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The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Vera Songwe, during a working visit in Cameroon told members of government and diplomats that the economies of African countries are doing well and may possibly attain emergence faster than foreseen. The first observation is that there is low diversification of economies.

The main African exports are from the extractive sector and include oil and gas, ores, as well as precious and ferrous metals. Consequently, "economic growth is highly dependent on the fluctuation of prices of these commodities. Due to this situation, most countries often face external shocks that cause macroeconomic imbalances, leading to social and political shocks," she said. To this end, the ECA recommends that member states should strengthen their economic resilience by promoting economic diversification and industrialisation.

However, Cameroon is experiencing "horizontal" diversification, with many products in its export portfolio, making it the largest economy in Central Africa. "Although the country has made some progress since the 1990s, 66%, or 2/3 of Cameroon's exports leave the country as raw material. Cameroon should transform its export portfolio to make it much more sophisticated, by producing complex goods that sell at a higher value in the world market, such as smart phones, tablets, printers, machines, etc. " Vera SONGWE recommended.

Upon the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA), Cameroon should witness a 30% increase in exports to African countries by 2040. In order to be productive and competitive, Cameroon must embrace digitisation. To this end, Vera Songwe recommended the following key actions: invest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); increase investment in infrastructure; increase access to information and communication technologies; integrate digital payments into macro and sectoral development policies and finally, support investors in the sector, including start-ups and Hubs techniques.

(Culled from Cameroon Tribune No.11829 of 22 April 2019)