By Jean Réné Meva’a Amougou , US Africa News. Updated 2016-05-28
Since 1960, in good times and in bad, the French Development Agency (AFD) has assisted the three countries of the sub-region in their development efforts.
While in Cameroon for the April 9, 2016 meeting of Finance Ministers of the Franc Zone, in Yaoundé, French Minister of Finance and Public Accounts, Michel Sapin, along with his Cameroonian counterpart, Alamine Ousmane Mey, signed a memorandum of understanding on the 3rd Debt Relief Development Contract (C2D) on April 8. Covering the period 2016-2020, the C2D, which will be officially signed in June, 2016, has a budget of 394 billion CFA francs. It brings the total amount granted by the French government in Cameroon to 960 billion CFA francs since 2006 as part of this additional initiative for remission of multilateral debt, in tandem with the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC).
The contracts have provided continuity. The first C2D signed between the French and Cameroonian governments in 2006 for a period of five years, had a budget of 352 billion CFA francs, mainly invested in community infrastructure (health and education). The second Contract, dedicated to development of agricultural projects over a similar period, ending in 2011, involved a budget of 214 billion CFA francs. The priorities of this 3rd C2D will be revealed after the actual signing announced for June.
Through the C2D health component, spanning 2001-2015, AFD concentrated on reducing child mortality and improving maternal health through the fight against HIV/AIDS. AFD especially supported the implementation of the sectorial policy initiated by the Cameroonian government, focusing on the country’s most disadvantaged. 59 billion FCFA (90 million euros), was set aside for this purpose within the framework of a harmonized sector-wide approach (SWAP).
Attuned to food security issues in Cameroon, AFD made the rural sector a focus area of the first and second C2Ds. Notably it earmarked 111.5 billion CFA francs, from 2006 through 2016, to five agricultural development programs. In the Sudano-Sahelian zone (the North and Far North) production structures consist mainly of family farms producing grain, some of them integrated with cotton growing. The development of cotton growing has led to an intensification of cropping systems whose productivity levels are now decreasing. The support program for establishing security and the integrated management of agro-pastoral resources (ASGIRAP) has placed special emphasis on dialogue between different space users (farmers and breeders). The program intervention area has even been expanded beyond the cotton zone. The project has met or exceeded the targets set for land use, integration of the trees, and dissemination of organic manure.
Also notable has been the support for the contracting operation of 37,200 teachers and improving capacity for control and management of the education system, initiated by the Cameroonian Government through the Ministry of Basic Education (26.2 billion CFA francs). AFD committed 100 billion CFA toward infrastructure in 2015, with the contribution to the Batchenga- Yoko-Lena road project (a sovereign loan of 47 billion CFA francs), funding to Airports of Cameroon (ADC) for the renovation of airport pavements and construction of a new passenger terminal at Douala airport (31 billion CFA francs in non-sovereign loan), the financing of the "Douala: Sustainable City" project (French funds of 1 billion CFA francs for the global environment) and the financing of a project to support the development of geographical product indicators in Africa (a 2.1 billion CFA grant from the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI). To all this must be added the involvement of the Agency in the Lom Pangar project for the construction of water storage infrastructure in the region of East Cameroon; at least 39.4 billion CFA francs were provided.
Sub regional scope
While the amount of financing provided by the AFD is important in size for Cameroon (nearly 150 billion CFA francs per year on average since 2002), other Central African countries also benefit from the assistance of French donor funds. Since 2006, the Agency has committed nearly 70 million euros in subsidies in the Central African Republic, including budget support for educational and training projects, urban development, local development, infrastructure, management of forest resources and health. Since the crisis of 2013-2014, AFD has intensified its support for CAR, adopting instruments and methods tailored to the country’s needs, in close coordination with other aid actors.
AFD is mobilizing financial instruments, including loans, grants and equity investments, for infrastructure projects in Equatorial Guinea as well. Project monitoring is being overseen by the Agency in Yaoundé, which oversees Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, and in the Central African Republic, where AFD has an office in Bangui. The regional office of Proparco (AFD’s private sector financing arm) in Douala is responsible to AFD for the entire CEMAC zone.