By NDUMBE BELL GASTON
e-Cam, a major employers’ association with membership drawn from all classes of the private sector in Cameroon and advocates for the promotion and protection of their interests, has proposed a 15 point Marshall plan to urgently bail out the plunging Cameroonian economy caused by the extrapolated dangers of the Covid-19 global pandemic.
e-Cam, led by Protais Ayangma, one of the vice-presidents of the Chamber of Commerce, expressed fears recently in Douala that the private enterprise, especially SMES which are already complaining of unfair and cumbersome fiscal conditions militating against their survival, are shutting-down because of the lack of sustainability amidst the pandemic.
The virus has affected all classes of businesses and caused a strong drop in investment, an erosion of productivity, business losses, and a weakening of credit portfolios from financial institutions, to support private sector investments, e-cam declared.
e-Cam argues that the impact of the situation is far more worrisome because in the Cameroonian context, the contribution of the informal sector occupies the greater number of SMEs, but it is a sector whose statistics is not accurately gathered in economic or business circles. In the formal sector, the service sector occupies a huge 84% where the commercial subsector is rated at 54% in terms of numbers but it is the corporate sector which gains 66% of business when there are just 0,2% or 307 enterprises as compared to 203.287 SMEs.
On the other hand, e-Cam sources say, SMEs which present 99,8% have a tiny business share, of 34% of which 79,1% are made up of very small businesses following the 2016 census conducted on enterprises in the nation.
e-Cam defended its stand citing statistics that the banking sector had started suffering from setbacks before Covid-19 with a 13.86% drop in the approval of credit in 2019 especially owed by big and medium sized enterprises since small and very small enterprises are financed by microfinance institutions and other alternative sources such as associations.
Figures unleashed by e-Cam indicated that the approval of bank credit same period amounted to FCFA 4,175 billion in 2019 with details showing that F CFA 3,525 billion was from typical credit institutions, FCFA 150 billion from financial establishments and FCFA 500 billion from micro-finance entities.
In order to overturn this restive business climate into a sustainable one in the medium-term even beyond the pandemic, e-Cam proposed another census to identify strategic sectors like health, food, transport, communications, water and electricity, to be given urgent attention and assure their capacities to be able to deliver the goods during the length of the crisis.
e-Cam demands frantic collectivisation and redistribution efforts of basic necessities to include Ministry of Territorial Administration (MINAT) and the lowering of fiscal conditions and then involve the same informal sector in distribution, under official sanitary guidelines.
e-Cam equally proposes to government the injection of a financial stimulus during this period to financial institutions and to protect the active population during a period of confinement with an arrangement so that business can survive but to reimburse financial institutions later. Financial institutions like banks can also contribute a solidarity fund to be managed by all stakeholders for the same purpose and create financial access to strategic sectors like health, water, food, electricity, transport and communications. e-Cam calls on price stabilisation in the market place, stating that speculators or hoarders who wished to peg astronomical prizes, should be severely punished, among others.
They say, they are confident to offer their expertise to assist government to realise these goals.