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Chinese bus plant in Cameroon: An alert to the west.

Few years of economic partnership against decades of economic “aid”

News of the opening of a Chinese bus factory in Douala, Cameroon’s economic capital, is more a fruit of reciprocal relationship and a big lesson to the hitherto “old-time partners” of Cameroon. It shows that Cameroon and Africa is not only a place for raw material but equally, a place where finished goods can be made, a myth that has been propagated by colonial partners for the past 5 decades.

The plant where busses would be assembled is expected to cost an estimated USD500 million and hundred of jobs  would be created. Some Cameroonians are supposed to be sent to China for training in the auto industry and upon return, they would begin work in the bus assembly plant.  Possibilities of a full time auto manufacturing industry in the years ahead if the venture succeeds are very possible.

This deal among others were signed March 24 during the visit of a high powered Chinese delegation to Cameroon led by Jia Qinglin, chairman of China’s National Committee of the People’s Political Conference. A grant of USD 65 million and a USD 65 million interest-free loan was also signed.  Still under the same framework, 500 Chinese busses are expected to arrive Cameroon in July to ease inter urban transports in major cities like Yaoundé, Douala, Nkongsamba, Garoua etc.

Trade between Cameroon and China has already reached USD 800 million from USD 2 million forty years ago and Cameroonians are virtually benefiting from Chinese investments more. Paradoxically, their investments are inferior to those of old timers like France and other western counterparts.

Cameroon government long time colonial “ally” France, with troops in the country, has a lot of infuriating, intriguing and high contested business deals. Many got to France as a resulted of the IMF poverty aggravating privatisation schemes which fall within the framework of creating the NEW WORLD SOCIAL ORDER. Some of these deals include the lone cement manufacturing company (CIMENCAM) under Group LAFARGE. This company intermittently increases price of cement and allegedly, fought fiercely against a South Korean deal for the creation of a second cement factory which ended in a flop.

The mobile communication sector with the French giants ORANGE and South African MTN still remains more of a monopoly with terribly high cost of calls. The rail company auctioned to France has become a nightmare for Cameroonians with the company maximising profit but said to be offering disastrous services. Recently, two avoidable rail accidents in a month claimed several lives.

Two French “experts” equally reportedly left Cameroon National Oil Refinery Company (SONARA) in anger because the current GM made efforts to improve the production instead of relying on French companies for supplies. Most of Cameroon Sea Port was equally auctioned to French investors and the Cameroonian port manager who was against the deal was sacked. The agro industrial sector with SOCAPALM is not left out. The list of 50 years of very exploitative relationship is indeed long.

A comparative look at the roads in Douala constructed by French and Chinese companies leaves so much to be desire for those done by the former. UDECTO, a purported Togolese company but of real French ownership did a horrible job on the Wouri bridge, the longest bridge in West Africa. A lot more French companies continue to cause havoc under mysterious deals in which money is “given as loan” but contracts given to same French companies who carry out nonsense in the name of job execution. In the end, they get away with the profit and leave Cameroonians with more debts to pay. However, a new deal with China aims at re-launching the erstwhile moribund state civil engineering company, MATGENIE.

What has partly accounted for Africa’s and Cameroon major economic underdevelopment has been the colonial relationship that characterised African and European countries. This European relationship boils down to aid with strings instead of operating as partners. That is why after 40 years of European interests and even American interests too in the oil industry in Africa, most African countries continue to be areas producing raw materials and not finish goods. With less than 15 years of intense economic cooperation which China, Africa’s economy are picking up with its own hurdles. Though reputed for making low quality goods, China remains the better trading partner of Africa. The better evil, some would argue.

What remains vital is the need for leaders to negotiate the deals well with China so that it should be a win-win process. It should not be a kind of imposed deal or the rubbish that was sign by neo-colonial agents to preserve their stay in power and for the economic benefit of foreign partners.

Other areas still needing more partners in Cameroon include the domain of telecommunication, production of construction material, agro industry etc. We equally do hope the announcement of the deal is not a campaign strategy by the regime in Yaoundé ahead of the 2011 presidential elections.

50 year of economic aid with the west killed Africa. Now, we are looking forward to 50 years of economic partnership with China and other nations of with good intent. Economic or business is a game of interest and Africa has benefited virtually nothing from the west neither in terms of better goods or services than making of Africa a place to extract raw material and then resend finished goods at exorbitant prices. Africa should exploit the exchanges with China and go in for the transfer of technology.

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