Yaounde, 06 Nov 2018, (ECA) – “We are convinced that the law of the market, called ‘the invisible hand’ in economics, which advocates ‘laissez-faire’ and ‘laissez-aller’, cannot by itself promote diversification, industrialization and the structural transformation of our economies,” a senior official of the UN Economic Commission (ECA), has told Cameroon’s development planning and statistics authorities.
Antonio Pedro, Director of ECA’s Subregional Office for Central Africa, argued that to complement market forces, countries need a robust development planning machinery, rooted in strong statistical evidence to take them to the middle-income bracket level, prosperity and structural transformation.
He was speaking during a review of two case studies undertaken by the Capacity Development Division (CDD) of ECA under the leadership of Sylvain Boko, Principal Regional Advisor at CDD, aimed at systematically embedding accountability in Cameroon’s development planning. The event was coupled with the launch of the Commission’s maiden Structural Transformation, Employment, Production and Society (STEPS) profile of the country.
One of the case studies assesses the status and progress of the national planning process and examines the existing evaluation and monitoring frameworks to identify entry points for strengthening Cameroon’s accountability and evidence-based policymaking mechanisms, while the other assesses Cameroon’s National Institute of Statistics’ ability to collect, compile, produce and use the data necessary for strengthening accountability in development planning.
Therefore, “this validation workshop on mainstreaming accountability into planning processes will help us to strengthen our planning techniques and hence increase our chances of becoming and emerging and prosperous Cameroon” affirmed the country’s Minister Delegate in Charge of Planning at the Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development – Paul Tasong, who chaired deliberations of the event.
Maiden structural transformation profile of Cameroon
In introducing the STEPS profile, ECA’s Antonio Pedro recognised that Cameroon has the necessary policy instruments to become a middle income country and pursue economic diversification as captured in the country’s Industrial Development Master Plan. Notwithstanding, he urged Cameroonian authorities to set their ambitions higher to ensure that once the middle income status is achieved the country avoids being caught in the so-called “middle-income trap” which has locked many countries in perpetuity in the lacklustre state and “label” of emerging countries.
To avoid getting stuck at that level, the country would need to continue to invest in human capital development and be persistent at its drive towards enhancing productivity, competitiveness and innovation, Pedro added. These are key variables of the Commission’s STEPS profiles. Structural transformation here refers to a marked change in the components of production of an economy – moving factors of production, notably labour and capital, from lower level productivity sectors such as mere subsistent agriculture/extraction of raw materials to higher levels including manufacturing, other industries and quality services.
The 2018 STEPS Profile for Cameroon, produced by ECA’S Subregional Office for Central Africa, notes that despite its laudable development plans as well as the rising level of transformation of its local products, the country still has big gaps to plug in terms of the structural transformation of its economy.
Presented by Mama Keita, chief of SRO-CA Economic Diversification Section, the report beckons on the Government of Cameroon to improve the country’s business environment while promoting foreign direct investment (FDI), local content policies and the development of technology to boost production. It further urges Cameroonian authorities to work towards boosting the competitiveness and sophistication of the country’s products in order to be better positioned then within regional and global value chains (GVCs).
The Profile received a spirited response of Cameroonian authorities led by Minister Mr Paul Tasong.
The Minister and his collaborators judged the findings of the STEPS profile for Cameroon as a good diagnosis of the prevailing situation and pointed out that the country is at the concluding stages of its first leg of economic diversification – the horizontal approach. This approach has enabled it executing planning around multiple sectors that would contribute to a more sustained growth pattern of the economy. The next stage will focus on vertical diversification to deepen value addition and linkages development within each sector and other sectors of the economy, in line with Cameroon’s Industrial Development Masterplan launched in 2017.
The Minister and his collaborators pledged to work on the key messages emanating from the STEPS profile and called upon ECA to support Cameroon with relevant technical advice to help it deliver on its horizontal and vertical diversification agendas, timeously.
They also requested that future STEPS profiles appraise the country’s capacity to produce and use statistics to optimize its structural transformation.
The Sub-Regional Office for Central Africa
UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
P.O. Box 14935 Yaounde, Cameroon
Tel: (+237) 222504348 / 222504315 / 222504321
Abel Akara Ticha – Communication Officer
Tel: 237 222504348