One year after the Italian President’s visit to Yaounde, it is now up to the Cameroonian head of state to visit his counterpart, Sergio Mattarella, to Rome, an official four-day visit to strengthen cooperation between Italy and Cameroon.
By Dounia Ben Mohamed, live from Rome
“The relations between our two countries are excellent.” After discussing with his Cameroonian counterpart Paul Biya on March 20 at the Quirinale Palace in Rome, the President of Italy firmly mentioned that “For Italy, Cameroon is a priority partner” for a few reasons: first the fight against wild immigration. Rome, as the migrants’ gateway to Europe, is seeking support in Africa to blockade. In return, it will support economic development projects. For Yaoundé, a bridgehead for countering terrorism in Central Africa, directly threatened by Boko Haram in the north of the country, the senior officials are looking for European partners. The discussions between the two presidents revolved around security, but beyond that, one year after Sergio Mattarella’s official visit to Cameroon, they expressed a strong desire to strengthen cooperation between the two countries, an “intense” collaboration, according to Mattarella. “The first visit of a Cameroonian head of state to Italy, one year after my official trip to Cameroon, confirms the friendly relationships between our two countries, which have made “headway”, he said.
“The projects identified in Cameroon’s development program can serve as a discussion platform”
“A vigorous collaboration”, as viewed by President Paul Biya: Our discussions were marked by a broad convergence of views on the issues addressed. Obviously, the fight against terrorism and against Boko Haram, which remains a threat, is one of the priority areas. But for the Cameroonians, the economic aspect is not left behind as it remains at the heart of the partnership renewal. “The projects identified in Cameroon’s development program can serve as a discussion platform and attract Italy, which has been a great industrial manufacturer for many years. I want to believe that our two countries will avail the opportunities raised by my counterpart and myself. Italy would undoubtedly become one of our major partners” while acknowledging that the cooperation between the two countries has already been launched through the establishment of Italian companies in Cameroon, such as Ferrero in cocoa and of course Piccini, the builder of the sports complex of the future stadium in Yaounde expected to host the African Cup of Nations CAN in 2019, Iveco operating in the urban transport in the Cameroonian capital and Pizzarotti, who signed a contract with the Cameroonian officials for the construction of the first 10,000 social houses.
The Italian economic operators had the opportunity to better understand the business opportunities offered to them by Cameroon on March 22, at the Italian-Cameroon economic forum held in Rome on the premises of Confindustria, the Confederation of Italian industries. It was a good opportunity to establish partnerships between entrepreneurs from both countries, which are based on a convergence of clearly defined interests, as explained by Louis Paul Motaze, Minister of Economy, Planning and Territorial Development of Cameroon. “Cameroon’s diversified economy creates its resilience,” alluding to the fall in commodity prices, and the security crisis. “But we need to further strengthen this diversification. Today, we want to promote local processing of part of raw materials instead of continuing to export all of them”, and thus accelerate the industrialization of the country. But the Italians, well-known for their industry, appear as priority partners for the Cameroonians.
Expertise and financing, a complete Italian solution
Indeed, they offer, in addition to their expertise and on the basis of the Chinese strategy in Africa, financing and therefore complete solutions. “Italy has a recognized industrial expertise,” he said. Now, and it’s a very good thing, it also offers us financial solutions. And we have already signed agreements for social housing and other areas. Moreover, financial backers, such as the Sace (the Italian export credit agency), attended the forum. As financial proposals are made, they should be taken into consideration, though we have to facilitate concessional financing to avoid heavy funding. Otherwise, they will curb down the level of debt we are trying to alleviate. The discussions are very hard and very technical and include financing issues. Some are slated to be successful as contracts could be signed very soon, especially in the areas of agro-business, construction and energy. A monitoring mission is expected in Yaounde at the instigation of Confindustria.