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BRI paves way for shared prosperity in Central Africa

China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-08 09:20
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Livestreamers promote African goods during a trade expo in Changsha, Hunan province, in June. [Photo/Xinhua]

YAOUNDE, Cameroon — Central African leaders met in March in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community, a regional bloc, in hopes of highlighting past achievements and defining a roadmap for strengthening regional integration, while focusing on economic challenges and growth opportunities.

When CEMAC was set up in 1994, its members — Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, the Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo and Chad — aimed to enhance economic development through regional integration. The March event also offered the leaders an opportunity to consider how regional integration and development can be achieved under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.

Since its launch in 2013, the BRI has been welcomed by all CEMAC countries as a model for cooperation with China in infrastructure development and socioeconomic transformation, said Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, an international relations expert and former Cabinet member of the Cameroonian government.

"Once you arrive in the CEMAC subregion, you will see plenty of Chinese company investment projects," said Ngolle.

Road to wealth

Thanks in large part to Chinese investments and expertise, CEMAC states have been blessed with the construction of some major mega-infrastructure projects in the transport sector.

A good example is the Kribi Deepwater Port, built by China Harbour Engineering Co Ltd in Cameroon's southern town of Kribi. While the new seaport, which is strategically positioned in the center of the Gulf of Guinea, has stimulated the country's economy, it has become a regional hub for the African Atlantic coast.

"With the Kribi port, Cameroon has once again placed herself as the port entry to the subregion. This (the port) has added more value to certain industrial projects in Chad, the Central African Republic and Congo," said Alain Patrick Mpila Ayissi, manager of the Land Development and Environment Department of the Port Authority of Kribi.

Currently, CHEC is busy constructing the Kribi Deepwater Port Phase II. After the completion of the project, it is expected to become a large container transit port and comprehensive hub port in Central and West Africa.

As part of the project, CHEC also constructed the Kribi-Lolabe highway, which will cater to the requirements of port transportation and logistics and contribute to local prosperity just like the road linking Cameroon to Congo.

The Cameroon-Congo road, constructed by contractors including Sinohydro, a Chinese civil engineering construction company, stretches 1,600 kilometers from Yaounde, capital of Cameroon, to Brazzaville, the Congolese capital. It has been nicknamed the "road of regional integration" by authorities.

James Essomba, who has been selling merchandise in the border town of Ntam, Cameroon's East Region, said that the new road is a game changer.

"At first, it was difficult to get goods from Congo. Now, both countries that have long traded with others outside the subregion are trading with each other. We have seen a remarkable increase in trade and profit," said the 65-year-old.

Clean water, energy

Laurence Wandji, 41, is a primary schoolteacher in Bafoussam, Cameroon's third-largest city. A big water tower stands just a few meters from Wandji's home. The tower was contracted by Chinese construction company CGCOC Group. In 2014, CGCOC Group arrived and set out to construct a water treatment plant and related facilities that could process 10,000 cubic meters of water daily in the city. It was part of a project to provide water to nine cities in Cameroon.

Currently, residents can enjoy round-the-clock water supply, thanks to the project.

"We can now take good showers even in the dry season thanks to China," said Wandji. "We can easily manage our daily activities which require water. Children no longer trek long distances to fetch water."

China has also emerged as a collaborator in furthering CEMAC energy generation goals. The subregion struggles with low energy generation and high tariff costs. Constructed by Sinohydro, Memve'ele Hydroelectric Power Station, a 211-megawatt hydroelectric power station in the Ntem Valley locality in Cameroon's South Region, could offer a sustainable solution.

"Once the dam is fully operational, the problem of electricity will be greatly reduced. It is also capable of supplying electricity to neighboring countries in CEMAC because of the strong flow of the river," said Augustine Mbah, an energy consultant.


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