By Tikum Mbah Azonga in London
This article is an adaptation of an earlier one published in the London-based WEST AFRICA magazine on the 10th of March 1986. The article reports on the visit to the USA by President Paul Biya of Cameroon, at the invitation of American President Ronald Reagan.
The United States and Cameroon plan to step up trade and economic cooperation during the next few months following Paul Biya`s visit to Washington last week.
President Paul Biya arrived in Washington on February 25 for a four-day working visit at the invitation of President Ronald Reagan. President Biya was accompanied by William Eteki Moumoua, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Sadou Hayatou, Minister of Planning and Territorial Development; Edouard Nomo Ongolo, minister of Trade and Industry; Edouard Koula, minister of Finance; Victor Anomah Ngu, Minister of Public Health; and Jean Nkuete, Assistant Secretary General at the Presidency of the Republic.
President Paul Biya met President Ronald Reagan for two hours at the White House on February 27. In a statement after the meeting, President Reagan said that his Cameroonian counterpart’s policies have been a “boon to his people.” He described Paul Biya as “a highly respected leader in Africa” who had sought his advice on a range of issues during their discussions. Reagan lauded Cameroon’s commitment to private investment policies. Cameroon, he said, is “a shining example of how much can be accomplished when a realistic and human approach is taken to political and economic development. Cameroon, just like the United States, is blessed with rich natural resources, a vibrant private sector and a diverse, industrious population”, said the American president.
President Reagan described Cameroon as an exciting country for Americans. He stated: “About 100 American companies are working there, including about twenty new ones in the last year. It is an attractive economy. It has realized about a six per cent growth rate over the past decade.”
The two presidents also talked about a number of issues of common concern in Africa, including Chad, international terrorism, Southern Africa, the debt issue, and Africa`s economic crisis.
In a statement on leaving the White House, President Biya said his meeting with President Reagan had been “marked by cordiality and mutual understanding”. He said US assistance to Cameroon had been “of great help to us, particularly in the fields of agriculture, education and health”.
During the two days prior to the meetings of the two presidents, Cameroon and the US signed five economic development aid agreements, totaling some $19m. The agreements were signed during a meeting between President Biya and Mr. Mc Pherson, administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
The agreements will provide $2m for agricultural, management and planning, $2.7m for cereal research and extension, $589 000 for the development of high yielding seeds, $2.4m for the setting up of a national agricultural university, and $10.46m for teacher training.
Following the meeting with President Biya, McPherson praised Cameroon for providing food aid to Chad during the drought of 1985, for Cameroon’s effective implementation of development programmes and the efficient use of petroleum and other natural resources.
The two countries also signed a bilateral investment treaty. With President Biya in attendance, the treaty was signed for Cameroon by Foreign Minister William Eteki Mboumoua and for the US by Trade Representative Clayton Yeutter. According to a US official, the key provisions of the treaty were investment, capital and profit transfer, as well as international arbitration.
The US is Cameroon’s second trading partner, after France and just before West Germany. Yaounde exports mainly cocoa, coffee, timber and oil to Washington. According to US sources, the US imports Cameroonian oil worth some $600m each year. Cameroon imports American manufactured goods worth $60m, with the balance of trade clearly in Cameroon’s favour. In addition, Cameroon receives aid from the US worth $20m each year. This is used mostly in the agricultural sector.
There are about 150 American Peace Corps working in Cameroon on various development projects. Furthermore, there are some 100 US companies currently investing about $600 in Paul Biya`s country.