Last year (the 2020 fiscal year), Cameroon recorded a XAF1,375 billion trade deficit, according to the National Institute of Statistics (INS). The figure is down by XAF89.2 billion only compared with the XAF1,464.2 billion deficit recorded in 2019.
So, the coronavirus pandemic that forced border closures worldwide resulting in a drastic drop in import-export activities around the world has had no positive impact on Cameroon’s trade deficit. On the contrary, while international trade exchanges were limited, the deficit recorded was worse than the XAF1,292.9 billion recorded in 2018.
National Development Strategy
This is due to the extroverted nature of Cameroon’s economy. For instance, in 2019, the country spent XAF3,856.9 billion (ed. note: close to 75% of the state budget) on imports, up by 13.3% compared with the 2018 figures, according to the INS. The same sources revealed that over 50% of that amount (about XAF1,700 billion) was spent on six products or groups of products.
These are notably fuels and lubricants (18.8%), whose imports increased after the suspension of refining activities at the National Refining Company (Sonara) following the May 2019 fire. There are also machinery and mechanical and electrical appliances (13.0%), cereals (9.8%) including rice (which accounted for 6% of the country’s import expenditure in 2019). Next came wheat (3.7%), crude oil (5.7%), which was imported before the fire that destroyed part of Sonara’s plants. The sixth group of products is motor vehicles and tractors that accounted for 5.1% of the import expenditures.
This year, to reduce that deficit, especially in the food products category, the government started implementing an import-substitution policy, which is set out in the 2020-2030 National Development Strategy (SND30). This development strategy is aimed at transforming the Cameroonian economy and making the country a breadbasket for Central African countries and Nigeria.