March 16, 2020 Print

A web banner promoting Nkafu Policy Institute's debate series (Credit: Nkafu Policy Institute).

The spirit of discourse is alive in Cameroon as experts hold a public debate on answering the central question: “Is Market Competition Good for Cameroon’s Industrialization?” Atlas Network partner Nkafu Policy Institute recently argued that market competition that enables small businesses is the path to African growth and prosperity.

Nkafu’s Dr. Louis Marie Kakdeu and Chanceline Boutchouang advocated for market competition, reasoning that competition “is a major pillar of free-market systems.” Although some regulation on the part of the government to ensure fairness is needed, on the whole, the Nkafu team believes that competition leads to innovation and efficiency, leading to growth in the entire economy.

“Market competition promotes local talents,” said Isah Mohamed, Free Enterprise Fellow at the Nkafu Policy Institute. “It also discourages monopoly and increases consumers’ choices.”

The debate was part of the Nkafu Debate series hosted by the institute in order to give experts from Cameroon and countries across Africa an opportunity to address the issues related to economic development in front of those directly affected by those issues. Nkafu champions small business and entrepreneurship in Africa and facilitates conversations around economic development through research, story-telling, and community outreach.

Nkafu also works with entrepreneurs to transition from the informal to the formal sector of the economy. Cameroon has complex regulations regarding small businesses that can make it almost impossible to operate at a profit. Business owners face high taxes, heavy bureaucracy, and corrupt systems. According to Nkafu, the government is responsible for the creation of more than 80 percent of jobs, and the private sector is underdeveloped. Although the informal sector provides an outlet for entrepreneurship, lack of access to established systems means limited opportunities for growth and advancement. By campaigning for a free market economy, Nkafu hopes in the long term to create more favorable conditions for enterprising individuals.

Nkafu Policy Institute Chief Operating Officer Fri Asanga described the importance of including the business community, policymakers, and the general public in the discussion on Cameroonian economics. “People’s mentality is a significant impediment to economic freedom in Cameroon,” she said. “Actually, the majority of people associate economic freedom with financial crises, business failure, and increased inequalities. That is why they are reluctant to embrace the concept.”

Fri Asanga participates in Crowdsource Networking at Africa Liberty Forum 2019.

These debates are having a measurable effect on the attitude of Cameroonians towards economic freedom. At one debate, pre- and post-debate surveys showed that 8.7 percent of attendees shifted to a more positive stance. As a result, Asanga is optimistic about the future of economic freedom in Cameroon. “These signals are very good because they show that we are on the right path,” she expressed. “So we will continue to put more efforts in changing the climate of ideas. We strongly believe economic freedom is what is needed most in Cameroon to create a system that generates economic opportunities for all.”

As Nkafu continues to be a voice for entrepreneurs and small business owners, the communities they touch will see transformational change for the better.

Atlas Network awarded Nkafu Policy Institute a “Joining Up to Minimize Poverty” grant to support their public debate series. Fri Asanga attended Atlas Network’s 2019 Global Influencer Summit and our intermediate fundraising training in Kenya ahead of the 2019 Africa Liberty Forum.