Just two months ago, Dutch shipbuilder Royal IHC delivered a dredging vessel and a support vessel to the port of Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon.
Cameroon isn’t always on top of mind for Dutch companies, but a number of them show that doing business in this central-African country can be rewarding. “The port of Doula needs lot of dredging,” explained Bas Kockmann, Sales Manager Africa at IHC, during an NABC event about doing business in Cameroon on September 24th. Like many ports in Africa they spend a lot of money on this activity, which is crucial if you want to keep your port accessible.
“Almost one-third of the expenses of the Port of Douala were spent on dredging,” Mr. Kockmann recalled. “Each time they hired foreign companies for this. So we suggested that we could provide the equipment along with the required training on how to operate it.”
A tender was then prepared by the Douala port authorities. When it came out, IHC worked around the clock to beat the 3-week deadline. “We literally flew with it to Cameroon since we didn’t want it to get stuck at the post office,” recalled Mr. Kockmann, smiling. “After submitting, it took 5 months before we heard that we actually won the tender,” Mr. Kockmann continued, underlining the need to be patient. A few hurdles had to be removed but many months later, the deal was signed and the project could commence. “The IHC Beaver 50 cutter suction dredger and Delta Multi Craft 1450 work boat were delivered to Cameroon just two months ago. We have just started the 16-months training,” Mr. Kockmann concluded.
Reinhardt Smit, Director Supply Chains at Closing the Loop, also shared his story during the event, which was supported by the Cameroonian embassy in The Hague. Like his colleague from Royal IHC, Mr. Smit recognised the need for patience. “But when you have endured the hassles patiently, the country is very rewarding,” he stated. Closing the Loop is a company that recycles scrap mobile telephones, by shipping them from Africa to recycling plants in Europe. Companies that want to reduce their environmental footprint pay for the recycling of one African telephone for every new device they purchase. “For us, Cameroon is one of our four focus countries next to Ghana and Nigeria,” explained Mr. Smit.
Also Marina Diboma, NABC’s deputy Managing Director who was born and raised in Cameroon, told companies to have realistic expectations. “It wouldn’t be realistic to join a trade mission and think you will come back with a signed contract,” Ms. Diboma warned. “Building relations takes time, but it all starts by visiting the country for the first time,” she continued. Marina Diboma will be the mission leader of NABC’s trade mission to Cameroon, which is to take place between November 17th and 21st. Royal IHC was among the companies that was part of NABC’s most recent trade mission to Cameroon, in 2014.
Ms. Halima Fonda, the Chargé d’Affaires of Cameroon in The Netherlands, welcomed the Dutch companies to come and do business with Cameroon. “Our investment institutions will help you as much as they can,” Ms. Fonda said.
Closing the Loop's container in Cameroon.