ISSUE/EDITION Nr 468 - 15/12/2003


Central Africa
Riches side-by-side with poverty


Rich in oil, mining and forestry resources,
the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC)
is one Africa’s regions where most of the population are affected by poverty

The area in question covers 3 million sq. kms. stretching from Congo-Brazzaville to Equatorial Guinea, and includes Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Chad. CEMAC‘s total population is about 32.1 million inhabitants. According to the 2002 World Report on Human Development published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 33.4% of Cameroon’s population live on less than one dollar a day; in the Central African Republic, this figures rises to 66.6%; in Congo-Brazzaville to nearly 70%. There’s not much by way of trade between CEMAC countries because of the absence of basic infrastructures, such as railways and roads, and the slow progress of regional integration. CEMAC‘s executive-secretary, Jean Nkuete, says: «We are organizing ourselves so as to speed up regional integration. It’s our first priority». He was speaking at a press conference during the launch of negotiations between the CEMAC and the European Union (EU) in view of an agreement on economic cooperation in 2007.


Trade within the region amounts to: Imports — 2% of total imports; exports — 1% of total exports. According to Pascal Lamy, European Commissioner for international trade, «trade between the CEMAC and Nigeria — West Africa’s only economic giant — is higher than trade between CEMAC countries». Bilateral trade between the EU and CEMAC (Sao Tome e Prncipe is an associate member of CEMAC) is scarcely 7 billion Euros per year. Main exports to the EU are petroleum products (48% of exports); timber (18.4%); cocoa (4%); bananas (3.8%); cotton (2.2%); aluminium (1.5%); diamonds (3.8%); coffee (1.1%); manganese (1%).

Oil is the prime major export for most of the CEMAC countries, and, according to the Development Bank of Central Africa (BDEAC) with its headquarters in Brazzaville, is «the determining factor which shows that the CEMAC is expanding». In its 2002 report, the BDEAC indicates that in 2002, total oil production was 41.4 million tons for Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The growth rate which was 3.7% in 2002, should reach 4% in 2003, according to economic forecasts for the region. Mr. Lamy insists: the CEMAC must «start by developing a Common Market so as to ensure durable regional integration».


PeaceLink 2003 - Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgement