By Nkendem FORBINAKE, Cameroon Tribune
There is a beehive atmosphere at the proposed site in the Bastos neighbourhood in Yaounde chosen as the headquarters of the future Bank of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and Industries.
Though the doors of the building are still to be opened to the public, activity there leaves no doubt that the much-awaited institution could just be a few months – or even weeks – from going operational. The Bank has taken long in coming but the wish of many is that the bank ever came at all; given the high demand expected from Cameroonians and the expectations about its capacity to help jump-start economic activity by providing the much-need funding which has been identified as one of the problems holding down the development of small and medium-sized undertakings in the country.
The absence of a financial institution to help translate into concrete reality, the numerous business initiatives undertaken by a new crop of young Cameroonians who have all the required skills to animate this sector of the economy but who all too often were blocked in their enthusiasm by the absence of a credible bank dedicated specifically for the sector.
The absence of such a bank had greatly encouraged the overly presence of multinationals and other foreign investment banks which have literally won over all major contracts and other business initiatives, leaving national SME/SMIs with the crumbs because of their cash-strapped condition.
One can therefore understand the joy when the President of the Republic announced the creation of a bank for SME/SMIs when he opened the Ebolowa Agricultural and Cattle Show in January 2011. Barely six months later, the new bank, was formally set up following a constitutive general assembly of shareholders held in Yaounde in June 2011. Things seemed to be going rather slowly until the Minister of Finance, Alamine Ousmane Mey announced, at the close of the annual meeting of staff of his ministry in January 2013, which the bank’s start off capital of FCFA 10 billion had been paid off.
The next significant step in the process of the bank’s birth was the formal designation of its leadership in June this year with a renowned banker and former Veepee of the African Development Bank, Theodore Nkodo Foumena as chairman and Mrs Mandeng née Agnes Ndoumbe and Amadou Haman, two well-tested financial specialists as managing director and deputy managing director respectively.
With the capital at hand and the management team in place, one can understand the time being taken to get every aspect of the bank working before the doors are formally opened. The leaders are in no rushing mood. For good reason, if not simply to avoid errors of past similar initiatives which inform a meticulous consideration of every action and activity so as to ensure a thorough symphony once the bank gets operational.
For one thing, the demands on the bank are very high and on its shoulders, lies the huge responsibility of jump-starting economic activities through handy financing for enterprises and industries. One best encapsulates the situation by the simple fact that SME/SMIs account for more than 90 per cent of the industrial output of the country. The new bank therefore has an obligation to succeed. And that is probably why it is taking such a long time to be put on the rails.