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Why Cameroon Business Days in Lagos Flopped 

By Divine Ntaryike Jr — Years of brainstorming by a Cameroonian promoter to attract Nigerian investors to the country have culminated in sheer fiasco.

Over the past two years, Marcel Tchuisseu had nurtured and fine-tuned the dream of setting off the first-ever edition of a business forum dubbed Cameroon Days Lagos 2012.  The initiative was intended to regroup private and public investors from both countries from May 15 to 17.

But the venture abruptly spiraled down to futility.  Tchuisseu was suddenly whisked off by security officers and dumped at the Yaoundé Central Prison at Kondengui on March 12 even as he led a delegation of Nigerian investors on a contact tour in the country. 

He told the French language daily, Mutations in its May 14 edition that the incarceration was ordered by his own brother for yet undisclosed reasons.  ‘I was only provisionally released on May 10 and you can see that it was impossible to envisage the effective holding of the forum,” he stated.

Meantime, the initiative had received blessings from authorities as high as the ministers of trade and external relations among others.  In fact, preparatory sessions ahead of the flopped forum were held on the premises of the Cameroonian diplomatic representation in Lagos. 

Tchuisseu however maintains he has only been beaten, but not broken.  According to him, the venture must be pursued to term.  He says the motivating factors are various.  “Firstly, Nigeria represents a market comprising over 150 million inhabitants and is the leader in West Africa… Elsewhere, Cameroon and Nigeria share over 1,500km of land and maritime borders and ongoing informal crossborder trade does not represent the real potentials,” he explained.

In his words, works on the 413km Cameroon-Nigeria Trans-border Highway meandering from Bamenda to Enugu and jointly funded by the African Development Bank and the Japanese Agency for International Cooperation augur good news for deepening trade links between both countries. 

“That’s why we thought it urgent to create a platform for businessmen and decision-makers… for formal exchanges aimed at setting off a veritable and mutual wealth creation synergy for both countries.  In short, the Cameroon Days Lagos 2012 was designed to promote industries and made-in-Cameroon products in Nigeria, promote the Cameroon destination to Nigerian investors and encourage partnerships,” Tchuisseu further explained.

Following his provisionary release from detention, he says the initiative is not destined for the coffins juts yet.  Despite its rank as Africa’s third most-industrialized nation, its global electricity output is stuck at around 3,500MW.  Actually, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN in its latest report indicates that over 300 companies have delocalized to Ghana to escape energy supply deficits and huge amounts pumped into running electricity generators, and on the whole, slash soaring production costs.

Tchuisseu says Cameroon has the potential to take advantage of the situation with ongoing public investments to construct giant hydropower generation sources at Lom Pangar for example.  “At the same time, 380 billion FCFA have been invested to modernize the national oil refinery at SONARA… Nigeria, with a production of 2.5 million barrels per day lacks a functional refinery and depends on Asia and all this means that we can reverse the trends and have Nigerian companies delocalizing to Cameroon,” he explained. 

While experts see sense in the bungled venture, others are quickly pinpointing the impasse surrounding the implantation in Douala of cement factory by the Nigerian Dangote Group as an off-putting example for potential Nigerian investors.

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