The telecommunications system in Cameroon leaves little (if anything) to be desired. Besides its telephone and facsimile network whose reliability cannot be stressed strongly enough, Cameroon was hooked up with the INTERNET in March 1997 thanks to the International Telecommunications Corporation (INTELCAM), the main link between Cameroon and the external world. This event put Cameroon on the fast lane of the information super highway. With this the country becomes part of the approximately 60 millions network of users present in 150 countries on 5 continents. Now, services such as e-mail, World Wide Web, File Transfer Protocol, etc., are available. Most especially, INTERNET by way of COMMERCE NET enables subscribers to buy, sell and otherwise exchange commercial information with the utmost speed. This can only go to enhance international trade and foreign investment in Cameroon, knowing that in the modern context of business, time is of the essence.
SETTING UP A BUSINESS
The procedure for setting up a business in Cameroon is a straight forward matter.
For a sole proprietor you need a Business Registration Number obtainable at the Court Registry. To this you shall add the Tax Payers Number obtainable at the Taxation office in whose jurisdiction your business is located. At this stage you can operate after obtaining a Business Licence.
For a partnership or company you fulfil all the conditions above plus the following. The Deed of Partnership or Memorandum of Association, drafted by a Solicitor and approved by the promoters of the business in a constituent assembly, should be authenticated by a Notary Public.
NATURAL CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH YOU DO BUSINESS IN CAMEROON
Cameroon has a Ministry in charge of environment whose main business is to cater to the sanity of land, air and water. In this regard it issues regulations of environmental protection and waste control. Top in the news in Cameroon today is a 5 billion FCFA project on household refuse and other waste disposal and recycling to be presented to government in the coming days. In this project emphasis is laid on Douala and Yaounde, the two most urban towns of Cameroon. The new Ministry of Town, created in the cabinet reshuffle of December 7, 1997, has come to fine-tune the attributes of the Ministry in charge of environment and sharpen its go-getting sense.
Moreover, Cameroon is a tropical country wherein there are no seasons with extreme temperature recordings. Water and electricity are in abundant supply for industrial use.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
There is an African organization for the Protection of Intellectual Property (O.A.P.I. in French) grouping 14 Central & West African countries with headquarters in Yaounde. It's raison d'etre is to foster and guarantee creative genius in areas such as inventions, trademarks, patents as well as literary and artistic works.
For you to benefit from OAPI protection some administrative and financial formalities have to be done. The former is straight forward. The latter is unprohibitive. This protection gives you copyright and it is a plus when doing business in Cameroon.
For the foreign investor doing business in Cameroon, the bulk of transportation of goods is by sea so it is trite to mention here that the United Nations Convention on the Carriage of Goods by Sea, signed in 1978, otherwise christened the "Hamburg Rules" would apply.
This convention put back the issue of maritime transportation on a scale which tilts heavily in favour of the shipper as against the transporter. It takes multiple criteria of application into consideration and this application in time is wide. The presumption of responsibility is on the transporter on whom the onus of proof lies.
In sum, Cameroon is a fertile ground for foreign investors to do business if guided by the foregoing indicators and the following :
- Inland transportation of goods is made safe by the fact that the road network is mostly hard surfaced and not covered with bitumen.
- Although located at the estuary of river Wouri thus requiring regular dredging, the capacity of the Douala sea port is not put to question.
- There are three international airports in Douala, Garoua and Yaounde-Nsimalen with regular flights.
- The CIMA code is an instrument of effective insurance coverage for business and allied risks.
- As the judiciary is growing increasingly independent, the delay of justice is becoming more and more an aberration.
- The Private Bar is growing in numerical strength and quality.
- The fourth Estate, the press that is, has been freed.
- The Head of State, His Excellency PAUL BIYA, in his 1998 new year message took a pragmatic turn bringing more hope for economic recovery.
- The present government is headed by a technocrat in politics, a go-getting Premier, Mr. Peter Mafany Musonge.
Yet doing business in Cameroon, the investor would also need a sixth sense. This is where the human factor comes into play, His capacity to master the unknown factor, parasitic variables which cause business fortunes to vary that is, would in large measure depend upon his rating on the reactivity - proactivity continuum.
To the foreign investor especially, due to the limitations impose by length of write-ups this is nothing more than a cursory view of the whole picture of doing business in Cameroon. Nevertheless, feel free to get back to us for details as to aspects which are of particular interest to you.
NOTE: The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought for specifics.
For further information contact Mr Nico Halle, Tel: +237 42 64 79 or Fax: +237 43 26 34.