The audience granted by the Minister of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Social Economy and Handicrafts Achille BASSILEKIN III on 16 September 2022 to H.E. Christophe GUILHOU, Ambassador of France to Cameroon, whose mandate has come to an end, was an opportunity to revisit the dense bilateral cooperation between Cameroon and France in MINPMEESA scope of intervention.

Discussions focused on supporting the professionalisation and competitiveness of incubation centres in Cameroon; increasing exchanges between French companies and/or investors and Cameroonian SMEs, as well as their access to the French market; capitalising on French assistance in the performance of development projects in the SMESEH sector; access to financing available through cooperation tools set up by France, among others.

At the end of the audience, H.E Christophe GUILHOU stated that this was first of all a farewell tour and acknowledged to have enjoyed his stay in Cameroon. He then indicated that the fruitful cooperation he has undertaken with Cameroon in general and MINPMEESA in particular will continue with his successor. There will be more emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation of the growing economy.

After expressing his appreciation to the Ambassador, Minister Achille BASSILEKIN III confirmed the support and revitalisation of the Cameroonian system of incubation, innovation and creativity in the digital field. It is evident that this attention dates back to the arrival of H.E. GUILHOU in 2019 with their first field trip to Douala in an incubator known as Le Boukarou He then insisted on formalising Exchange Days between French and Cameroonian SMEs.

It should be noted that Cameroon has benefited from several programmes and projects supported by France. These include the Support Programme for Agriculture and Agrifood Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (PMEAA), which was included by the Government in the strategic axes of the 3rd Debt Reduction-Development Contract (C2D) and financially supported by the French Development Agency (AFD). The PMEAA programme was initiated in 2015 by MINPMESSA. The Integrated Programme for the Valorisation and Transformation of Farm Products and Agri-food (TRANSFAGRI), financed by AFD, is a continuation of PMEAA in the development of self-entrepreneurship, VSEs, SMEs as well as Producer Organisations and family farms. This programme has been hosted at the Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Promotion Agency (APME) since 2018 till today.

It should be recalled that in France, Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) represents 10% of GDP and nearly 12.7% of private jobs. There are approximately 200,000 companies and structures and 2.38 million employees in this sector. On its part, the French Chamber of Social and Solidarity Economy, the umbrella organisation of SSE in France, aims at organising dialogue between the members of SSE in France which it represents. The handicraft sector which is mainly made up of small enterprises, is an economic giant in France. Handicraft, found in the food, building, production and service sectors, brings together more than 510 different activities. Handicraft in France represents 1.300.000 handicraft businesses and a turnover of 300 billion euros. The Chamber of Trades and Crafts works to defend the interests of craftspeople, support handicraft enterprises and train future craftspeople.

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