Tangible Integration Path

Regional integration within the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) is expected to receive a fresh push in no distant future following an imminent construction of a rail network linking Cameroon to Chad. The signing of a funding accord for the project yesterday July 19 signalled a step forward in the much cherished sub-regional integration which unfortunately has over the years been more preached than practised.

The free and easy movement of people and goods features prominently on the list of ingredients to spice the much-needed integration within CEMAC. Reason why linking Cameroon to Chad by rail is, to say the least, considered a milestone. This will ease transport of persons and more importantly goods between the two countries. With the port of Douala being the main maritime route for Cameroon and Chad, imports and exports from the two countries will thus be ferried in and out without stress when the rail network would be ready.

The railway route could also boost intra-regional trade which is not at best for now. Without undermining the importance of extending trade routes to giant neighbours like Nigeria (about 180 million inhabitants) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (70-80 million inhabitants), CEMAC, with a population of 45-50 million inhabitants, needs to trade with itself. And there is no way the business transactions can be effective without a convenient and reliable means of transport. Rail is one of the best especially for the movement of heavy goods.

As good as the project could be for the long-drawn battle towards integration, other components of it must be well taken care of and implemented to the letter. Free movement of capital and services added to that of persons and goods would be a giant step in the right direction. Observers say sub-regional integration is the brainchild of politicians and within the context of States as is the case now, sovereignty overrides. There is thus no reason why some sovereign States after putting their hands on the plough would turn back and value more their autonomy than what benefits the entire community. It is all about governments’ willingness and ability to implement decisions which they took for the common being of the region. Where there is the will, they say, there is always the way. Let States therefore let go the powers they willingly accepted so as to embrace and benefit from what togetherness brings.   

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