Cameroon is one of the states in Africa that continues to receive financial assistance from the West. Cameroon’s civil society has benefitted financially from the West, but remains one of the weakest on the continent. Following an article by Cameroon Tribune dated August 20, 2013, France recently opted to support civil society organisations in Cameroon. For the next three years, France has earmarked 260 million francs to fund initiatives in the areas of health, environment, democratic governance and human rights. Such initiatives are to be funded via France’s newly established Support Fund for Civil Society in the South (support fund). A memorandum of understanding was thus signed on 19 August 2013 between the Minister of Economic and Regional Development and Planning (MINEPAT), Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi and the French Ambassador to Cameroon, Bruno Gain.
A call for proposals will be launched by the end of August 2013 by the Department of Cooperation and Cultural Action of the French Embassy to support eligible candidates who are to benefit from the newly created support fund. As stressed by Bruno Gain, special attention will be given to projects in the Far North, North and Adamawa regions, especially as these regions are mostly hit by natural disasters. The support fund replaces the Social Fund for Development which has been operational in Cameroon since 1996. Cameroon is one of four countries including the Republic of Congo, Togo and Guinea benefitting from this initiative.
The aim of this special fund is to improve the living conditions of Cameroonians. According to Cameroon Tribune, since 2005, France has contributed a total of about $ 948 million to finance eligible civil society projects in Cameroon. Despite the humongous amounts of money pumped in by France into Cameroon, the state’s civil society remains one of the weakest on the continent. The central government is well aware that Cameroon’s civil society is a weak one and has done nothing to encourage this weak civil society. The truth is that dubious means are going to be put in place by corrupt government officials to swindle the money from France. As has been done in the past, corrupt government officials will create fictitious civil society organisations and embezzle the finances meant to revamp Cameroon’s civil society.
It is thus clear that such assistance from France is an impediment to growth and development in Africa and Cameroon in particular. Cameroon’s civil society does not need such assistance. What needs to be done by the international community and France especially is to put pressure on central governments on the continent and Cameroon in particular to create an enabling atmosphere for more jobs. France and other Western states need to encourage Cameroon’s central government to improve on its infrastructure and technology. Small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) especially those run by women and the youth need to be revamped via private and government partnerships. More Cameroonians need to be employed in the extractive industries. It does not suffice for foreign multinationals to rip the state of its natural resources while nationals languish in poverty. These issues are more important to the state’s development than dubious grants that will end up in the foreign bank accounts of corrupt civil servants.