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Interview with President of the CCIMC with Diaspora Magazine



Diaspora Magazine: Can we have an idea about what the missions of the Cameroon Chamber of Commerce are?  

Hon. Christophe Eken: I will first of all like to thank Diaspora Magazine for this great initiative to open the Cameroon Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Crafts (CCIMC) to the public to know much about what we offer in terms of trade promotion. 

The CCIMC is close to a one hundred years old. We shall be celebrating its centenary in 2021. Since its creation, the Chamber has kept to its missions which are predominantly oriented toward helping stakeholders, be they national or international, to develop their businesses. In effect, the CCIMC is a consultative and representative body in the areas of trade, industry, mines and crafts. We therefore have the arduous task of developing important activities centred on the promotion of industrial and commercial activities. That is effectively what we have stood for and are doing. In the area of economic promotion for example, the Chamber conducts periodic statistical surveys, organize seminars to upgrade skills, provide credible information to business persons and support firms, especially start-ups to gain access to markets, organise trade missions and other promotional events to encourage efforts at business creation sustenance and poverty alleviation. In a nutshell, the CCIMC provides what it takes for both the public and private sectors to build Cameroon’s economy. These essentially are the missions conferred on our institution with one of our most valued partners being Nigeria.

You talk of Nigeria being a very important trading partner with Cameroon. What would be your assessment of trade relations between both countries this far?

It is important to mention that Cameroon and Nigeria share a common border of nearly 1,700km, enjoy strong historical and cultural ties and very strategic economic relations since independence. Both governments are aware of these opportunities and there is high-level commitment to moving forward and taking advantage of the new atmosphere of cooperation amid the ever changing, competing and challenging world economic order. It is interesting to note that majority of the over three million Nigerians living in Cameroon own and run businesses especially Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) which have significantly contributed to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 

In terms of cross border trade, Nigeria exports more than 213.000 metric tons of non-oil products to Cameroon valued at about CFA 367.735 billion FRS annually. About 40 percent of this amount accrues from products made in Nigeria.

On the other hand, Cameroon exports about 160.000 metric tons of mostly agricultural goods annually to Nigeria valued at about CFA 108,083 billion FRS. Almost 65 percent of that amount is generated from products made in Cameroon. These figure on cross border trade between Cameroon and Nigeria may be far higher given huge quantities of goods that pass through large swaths of the porous borders. We are however comforted that with improved ties between both countries, the situation is greatly improving. Nigeria’s strategic and leadership positions in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and ours in the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States (CEMAC) are comforting pointers to huge economic fallouts for our peoples. The CCIMC is putting in its modest contribution to develop profitable business partnerships and source out new markets and opportunities. We have been organising systematic business meetings with our Nigerian counterparts to try to boost mutual trade. We are optimistic things will improve.

Does the CCIMC end at the level of Business Meetings or are there other instruments to galvanise trade between Cameroon and Nigeria? 

Hon. Christophe Eken: Of course, we have all options on the table. You must not forget that international business today is driven by agreements to ensure the respect of norms and quality. Cameroon is party to several of such trade agreements. At the bilateral level, the government of Cameroon in 2015 signed a trade agreement with the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The agreement required both parties to take all necessary measures to promote trade, and strengthen economic cooperation in accordance with the domestic laws in force in each county. On the heels of that agreement, that is, in 2013, the government of Cameroon came out with a number of incentives to attract foreign investments. Apart from the agreement I just made mention of, there is the Cameroon-Nigeria Joint Commission that holds periodically to review trade ties between both countries. 

Based on these instruments, the CCIMC keeps working closely with its Nigerian counterparts to make sure both sides are provided with opportunities and information on the creation and management of businesses. I would like to precise that such partnership agreements are monitored, managed and implemented at the level of the various trade Chambers which are an integral part of the international system. 

Do not also forget that these bilateral agreements work within the ambits of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the African Free Trade Agreement (AFTA). Both platforms militate toward the free flow of goods with respect to agreed standards. In this light therefore, the Norms and Quality Agency (NAFDAC) in Nigeria and the Standards and Quality Agency (ANOR) in Cameroon are inseparable bed partners who must work together in order to get products from both countries approved for consumption. Such controls would improve the standards of small scale businesses in both countries.

DM: What makes you feel Cameroon and Nigeria can be good partners in economic development?

Hon. Christophe Eken: Cameroon has extensive fertile land with just about 25 percent being exploited and Nigeria has a huge market of over a hundred and fifty million people. These are all indications that both countries can spark off a trade revolution which can, to the best of my assessment, come through an agricultural revolution. The CCIMC has created the Pilot Incubation Centre (PIC) to transform cassava. In the long term, the project will extend to other agricultural products that would be able to penetrate the Nigerian market. We have had the opportunity to meet with several Nigerian companies in Cameroon with a huge interest in agro-industrial transformation even though other sectors such as cement production, banking, hydro carbons, automobile spare parts, etc., are firmly on the ground. These are signs that relations between Cameroon and Nigeria are excellent. 

However, while we pride ourselves with the excellent trade relations Cameroon and Nigeria enjoy today, a lot needs to be done. Governments on both sides must ensure only best policies are put in place to boost mutual economic ties and facilitate investment. The widening gap between the private and public sectors must be bridged and good communication (road and telephone) networks established between both nations. There must also be a proper policing of the porous borders to avoid contraband and piracy which are all impediments to SMEs on both sides. 

In a nutshell, both Cameroon and Nigerian stand to gain from each other if only the appropriate instruments and policies are laid out to raise the standards and quality of bilateral relations.

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Nigeria’s Dangote in talks with traders for oil refinery loan



Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote is in talks with some of the world’s biggest oil traders to help finance his mega refinery project outside of Nigeria’s commercial centre Lagos, sources with knowledge of the matter said.

The 650 000 bl/d refinery, once complete, will be the continent’s largest plant and redraw major trade flows of crude and fuel in the Atlantic basin.

Despite being Africa’s biggest oil producer and exporter, the country depends almost entirely on fuel imports after allowing its significant refining capacity, 445 000 bbl/d, to become dilapidated over several decades.

Many past and current Nigerian officials, including President Muhammadu Buhari, have announced plans to refurbish them but political will has been lacking.

The Natural Resources Governance Institute, a non-profit policy think tank, has previously pointed to the moribund refineries as a key focus of oil corruption and waste in the country.

Hit by economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and soaring construction costs, Dangote needs a cash injection.

Nigeria’s state oil firm NNPC has to agreed to buy a 20% stake in the refinery for about $2.8-billion but Dangote is looking for outside cash. NNPC’s head Mele Kyari said a process was on-going to raise $1-billion with Afreximbank to fund part of its stake purchase.

The billionaire has held talks as recently as a month ago with executives from the world’s top two oil traders – Trafigura and Vitol.

Trafigura and Vitol declined to comment. A spokesperson for the Dangote Group did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Two sources with direct knowledge said the option of raising another $500-million from a trade house or consortium was being actively explored.

The details of a potential loan from a trading firm have not been finalised but the trader could receive a long-term contract to supply crude and receive cargoes of refined products as repayment.

The refinery has been delayed by several years and the cost has ballooned to $19-billion from Dangote’s earlier estimates of $12-billion to $14-billion. Construction was also delayed due to Covid-19 outbreaks among workers at the site and delays getting materials, two sources with knowledge of the project said.

Many industry sources do not expect any products before the second half of next year.

Swiss traders like Vitol along with Nigerian firms, have cashed-in for years in gasoline-short Nigeria by supplying mega tenders and being part of lucrative crude-for-fuel swap deals for over a decade.

Getting a hold of Dangote’s fuel will give the trader a stranglehold on a key set of new oil flows. Nigeria’s new oil bill, approved last month after nearly 20 years of political wrangling, has added fuel-import licence requirements that experts fear will give Dangote an effective monopoly.

Under the new laws, the regulator will prioritize local refiners for import licences and volumes would be based on production capacity or market share.

While Nigeria will remain open in theory to international trading houses, a partnership with Dangote would be the only way to guarantee a foothold in Africa’s biggest economy.

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CHIEF OKWUJIAKU BIC: the Leader of Nigerian Progress march in Cameroon



The Nigerian Union branch in Douala is the largest of all the Union’s branches in Cameroon, especially as the City of Douala is Cameroon’s economic capital, and a majority of Nigerians living in Cameroon are primarily business people; it is estimated that that out of the over 4 million Nigerians residing in Cameroon, Douala alone hosts about half of that Nigerian population. For over a year now, Chief OKWUJIAKU BIC has been the one saddled with the responsibility of guiding his fellow countrymen to success outside of Nigeria.

Though it is a very difficult task, Chief OKWUJIAKU, has lived up to his promises, overseeing several ground-breaking projects, including the goodwill donation made to the internally displaced Anglophone Cameroonians living in Douala and its environs, that have made the Douala branch of the Nigerian Union, one of the most active associations in Cameroon.

Despite a relatively large success, Chief OKWUJIAKU BIC, is not relenting in his efforts in a bid to offer to Nigerians living in Cameroon, a platform to spark long-lasting success; he is at the fore-front of the Nigeria-Cameroon Trade, Tourism, and Cultural Festival (NTTC) to be organized with the Nigeria Consulate General of the Littoral and West Regions in partnership with all Nigerian diplomatic missions in Cameroon. The NTTC is a platform that will bring together Nigerians and Cameroonians in the domains of trade, tourism and culture, scheduled to take place in Douala by the end of September 2019; in the Festival, Nigerians are expected to tap from the available business opportunities existing in Cameroon, and vice-versa.

After a decade has passed since the organizing of the last edition of the NTTC, Chief OKWUJIAKU’s dynamism and vision for success, seemed to have been the catalyst to the holding of just the 2nd Edition of the Festival; and apart from just being the President of the Nigerian Union branch of Douala, he is known to be a goodwill ambassador, not just to Nigerians, but also to Cameroonians, whom he has either employed or granted scholarships.

Known to be a very down-to-earth man, Chief OKWUJIAKU BIC, in an interview while handing over financial and material gifts to some Cameroonians in distress, told the Governor of the Littoral Region of Cameroon that, he would rather want to be remembered by his works, and not by the level of personal success he has achieved.  

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From screen to power house, ABIKE DABIRI soar higher



Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa has several times been described as a sterling Nigerian amazon, an outstandingly brilliant broadcaster who later transmitted to an outstandingly, brilliant parliamentarian. A worthy, compassionate, fair, firm, respected and courageous leader. Fondly called ”Mother of Teresa of the tube” because of her compassion for the less privileged, and now ”Lady Diaspora” for pioneering efforts in putting Diaspora Affairs on the front burner.

Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa spent 15 years of meritorious service at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) where she stood out for her ability to use journalism to bring succour to millions of Nigerians especially children, women and the less privileged.  We can’t forget the story of Mary, the miracle baby, story of a girl being claimed by 3 mothers, which Abike painstakingly investigated for 8 years to a logical conclusion.

Born in Jos, Plateau State, an indigene of Ikorodu, Lagos State, Abike represented the people of Ikorodu Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives from June 2003 to June 2015, she served as Chairman House Committee on Media and Public Affairs (June 2003 to June 2008).  As Chairman Media, she worked at giving the House a credible image through absolute openness and transparency, And as Chairman House Committee on Diaspora Affairs (June 2008 till 2015), her major spotlight was in her advocacy and calls for justice and fairness for Nigerians abroad.  From China, Pakistan, Libya, to USA, Northern Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Brazil and many more countries, her intervention was impactful.

She championed and sponsored the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI bill) and the Violence Against persons Bill, which have both been signed into law in Nigeria. The Nigerian Infant Welfare Scheme Bill, Nigerians with Disabilities Bill, A Bill to amend the railway act to allow private sector and state participation, Nigerian Diaspora Commission Bill, and A Bill to Promote the Advancement of Nigerian Women and Girls, among many others.

She voluntarily did not seek re-election for a 4th term in the parliament.  In her words “Let’s give others a chance”.  She served as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora from 2016- 2019, and now she has been appointed Pioneer Executive Chairman/CEO Nigerians in Diaspora Commission a position she is serving with diligence, effectiveness and passion.

Abike has always worked with passion and compassion. Let’s mention a few. From what looked like a scene from a Soap Opera from her days at NTA, she successfully concluded the puzzling story of “Mary the Miracle baby” a new born baby who was being claimed by three mothers, which Abike painstakingly resolved. She thereafter ensured that Mary had an education through to the University level by placing her on her scholarship scheme. And when Miss Oladapo Bisola Suliat cried for help, a 19 year old student who was down with Lymphoblastic Leukaemia and needed to get to India urgently for medical attention, Abike resolved her challenge within 24 hours.

What about her intervention in the case of Zainab Habibu Aliyu, a 22 year old girl who was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for an offence she didn’t commit, a victim of a drug cartel. Working with other officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Justice, President Muhammadu Buhari’s prompt intervention saved Zainab.

It is therefore not surprising that she has won over 350 awards both internationally and locally. Some of these awards include Bridge builders Award in Washington, International African Woman By Women 4 Africa in London, Catholic Young Men Association (CYMA) Award for Leadership, UNICEF Child Friendly Award, Certificate of Recognition from California Legislative Assembly, This Day 50 Women At  50  Achievers Award, Nigerian In Diaspora Organization Globe Awards F.R.N  people’s choice Awards, African Parliamentary Award, Committee Chairman of the Decade, Winner of the NIDO Global Award, Canada, Federal Republic of Nigeria people choice awards. Three times winner of Representative of the year, five times winner of Female representative of the year, Congressman Donald M. Payne (US House of Reps) Award and Certificate of special congressional recognition for her unwavering commitment to humanity and serving as Chairman for Nigeria House Representatives Committee on Diaspora Affairs. African Parliamentary Award, 2010, South-west House of Representatives member of the Decade, African Parliamentary Award, Committee Chairman of the Decade, Chief Obafemi Awolowo (AWOIST) leadership Award, as the Grand Officer of the Masses (GOM), in due recognition of her selfless services to humanity, Commander of Great Ife (CGI), and Zenith Bank JEWEL OF THE FUTURE Award. She has been named as one of the top 50 Nigerian women and top 200 women in the world by Richtopia.

Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa has been a voice for the voiceless and remains a symbol of hope and inspiration to many. Her comportment, integrity, virtues and ideals are indeed qualities worthy of emulation, and her guiding philosophy at all time is that, success is not about age, it is not about character, it is not by how much you have but how many lives you are able to touch.

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