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Cameroon-Nigeria: Deepening Bilateral Trade

What may appear evident in the eyes of the public as topic of discussion at the sixth Cameroon-Nigeria Joint Commission holding in Yaounde since last Wednesday is surely what incidentally makes

news these days; border insecurity where repeated incursions and attacks have been reported between the two countries.

This of course is quite normal for two nations that share so much in common, historically, socially and culturally. Recent developments in the area of insecurity which have ushered in an influx of many more Nigerian refugees in Cameroon ought not to divert the attention of the two nations from more serious matters.

This is not to say insecurity is not a serious matter but that while tackling the problem on grounds that it stifles any other profitable bilateral initiative, members of the Joint commission should understand that the development of the two countries hinges so much on deepened economic cooperation.

Cameroon and Nigeria share the longest border measuring over 1,500 kilometres and stretching from north to south. This alone remains a permanent challenge for both nations; security challenge, economic challenge and socio-cultural challenge. The natural bond between Cameroon and Nigeria obliges them to think together because what affects one of them of necessity has ramifications in the other. It is for this reason that the latest economic development report wherein Nigeria has overtaken South Africa as Africa’s best economy is or ought to be a cause for concern for Cameroon.

What does it entail sharing border with an economic power, is the question on many lips. Is it not an opportunity for Cameroon to benefit from the Nigerian experience? Nigeria, it has often been said is a veritable market worth exploring and exploiting. That in essence is what ought to preoccupy the minds of Cameroonian businesses and decision makers. Already; trade between the two countries is on a good pedestal but from the look of things, much more fortune for Cameroon could come from this direction.

The first advantage for Cameroon is that Nigeria has a huge population that has been exerting lots of pressure on existing resources. Perhaps the most important areas of economic cooperation with Nigeria should be in the export sector. This appears to be one of the sectors so far identified as most lucrative. Cameroon seems to have enormous natural resources but few industries that can process them.

The trouble, it would appear, is in the fact that trade between the two nations is not well normalised. This explains why there has been an exponential growth in illegal and illicit trade. Borders remain porous and many traders have been taking advantage of that and clandestinely selling goods to Nigeria in the case of Cameroon. Every year huge amount of money is lost to illegal trade. For this reason, one of the urgent things to do would surely be to define things clearly and render them official.

With its high and demanding population, Nigeria has been asking to import electric energy from Cameroon for its industrial needs. Cameroon would have no convincing reason to turn down such a demand especially as the country has one of the best energy potentials in Africa. If things were to appear more complicated by virtue of lack of enough finances to develop such infrastructure, why not try the so called Build-Operate-and Transfer (BOT) contract system. As the Joint commission retires today, it is hoped that the new dispensation will re-direct the rails on the good path of economic cooperation.  

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