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Chinese Economic Relevance To Cameroon 

By Ernest Ndukong

President Paul Biya and wife, Chantal, were in Beijing, China, last week for a 72-hour official visit. Among other reasons, the President is expected to have discussed and ensured that China’s presence is more profitable to Cameroon and to Cameroonians.

According to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, China is the second most valuable country in the world with a gross domestic product (GDP) of over FCFA 2,900 trillion, while Cameroon is 94th with a market value of all final goods and services worth about FCFA 11 trillion. With a population of over 1.3 billion people, as at November 2010, China has investments all over the world, Cameroon included.

From Chinese shops through restaurants to massaging centres; their products are generally believed to be cheap, affordable and last for just a short while. Basically, a couple of Cameroonians have gained employment in Chinese shops, clinics and restaurants based in Cameroon. Many others are teaching the world’s most famous language in China.

Many a Cameroonian can boast of the latest electrical equipment at a very low cost, thanks to China. About a decade ago, a Dissociated Vertical Deviation (DVD) set could be acquired for over FCFA 500,000; but, today, it is twenty times less than that. Electronic appliances, in general, have witnessed a tremendous drop in their prices.

This, in a way, has increased the standard of living of Cameroonians as they now consume a variety of goods and services which, before now, could be attributed only to the top class in society. The sad side of this is the non-durable nature of Chinese products. Someone, in an attempt to describe how short-lasting Chinese products are, said he bought a pair of trousers and by the time he got home, it had got torn inside the shopping bag.

It has, however, been observed that Chinese products are of various qualities and prices, with the former a function of the later. China has also helped Cameroonians to see and utilise more profitably, their economic potentials. These small-eyed looking people have caused Cameroonians to fish, farm and to rear and sell for profit.

Healthcare is now more available and affordable. Could one be right to conclude that we now have a longer life expectancy? Cameroon has benefited significantly in this four-decade-old relationship with China. The Buea Regional Hospital was refurbished by China which provided part of the building cost.

The hospital, despite its shortcomings like inconsistent flow of water, a couple of arrogant nurses and doctors, haphazard alternative means of electricity; is reputable for the town of Buea. The 20,000 capacity sports edifice in Yaounde is another Chinese handwork. Not only does this structure beautify the national capital, but hosts, comfortably, national and international sports competitions.

This partnership is expected to grow from power to power with the signing of seven agreements between Jing Tao and Biya on July 20, 2011. The agreements will mean; more interest-free loans granted to Cameroon, more non-reimbursable assistance to the Central African nation and the sending of batches of medical equipment and supplies to Cameroon.

The two Heads of State equally agreed on issues like climate change, food safety and poverty reduction. Resources, energy, infrastructure and agriculture were other topical issues the parties discussed and it is hoped that by the next trip to Beijing or Yaounde by either Presidents, it would be an evaluation meeting that should see Cameroon become an emerging nation before 2035.

Cameroon’s exports to China are witnessing an upward trend as the years pass by. In 2000, seven percent of Cameroon’s total export was to China, a portion, which grew by five percent from the previous year’s record of about two percent.

This feat then went down again in 2005 when China occupied the eighth position of Cameroon’s export destinations. Exports to China are mainly timber, cotton and crude oil. What, however, remains dubious are whether the Chinese involvement in development activities in Cameroon and worldwide hasn’t strings.

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