VOLA: Invigorating local content policy especially in the oil and gas sector in Cameroon ~ Chofor Che


Since June 2012, civil society groups in Cameroon have been holding meetings with respect to improving the recruitment environment in public and private sectors in the country. These moves also include improving the local content policy in the oil and gas sector in Cameroon.

Local content policy warrants that private investors in sectors like the forestry and the oil and gas sectors recruit and train locals, to actively participate in these sectors in their home countries. This to some extent entails that locals are actively involved in these sectors and add value to their home countries, both economically and professionally.

In mid-2012, the Federation of Trade Unions of Cameroon (L'intersyndicale du Cameroun) which is the national representative of all Cameroon workers, and comprises of the National Union of Cameroon Workers (UNTC) and Union of Free Trade Unions, was involved in pushing forth the agenda of ensuring that employees benefit from better working and recruitment conditions. Amongst other issues, the Federation of Trade Unions was vehemently against the price hikes in gas and fuel prices, witnessed by the country recently.

According to a representative of UNTC, the central government has been very negligent in the oil and gas sector and is the main cause of the hikes in fuel prices, as well as poor remuneration of workers in the public sector. The labour unions advocated for a reduction of fuel prices and an increase in Cameroon's minimum wage from XAF 28,246 per month to some substantial amount. The issue of coordinating and improving on recruitments in the oil and gas sector was also a major issue.

As part of a change in the local content policy, the Federation of Trade Unions were bitter against the way the National Oil Refinery (with French acronym SONARA) functions. They could not understand why a lot of money is pumped into this structure which does not refine oil and gas. The state exports crude oil and imports finished oil products, which become very expensive for the average Cameroonian. The argument given by the state is that, it is very expensive for SONARA to refine oil. According to Federation of Trade Unions, this money should be utilised in infrastructural development and in a betterment of the working conditions of workers.

Focusing on the issue of the recruitment of workers in the oil and gas sector, which is currently coordinated through employment services, this representative from UNTC, is of the view that recruitments via employment services, does not add enough value to local content. Usually those employed via employment services do face issues of poor wages, uncoordinated compensation schemes by multinationals, risks of being fired without justification, just to list a few. The representative of UNTC added that complaints and reports from affected employees especially those fired by some multinationals, show that these employment services take no measures to protect the rights of workers.

The representative from UNTC therefore revealed that, there is a push to involve the state in the recruitment exercise of workers in the oil and gas sector, as part of the move to reshape local content policy in the sector. This position was corroborated by a representative of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, who added that, there have been a series of consultation meetings to revamp the local content policy in the oil and gas sector. Some of these meetings focused on strengthening and protecting the rights of Cameroonians working in the oil and gas sector, as well as putting in place legislation on local content policy.

There is indeed a need for Cameroon to improve on its local content policy in the oil and gas sector. At present, the country has week legislation on how citizens are recruited in the sector and how these citizens are to benefit the country professionally. Improving local content policy will go a long way in developing the country, if and only if corrupt government officials do not utilise this medium as a means of enriching themselves, rather than developing the country and harnessing employment measures for Cameroonians as well as foreigners.

Chofor Che is an integral part of African Liberty's 'Voice of Liberty Africa project'. He is a Doctoral candidate at the Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape. He blogs at https://choforche.wordpress.com/

Chofor Che calls for effective reforms in the Camerounian petroleum sector