Sunday, November 4, 2007

Cameroon must do more to tap remittances

The government of Cameroon needs to do a better job to allow its Diaspora to play a role in economic and political life of the country, writes Joachim Arrey in the Entrepreneur, from Buea, Cameroon.

Specifically, Cameroon must learn from other sub-Saharan African countries which now recognize the importance for the Diaspora in development. “Most of these countries are now seeking ways to maximize the benefits of having a large pool of citizens living abroad,” Arrey writes. “Some of these countries are now offering incentives to attract remittances into local savings and investment funds.”

The list of what countries can do is long.

Some countries now offer migrant pension plans or preferential loans or grants for business ventures leveraging remittances. Other governments allow ex-pats to open bank accounts at home. Ghana has even opened a ministry to deal with émigré issues. A resolution before the African Union calls for the continent’s Diaspora to be considered the “sixth region” of Africa.

Besides remittances, Cameroon’s Diaspora has a lot to offer to the country. The Diaspora constitutes an amazing army of talent that is capable of helping development efforts in the country. Cameroonian brains lying out of the country have the capacity to lift development in the country to the next level. Because of this reason and others, many African countries are increasingly recognizing the importance of the Diaspora.

According to a recent study by the International Fund for Agriculture Development, émigrés sent $267 million to Cameroon, enough for 1.5 percent of the country’s GDP. The study pointed out that remittances sent to rural areas form a significant amount of development.

In Cameroon, that is definitely necessary.

“Living conditions in Cameroon have deteriorated in recent years,” according to the IFAD’s Rural Poverty Portal. “Although poverty is widespread, it is an essentially rural phenomenon. More than half of the country’s households live below the poverty threshold, on less than one dollar a day.”

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