For those who know Yaounde well, the Ministry of Trade is one ministry which does not have a lot of space … and come to think of it! It is here that the ministry regularly organizes sales of some essential items.
Many citizens are already criticizing this initiative, accusing the ministry of playing the role of business men while its sole role is regulatory. But one must understand that if the ministry got to this point, it was simply to effectively come to the rescue of numerous consumers who can no longer access essential or basic goods because of the selfishness of many business people who would rather hoard such so as to make maximum profits.
In the past few days the ministry has embarked on the sale of cooking gas which has gone scarce in recent weeks, leaving many homes in despair. With the end-of-year feats in view, it is quite a disturbing situation and many households are understandably frightened by the sheer thought of having to get into the Christmas and New Year seasons without guarantees that they will be able to cook for their families. In principle, Cameroon produces enough gas to meet domestic demand and the presence of some ten companies operating in the gas sector leaves the impression that gas is easily accessible.
But that is false! The problem of scarcity of cooking gas is less about the available quantities and more about distribution. For example, national production carried out by the National Refinery Corporation, SONARA accounts for about 20 percent of national demand and the rest comes from imports, done under the authority of the CSPH, the Stabilisation Fund for Hydrocarbons. The paradox here is about the huge quantities available and the difficulty of accessing gas by ordinary citizens. The high number of distributors, rather than being a facilitating element, has turned out to be a problem.
The different gas distribution companies cannot be present at all sales points, leaving consumers to stray from one sales point to the other until they come across their distributor. There is also the problem of the interchangeability of bottles because companies do not accept bottles that are not supplied by them. A huge part of the blame is laid on the doorsteps of SCTM, the gas company which dominates the sector with about 40 percent of the market. The company, at one time, sent out hundreds of thousands of bottles into the market, but has hardly ever been able to produce enough gas to meet up with the number of bottles in circulation.
Market sector observers blame the situation on managerial shortcomings brought about by the sudden death, a few years ago, of the founder of the company. It is said that SCTM, with a near-monopolistic hold on the number of available bottles, cannot supply quantities commensurate with the number of bottles and with the difficulty of changing bottles, the problems continues to exist especially for those households that use SCTM bottles. There is therefore need for actors of the sector to sink their business egos and organize the sector in the interest of consumers, but also in their own business interest. After all, the product is available and only needs some basic organization for all actors to make money.