Thursday, November 15, 2018
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By Divine Ntaryike Jr — Despite swelling grumbles and rising eyebrows over its expanding control of strategic infrastructure in especially Francophone West African nations, Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has thumbed-up plans by the French Bolloré Group to maintain its hegemony on the country’s railway and ports sectors.

Globally famed and politically-influential Vincent Bolloré, President Director General of the business empire exited an hour-long audience with Biya in Yaoundé on Monday, May 14, beaming with evident elation.  He had just secured fresh confidence from the Cameroonian leader accompanied by the green-light to embark on new investments in the country’s railway, ports and renewable energy sectors.

Accosted by reporters, the French tycoon divulged plans to build a rapid railway line between the capital Yaoundé and the economic hub Douala in the short-term.  “We’ve given ourselves one year to complete the project,” he explained.  In other words, by May next year, commuters regularly shuttling between the country’s foremost urban settlements will have another option.

Bolloré further disclosed he and Biya discussed other projects, including his group’s intention to stretch out Cameroon’s railway lines into neighboring Central African countries, additional investments at the Douala International Terminal which handles import- and export-bound containers, as well as ventures in renewable energy and at the Kribi deep seaport whose construction is only just beginning.

“The Head of State is very preoccupied with economic and employment issues and he’s a man who judges the fidelity of investors and he knows that despite the current economic situation, we’re here and doubling our efforts at helping develop Cameroon,” he added.

The Bolloré Group already owns the Cameroon Railway Corporation [CAMRAIL], has dominion over the Douala port container terminal, alongside multiple investments in the food-processing, etc sectors.  It currently employs some 7,000 people and mostly locals.  “We’re planning to move up to 10,000 employees over the next five to seven years and the new activities should enable that,” he said, adding that the group has earmarked a 50-billion FCFA investment package.

Meantime, the Bolloré Group has frequently come under fire from critics who say since the privatization of the country’s railway network, it has done little to expand national coverage.  In fact, several lines have been suppressed, and commuters regularly complain of cancelled trips and sluggish rides.  Elsewhere at the Douala port, nationals have been incessantly agitating against the monopoly granted the group in the handling of containers.  

According to the industrialist, his group’s interest in Cameroon is essentially inspired by the country’s reigning political stability and “the competence and quality of its human resources.”  Created some 190 years ago, the group has been present in Cameroon for over half-a-century.   “I think that I will be coming back here within the next 12 to 18 months to see how we can benefit from this renewable energy wealth that you have here –  the sun,” he concluded.

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