Cameroon – Crackdown Could Spark Unrest
President Paul Biya has yet to confirm his plans with regard to seeking re-election to another seven-year term in 2018, creating some uncertainty over the outlook for political stability in the country. Against that backdrop, authorities have shown little tolerance of dissent, with security forces cracking down on protests by inhabitants of the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions of the country, who have long complained of discrimination at the hands of the Francophone political forces that dominate the government.
The government’s heavy-handed approach to containing regional unrest, which included a shutdown of Internet services in Anglophone regions for several months earlier this years, risks causing damage to the local economy that will only deepen national divisions. In the near term, however, the lack of a unifying figure around whom the government’s opponents might coalesce will limit the opposition parties’ ability to challenge the political monopoly of the governing RDCP as long as Biya’s party avoids a damaging bout of factional strife.
The government is expected to maintain a generally pro-business policy framework, with large projects moving forward, despite political concerns. A $673 million loan from China’s Eximbank will cover 85% of the cost of the second phase of construction at the Kribi deep water seaport, and the World Bank Group has pledged roughly $100 million in loans for road infrastructure.
However, the short-term economic benefits of investment will be limited by weak project implementation. Otherwise, reduced oil output will hold real GDP growth to 4% in 2017, and the increased risk of political strife (including oil-sector strikes) ahead of the 2018 elections clouds the outlook for a significant improvement on that performance next year.
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