February 16, 2010
By Davide Marchesi
Towards the end of 2009 I happened to be in Cameroon for a few months. One of the first things I learnt during my stay is that transport is a real issue in Cameroon. There’s a local joke about drivers which says: “When you see a Cameroonian driving straight, you’ll know that he’s drunk”. In fact, the roads are usually so bad that people have to drive zigzag in order to avoid the worst holes and damage car engine. During the rainy season there are puddles so huge that people call them “lakes”. In the smaller cities most roads are not paved and, as a consequence, they become very muddy during the rainy season and incredibly dusty during the dry season.
I was based in Kumba, a small city in the Southwest region. I arrived in Cameroon in early September, with apparently perfect timing, since the works on the Muea-Kumba road had just been completed. The 63km-long road connects Kumba, the most important economic centre in the Southwest region, with the major route to Douala, the economic capital of the country, and Yaoundè, the administrative capital. Kumba is the chief town of the highly agrarian Meme division: it is surrounded by cocoa farms and villages populated mostly by farmers and is the heart of cocoa production in the Southwest region. The new road is thus fundamental for the efficient and fast transport of goods which are sold in the big cities and exported in the neighbouring countries, like Nigeria. I could experience in person the benefits brought in by the Muea – Kumba road which makes it possible to cover in a few hours distances which used to take an half a day’s journey. This road has also made the work of the NGO I was working for (Global Conscience Initiative, a reference point for human rights advocacy in Southwest Cameroon) much easier, since its two offices are both located on this route, in Kumba and in Buea, two of the main towns in the area.
By now you are probably wondering why an article about a road in the middle of nowhere Cameroon appears on the European Movement’s blog. Well, at the sides of the road you could see signs with updates on the status of the work and both the Cameroonian and the EU flags on them. When, on September 29th 2009, the Cameroonian Prime Minister, Philomen Yang, inaugurated the 7-metre-wide Muea-Kumba Highway, he expressed his gratitude to the European Union and its decisive support for this project. The EU, in fact, contributed with 50% of the necessary funds to complete the works, according to the Delegation of the European Union to Cameroon website. The road’s total cost of 32 billion FCFA (about 50 million euro) was partially financed by the Cameroonian government and partially by the European Union within the projects of co-operation on infrastructural development. The EU ambassador to Cameroon, Javier Puyol, manifested his satisfaction with the works, started in March 2007 and finished more than two years later. In his words, reported by AllAfrica.com, he announced that studies on continuing the road through Kumba up to Mamfe will start in the next few months. Entering Kumba, in fact, the mounting dust announces the proximity of the end of paved road and drivers need to start caring about hollows and gaps again. Hopefully, in the next months, the Cameroonian government and the European Union will put their joint efforts into further improving the transport situation in Southwest Cameroon.
Author : European Movement UK