van Otterloo & Co. and Alliance Bernstein have about USD 145 million invested in Cameroon. Another group of prospective investors led by Citibank visited Cameroon in late October 2016. Collectively, this group has at least three major U.S. funds have invested USD 145 million in Cameroon’s first Eurobond, issued in 2015.

The Douala Stock Exchange (DSX) is one of the youngest stock exchanges in Sub-Saharan Africa. Created in 2001, it currently has only three companies and five sovereign bonds listed. The regulatory system of the DSX permits portfolio investment, but the market is still in its infancy, suffering from low liquidity and bureaucratic inertia.

International capital market actors, including private equity firms, operate in Cameroon, enabling Cameroon to connect with larger international investors. There are also major bank credit instruments available on the open market and venture capital operations are gaining traction in the business sector. 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 international banking payment systems and there are no government restrictions on payments or transfers. The banking system is regulated by the regional Bank of Central African States (BEAC). The bank follows IMF standards.

Money and Banking System

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 percent of Cameroonians have access to banking services. According to the World Bank, non-performing loans were 10.31 percent of total bank loans in 2016. Local banks include:

  1. Afriland First Bank Group (USD 2.3 billion in assets)
  2. Banque Internationale pour l’Epargne et le Credit (USD 2.1 billion)
  3. Societe Generale Cameroun (USD 972 million in Cameroon, global assets of EUR 1.308 trillion)
  4. Standard Chartered Bank Cameroon (USD 706 million)
  5. Ecobank (USD 508 million in Cameroon, global USD 22.5 billion)

BEAC serves the CEMAC region, which includes Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo (https://www.beac.int/ ). BEAC has been in operation since 1972, although rocked by embezzlement scandals in 2009 and 2010. The current governor of BEAC is Abbas Mahamat Tolli (from Chad).

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.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

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 currency. The national (regional) currency, the Central African CFA Franc (CFA) is pegged to the Euro and fixed at a specific rate. BEAC follows IMF standards and its authority is independent of member state influence.

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. Remittance policies and banking transactions are regulated by the regional Central Bank. Foreign investors can remit through convertible and negotiable instruments using legal channels recognized by the regional central bank. Any incidence of currency manipulation tactics is handled by the regional central bank.

Domestically, the remittance market is expanding. Cameroon currently counts more than six million registered mobile money subscribers. In addition, 1.5 million people are using four different digital solutions currently offered by banks and mobile phone companies, namely ATM, mobile wallet, mobile debit card, and website. These systems support various forms of remittances and financial services. Cameroon does not have a sovereign wealth fund.

The Government of the Republic of Cameroon has over 130 state-owned companies (SOEs) in which it has majority ownership, and which operate in eight key sectors of the economy, including agribusiness, energy, and mining. SOEs are also present in real estate, transportation, services, information & communication, finance, and tourism.

In Cameroon, an SOE is an enterprise partly or totally owned by the GRC. Some SOEs are profit oriented (70 percent), while others are set up to provide public services. Because of their quasi-monopoly status, several SOEs are so dominant in their sector that they act as de facto regulators, with telecommunications giant CAMTEL serving as the most notable example. Data on SOEs’ research and development and their share of public contracts is 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 USD 516 million.

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. SOEs can source equipment, purchase goods, and acquire services from the private sector, including 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. The Audit Chambers of the Supreme Court 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 management. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that over the past years, the government has not imposed any performance targets, productivity requirements, or any significant budget constraints on SOEs. The governing boards and senior executive teams are political appointees and connected individuals; they have the means to avoid tax burdens levied on private enterprises, receive specialized consideration for subsidies, and enhanced operating budgets. They generally obtain preferential treatment from the government (including courts).

Cameroon is an observer under the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Government Procurement but SOEs are de factor or de jure able to acquire 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, 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 codes 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 but are finding it difficult to compete in a landscape where the GRC maintains specific privileges in the name of the public good on behalf of non-transparent SOEs.

Although individual SOEs are generally placed under the tutelage of a sector ministry, the entire portfolio is heavily centralized. Management reports to the line ministries, but the President, who also determines the corporate governance structures, directly appoints the board of directors. The Technical Committee for Rehabilitation within the Ministry of Finance is responsible for financial surveillance. Most board members are former ministers or leading members of the central committee of the ruling party. In most cases they do not have the expertise, experience, or even a sound understanding of the enterprise or sector. 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.

Privatization Program

Cameroon enacted major privatization policies in the 1990s and early 2000s under the purview of international donors such as the IMF and the World Bank. The process has been stalled for over a decade, but market pressures continue to mount for additional privatization efforts. The GRC had stakes in 171 entities in 2004. Since then, 30 companies had been privatized. An additional list of 10 companies has been scheduled for privatization since 2005 (examples CAMAIRCO, CAMTEL, SCDP, SODECOTON).

In general privatization appears to be on hold. The government favors Public Private Partnerships (PPP) 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 participate in ventures, such as mining companies, rather than creating a state-owned company.

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 IMF survey (2015), the GRC has 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 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, the State’s dominant position distorts 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.

Responsible business conduct is not regulated by law in Cameroon. However, the Government of the Republic 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 culture of corporate social responsibility. 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 master law from 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. Cameroon is also compliant with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

Cameroon works with non-governmental organizations and multilateral partners in the private sector to improve, monitor, and promote the effectiveness of legislation and the enforcement of laws on human rights. The country has a human rights commission, which strives to educate people, institutions, and the private sector on these issues. However, the country faces challenges when it comes to implementing these principles in general, because of the dysfunctions in the legal systems, or when human right issues intercept with domestic political issues. In addition, the OHADA laws have provisions for corporate governance, transparent accounting, and fair executive compensation standards to protect shareholders.

Corruption is punishable under sections 134 and 134 (a) of the Pena1 code of Cameroon. From November 2012 to December 2015, 112 serious cases of corruption went to court. Since then, at least 14 more officials have been arrested and are on trial for corruption and embezzlement of public funds. A March 2018 cabinet reshuffle was widely viewed as an anti-corruption purge. Since inception, the Special Criminal Tribunal has handled over 123 cases and recovered USD 5.5 million 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 service. Factors such as dysfunction within the civil service, an ambient environment of conflicts-of-interests, notably in government procurement, and weak supervision all fuel embezzlement. Many corruption convictions are viewed as political score settling.

U.S. firms indicate that corruption is pervasive in government procurement, award of licenses or concessions, transfers, performance requirements, dispute settlement, regulatory system, customs, and 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. 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 limited effects on the enforcement of laws in the country. The Business Coalition against Corruption (BCAC) is rapidly growing in private-sector membership and influence.

In the Civil Service, cronyism, nepotism, and tolerance for serious conflicts of interest abound. The government declares that it is committed to fighting corruption, but appears overwhelmed by this daunting task, or complicit in the system of clientelism that harbors corrupt actors. In some extreme instances, civil servants blatantly violate laws and then offer bribes to State inspectors so that they are not investigated and prosecuted. It is a vicious cycle that perpetuates itself in an environment of apparent impunity. Officially, bribes are prohibited and the State has many institutions that are supposed to fight against systemic corruption. Cameroon has signed many international anti-corruption agreements, but the scourge continues to plague the civil service at almost every level with private companies paying a heavy price.

Resources to Report Corruption

Reverend Dieudonne MASSI GAMS
National Anti-Corruption Commission
B.P. 33200 Yaounde Cameroon
(+237) 22 20 37 32

Charles NGUINI
Country Representative
Transparency International Cameroon
Nouvelle route Bastos, rue 1.839, BP : 4562 Yaounde
(+237) 33 15 63 78

In 2014, Cameroon experienced its first terrorist attacks at the hands of Boko Haram and subsequently declared war on the group. In July 2016, Boko Haram split into two factions, with one declaring allegiance to the Islamic State and calling itself ISIS-West Africa (ISIS-WA), and the other retaining the name Boko Haram (which means, roughly: Western education forbidden by Islamic law). Boko Haram has used women and young girls and – recently – the elderly, as suicide bombers to attack population centers, striking Muslims and non-Muslims indiscriminately. ISIS-WA, on the other hand, has focused on attacking security installations and non-Muslim targets in the Lake Chad Region.

The Southwest and Northwest regions of Cameroon are Anglophone and make up roughly 20 percent of the population. They have a number of legitimate grievances against the central government and the Francophone majority dating from independence. Roughly a year after strikes led by Anglophone lawyers and teachers began; there were on October 1, 2017, mass protests in larger cities and multiple protester deaths at the hands of security forces, though confirmed numbers remain elusive. Violence against security forces increased dramatically starting in November 2017, with insurgents killing more than 40 military and police elements. Villagers have begun seeking refuge in Nigeria and other Cameroonian regions

A subset of the Anglophone protest movement has called for secession from Cameroon, which President Biya has said will never be considered. Distorted, exaggerated statements on social media and fake news on both sides characterize the dispute, making it difficult to sort truth from fiction. In response to the increased violence, the GRC asked the Government of Nigeria to arrest the self-proclaimed Interim Government of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia – the name the secessionists have given to their desired country – in Abuja. On January 5, the Government of Nigeria complied and subsequently allowed Cameroonian forces to forcibly return 47 secessionist leaders, including the group’s President, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, to Yaounde.

It is estimated that more than 275,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) have flooded into Cameroon over the last four years, with most settling near the country’s eastern border. The sparsely populated, densely forested area was already one of Cameroon’s poorest, and despite considerable international humanitarian assistance, with the United States in the lead, the suffering remains immense. According to a UNICEF report in July 2017, “the majority of new refugees are moving towards rapid remunerative activities that are often harmful to children, such as the economic exploitation of children (including child labor in gold mines and sex for survival for young adolescents) or serious criminality.” The desperate situation has created serious tension in affected communities and has severely strained government resources in the area. In spite of the challenges, it is a credit to Cameroon that they host these refugees, as well as about 93,000 from Nigeria and another 21,000 from other countries. Cameroon is also struggling with approximately 225,000 people internally displaced by the conflict with Boko Haram.

Officially, the unemployment rate is 3.8 percent, but in reality it is much higher. Under-employment is even worse and remains a challenge for Cameroon, with estimated rates of upwards of two thirds among informal workers being affected. The majority of youth who are qualified are under-employed in the informal sector. Unskilled labor is prevalent in the agricultural and service sector.

There are shortages of technical trade skills in every sector of the economy. Truck and automotive maintenance is widely practiced in the informal sector, but few have formal training. Rudimentary agriculture, fishing, and textile manufacture are still in need of significant development, and a lack of skilled workers tends to be the norm across the country. The GRC 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 in 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 IFZ regime.

Although union and contract agreements vary 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 considered an alternative solution 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 operating in IFZs, special provisions govern some matters under the 1990 law establishing IFZs. 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. IFZs can waive labor laws to attract or retain investment.

There are independent labor unions 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 divisions 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. ILO has the most updated information on unions in Cameroon (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, and raised salaries of civil servants and military personnel.

The labor code differentiates between layoffs and firing (with severance). In all cases of dismissal, it shall be up to the employer to demonstrate that the grounds for dismissal are well founded. Whenever a contract of employment of unspecified duration is terminated without notice or without the full period of notice being observed, the responsible party shall pay to the other party compensation corresponding to the remuneration, including any bonuses and allowances which the worker would have received for the period of notice not observed. However, in most cases implementation of these decisions takes many years of negotiations often involving the Ministry of Labor, courts and social services.

The Cameroonian labor market continues to be dominated by a large informal sector. According to the World Bank, a large section of the work force earns its living in the informal sector. Over 70 percent of jobs in the agriculture sector are performed informally. Other economic sectors which continue to feed this labor informality are telecommunications, manufacturing, construction, banking, and the hotel industry. The formal private sector and the public sector employ four percent and six percent of the workforce, respectively. Informality is often decried but it has brought flexibility and resilience to the labor market and represents a social safety valve. Cameroon labor code lays down principles regarding employment, dismissal, remedies for wrongful dismissal, compensation for industrial injuries, and trade unions. But most jobs do not have binding contracts and employers – particularly the politically-well connected – seem to hold most of the cards in labor disputes. Even in the formal sector, most jobs lack required protections for workers. Despite this landscape, it is important for U.S. companies to ensure compliance with local labor laws and to abide by international best practices.

There is a gap in the supply and demand for labor in Cameroon. Often skills and qualifications do not match the needs of companies. This stems from the inadequacy or obsoleteness of the content of the educational system. While Cameroon has schools that can produce good engineers and doctors, there are few schools which provide training for technicians such as welders, plumbers, computer technicians, and maintenance workers. Cameroon does not impose the hiring of nationals although some level of local content and transfer of skills tend to be positively perceived as elements of corporate social responsibility. There is no direct linkage between the labor code and incentives for FDI which are stipulated in a different law. The government expects foreign companies to abide by Cameroonian law. In theory, the labor code provides a legal framework for an efficient labor market, but such a market has yet to fully emerge. Cameroon is a party to ILO Conventions 87 and 98 permitting the freedom to form unions and the right to collective bargaining, respectively.

In general, any individual dispute arising from a contract of employment between workers and their employers or from a contract of apprenticeship shall fall within the jurisdiction of the court dealing with the labor disputes in accordance with the legislation on judicial organization. In Cameroon, trade unions are not strong. For this reason, collective bargaining agreements are relatively rare. The OHADA corporate laws have additional provisions for dispute resolution. However, dysfunctions in the legal systems can create gaps in compliance or practice with international labor standards. The ILO works with the Cameroonian government on issues such as the prevention of child labor and trafficking in person, which contributes to the alignment of Cameroon laws with international labor standards.

Cameroon and OPIC signed an Investment Guarantee and an Investment Incentive Agreement in 1967. In recent years and with this agreement, OPIC has been able to provide insurance and contribute to an increased access to finance for Cameroonian farmers and small and medium sized enterprises. The current exchange rate for the U.S. dollar is CFA 567/ USD 1.

Cameroon has ambitious development plans and hopes to become a middle income economy by 2035. The government has published a list of 80 large infrastructure projects covering many sectors that would help achieve that goal. Cameroonian officials have officially invited U.S. companies to bid and support them in the execution of these projects, but the government has been slow to move on many of these projects. Nonetheless, these projects offer good business opportunities for OPIC’s continued involvement in Cameroon.

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





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


USD 30,400


USD 32,200


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)





BEA data not available for Cameroon

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





BEA data not available for Cameroon

Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP





BEA data not available for Cameroon

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 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Data not available.

Jonathan Baas
Deputy Chief of the Political and Economic Section
U.S. Embassy Yaounde, Rosa Parks Ave, Yaounde, Cameroon

2018 Investment Climate Statements: Cameroon
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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future