Culled from Eden Newspaper
"If you look at the World Bank report on Doing Business, you will realise that Cameroon is backwards and much still needs to be done." US Ambassador to Cameroon, Janet Garvey.
Despite having huge potentials for tourism,and with government making efforts to attract more investors to Cameroon, the U.S Ambassador to Cameroon, Janet Garvey says the cumbersome visa procedure at Cameroon Embassy in Washington DC is diverting American tourists from making Cameroon a destination, while at the same time administrative bottlenecks and an unfriendly fiscal and tax policy are scaring American investors from the country.
The diplomat noted that American tourists find it more convenient to visit East and Southern Africa because they can obtain visas even at airports in their country of destination. While remarking that efforts are being made to encourage business between Cameroon and the United States like the creation of the American Chamber of Commerce in Douala last year, the Ambassador pointed out that the greatest problem remains the time that has to be wasted in registering and starting a business and unnecessarily heavy taxes.
She further suggested that much more efforts should be made to enable Americans know about Cameroon especially by making them know they will be safe and secure when they come calling.
She spoke to Eden in an exclusive interview. Read.
Statistics show that American tourists prefer to visit Kenya, Tanzania and other African countries. What is it that we have done wrong that scares them from Cameroon?
I will certainly like to see the whole tourism sector develop in Cameroon because the potential is enormous. On the issue of American tourists coming to Cameroon, it is expensive for Americans to come .There is no direct flight. You have to fly via Europe .The Europeans just have to come down. It is not easy to get a visa as it is supposed to be .But for Kenya, you can fly to Nairobi, get a visa at the airport and go. When an American wants to come to Cameron, he has to send his passport to the Embassy in Washington, wait several weeks and that makes them to prefer to go somewhere else.
Cameroon is not very well known in the United States as it should be because Americans are very much interested in the southern part of Africa like Botswana, Angola, Namibia, South Africa Tanzania and Kenya. There is a great strength for Cameroon that it is a bilingual country. There is no other country in this part of the world that is officially bilingual. It is a question of time. One of the measures to attract Americans to Cameroon is easing the visa process, the dollar getting stronger, Cameroonians cannot do anything about that. The third is for Americans to know a little bit more about Cameroon. It will be possible through travel magazines. Americans are not very spoilt. They do not need luxury accommodation. They need to know that they will be safe and that there are systems put in place to ensure that they easily get around. If this is done their numbers will swell. It will be a unique experience for Americans to come and see things here.
The US has been criticized for investing timidly in Cameroon, Are you concerned, and what are you doing about this?
I like nothing better than to pick up the phone and tell American businesses to come to Cameroon. First thing, they will say thank you Madam Ambassador, but show me how it is going to work. They make their decisions on the basis of business concerns and it is not an easy place for businesses to invest. It takes a long time to get approval for some projects. Sometimes many ministries get involved and that means that it becomes more complicated. We are close to a number of investments which I hope will soon come to fruition some of which were started by my predecessor, some even by his predecessor. I think the good news is that two things are at lay here.
One is AGOA which is now in its eighth year. Cameroon ought to do better. The other thing is that American businesses are much more where investment is favourable- and where banks are giving out many more loans for businesses to come in and invest. One other thing is that transportation is difficult. The taxation process is not as transparent as it should be. I think every American business that comes and succeeds here is going to come and generate other American businesses that will come. But if you talk to the people of the American chamber of commerce, you will be glad to hear that there was a success but it has been very difficult to get it started.
Our role is to encourage American businesses. We spend a lot of time in the embassy trying to figure what area will be of interest to American businesses, we also spend a lot of time doing the same for Cameroonians who want o explore the United States .We then try to hold meetings with the government. If you look at the World Bank report on Doing Business, you will realise that Cameroon is backwards and much still needs to be done.