China is opening a factory in Cameroon to manufacturer buses for West and Central Africa. China is Africa's third largest trading partner with a ten-fold jump in commercial transactions over the last decade.
The $500 million factory in Douala is expected to start producing buses by the end of the year. Joining private investors from China and Cameroon, government officials say it will create hundreds of new jobs, ease transport, and boost Cameroon's economic growth as a source of vehicles for West and Central Africa.
'Relations between the two countries are very friendly, and the place, the location is very good because it is a central seaport for West Africa," said Wu Yue, vice president of China's National Machinery Import and Export Corporation.
The factory will give Cameroonian workers important new skills, according to Zacharia Awanga, the deputy chief of International Development in Cameroon's Ministry of Economy and Planning.
"Engineers from Cameroon will be sent to China to start studying the industry of car assembly. So we will start with bus assembly and from then truck assembly with assembly of tractors and other bigger, heavier engines. This will be provided, and we will go progressively. We will start with the assembly of buses from 70 seaters to seven-seater buses," he said.
The agreement also calls for the delivery of 500 Chinese buses in July for use between and within Cameroonian cities.
Its signing came during a visit by the chairman of China's National Committee of the People's Political Consultative Conference, Jia Qinglin. During talks with President Paul Biya, the two men signed a series of agreements including a $65 million grant, a $65 million no-interest loan and the donation of technical equipment to Cameroon's post office.
President Biya says it is a win-win partnership for China and Cameroon that continues a long tradition of cooperation on issues including infrastructure, health, sports, agriculture, and information technology.
President Biya says a new collaboration is now beginning between the two countries as they move to a higher level of cooperation. If this project succeeds, the president says it will help Cameroon become an emerging economy. And Mr. Biya says he is confident it will succeed.
The president says the relationship between China and Cameroon reflects a shared point of view on subjects of international policy.
China has been increasing investment in Africa over the last decade, mostly in mineral and petroleum production. Angola is China's largest source of crude oil.
But Beijing says it is also investing in Africa's people and has boosted bilateral assistance across the continent. Trade with Cameroon which topped just $2 million 40 years ago now tops $800 million.