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A recent evaluation conducted by the Independent Development Evaluation (IDEV) department of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has revealed that the Bank’s substantial investment in road infrastructure in Cameroon from 2004 to 2013 resulted in time savings and a 40-percent drop in transportation costs.
According to the evaluation, between 2007 and 2013, journey time fell from 15 to 7 days between Douala and N’Djamena in neighbouring Chad and 10 to 5 days between Douala and Bangui in Central African Republic. In addition, AfDB investments also boosted trade. “On the northern corridors in the direction of N’Djamena and Bangui, for example, there was a 17% increase in trade between 2007 and 2011,” the report says.
Cameroon’s 2010-2020 Growth and Employment Strategy Paper (GESP) places a great premium on infrastructure development as a catalyst for economic and social growth. Infrastructure (transport and energy) represents 86 percent of the overall AfDB portfolio during the period. The evaluation further found that construction of the Dibamba and Kribi Power Plants through public private partnerships benefited the population and economy in the following ways (a) reduction in power outages, (b) positive impact on the well-being and economic activities of households, and (c) boosting the development of the aluminium industry in Cameroon.
Initiated in June 2014, this evaluation examined the Bank Group’s assistance to Cameroon from 2004 to 2013 as well as its contribution to the country’s development. The key objective of the evaluation is to provide lessons to improve future Bank engagement with Cameroon.
While the Bank’s overall performance is rated favorably in the infrastructure sector, it is less so in the area of governance. “This poor result, reflected in the country’s weak governance indicators, is mainly due to a lack of political will, the compartmentalization of ministries, insufficient consideration given by the Bank to the country’s capacity to absorb reforms and, more generally, ineffective policy dialogue,” the evaluation concludes.
The AfDB and Cameroon mutually agreed to tackle the following areas related to good governance: public finance management, administrative reforms, legal and judicial reforms, public contracts, decentralization, institutional capacity building, and combating corruption. The evaluation argues that reforms in the governance sector did not gain the needed traction in part because “administrative procedures for decision-making are cumbersome, resulting in a considerable lapse of time between the preparation of reforms by the technical administrations and the decision to effectively start to implement the reform.”
Sustainability Remains the Critical Factor
The improvements made in the transport, energy and other priority sectors could be eroded without proper maintenance schemes and rigorous management arrangements. For these reasons, the evaluation has identified the need to “strengthen infrastructure management, especially in the transport sector, through an efficient road maintenance fund… to ensure the sustainability of investments.” While the evaluation is of the view that sustainability of projects financed in the energy sector is almost guaranteed because they are economically viable and the structures are operated and maintained by professionals, it raises concerns in the governance sector where it found that lack of ownership makes sustainability unlikely. With regards to the water and sanitation sector and the Yaoundé Sanitation Project in particular, the evaluation says that there is a risk of repeated flooding as a result the dumping of solid waste in the Yaoundé Canal. “In rural areas, the sustainability of the structures depends on government support and the management capacities of local councils,” concludes the evaluation.
Cameroon’s engagement with the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) dates back to 1972. In over 40 years of cooperation, both parties have worked together to tackle some of Cameroon’s critical development priorities. The partnership was further strengthened in 2007 with the opening of the Bank’s field office in Yaoundé.
AfDB and regional member countries mutually identify priority areas based on their strategic interest through a framework known as country strategy paper (CSP). In the case of Cameroon, specifically since 2004, the priority areas are infrastructure, governance, energy, public service reforms, and improvement of the business environment. Overall, the portfolio comprises of 25 operations estimated at valued at US$ 912 .13 million.