Cameroon-EU EPA Awards: Large companies swoop prizes, confirms customs figures
Business in Cameroon | 6th July 2023
By Brice R. Mbodiam
On June 8, 2023, the European Union’s Commission announced the Cameroon-EU EPA Awards, a contest organized “to honor those who have taken up the challenge and are now benefiting from the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA).” Applications, for this contest hosted in collaboration with the Cameroonian government, were open till June 25 with the award ceremony held on July 5.
That day, in Yaoundé, the European Union Commission’s delegation to Cameroon and the government announced the winners of the awards. Between 2016 and 2021, the banana sector benefited the most from the EPA in Cameroon, with XAF89 billion or 70% of the overall customs duties saved by Cameroonian companies under that agreement.
PHP, which is the leader in the local banana sector, was the main beneficiary. Thanks to the agreement, we learn, it was able to compete with “Latin American competitors, maintain thousands of jobs in Cameroon (...) and achieve stable exports of around XAF23 billion per year between 2016 and 2022, despite challenges linked to the security crisis.”
Such a level of activity enabled the agribusiness company to pay close to XAF3 billion in municipal tax and levies annually. Nonetheless, it was the runner-up in the “Export of agri-food products” category. The first place in that category went to Société Industrielle Camerounaise de Cacaos (Sic Cacaos), the local subsidiary of the Swiss group Barry Callebaut that processes cocoa beans into cocoa butter and cocoa paste in Cameroon.
Large companies top the winning list
Sic Cacaos "has recorded significant growth in its exports (over 50% between 2016 and 2022) under the EPA scheme and exported XAF53 billion of cocoa butter and paste to the European Union in 2022. By setting an example, SIC CACAOS has sparked the creation of added value in the Cameroonian cocoa sector and has now been followed by other investors who are already exporting significant quantities of processed cocoa from Cameroon," said the promoters of the EPA Awards to justify the selection of that company as the winner in the said category.
Among the winners of the "EPA Awards", there is also Italian-owned company Alpicam (wood-derived products), Cameroonian-owned companies such as aluminum producer Alucam, vegetable producer Proleg SA, forestry operator Sefecam, two producer groups operating in pineapple exports (Unapac and Tropical Fruit), a small and medium-sized enterprise specializing in office supplies and printing services (Impex Team Sarl), and a cassava processing SME (Marie Négoce).
The list of winners, especially the volume of duties saved under the EPA scheme, shows the trade agreements largely benefited the subsidiaries of multinational companies and a few large Cameroonian companies. This confirms figures from Cameroonian customs authorities.
Per figures published by the national customs authority, in the five years of implementation (2016-2020) of the EPA, large enterprises benefited from 86% of the fiscal gains (fiscal losses for public finances) resulting from the implementation of the agreement. Medium-sized businesses accounted for 13% of the gains against 1% for other beneficiaries.
The EPA provides for a tariff dismantling process that will ultimately lead to the duty-free import of 80% of the products Cameroon buys from the European Union.