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Maximising Private Investment Openings

From observation, private investments in Cameroon are going crescendo since government on April 18, 2013 enacted a law on private investment incentives in the country.

Statistics from the Investment Promotion Agency, the government structure that pilots investment issues, indicate that close to 60 conventions have been signed thus far between government and private investors seeking to tap from the fiscal, customs and administrative incentives that the “revolutionary 2013 law” offers.

Last Friday December 18, 2015 alone, some nine small and medium-size enterprises joined the race promising to pump in over FCFA 123 billion in as many sectors as possible and by so doing generating over 5,500 direct and indirect jobs. An overall investment package of the over 60 companies is evaluated at over FCFA 700 billion.

The effervescence is, no doubt, justified by the content of the existing legal instrument. New investors or those willing to boost existing investments within the 2013 law are offered diverse advantages during the installation and production phases (15 years) so as to get back their investments before government’s full fiscal policies are applied on them. For instance, during the installation phase, the businesses are exempted from registration duties in cases of creation or increase in capital; exemption from registration duties on leases of buildings for purely professional use and exemption from transfer taxes on the acquisition of buildings and land considered essential for the realization of the investment programme. Meanwhile, during the operational phase, investors have exemptions from or reductions on payments on some taxes, exemption from registration duties relating to credit facilities, loans, bonds, increments, reduction, reimbursement and liquidation of share capital.

The interest shown the country of late by private investors may just be heading for the skies if calls from the Investment Promotion Agency are massively heeded to. Last month, the agency organised the first-ever Cameroon Investment Forum in Douala where investors from far and near all agreed that the country has a lot in terms of investment opportunities.    

If only for the euphoria shown the country of late, one could conclude that Cameroon is increasingly being considered a good business risk. In as much as it calls for chest-beating in some circles already, the renewed interest should, not in any way, send public authorities to slumber. The country’s investment climate is not the best. Administrative red tape and corruption still thrive, the transport and energy infrastructure are yet to be investment-friendly and the land tenure system in the country still leaves much to be desired.

These and other hurdles continually rubbish the country’s performance on the World Bank Doing Business reports. Cameroon’s performance has been plummeting in the annual ratings.

With the development objectives clearly defined and attainment dates already set, it pays to maximise every cropping opportunity to move from visions to accomplishments.

There is therefore an urgent need for government and the private sector, which has been co-opted into the reflection forum on how to move the country ahead; to jointly clear the still lingering investment hurdles for the country to fully maximise private investment openings. It equally pays to urgently right the noticeable insufficiencies of the April 18, 2013 law. Private investors have succeeded in causing economies to boom elsewhere. Their performance here, of late, is convincing even to sceptics that if well harnessed private investments could as well serve as the goose to lay the golden eggs on which Cameroon’s economy could emerge. 

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