Yaounde (National Times)-Cameroon’s weak Small and Medium Sized Enterprise sector is preoccupying the new government in place battling to strengthen their capacity and reduce the country’s dependence on imports.
Speaking during the March cabinet meeting of Thursday March 28, the Prime Minister Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute instructed the Minister of SME, Achille Basileken III to “accelerate the implementation of institutional measures likely to ensure greater involvement of national SMEs in the creation of value chain of local products.”
Minister Basiliken in a presentation at the cabinet meeting disclosed, that during the 2016 business census, 209,482 SMEs were identified in the country. Most of were involved only in distribution and trades which according to the Minister favours importation of goods.
Basiliken pointed out that SMEs can do better if they are supported by the government – “In view to reinforce the competitiveness of SMEs, the Minister highlighted the need to revive the support programme for the development of the private sector, operationalize alternative modes of funding, implement measures to support SMEs and aid their search for opportunities at the national and international level.”
The cabinet meeting also saw a presentation from the Minister of Mines and Industry who said between 2009 and 2016 the food industry has grown in Cameroon from 764 companies to 2564. However, 3% of these industries account for about 95% of the bulk of turnover in the secondary industry sector.
Despite the lofty proposals on the paper, successive governments have been unable to boost the limping SME sector Cameroon. For some while now, government’s initiatives towards SMEs have only remained on paper. In 2011, it created the SME bank which went operational on July 20, 2015, yet Cameroonians are not aware of the services of the bank as it still remains an obscure reality.
The government later on created the SME Promotion Agency with mission to aid SMEs in Cameroon and make them more competitive nationally and internationally. However, all these initiatives have remained paper work with little or no improvement on the ground. Only time would tell whether the Dion Ngute government, appointed on January 4th, 2019 can change the tides.