“In 2021, the economic recovery in Central Africa has started. It was particularly strong in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and robust in Cameroon. However, growth remains dependent on raw materials. It doesn’t rely enough on the vital forces of the country, except in Cameroon where economic diversification is starting to feel like it,” said Michel Drobniak, head of the Central Africa (France) economic department, on June 28 in Paris.
For several weeks now, the business climate in Central Africa has been at the heart of Franco-African exchanges. After a notable presence at the CIAN forum, the region was the subject of a business forum hosted by Business France last week in a packed amphitheater at the organization’s headquarters. In 2021, the Central African countries recorded growth rates of between 2% and 4%, after a year of recession caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Cameroon recorded a growth of 3.6% according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which forecasts a growth of +4.6% for 2022.
With a trade flow of EUR 780 million in 2021, Cameroon remains France’s most important trading partner in Central Africa. According to French customs, French exports to the CEMAC zone decreased by 1.1% last year (in Chad, French imports fell by -21% to 70 million euros, but those to Cameroon increased by +3.2%, to 41 % of French sales in the region.” Today almost 50% of regional GDP is supported by our country recalls Issac Tamba, Director General of Economics and Public Investment Programming (DGPIP) at the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development (MINEPAT) of Cameroon. † We have an encouraging business environment and expect growth of more than 4% in 2022 he added.
† We are the regional locomotive (…) I am here to encourage French investment! The French must come, they have the relative advantage of knowing our history Charles Assamba Ongodo, director-general for cooperation and regional integration at MINEPAT, stated that he would also invite French entrepreneurs to Cameroon.
On the way to the Democratic Republic of the Congo!
While France maintains weak relations with most French-speaking African countries, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a former Belgian colony, still remains ” a beautiful stranger » for French entrepreneurs according to Arnaud Fleury, in this day’s measure of Franco-African exchanges. † The beautiful stranger? », is surprised Anthony Nkinzo Kamole, Director General of ANAPI in the DRC. † The Chinese won’t tell you that the DRC is “a pretty unknown” in regards to their investments. It all depends on where you look ‘ he answers immediately.
As a reminder, trade between China and DRC reached $14 billion in 2021 and bilateral trade was already about $5.6 billion in the first quarter of 2022 (+98% compared to 2021), according to data communicated by Zhu Jing, Chinese Ambassador to the DRC, at a press conference on April 22, 2022. In comparison: “ French investments are quite low » emphasizes Anthony Nkinzo Kamole. The number of French companies in Congo remains limited, although there are heavyweights such as Orange, Castel, Perenco, TotalEnergies, Bolloré Africa Logistics (BAL), the Accor group, GVA (subsidiary of Vivendi), Bureau Veritas, Air France, Sagemcom , Servair , Bouygues, CFAO, Safran, Thales, Decathlon or Schneider Electric.
Bilateral exchanges between Paris and Kinshasa nevertheless recorded a significant increase, the French treasury said. In 2020, exports to the DRC increased by +7.4% (ie EUR 142.3 million). The bilateral trade balance amounted to 84.4 million euros (+41.2%) in a framework of trade liberalization that gives the DRC access to the EU market (TSA). French exports are driven by industrial products (53.6 million euros, or 38% of total exports), including 55% of pharmaceutical products, but also agri-food (37.5 million euros, or 26% exports) and at least finally by mechanical capital goods, electrical, electronic and computer equipment (32.8 million euros, or 23% of exports). Metallurgical and metal products represent 75% of imports at EUR 43.3 million, before forest products (EUR 10.4 million or 18% of imports).
† It is common to say that the future of the world is set in Africa. The world’s most important cobalt reserve is located in the DRC “Remembers Anthony Nkinzo Kamole. The country is home to more than 50% of the world reserves of this essential component for the production of lithium batteries for mobile phones, in the province of Haut-Katanga. Insist on the newfound confidence from donors and on the diversification concerned, he challenges the Parisian aid: I speak to foreign observers to tell them that it is time to see the DRC in a new light (…) When the DRC enters the Community of East African States (EAC, for the East African Community, note of the editor), it is 100 million inhabitants and an opening for English-speaking companies! “, he recalls to underline the attractiveness of Africa’s green lung.
After integration into COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa), SADC (Southern African Development Community) and CEPG (Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries), the DRC became the 7th member of the EAC in March 2022.
On June 25, 2022, Togo and Gabon, though devoid of any historical connection to the British Crown, entered the Commonwealth and also approached the Anglophone sphere. According to the European Institute of Business Administration, French is now the third largest business language in the world, but what would happen to this comparative advantage if other French-speaking countries in Africa, such as the DRC (with nearly 90 million inhabitants) gradually moved towards the Anglo-Saxon markets?
†France is only part of the active Francophonie, aware that it does not bear the fate of French alonePresident Macron declared on March 20, 2019, recalling the urgency to revive a dormant economic Francophonie. According to the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF), the number of French speakers should triple to 750 million by 2050, or 8% of the world’s population (compared to 3% today), mostly Africa.