Leadership and Economic Integration: the case of the Cameroon-Gabon couple

JCTS | Vol. 4 | No. 1-2 | April-October 2014


Sub-regional economic integration offers benefits to members, including new trade opportunities, larger markets, an increase in bargaining power and increased competition. However these benefits are yet to become a reality in Central Africa, close to five decades since the creation of the first regional economic scheme (UDEAC) in the sub-region and almost two decades after it was replaced by the current Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC). This paper examines the role of leadership in economic integration. Using specific criteria for determining economic leadership in integration, it shows that there is a strong potential for joint leadership by Cameroon and Gabon within CEMAC. Yet it reveals that this potential is plagued by several challenges, which can be overcome through the joint initiation and sponsorship of sustainable business initiatives, likely to attract investments in other projects.

Key Words: Leadership, joint leadership, economic integration


Economic integration is not a new phenomenon in the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) zone. Some authors like Gankou and Ntah,[1] trace the origins of integration to the Afrique Equatoriale Francaise (AEF), during the period of French colonial rule. Others like Mayer have argued that the idea of a Central African sub-region dates back to the German colonial era[2]. Quite apart from this association of the origins of integration with the colonial past of CEMAC states, N’Kodia argues that the experience of integration in Central Africa is ‘the result of the progressive assertion of a pan-African conscience and the quest for independence born out of colonization’[3].

Whichever position one takes, it is clear that there is a strong historical basis for integration among CEMAC states. It is thus understandable that the first formal economic integration scheme among independent states of Central Africa, the Central African Customs and Economic Union (UDEAC), was created only four years after independence. The treaty establishing UDEAC was signed on the 8 December 1964 in Congo Brazzaville and entered into force on the 1 January 1966[4]. The main objectives of UDEAC were to liberalise trade among members and adopt a common external tariff for non-members. It also aimed at harmonising investment and industrial policies. As a sub-regional project, it was the oldest in Central Africa and one of the most ambitious[5]. UDEAC however failed to meet its objectives and was replaced in 1994 by CEMAC.

The treaty instituting CEMAC was signed on the 16 March 1994 by Cameroon, Gabon, Congo Brazzville, Chad, the CAR and Equatorial Guinea. This treaty entered into force in December 1999[6]. The main objectives of the CEMAC are to strengthen relations between member states and promote a spirit of solidarity within the sub-region, and to promote national markets through the elimination obstacles to trade, the coordination of development programs, the harmonization of industrial projects and the creation of a common market.

Almost two decades after its creation CEMAC has also not delivered on its objectives. Several reasons have been advanced for the poor performance of economic integration within the CEMAC framework. The main reasons advanced include the absence of community identity, the weak nature of the economies, devaluation and structural adjustment, debt burden, and the near absence of sub-regional leadership[7]. Of these, I argue that the near absence of leadership appears to play a determining role.

Lessons from other parts of the world show that leadership plays a very central role in the development of a regional integration scheme. In Europe, Germany and France have played a determining role. In West Africa, the leading role of Nigeria has been important for the development of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), while Senegal and Ivory Coast have constituted the centre of stimulus for the more restricted West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA). But this is not the case in the CEMAC zone. Here, no state or couple of states has assumed a leadership role. It appears evident that Cameroon and Gabon can jointly exercise leadership, because history and natural endowment give this couple the potential for stewardship in the sub-region that cannot be associated with any other pair. However they are yet to do so, partly as a result of obstacles originating with the two states and other member states of CEMAC as well as some extra-regional players, particularly France.

This paper thus seeks to ascertain the pertinence of leadership for the advancement of integration in the CEMAC zone, the potential of Gabon-Cameroon couple and the obstacles to the leadership of this duo in the sub-region. The study is qualitative. Hegemonic stability theory is used as the framework for analysis. The remainder of this paper is organized as follows: section 2 clarifies key concepts and sets the theoretical framework. In section 3 the relationship between leadership and regional economic integration is examined. Section 4 discusses the leadership strengths of the Gabon-Cameroon couple, while section 5 delves on the obstacles to the leadership of Gabon-Cameroon couple. The conclusion and policy implications of the study, including possible limitations, are examined in the final section.

  1. Clarification of Concepts and Theoretical Framework

The idea of leadership in integration, also referred to as hegemony[8], was introduced in international relations through neorealism and hegemonic stability theory. Manning and Curtis define leadership as ‘initiating and guiding’ for change[9]. To them leadership has been behind every wave of political history. In the realm of interstate relations leadership can be considered as the development and use of both hard power (in the form of military and economic capabilities) and soft power (includes cultural and ideological assets) by one or more states to influence the behaviour of neighbouring states, or states in an integration arrangement, in a desired manner. Although most scholars have focused on the use of these forms of power, the development of economic resources in itself may be enough to influence the behaviour of other states who may be interested in benefiting from such development.  Joint leadership is a situation where typically two states make and implement policies with the aim of influencing policies in neighbouring states. In other words, two states use their power resources to influence other states in an integration scheme to meet shared goals. The aggregation of power by two states makes more resources available for the integration project and thus increases the chances of success.

Regional integration is the process or situation where countries in a defined geographical area voluntarily surrender their sovereignty in one or more areas to carry out specific transactions, in view of achieving a goal(s) or enjoying specific benefits to a higher degree than they would individually. When the area of cooperation envisaged is trade, it is called regional economic integration. Economic integration traditionally has taken the form of removing trade barriers between member states.

Literature on regional integration reveals that leadership has played a determining role in the success of integration. Hegemonic stability theory is particularly suitable for studying the role of leadership in integration efforts. According to proponents of hegemonic stability theory like Gilpin,[10] Ikenberry,[11] and Kindleberger,[12] the presence of a hegemon favours the development of cooperation ties. ‘A hegemonic state is a state that in the period under study has the necessary power (economic, political, military) and the will to create a stable global environment (in the place of the pre-existing anarchy) through the establishment of a global system of principles and rules that secure world order. This global system is of course reflecting the principles and the interests of the hegemonic state.’[13] Although originally set for the global level the theory has been increasingly used to explain cooperation at the regional level. Sotirous, for example, has argued that hegemonic stability theory, ‘can provide a successful explanatory theoretical framework of the creation and, to a degree, the evolution of regional cooperation schemes in the developing world.’[14]

Apart from its original application to cooperation on the world stage, hegemonic stability theory has also been traditionally associated with the dominance of a single state in international cooperation.[15] It was founded mainly as an explanation by neorealism to the historical periods (end of 19th century, end of World War II) when Great Britain (1st period) and USA (2nd period) succeeded in turning the anarchical global political environment to a stable and peaceful one while also enhancing global economic growth. The realities of the contemporary international system have led to the application of the theory to situations where two or more states come together to provide leadership or jointly influence international cooperation. The most common trend at regional level is that of cooperation between two states. The European Union as seen above provides a typical example. This situation is referred to as cooperative hegemony. I use joint leadership or shared hegemony here to mean the same thing. The main advantage of such leadership is that it makes power aggregation possible to the extent that hostile competition by smaller states[16] is discouraged. This is possible because it usually brings together the most economically viable states in the region and thus increases mutually profitable and varied connections with smaller states to the extent that defection[17] becomes unattractive to the latter. Pederson has consequently argued that, ‘as a form of rule cooperative leadership is more stable than unilateral leadership’.[18] It is important to note that while hegemonic stability theory may not fully explain why some schemes progress and others exhibit acute weakness, it remains very useful for understanding regional integration. It is in this vein that Baccini, Poast and Urpelainen, have concluded that ‘hegemony is a powerful but highly contingent force in international cooperation and political economy.’[19] Thus as a strategy, leadership is likely to be successful where it generates incentives like a wider market at the regional level, open to smaller states, and competitive access to other markets.

  1. Leadership and Economic Integration

The relationship between leadership and integration can be better understood by using cases of regional integration. Studies of cases such as the Economic Community of West African States and the European Union have been widely used in this regard. The level of integration achieved in the case of the European Union makes it particularly suited for any effort at understanding this relationship.

The history of European integration reveals a strong relationship between leadership and regional economic integration. From the conception of the European project to date, France and Germany have taken centre stage in both policy formulation and implementation. The couple has also been a market attraction for smaller states. Ki-Sik Hwang for example has observed that “The Franco-German coalition has been a transcendent force behind the European integration ever since the early years of the European Economic Community (EEC).”[20] This example also shows that joint hegemony or leadership by a couple in an integration scheme is possible and sometimes inevitable. For leadership of an integration scheme by a couple to be successful however, the most suitable couple must clearly realise their potential and actively assume leadership. The speech of Fischer to the German Bundestag on 31 May 2001 is very indicative of the understanding by France and Germany that the responsibility for leadership in Europe lies first and foremost with the two countries working together. To Fischer,

France is our closest and most important partner. Europe is founded on the Franco-German understanding, on our close partnership with France. This relationship is not interchangeable and that will also apply to the future of European integration.

European integration was a French idea. The significance of France’s strategic far-sightedness and political courage in joining forces in the cause of European integration with its ‘arch enemy’ Germany, which brought war to France three times three times within a period of seventy years, cannot be overestimated… The German question could only be definitively answered within the framework of European integration, whose hard core Germany and France have formed for decades. Germany and France therefore have not only a pragmatic but also a much more profound, historical interest in continuing and intensifying their partnership.[21]

The degree of harmony mirrored in this speech does not mean that there are no disagreements between the couple. Efforts have been made to intensify communication between the governments at different levels. The understanding in the case of the Franco-German couple has been that where disagreements arise, close examination of the perceived incompatibilities should be possible and quick enough.  Hubert Vedrine, during the ‘Rencontre Franco-Allemande de Stuttgart,’ 16 February 2001 explains the approach used to forge harmony as follows:

We use a very simple method (…) On each topic, we say in all sincerity what the position of our country is, and when there are differences in approach – which happens and is normal – we explain why, we try to see if these differences are based on superficial or deep issues or misunderstandings of language, which can happen. If we can overcome these problems at our level, we act immediately, developing a common position to overcome the differences. If we cannot at our level, because it involves other interests, other officials (…) we make proposals to the Chancellor, the President and the Prime Minister.[22]

The European example shows that leadership is important for the success of regional integration, but that it is not necessarily provided by one state. In the European case, it has been by a couple. The advantage of joint leadership is mainly that a single state may lack the resources and influence to set the pace for integration. It also shows that for joint leadership to be possible there must be a willingness by the hegemonic states to engage in unending and purposive dialogue with frequent meetings by government officials at different levels. Also, they must identify and ensure the implementation of viable economic projects that can generate and sustain interest in integration. In the case of the EU, the European Energy Programme for Recovery (EEPR) provides an example of such projects determined under the stewardship of France and Germany.[23]

Although it may be an exaggeration to compare the leadership role of core states in African regional integration to that played by Germany and France in Europe, leadership can be seen from the experience in West Africa and Southern Africa to be important for  integration processes in Africa. Peter Draper affirms as regards economic integration in Africa that “ … the role of regional leading states is critical …”.[24]

  1. Leadership Strengths of the Gabon-Cameroon Couple

The Gabon-Cameroon couple was born out of the desire by President Léon Mba of Gabon and Ahmadu Ahidjo of Cameroon to forge a spirit of interdependence between the two countries at the service of integration in Central Africa. The reasoning of the two leaders was that a wide integration scheme in Central Africa will have significant welfare benefits for states in the sub-region. It is important to note that their cooperation was favoured by the stability enjoyed by the two countries since independence. The solidarity and harmonious cooperation between the two countries, fed by a common interest in integration and stability in Cameroon and Gabon, served as a basis for leadership and explains to a large extent the creation of UDEAC in 1964.

Until 1968, the strong political commitment to harmonious cooperation in charting the way for integration by President Léon Mba and President Ahmadu Ahidjo, and the stability experienced by Gabon and Cameroon from independence, favoured the leadership of the duo. The warmth in Cameroon-Gabon relations between 1961 and 1967 laid a foundation for joint leadership in the CEMAC zone and can be seen as a binding factor.  However the harmony that reigned between the two countries experienced a downturn with the death of President Leon Mba. While the cooperation was at its best when the joint communiqué of Ngoundere on 23 March 1968 instituted the Cameroon-Gabon Joint Commission[25], the period from 1968 to present has been marked by competition for leadership between the two countries.

As is apparent from Table 1 below, there is a clear basis for hegemony within CEMAC. Cameroon is an obvious candidate. It represents 47% of the population, 42% of GDP (PIB) and is the only country that shares boundaries with all other countries in the sub-region. It is also the main university, agricultural and industrial centre. Cameroon is the only country that has successfully undergone a multinationalisation (several Cameroonian enterprises now operate branches in one or more other countries) of its enterprises.[26]  No other country actually has as strategic a position as Cameroon.

Table 1: The Basis of Hegemony in CEMAC[27]





BnUS $%Natural ResourcesCameroon475,440 Coastline: 402 km15.7419.4million47.054144.3342.32Petroleum, bauxite, iron ore, timber, hydropowerChad1,284,00042.5111.2 million27.1698.68.21Oil, Cotton, AgricultureCAR622,98420.624.4 million

10.67721.90Agriculture, cotton, mining, timberEq. Guinea28,0510.93668,2251.622423.8222.74petroleum, timber, fisheries, natural gas, agricultureGabon267,667 sq km Coastline: 885 km

Border with Cameroon

298 km8.861.545 million3.7481413.37Petroleum, natural gas, diamond, niobium, manganese, uranium, gold, timber, iron ore, hydropowerRep. Congo342,000 Coastline: 169 km

Border with Cameroon 523 km11.324.01 million9.72121211.46petroleum, timber, potash, lead, zinc, uranium, copper, phosphates, gold, magnesium, natural gas, hydropowerTotal3,020,14210041.23100 104.75100


The strategic position of Cameroon was indeed already recognised when the region was still under French colonial rule. The Governor of AEF, Louis Gabriel Angoulvant, was the first of the French governors to take note of this geographic reality. He told the French Minister of Colonies that:

Cameroon is in effect, from both the geographic and economic point of view, the essential complement of the AEF. Middle Congo and Ubangi-Shari Chad are only the hinterland. The Germans had so well understood that their entire railroad program was designed to attract traffic to Douala from most of the AEF… With Cameroon which is the natural complement, the AEF, enriched, is destined to be a rich and beautiful colony from which France can draw a large part of raw materials it needs.[28]

Despite being a prospective leader, it is unlikely that Cameroon can effectively assume leadership alone. Cameroon still faces problems of underdevelopment and her leadership has been challenged mainly by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon on several occasions. Gabon for example challenged Cameroon’s leadership during negotiations over the location of the regional stock exchange. Equatorial Guinea has not only resisted and contested regional policies promoted by Cameroon, like the use of the CEMAC passport, but has been increasingly hostile since becoming an oil producing country in 1991 with the discovery of Alba. This was reinforced by that of Zafiro in 1996, and again in 1999 by the exploitation of the largest reserves in Campo Ceiba on the Rio Muni Coast. Chouala observes that ‘…oil production in Equatorial Guinea has been accompanied by a dramatic shift in regional policy.’[29] He also notes that

The negative rhetoric and increasingly distrustful attitude of Equatorial Guinea towards Cameroon, its intervention in the delicate relationship between Cameroon and Nigeria, her constant suspicion that Cameroon is involve in a conspiracy to destabilize her, have given the impression that Equatorial Guinea wants to increase its influence in the sub-region by adopting an anti-Cameroon perspective.[30]

This attitude by Equatorial Guinea can be seen as a manifestation of the country’s leadership ambition and also as a fear of Cameroon’s dominance. Cameroonian citizens have been treated with a lot of contempt in recent decades and travel restrictions on Cameroonians are rife. Another factor that makes Equatorial Guinea unsuitable as an ally is that it is the only country that has Spanish as its most widely used official language. With a total value of imports for 2008 reaching 30, 240, 575 FCFA (see Table 3 below), Equatorial Guinea is the largest importer of goods from Cameroon. However in the light of the above, it probably has the worst diplomatic relations with Cameroon and this is a major constraint on further development of commercial relations between the two countries.

Gabon like Equatorial Guinea has exhibited an anti-leadership attitude in its relations with Cameroon. This is very visible from the nature of relations between the leaders of the two countries. Even with the accession of President Ali Bongo to power, there is very limited communication with President Paul Biya of Cameroon. Also the Cameroonian President has not visited Gabon since President Ali Bongo’s accession to power in 2010. This is similar to the situation that prevailed under President Omar Bongo who declared in an interview: “I have been to Yaoundé on several occasions; Paul Biya never pays me a visit. I will not visit him again.”[31]

As Awoumu rightly observes, to avoid appearing hegemonic and taking into consideration the costs of single handily assuming leadership,  Cameroon can only assume hegemony by allying with another state.[32] The most suitable ally appears to be Gabon. In addition to the prospects for leadership by the two countries mentioned above, it can be seen from Table 1 that Gabon is the third highest in ranking in terms of GDP. The country also has a coastline of 885 km and shares a 298 km long border with Cameroon.[33] Finally, as Table 2 shows; Gabon is the third most important importer of goods from Cameroon in spite of travel restrictions with 12, 659, 905 FCFA worth of imports.

Table 2: Formal and Informal Trade in Agricultural and Horticultural Products between Cameroon and other Countries of CEMAC, based on the 2008 Official Statistics of the Ministries of Commerce, Agriculture and Rural Development, and the National Institute for Statistics (values in FCFA)[34] 

Country of
Total sum of exports including informal trade
% of informal exports  in relation to official exports
% of informal trade in relation to the total sum of exports
Gabon 8 090 576 754 4 569 328 727 12 659 905 481 56,5 36,1
Eq. Guinea Eq. 12 253 918 538 17 986 656 508 30 240 575 046 146,8 59,5
Congo 6 222 845 443 2 962 956 487 9 185 801 930 47,6 32,3
CAR 3 824 277 976 1 697 869 653 5 522 147 629 44,4 30,7
Tchad 9 182 834 046 10 639 870 720 19 822 704 766 115,9 53,7
Total 39 574 452 754 37 856 682 095 77 431 134 849 95,7 48,7

Yet given the apparent difficulty of sustaining cooperation between Cameroon and Gabon, other possibilities for joint leadership have been considered. The current strategy of Gabon has been to impose itself by cooperating with the Republic of Congo. As Awoumou observes, the Republic of Congo certainly has a comparative advantage over Cameroon on the diplomatic chessboard, which is mostly the result of the interpersonal ties that existed between former President Omar Bongo and his Congolese counterpart and other heads of state in the sub-region, oil revenue and the historical role of Gabon as the arm of French influence in Africa. Gabon also has a good history of cooperation and strong ethnic ties with the Republic of Congo.[35] The result of such close ties has been the adoption of a common approach to sub-regional problems. However this alliance with Congo can hardly enable Gabon to bring the much needed dynamism to integration in Central Africa. On the one hand, Congo has a very small population size (only 5.56 million out of the 41.23 million in the CEMAC zone). On the other hand, the country also has a very weak population density per Km², which necessitates heavy human and financial resources to secure the territory. Further Gabon shares borders with only three countries, as does Congo, and finally the Congo has been since independence one of the most unstable countries in the sub-region. The leader of the Ninja Militia, Pastor Ntoumi, who is accused of human rights violations including the killing thousands of unarmed civilians, the taking of hostages and the hijacking trains, only signed a peace agreement in 2007.[36]

Cameroon has drifted towards Chad. There are several opportunities for cooperation and the two countries have jointly realised some major projects. The pipeline that permits the transportation of Chadian oil to international markets through the Cameroonian port of Kribi is the most emblematic example.[37] Another example that should be mentioned is the free movement of goods and services in both directions which is a reality. There is sustained cooperation in secondary and university education. In addition to the increase in bilateral projects, Cameroon and Chad are the two most populated countries in the sub-region (over 30.6 million from the 41.23 people in CEMAC) and have a high density (17/km²).

But an alliance with Chad presents a number of weaknesses. Chad is historically the second most unstable country in the sub-region after the Central African Republic. The country has experienced several rebellions since in 1965. There have been several rebel attacks in the last ten years. The last one by the Union of Resistance Forces (URF) led by Timane Erdimi took place very recently in May 2008. Apart from rebellions, Chad remains a very insecure country. The insecurity has spilled over to Cameroon in recent years and it is unlikely that the government of Yaoundé would be genuinely committed to making movement between the two countries more fluid. As Sali Aliyou has observed it can be noted that:

Insecurity at the border between Cameroon, Chad and the CAR (Mbaïboum), further makes the relations between these three states unfriendly. The Populations in this area are victims of road bandits (coupeurs de route). To address this situation, the states have adopted the policy of closing borders and worse, they accuse each other, a situation that makes relations between them more acrimonious. In fact, Cameroon accuses Chadians and Central Africans of blocking roads on its soil.[38]

Finally Chad has been accused of supporting insurgents and bandits in the Central African Republic. Relations between Ndjamena and Bangui have depended almost entirely on personal ties between the two heads of state. The overthrow of President Patasse by the then rebel leader Francois Bozize was largely due to Chadian support. Colonel Laurent Djim-Woei Bebiti, who led the Popular Army for the Restoration of the Republic and Democracy (APRD), one of the main rebel forces in the CAR between 2006 and 2008,’ declared that “one of the reasons why his groups fights is because the country suffers from foreign aggression perpetrated mainly by Chadian elements that helped President Bozize take power in 2003.”[39]

Recently, the overthrow of Francois Bozize has equally been largely blamed on the authorities of Ndjamena. The Seleka rebels that invaded the country and seized power in March 2013 were mostly Muslims and some had Chadian army uniforms. The events following the demise of the now former Seleka government give credit to these accusations. The Chadian peacekeeping contingent that is part of the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA, French acronym for Mission internationale de soutien à la Centrafrique) have been booed during patrols and feared by the majority Christian population that accuses them of being present solely to protect the disbanded Seleka force and the Muslims. These accusations have been largely given credit by the recent withdrawal of the Chadian forces following what the United Nations has qualified as an attack on civilians on 29 March 2014.[40]

It is thus very difficult for a leadership with Chad as a key player in the sub-region to be effective given that it remains politically unstable and is perceived to be at the origin of important security problems in the member state CAR. Added to the acute problems of underdevelopment in the country it can be concluded that Chad cannot be a suitable partner for Cameroon in the quest for cooperative and effective stewardship of the sub-region.

In the light of this, the Gabon-Cameroon couple can thus be said to have the potential necessary to steer economic integration in the CEMAC zone. However the existence of a leadership crisis in Central Africa as shown above suggests that the leadership of the couple faces some challenges. Although some of these have been alluded to it is important to isolate and discuss the most pertinent of these.

  1. Obstacles to the leadership of Gabon and Cameroon in Central Africa

The vision of joint leadership shared by President Ahidjo of Cameroon and President Leon Mba of Gabon led to the creation of the now defunct UDEAC. Moreover, the decline in Gabon-Cameroon relations following the death of President Leon Mba in November 1867[41] can be considered as one of the core reasons for the paralysis of sub-regional integration which has continued even with the replacement of UDEAC by CEMAC. As Awoumou has observed, “the leadership crisis in Central Africa, is the result of the failure of the Cameroon-Gabon couple to position itself sustainably as the engine of this zone”.[42] The main challenges to the leadership of this couple are as follows.

a. The Existence of Protectionist Intentions and Practices

Regional integration by design leads to the erosion of state sovereignty. Yet it is not uncommon for countries to recourse to protectionist measures to protect their sovereignty within integration schemes to maintain some level of control over their economies. Examples include the practices of Germany with regard to the industrial policy of Europe and the decision of the United Kingdom not to adopt the Euro. The situation is worse when such practices are carried out by core states and affect cooperation between them.  Therefore, while such practices are not new in the politics of regional integration, the problem in CEMAC is that they affect cooperation between the core states – Gabon and Cameroon – in important sectors that are indispensable for integration like freedom of movement.

Cameroonians still need to obtain a visa to travel to Gabon. The procedural implications of this grossly hinder the movement of factors of production (people, goods, services and capital). Under these circumstances the generation of wealth is highly compromised. The need for visas is also an obstacle to dialogue, as it affects the rate of travel by members of government from Cameroon to Gabon. While it is the sovereign right of every state to make obtaining a visa an imperative for visits by aliens this situation is an obstacle within the context of integration. It is thus not surprising that Nkendah has attributed the high volume of informal trade between Cameroon and Gabon to visa restrictions.[43]

b. Leadership Quarrels

As already mentioned above, there has been competition for leadership between Gabon and Cameroon since 1968. While it is common for leading states to have different views on important issues, such differences become problematic when they paralyse cooperation. Gabon and Cameroon’s quarrels are evidenced by the difficulty in reaching agreement on important decisions such as the creation of a sub-regional airlines company (Air CEMAC) and a sub-regional stock exchange. The disagreement between Cameroon and Gabon over the location of a sub-regional stock exchange, leading to the establishment of one in Douala and another in Libreville, is a clear testimony of the persistence of such quarrels that slow the integration process within the CEMAC. The Douala Stock Exchange (DES) was created on the 1st of December 2001 following a decision by President Biya of Cameroon. The DES was inaugurated on the 23 April 2005. With a capital of 1.2 billion Francs CFA, this stock exchange had its first quotation by the end of May 2006. On the other hand, the stock exchange in Libreville, in Gabon, named the Central African Stock Exchange for Transferable Shares (Bourse des valeurs mobilières de l’Afrique centrale (BVMAC)), was created on 27 June 2003 and started activities in February 2006.[44]

c. The Low Rate of Exchange and Meetings between Administrative Officials and Members of Government of the two Countries

Joint leadership is by no means easy to achieve. Even when a couple like the Gabon-Cameroon duo in Central Africa has the resources for such leadership, a lot of active effort and exchange by the two governments is required. The description above of the method used to forge harmony in the case of the Fraco-German couple in Europe by Hubert Vedrine during the Rencontre Franco-Allemande de Stuttgart, 16 février 2001 shows clearly that for cooperative hegemony to be successful, permanent dialogue, frequent visits and exchange of information is crucial.  Such an atmosphere is important because it makes, close examination of any perceived incompatibilities possible and quick enough to forge harmony in the leadership couple.

In Central Africa, this has however not been the case between Cameroon and Gabon. The Cameroonian head of state seldom visits Gabon and inter-ministerial meetings and projects are yet to be a reality. There are very limited working visits between government officials. This explains the limited number of sub-regional projects jointly initiated by the couple and the complete absence of joint economic projects. It is partly for this reason that suspicion and fear of the other triumphs as there is hardly sufficient opportunity for dialogue around issues for each side to be clarified of the motives behind the others views.

d. The Absence of Strategic Joint Economic Projects

For cooperative leadership to be successful, it is important for the economies of core states to be integrated to a level close enough to that expressed in regional treaties. Usually this requires a commitment to effectively initiating and implementing economic projects with high prospects for spill-over. The success of such projects usually generates interest in peripheral states that certainly enter into regional arrangements to share in the benefits of economic cooperation.

The effectiveness of joint strategic economic projects in consolidating the bond between core states and strengthening their capacity for regional leadership is very obvious with the European Union. In this case, the French and German governments have for example made enormous efforts to merge their biggest enterprises and it is important to mention that once united, these enterprises often rise to world leadership in their respective fields. Examples include the European Space Agency, EADS (The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company) and Airbus.[45]

In a similar manner, it is the joint realisation of economic projects and the intensification of trade relations between Chad and Cameroon that is somewhat improving the very poor image that each has had of the other for reasons mentioned above. The pipeline project mentioned above is very illustrative of this. In effect, as Saibou Issa observes, Chadian economic operators that have worked on Cameroonian soil thanks to this project have improved the image of Chadians in Cameroon.[46] This was an image that from the perspective of the editorialist in the monthly Chad and Culture, in commenting on a government communique of 18 December 1997, was reduced to that of road bandits (coupeur de route).[47]

The Gabon-Cameroon couple has yet to initiate and more importantly implement business projects of such nature. The implementation of such projects requires frequent meetings at different levels of government and the participation of private enterprises. When successful, the benefits tend to strengthen the bond of cooperation between the couple and a window of opportunity is open for other projects. As new challenges emerge in the course of executing such projects, fears shift from possible dominance to how to meet market demand or how to be more productive to make products of such joint ventures more competitive in international markets.


The importance of a cooperative leadership between Gabon and Cameroon in CEMAC is clearly indispensable for successful economic integration. There have been sustained efforts to maintain frequent meetings between cabinet members within the framework of the Cameroon-Gabon Joint Commission since 1968. The two countries have natural ports facilities and together have the richest reserves of natural resources in the sub-region. Cameroon and Gabon also represent 56 % of the GDP. Finally, of all CEMAC member states, only Cameroon and Gabon have been politically stable since independence. However, as demonstrated above, despite their historical legitimacy, their cumulated economic and demographic weight, the abundance of raw materials in the two countries and especially their strategic position, the couple faces several obstacles that prevent them from exercising the influence necessary to boost integration in the area. The existence of protectionist intentions and practices, quarrels for sub-regional leadership between the two countries, the low frequency of meetings between cabinet members in spite of the diplomatic efforts made since 1961 and the absence of strategic joint economic projects, are important obstacles to the leadership potential of the duo. As the analysis shows, to overcome these obstacles and effectively play the role of locomotive for integration in the sub-region, the two countries will have to multiply opportunities for meetings and exchange among government officials and initiate and implement joint projects and encourage joint economic ventures in the private sector as well. Finally they must be able to take a common position on CEMAC projects.

The author is a visiting lecturer fellow of the Institute for Governance, Humanities and Social Sciences at the Pan-African University, Yaoundé, Cameroon and a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Buea, Cameroon. He was awarded a Ph.D of Political Science from the University of Yaoundé II Soa, Cameroon in December 2012. His main research theme is how regional integration can serve as a vehicle for conflict resolution in Central Africa. He is the co-author of “Elections and conflict prevention in post conflict societies” (Journal Article) and Rethinking Regional Security in Central Africa: the Case of the Central African Republic,(Conference paper).

[1] Gankou, J. and Ntah, M., 2008, «Is the Regional Integration in Central Africa in Question?», African Integration Review, Vol. 2, No. 2

[2] Mayer, A., 2006, L’Intégration Régionale et son Influence sur la Structure, la Sécurité et la Stabilité D’Etats Faibles: L’exemple de quartre Etats centrafricains, Thèse de Doctorat en Science politique, Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, Ecole Doctorale de Sciences Po

[3] N’Kodia, C., 1999,  L’Intégration Economique: Les enjeux pour l’Afrique Centrale, ‘Harmattan, Paris, p. 33

[4] Ibid N’Kodia, C., 1999, p. 38

[5] Zafar, A. and  Kubota, K.., 2003, ‘Regional Integration in Central Africa: Key Issues’, Africa Region Working Paper Series, No. 52

[6]  Accessed on  12 August 2012 at : http://www.operationspaix.net/5-organisation-cemac.html

[7] Nyatte, in Abwa, D., Essomba, J. et al, November 2001, Dynamique D’Intégration Régionale en Afrique Centrale, Tome 2, Presses Universitaire de Yaoundé

[8] The word hegemony comes from the Greek word egemonia, which itself comes from egemon meaning ‘leader, ruler, often in the sense of a state other than his own’ (Williams; 1977: 144)

[9] Manning, George and Curtis, Kent. 2003, The Art of Leadership, Mc Graw Hill, Boston, p. 2

[10] Gilpin, Robert. 1981. War and Change in World Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.

[11] Ikenberry, G. John. 2000. After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

[12] Kindleberger, Charles P. 1986. The World in Depression, 1929-1939. Berkeley: University of California Press.

[13] Mittelman, J. and Falk, R., “Global Hegemony and Regionalism” in Mittelman, J. (ed), 2000, The Globalization Syndrome: Transformation and Resistance, Princeton: Princeton University Press,138 – 139.

[14] Sotirios, P., ‘Rethinking Hegemonic Stability Theory: Some Reflections from the Regional Integration Experience in the Developing World’, accessed on 24 July 2012 at

[15]  Baccini, L., Poast, P., Urpelainen, J., November 2011, ‘The Return of Hegemonic Theory: Dominant States and the Origins of International Cooperation’, accessed on 17 July 2012 at

[16] Smaller states are all states outside the leadership circle in a region. They characteristically have a lower economic potential than those assuming cooperative leadership in the region.

[17] Defection here refers to the desire to leave the scheme or non-cooperation on specific policy areas by smaller states.

[18] Pedersen, T., ‘Cooperative Hegemony: Power, Ideas and Institutions in Regional Integration Author(s)’, Review of International Studies, Vol. 28, No. 4 (Oct., 2002), pp. 677-696

[19] Baccini, L., Poast, P., Urpelainen, J., November 2011, ‘The Return of Hegemonic Theory: Dominant States and the Origins of International Cooperation’, accessed on 17 July 2012 at

[20] Hwang, K., 2007,  <<  Towards New Economic Cooperation in Northeast Asia ; Lessons from the Franco-German Coalition, Contemporary European Studies, Vol. 25, No.3

[21] From speech by Federal Minister Fischer to the German Bundestag on 31 May 2001.

[22] Vedrine, H., rencontre franco-allemande de Stuttgart, 16 février 2001, disponible sur le site Internet www.diplomatie.gouv.fr., translation from French by author.

[23] See MEMO/09/542 Brussels, 9 December 2009, accessed 22 August 2012 at: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/09/542

[24] Draper, P., September 2010,  Rethinking the (European ) Foundations of Sub-Saharan African Regional Economic Integration: A Political Economy Essay,  OECD Development Centre, Working Paper No. 293, p. 21

[25] Ropivia, M., 2008, Preface to Awoumou, C., 2008, Le Couple Cameroun-Gabon Au Sein de la Cemac, L’Harmattan, Paris

[26] Awoumou, C., 2002 « La multinationalisation des entreprises nationales au sein de la

CEMAC : initiative purement privée ou cheval de Troie pour l’hégémonie du Cameroun ? », Enjeux N°13, octobre-décembre 2002, PP.24-27.

[27] Table source: constructed by the author with data from the CIA, the US Department of State and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Data available on their respective websites (2010 estimates).

[28]  Abwa, D., ‘Cameroun, Moteur Essentiel de l’Intégration Régionale en Afrique Centrale ?’ in Abwa, D., Essomba, J. et al, novembre 2001, Dynamique D’Intégration Régionale en Afrique Centrale, Tome 2, Presses Universitaire de Yaoundé, p.501

[29] Chouala, A., 2003, L’interétatisme dans de Golfe de Guinée. Contribution du champ à la sociologie des relations internationales, thèse de Doctorat en Science Politique, Université de Yaoundé II-Soa

[30] Chouala, Y., 2004, ‘La Crise Diplomatique de mars 2004 entre le Cameroun et la Guinée Equatoriale: Fondement, Enjeux et Perspectives’ Revue Camerounaise de Science Politique, Vol. 12, Numéro Spéciale 2004 – 2005, translation by author

[31]  Ngogang, T., ‘Bongo et Sassou lâchent Paul Biya’, quotidiens Mutation du 06/04/2004 p.3., translation by author.

[32] Awoumou, C., 2005, ‘Le Golfe de Guinée face aux Convoitises’, 11ème Assemblée Générale du CODESRIA  « Repenser le développement africain : au-delà de l’impasse, les alternatives » 06-10 décembre 2005 Maputo, Mozambique

[33] http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/country-profile/sub-saharan-africa/gabon/?profile=all

[34] Table source : constructed by author with data from Nkendah, R., AKO, E., Tamokwe, B., & Melingui, E.,  avril 2012,  Le Commerce Transfrontalier Informel des Produits Agricoles et Horticoles entre le Cameroun et ses voisins de la CEMAC: Implications sur la Sécurité Alimentaire Sous regional,  Research Report No. 07/12,  Investment Climate and Business Environment Research Fund  (ICBE-RF), Dakar.

[35] Ibid Awoumou, C., 2005

[36] http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/country-profile/sub-saharan-africa/equatorial-guinea/

[37] web.worldbank.org/archive/website01210/…/0__CO-15.HTM

[38] Aliyou, S., 2008, L’attitude des états de la CEMAC face au conflit de Bakassi et ses effets sur l’institution accessed on 19 August 2012 at http://www.memoireonline.com/12/09/2934/m_Lattitude-des-etats-de-la-CEMAC-face-au-conflit-de-Bakassi-et-ses-effets-sur-linstitution0.html, translation by author.

[39] Spittaels S., and Hilgert F., 2009,  Mapping Conflict Motives: Central African, Republic, IPIS

[40] Accessed at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27052367  on 12 April 2014.

[41]  Accessed at: http://www.en.legabon.org/discover-gabon/understand/key-dates  on 12 April 2014.

[42] Ibid Awoumou, C., 2005, translation by author

[43] Nkendah, R., AKO, E., Tamokwe, B., & Melingui, E.,  avrril 2012,  Le Commerce Transfrontalier Informel des Produits Agricoles et Horticoles entre le Cameroun et ses voisins de la CEMAC: Implications sur la Sécurité Alimentaire Sous regional,  Research Report No. 07/12,  Investment Climate and Business Environment Research Fund   (ICBE-RF), Dakar

[44] Accessed at, http://www.memoireonline.com/08/10/3812/m_Lintegration-sous-regionale-en-CEMAC–lepreuve-de-la-liberte-de-circulation-des-biens-et22.html, on 22 August 2012

[45] Hwang, K., 2007, op. Cit.

[46] Issa, S., ‘Cameroun-Tchad : image de l’autre et attitude’ in Abwa, D., Essomba, J. et al, Ibid Tome 1, p. 321

[47] Tchad et Culture, Janvier 1997 in Issa, S., ‘Cameroun-Tchad : image de l’autre et attitude’ in Abwa, D., Essomba, J. et al, Ibid Tome 1, p. 321


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