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Cameroon's new Seaport and Highway: A Boost in Domestic and Regional Economy

When the Chinese arrived in Cameroon in 2011 to start construction on the first phase of the Kribi Deep Seaport, the Central African country was looking forward to establishing a new transportation corridor that would connect its extensive southwestern coastline territory with neighboring countries.

Congestion had worn down the primary existing port at the commercial city of Douala, about 150 kilometers north of Kribi. The China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) set out to build the Kribi port to expand transport capacity, and the project was finished in three years.

According to Alain Patrick Mpila Ayissi, Manager of Land Development and Environment Department of Port Authority of Kribi, the new port has boosted the country's economy and provided relief for the harbor at Douala port, the country's most populous city, while also providing dock space for larger ships.

"There has been a noticeable boost in economic growth since the building works completed in 2014 and the start of port operations in 2018." The first indicator is an increase in customs income due to the port. "We went from 750 million XAF (US$1.26 million) every year to around 150 billion XAF per year," Ayissi explained.

The port represents a crucial basis of Cameroon's industrialization process, according to Xu Huajiang, general manager of CHEC's China Harbour Central Africa Division, who oversaw the first phase of the port's construction.

"Since Kribi (port) was established, it has drawn a lot of outside investment. Cote d'Ivoire, for example, has already invested in a cocoa mill. Two cement plants are currently under construction. Many logistics companies have made the decision to construct their own yards and warehouses. "Some Chinese companies are also coming to discuss investment opportunities in this area," Xu said.

Kribi port is located on the Atlantic coast, 285 kilometers from Yaounde, the capital. It is ideally located in the Gulf of Guinea's center and is surrounded by the Kribi Industrial Area, a 262-square-kilometer area meant to host future industrial and logistical developments.

Kribi is planned to become a regional hub for the African Atlantic coast, with Cameroon as a major market. According to Ayissi, shipowners will no longer be at risk of unloading part of their cargo elsewhere before arriving in Cameroon.

"With the arrival of the Kribi port, Cameroon has reclaimed her position as the sub-port region's entry. This (the port) has increased the value of certain industrial projects in Chad, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo," he noted.

CHEC also built the Kribi-Lolabe roadway as part of the project, which will meet the needs of port traffic and logistics while also contributing to local wealth.

The route, which includes the construction of 20 bridges totaling 2 km in length, will be a major traffic artery in the Kribi region.

CHEC is currently working on Phase II of the Kribi Deep Sea Port. It is planned to become a big container transit port and comprehensive hub port in Central and West Africa once the project is completed.

Over 1,000 employment were created during the construction of the port and expressway, according to Xu. Eric Defo Fotso, Larissa Ekale Koule, and Fran Mbofris, Cameroonian employees employed by CHEC, told Xinhua that establishing their country's largest port offers an opportunity to update their skills and contribute to the country's industrialization.

"We have project coordinators with a wide range of experience, including administrative and project management, and I've had the opportunity to immerse myself in Chinese culture." We get to see things that we haven't seen since we were children. Working with them is like going to China to learn about these (skills)," said Fotso, 32, who manages the site's projects.

"Every nation, including Cameroon, desires to rise to the top. So it's an honor for us to have China and her experience, which she gladly agreed to share with us," said Koule, whose primary responsibility is to guarantee that all site workers are in excellent health and free of work-related ailments.

"They (CHEC) have provided us with a fantastic chance." "Our living conditions have greatly improved," said Mbofris, who spent seven years in China teaching English and now works as an interpreter for CHEC.

The Kribi port project, according to Ayissi, is a shining example of Cameroon's engagement in China's Belt and Road Initiative, and the country is committed to harnessing the potential of interconnected production networks and value chains.

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