Central African States Say COVID-19, Conflicts Halt Integration
YAOUNDÉ – The Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) says armed conflict and the coronavirus pandemic have seriously damaged the economies of the six member-countries and put a halt to regional integration. The economic block, one of the least developed on the African continent, marked its 27th anniversary this week in Cameroon.
The anthem of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community is played Wednesday at Cameroon’s Ministry of the Economy and Finance as CEMAC marked its 27th anniversary.
But the celebration was subdued as the six-nation trading block issued a press release saying conflict and the coronavirus pandemic had damaged its economies and stopped integration.
Pandemic restrictions meant very few people were invited to mark CEMAC Day.
Instead, the member states — Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo — held a virtual conference.
President of Cameroon’s Economic and Social Council, Ayang Luc, read a message from CEMAC chairperson and president of Cameroon, Paul Biya.
He said people of Cameroon, the CAR, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Chad should not be discouraged by security and health challenges their countries are facing. Luc said CEMAC is encouraging all its member never to relent in efforts to preserve and promote integration as the only collective way out of poverty and underdevelopment. He said with commitment and determination COVID-19 will be defeated and peace will return to all CEMAC member states suffering from armed conflict.
Years-long insurgencies have plagued Cameroon, the CAR, and Chad.
Although nearly three decades old, the CEMAC trade block is comprised of some of Africa’s least developed countries, which have struggled during the pandemic.
African Development Bank economist Georges Meka Abessolo says it will be difficult for Central African states to reach their goal of becoming emerging economies by 2035.
He said with the coronavirus pandemic crippling economies and several armed conflicts disturbing the peace, it is very difficult for CEMAC member states to develop. Abessolo said wars and armed crises make Central African states very poor and burdened by financial and economic crises.
Equatorial Guinea and Gabon were among CEMAC members that sealed their borders to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.
President of the Young Entrepreneurs Forum Karim Yaouba says travel restrictions need to be lifted soon to develop Central African economies.
He said youths are hardest hit by travel restrictions because they constitute more than 60 percent of CEMAC’s 45 million people. Yaouba said youths have many local economic projects that, if sponsored, can help kick poverty. He said CEMAC national identity cards should be established so people can travel to all member countries when they want.
The Central African Economic and Monetary Community says their collective economy is expected to grow by an averaged 1.2 percent in 2021 instead of a hoped-for 3.4 percent.
CEMAC was created in 1994 in Chad’s capital, Ndjamena, to improve living conditions of members through the free movement of goods and services.
Source: Voice of America