(Updates with detail on Gabon, bond prices)
By Sylvain Andzongo
YAOUNDE, March 8 Cameroon and the International
Monetary Fund are considering a two-year aid programme for the
Central African country to deliver sustained and inclusive
Leaders of the Central African bloc (CEMAC) agreed in
December to engage with the IMF to find ways to overcome
macroeconomic instability caused in part by lower global
commodity prices, the IMF said in a statement.
Cameroon, which produces oil, cocoa and coffee and is the
largest economy in the region, has weathered the problems better
than others and its medium term outlook is positive due to a
relatively diversified economy and infrastructure projects.
"The sharp decline in commodity prices, along with security
threats in the Lake Chad basin and, until recently, civil unrest
in the neighbouring Central African Republic, have negatively
impacted Cameroon's external and fiscal balances," the IMF said
after a two-week mission led by Corinne Delechat.
"While the Cameroonian economy has weathered these shocks
thus far, with economic growth remaining relatively robust,
public debt has risen rapidly and external and fiscal buffers
have declined significantly," it said, adding that talks would
continue in the coming days.
The IMF held talks in February on starting an aid programme
with Gabon, another oil-exporting country in CEMAC.
Cameroon's dollar bond maturing in 2025 jumped 1.7 cents on
Wednesday after the statements and the $750 million bond traded
at a record high price of 114 cents, according to Tradeweb data
The IMF statement did not mention national politics but said
the government needed to protect and even increase social
spending in favour of the most vulnerable groups.
Since October, people in the two western English-speaking
regions of Cameroon have joined protests against what they say
is their marginalisation by the French-speaking majority under
President Paul Biya, in power since 1982.
At least six protesters have been shot dead and hundreds
arrested, prompting criticism from human rights groups and
concern from the African Union.
Meanwhile, militant group Boko Haram has staged numerous
attacks in Cameroon's Far North region as part of its insurgency
to create an Islamist state in northeastern Nigeria.
Cameroon's economy minister Louis Paul Motaze said the
2017-2019 programme under discussion would focus on stabilizing
national finances and boosting infrastructure projects.
Gross domestic product was $28.4 billion in 2015 and its per
capita gross national income stood at $1,320, according to World
(Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Angus MacSwan)