Cameroon’s economy is growing more slowly than sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. One reason for this lies in the still difficult political framework conditions in the country. But this could soon change. President Paul Biya, in office since 1982, faces a serious challenger in October: Joshua Osih.
The 50-year-old social democrat, of Cameroonian-Swiss descent, is a wanderer between two worlds. Having grown up in both countries, Osih draws many parallels. Like Cameroon, Switzerland is a multi-ethnic state. Unlike Cameroon, however, Switzerland has a functioning legal system that prevents conflicts.
Osih’s goal is to attract private investors to Cameroon and transform the country. Private investors are still deterred by the high level of corruption (ranked 145th out of 177 on the international index), the inefficient legal system and defaults on state projects. By introducing a federalist administration and strict sanctions in the event of proof of corruption, Osih wants to finally reform the system that has been ailing for decades.
Successful pilot projects already exist in the telecommunications and energy sectors. Private involvement is already taking place in both recently liberalised sectors. The experience has been consistently positive for investors like Cameroonians. Especially the digital payment systems introduced a few years ago spread at lightning speed in Cameroon.
As the strongest economy in CEMAC, Cameroon is particularly rich in raw materials such as oil, cocoa, coffee, rubber, cotton, tropical timber and iron ore. Hopes now rest on major investments in the mining, oil and gas and agricultural sectors. Cameroon still lacks infrastructure here. The country is still suffering from its dependence on imports. An investment in Cameroon is still a very high risk venture for private investors. The tide may turn from October onwards.