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ECAM proposal to limit the negative impact of COVID 19 on Cameroonians SMEs
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The crisis situation provoked by COVID-19 firstly calls on some preliminary observations concerning the market structure of Cameroonian Enterprises, before handling the limitation measures of its effect on these different entities.

Following general observations, we can retain the following below:

1. The economic and financial consequences of the health crisis provoked by COVID-19 remain undeniable and difficult to quantify, in Cameroon and the world at large. From the uncertainties expected, the reduction in movement of people or the total lockdown of certain activities, the short term impact can be translated by the slowing down of investments, a sharp erosion in business output and turnover, a sharp deterioration of the credit portfolio in financial institutions, etc.

2. In the specific case of Cameroon, the first characteristic of the business market is the relative importance of the informal sector which occupies the largest mass of SMEs, and whose economic and tax contributions are beyond official statistics, as much as the supervision of the actors who find a lot of difficulty to produce and make ends meet.

The second characteristic, is on the formal sector which on one hand is over populated in the tertiary sector (84.1%) and notably in the sub sector of Commerce which registers 51.4% of the total number of enterprises, and on the other hand, the dominance of the big enterprises in the structure of turnover, with 66% shares, while they represent a population of only 0.2% which is 307 enterprises out of 203 287. The SMEs on their part contribute to 34% of the Business turnover and represent 99.8% of the number of enterprises, which is 79.1% of TPE (Source: RGE General censors of enterprises 2016)

3. Analysis of the distribution of SME turnover by sector shows that the tertiary sector contributes 84.60%, compared with 14.63% for the secondary sector and less than 1% for the primary sector. (Source: the basis of the RGE-2016).

4. The banking sector was already showing a significant deterioration in its credit portfolio before the COVID-19 crisis, with about FCFA 579 billion outstanding debts in 2019 (13.86% of total loans), mostly owed by large and medium-sized enterprises, with SMEs and Very Small Enterprises financing themselves mainly through informal alternative channels (self-financing, njanguis, family supports, associations, etc.).
The overall volume of bank credit to the economy was estimated over the same period at FCFA 175 Billion, of which FCFA 3,525 billion came from credit institutions, FCFA 150 Billion coming from financial institutions and FCFA 500 Billion coming from microfinance institutions.
The relative value credit units of Large and Medium companies are estimated at 65.27% in 2019, or FCFA 2,301 Billion; 5.30% in 2019, i.e. FCFA 187 Billion for SMEs and Very Small Enterprises.
The health crisis will have the effect of exacerbating this already worrying situation, in immeasurable proportions, in the actual state of the information available.
Speaking of the measures recommended to limit the negative effects of the crisis, we can suggest the following:

A. Emergency and health safety measures:

1. Identify all companies operating in sub-sectors of strategic activities such as food, health, transport, communication, water and electricity, in order to ensure their capacity to offer basic goods and services throughout the crisis;
2. Hold consultations by sub-sector of activity, to identify, analyse and resolve any problems (technical, operational, fiscal, customs, social or financial) that could compromise the ability of these companies to carry out their activities;
3. Create mechanisms for collecting and storing basic necessities generally marketed by small operators in the informal sector, in order to ensure redistribution under more secure sanitary conditions, while avoiding the high mobility of the operators concerned to the various traditional markets; MINAT could be restructured for this purpose;
4. Mobilize the logistics of collecting and distributing goods and trade companies, in order to ensure that they have a minimum of activities during the crisis;
5. Create a platform to identify companies in difficulty, regardless of the sector of activity, formal or informal, in order to prepare a comprehensive recovery programme for the post-health crisis economy, and to study on a case-by-case basis the support measures to be given to each company.

B.  Measures to secure the financial system and protect public and private assets:

6. Establish a sovereign guarantee fund to cover compromised liabilities with banks during the crisis, and to monitor and recover them after the crisis. The management of such a fund should be coordinated collegially by representatives of the Public Authorities, Monetary Authorities, Private Sector and Development Partners;
7. Take exceptional measures to facilitate access to credit or to restructure the commitments of companies operating in the sub-sectors of activities considered strategic during the crisis (food, health, transport, communication, water and electricity), in order to ensure its competitiveness and efficiency;
8. To associate financial institutions in the management of the census platform for companies in difficulty, in order to integrate the management of compromised debts, while distinguishing the pre-crisis situation from that post-health crisis and harmonizing the solutions to exit the crisis around a concerted programme of relaunching activities by sub-sector of activities;
9. Consider distributing basic necessity to households in the form of public voucher, which can be converted from financial institutions exclusively by companies approved to receive these vouchers in return for sales of their products and services.

C. Tax and social measures:

10. Suspend tax litigation deadlines and relax tax controls and collection measures to help ease the social climate and support companies operating in sub-sectors of activities deemed strategic during the crisis (food, health, transport, communication, water and electricity);
11. Suspend all forced recovery measures (account blocking, etc.) and adjust recovery mechanisms and tax payment deadlines to operational and financial constraints approved by mutual agreement in the framework of consultations organised by sub-sector of activities;
12.  To involve tax administrations (domestic and at the door) and social administrations in the management of the platform of companies in difficulty, in order to enable them to advocate support measures by sub-sector of activities and by company where possible.

D. Market price stabilization measures:

13. Strengthen price controls in the markets and severely punish the speculative behaviour of certain crooked operators (seizure, closure, withdrawal of licence);
14. Anticipate the possibility of creating official points for storing and redistributing basic necessities, in coordination with companies involved in the collection and storage in private warehouses;
15. Provide strategic monitoring of the international market to ensure the availability of imported necessities and facilitate their transport to Cameroon, in collaboration with financial institutions, customs administration and port authorities.
The ECAM employers' movement has a tool that can serve as a basis for the creation of the management platform for companies in difficulty, and at the same time as a foundation for the design of a wider programme of global recovery of Cameroon's economy after the health crisis.

The ECAM employers' movement is prepared to make this tool available to the Government for rapid exploitation and effective control of systemic risks associated with the COVID-19 health crisis.

Done in Douala, le 02 April 2020

                    
For ECAM, The Board chair
PROTAIS AYANGMA

 
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