Interview: Pierre Moussa

How effective has the implementation of free movement within the region been?

PIERRE MOUSSA: Integration started a long time ago. The Treaty of Brazzaville was signed almost 50 years ago, creating the Customs and Economic Union of Central Africa, and in 1994 CEMAC was created. The objective now is to accelerate the integration process and make the community’s actions more visible.

A common market for Central Africa is being built, which relies on three fundamental pillars: free circulation of capital, goods and persons. Movement of capital and goods has been completely free and liberalised within the CEMAC zone from the beginning. Member countries also have the same currency (CFA Franc) and the same central bank (BEAC), so in that sense, it has been up and running for decades.

Key decisions were taken following the CEMAC Extraordinary Summit in June 2013, such as increasing free movement of persons. In 2005 individuals could already move freely between Chad, Congo, Cameroon and the Central African Republic. Only Gabon and Equatorial Guinea were apart, but now they have decided to have open borders for CEMAC citizens. However, it is important to not misunderstand the right to travel freely and the right to establish residence and work. As far as residency and work permits are concerned, the Commission is currently working on fundamental texts.

How can local energy production be increased?

MOUSSA: Energy is a crucial part of CEMAC’s Regional Economic Programme. Indeed, CEMAC aligns its energy objectives with a CEEAC institution: the Central African Power Pool, which helps streamline the energy objectives of the region.

Many countries have already identified potential hydroelectric sources and have conducted feasibility studies to start producing hydroelectricity. Fundamentally, the region is full of potential for hydraulic production. It is a clean energy source that should be the focus of attention in the upcoming years. Furthermore, the region has abundant oil and gas resources, which present a great opportunity to produce and generate electricity, as is the case today for many Central African countries. More marginally, action is also being taken to identify the potential of solar energy. However, gas and solar energy should only be considered as an alternative and a complement to hydroelectric production.

How is the Air CEMAC project progressing?

MOUSSA: CEMAC is very keen to create a regional airline, and to that end negotiations are under way with Air France. The breakdown of the company’s share capital is being discussed. Most likely, as the minority shareholder, the partner should hold one third of the capital. Once operational, the main objective is to make the airline reliable and secure.

These aspects are being discussed and must be planned in advance, so as to create a strong, viable partnership. However, competition should be encouraged in the regional airline industry in order to avoid any kind of monopolistic situation – the sky must be wide open to anyone. Air CEMAC already exists physically and legally; it has a general assembly, a board of directors and a director-general.

Should a merger between the BVMAC and the Douala Stock Exchange (DSE) be encouraged?

MOUSSA: The existence of two exchanges in the region – the DSE in Cameroon and the BVMAC, a grouping of the other five CEMAC countries – is an issue which hinders CEMAC’s financial market.

A recent African Development Bank study shows that having two stock markets for such a small region is ineffective so, beyond harmonisation, unification of the two is necessary. Further studies are being conducted to prepare for negotiations over unification. This is one of our primary objectives, as the regional financial market’s health depends on it.