Yaoundé, Cameroon – (African Boulevard News) – The 15th Ordinary Session of the Conference of Heads of State of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) took place in Yaoundé, Cameroon on March 16 and 17, 2023. The summit brought together five presidents from the CEMAC member countries, namely Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, and Gabon. The leaders gathered to discuss regional integration, economic growth, and sustainable development in the Central African region.
The summit, held at the Yaoundé Conference Centre, focused on the theme “Promoting Economic Integration and Development in Central Africa through Infrastructure and Connectivity.” The discussions revolved around fostering economic growth and resilience, enhancing regional security, and the implementation of the CEMAC integration agenda.
In his opening speech, the host and President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, emphasized the importance of regional integration and cooperation. He stressed that connectivity and infrastructure development are crucial for economic growth and stability in the region. Furthermore, President Biya called on the member countries to work together to combat cross-border threats such as terrorism, illegal migration, and human trafficking.
During the summit, the leaders reviewed the progress made in implementing the CEMAC reform program, which was initiated in 2016 to strengthen regional economic integration and boost economic growth. The program aims to enhance the financial sector, improve the business environment, and promote regional integration through infrastructure development.
One of the key developments discussed at the summit was the progress made in establishing the CEMAC Customs Union, which is expected to facilitate intra-regional trade and investment. The heads of state reiterated their commitment to implementing the necessary reforms to ensure the effective functioning of the Customs Union, including the harmonization of customs regulations and the elimination of non-tariff barriers to trade.
In addition to the Customs Union, the leaders also discussed the need to improve regional infrastructure, including the construction and rehabilitation of transnational roads, railways, and energy projects. These projects are aimed at enhancing connectivity and facilitating the movement of goods and people within the CEMAC region.
On the sidelines of the summit, a panel discussion was held at the Institute of Statistics and Applied Economics (ISSEA), featuring Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kenji Okamura. The panel focused on the economic outlook for the CEMAC region and the role of international financial institutions in supporting regional integration and development.
In his opening remarks, Okamura underscored the importance of regional integration in promoting economic growth and resilience. He highlighted the IMF’s commitment to supporting the CEMAC region through technical assistance, policy advice, and financial support. Furthermore, Okamura praised the CEMAC countries for their efforts to implement structural reforms and strengthen macroeconomic stability.
Despite the progress made in recent years, the CEMAC region still faces significant challenges, including high public debt levels, weak economic diversification, and vulnerability to external shocks. The IMF official urged the CEMAC countries to continue their efforts to address these challenges and create a more conducive environment for private sector investment and inclusive growth.
As the summit concluded, the leaders adopted a joint declaration outlining their commitment to advancing regional integration and development. They agreed to intensify efforts to implement the CEMAC reform program and reaffirmed their support for the establishment of the Customs Union. Additionally, the leaders pledged to work together to address regional security threats and promote peace and stability in Central Africa.
In conclusion, the 15th Ordinary Session of the CEMAC Heads of State Summit showcased the determination of the Central African leaders to strengthen regional ties and foster economic growth. The discussions and agreements reached during the summit are expected to pave the way for increased collaboration, improved infrastructure, and enhanced connectivity in the region.
The success of the summit signifies a renewed commitment among CEMAC member countries to work together to overcome the challenges facing the region. This collaborative spirit is vital in addressing issues such as poverty, inequality, and insecurity, which continue to hinder the region’s progress.
Moving forward, the CEMAC Heads of State will need to ensure that the agreements reached during the summit translate into tangible results for the people of Central Africa. This will require continuous monitoring and evaluation of the implementation process, as well as strong political will and collaboration among member countries.
The international community, including organizations such as the IMF, will continue to play a crucial role in supporting the CEMAC region’s development efforts. By providing technical assistance, policy advice, and financial support, these organizations can help the region achieve its goals of economic integration, growth, and sustainable development.
Ultimately, the 15th Ordinary Session of the CEMAC Heads of State Summit sends a clear message of unity and determination among Central African leaders to promote regional integration and development. As the world continues to face unprecedented challenges, the spirit of cooperation and collaboration displayed at the summit offers a beacon of hope for a more prosperous and stable Central African region.
By African Boulevard News International Correspondent, in Yaoundé, Cameroon.