A workshop, hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the International Institute for investment Treaties, has trained Cameroonian government officials to attract foreign capital by better negotiating investment agreements.
Held in Yaoundé from 22 to 24 November, the workshop was a vital platform for senior legal affairs officials from various government agencies to strengthen their understanding of bilateral investment treaties and necessary policies to limit their negative impacts, including lawsuits.
Negotiating bilateral investment agreements is a policy issue for developing countries. Most such treaties are signed between capital-exporting developed countries and capital-importing developing nations.
Despite their positive impact, clauses of bilateral investment treaties can impose constraints on host countries. For instance, investors can sue governments if national policy harms their interests. These investor-state lawsuits are often unpredictable and can cost taxpayers a significant amount of money.
Opening the workshop, Chinmoun Oumar, Permanent Secretary of Cameroon’s Ministry of External Affairs, thanked the Commonwealth Secretariat and the International Institute for investment Treaties for hosting the “timely” workshop.
He informed the participants that Cameroon was involved in several ongoing negotiations related to investment facilitation, but it lacked sufficient expertise to fully engage with its foreign partners. Oumar hoped the workshop would enable “Cameroon to build a formidable team of legal experts who could contribute to the ongoing and future negotiations”.
Speaking at the workshop, Opeyemi Abebe, Head of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Trade Competitiveness Section, said:
“This workshop will enable Cameroonian officials to better promote and protect their national economic and development interests. We hope officials will now have a greater awareness of the implications of bilateral investment treaties for national policy and how to mitigate them, ensuring that foreign investment flows contribute to their country’s development objectives.”
The workshop featured a series of plenaries and best practices to help Cameroonian officials rethink what obligations they should include in their future investment agreements and whether to reform existing treaties in line with national interests. Participants also discussed investor-state dispute settlement practices and a roadmap to reform Cameroon’s investment treaties, especially in view of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The workshop was hosted at the request of Cameroon’s Ministry of Mines, Industry and Technological Development and Ministry of External Affairs.
- Snober Abbasi Senior Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
- T: +442077476168 | E-mail