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Economy As A Priority

The euphoria that was visible on Thursay 14 November 2013 on the faces of those present in Douala during the launch of work for the construction of a second 2.8 km bridge on the River Wouri spoke volumes.

By laying the foundation stone of the bridge, President Paul Biya is not only demonstrating his determination to deliver on promises to the population, but opening up the way for numerous economic prospects for the entire country through the bridge.

Until now, the lone bridge over River Wouri served as the only outlet from Douala to three regions of the country, namely: the South West, West and North West Regions. Beyond simple geographical locations, the said regions mean much to the national economy. For instance, while the South West Region harbours the main crude oil production fields in Cameroon, the West and North West Regions are noted for their food supply to the economic capital, Douala. That also means goods and people from these regions that have to transit via Douala had no other alternative outside the lone bridge over River Wouri.

Statistically, the River Wouri until now was said to carry an average of 40,000 vehicles daily transporting goods and people. Of the number, about 32,000 were said to be trucks with 4.7 per cent being heavy duty trucks. Some 17,000 tourists and utility vehicles equally depended on the bridge daily while 74.3 per cent of cement used in some parts of the country passed through the bridge and 24.8 per cent of banana for export also had to be transported through the said bridge.

Moreover, goods meant for the Northern Regions of Cameroon and by extension to Chand and the Central African Republic that had to leave Douala by train could only go across the lone Wouri Bridge. Constructed from 1953-1954 by the French Company,  Batignolles, time has not been on the side of the old bridge over River Wouri again. Thus, the “Greater Accomplishments” programme of President Paul Biya could not have meant much to the economy of Cameroon if the Wouri River remained with only one bridge.

Consequently, although the second bridge over River Wouri will take 36 months to be realised, it is understandable that people no longer see the duration as an obstacle, given the impatience to see the endeavour take-off and especially the boost that it will offer to the much-heralded economic growth in the country. While charting the way forward for the current seven-year tenure of office as the President of the Republic, Mr Biya said, “It is only by reviving and accelerating growth that we will gradually overcome the problem of unemployment.”
Under current circumstances of high joblessness in the economic capital, Douala as well as the entire country, work on the bridge will surely offer immediate hope to the 700 workers enlisted to ensure the success of the project some 95 per cent of these workers will be Cameroonians.
Of course, given the long years of hardship witnessed as a result of a single bridge over River Wouri, the eventuality of another bridge today can no longer be under-rated. The psychological respite alone that the bridge will bring to the population in terms of time gain is in itself immeasurable.

Long hours of traffic jam across the River are definitely going to be a thing of the past once the work is completed and the food crops as well as industrial goods transported over the river to other parts of Cameroon and even abroad are sure economic advantages that mean much to the national economy. Like the other projects that are taking off in Douala, the signs are obvious about President Biya’s economic priorities during the current mandate.

Needless to cite the Lom Pangar Hydro-electric Dam, the Kribi Gas-Fired Power Plant, the Kribi Deep Seaport, the major road construction projects across the country and the Ndogpassi natural gas processing plant being inaugurated today 15 November in Douala by President Paul Biya as palpable signs of an economic agenda which the Head of State has laid out for Cameroon.

Those who have hoped for the trickle-down effects of President Biya’s “Greater Accomplishments” promise may as well have reason to expect better days ahead, thanks to ongoing worksites in the country.

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