This paper is an adaptation of an earlier one I delivered on the Cameroon National Radio Station on the 21st of August 2002, as a preview of the visit to Cameroon of the Chinese President in that week. The paper which was broadcast a few days before the arrival of the Chinese President was an attempt to assess Sino-Cameroonian ties. The broadcast was one of the daily political commentaries I delivered on the 6.30 a.m. prime time national and world news on Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV), Yaoundé, between 2002 and 2005.
The impending visit of the Chinese leader to Cameroon is in many ways an honour to our country, and the fact that he is not coming alone but accompanied by his wife, the icing on the cake. All of that is taking place against the background of the recent visit to Cameroon of a United Nations (U.N.) Under-Secretary.
There is no doubt that the visit of the Chinese statesman will go a long way towards consolidating relations between Cameroon and China. Over the years and increasingly so, China has proved to be a worthy friend of Cameroon, turning out to be like Mary the Mother of Jesus whose ardent supporters say is more willing to give to mankind than mankind is ready ask from her. Examples of Chinese interest in the development of our country abound. The Chinese have supplied us with goods of all kinds for daily use. They have built hospitals for us and provided accompanying medical staff for them. They have constructed lasting landmarks such as the Yaounde conference Centre which stands out eloquently on one of the hills of the national capital. The latest Chinese monument in Cameroon is, no doubt, the multipurpose sports complex soon to be built in Yaounde, at the famous Carrefour WARDA, located in the city centre.
One thing worth noting about the Chinese is that unlike Western powers they do not have any former colonies in Africa. Consequently, they do not enjoy with any African country the type of intimate relationship that France, Britain, Spain or Portugal has maintained with its former colonies. Perhaps that is the reason why China the late starter has embarked on this journey whose objective appears to be to “carve a place for her in the sun”. Since the Chinese leader can not conceivably visit every African country, Cameroon should count itself lucky to be among the chosen few. For that reason, Yaounde would do very well to roll out the red carpet for the august visitor, for this, indeed is a mark of honour.
Thanks to the visit of the U.N. top personality to Cameroon, we now learn our country may soon host a division of the United Nations University which will cater for Central and West Africa. When that happens, we have every right to jump and shout with joy, for, hosting such a major international organ is the dream of every country.
Obviously, both the earmarked Chinese-built sports complex and the soon-to-be United Nations University will greatly boost our already blooming regional and international standing; they will attract more foreign investors and tourists to our country and thus create new jobs for Cameroonian citizens. Just as is the case with revenue which employees earn on the Chad-Cameroon pipeline project, earnings from these two latest projects will go a long way towards meeting the needs of many a family, thus reinforcing the fight against poverty and underdevelopment.
Despite what some politicians and newspapers may say, the choice of our country by the two authorities is by no means a haphazard matter. In the last three years or so, Cameroon has hosted more international events than any other country in the sub region. The number of regional bodies headquartered in Yaounde, the Cameroonian national capital, is large and growing further. Of all the six member countries of the Economic Community of Central African States, commonly known by the French acronym, CEMAC, Cameroon has emerged as the indisputable leader. Cameroon is the breadbasket of the region, thanks to its longstanding prioritization of agriculture. In fact, under the country’s first president, Ahmadou Ahidjo (1960-1982) the country struck oil and when exploitation began, the government coined the warning slogan: “Before oil, there was agriculture and after oil, there will still be agriculture.” Cameroon serves as an outlet to the sea for two landlocked member states of CEMAC – Chad and the Central African Republic. Furthermore, Cameroon alone accounts for half the total population of CEMAC and fifty per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Surely, although countries may be allotted quotas for entry into the United Nations University, the fact that Cameroonians will have the privilege of having the institution in their backyard should be motivation enough for them to want to enroll in it in large numbers and thereby make a name for their country. As the Chinese President visits, Cameroonians in all fields and all walks of life should seek to build lasting and fruitful business partnerships with their guests. In other words, the visit gives Cameroonians an opportunity to showcase themselves. So they must do everything possible not to sell themselves short because that would be tantamount to shooting themselves in the foot. We Cameroonians must believe in ourselves before we expect others to do so. After all, the country is ours, not theirs.