World Bank Focuses on Unlocking Cameroon's Potential in Telecoms, Forestry, Mining and Energy

November 11, 2010

WASHINGTON, November 11, 2010 – The World Bank’s Africa Director for Sustainable Development, Mr Jamal Saghir, ended a five-day visit in Cameroon this week during which he discussed with Cameroonian authorities on ways to make sure economic growth benefits all people across the country. Other sectors that were discussed include telecoms, energy, mining, and forestry.

“Cameroon has a great potential to be a regional leader on telecommunications” Mr. Saghir said. “It is not only geographically well located to be a regional hub, it also has a qualified workforce.”

Mary Barton-Dock, the World Bank’s country director for Cameroon, added: “Africa is the new frontier for telecoms. Mobile phones are opening opportunities for farmers and entrepreneurs. Broadband is the next step to make telephone services cheaper and increase access to the internet.”

During meetings with public and private operators, Mr. Saghir discussed a regional management structure providing open access to the fiber-optic cable planned under the World Bank-financed Central African Backbone project.

The World Bank team also discussed ongoing financing for the Rural Energy Fund and future financing for the Kribi gas to power project and the Lom Pangar Hydropower Project.

“Cameroon’s mining sector is at critical cross-roads,” says Paulo de Sa, World Bank Sector Manager for Mining, who accompanied Mr Saghir. “A number of exploration licenses in the past years have identified large deposits of bauxite, iron, and other minerals,” Mr. de Sa added. “The challenge is now to exploit those resources in a sustainable way that benefits all Cameroonians”.

The World Bank team noted that only one mining license has been issued to date for metallic minerals and offered support to the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Technological Development on transparent contract negotiations to ensure often powerful mining companies do not push through deals. Other topics discussed included the lack of transport infrastructure and how to ensure local communities share in benefit.

Cameroon has been an early adopter of sustainable logging, but there is a danger of losing this leadership position if sector reforms are not followed through. Many logging companies still operate without proper licensing. Discussions with the Government, NGO and private sector focused on how to better integrate the World Bank’s various sector approaches so as to assist government to achieve better cross-sectoral coordination. Field visits provided an opportunity for Mr. Saghir to observe the reality on the ground and listen to local communities.

“Our visit looked especially at how to resolve the overlapping interests between forest, environment, mining, and agricultural sectors,” Mr. Saghir said. “This requires better land use planning and inter-sectoral coordination. Combining economic growth, poverty reduction, and environmental protection is at the heart of sustainable development. Cameroonians are facing the challenges of sustainable development every day. Cameroon’s potential is impressive – I would like to challenge the government and other actors to show leadership and unlock this potential to benefit all Cameroonians.”

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