What is the richest city in Cameroon

Kribi: One city, one port, two worlds

The harbor Port Autonome de Kribi is one of the largest projects of the Chinese Investment Plan in Africa. When completed, Kribi will be the largest deep water port in Central Africa.

The port project is financed with a planned EUR 1.1 billion at 85 percent from the Chinese Exim Bank (The Export-Import Bank of China), while the rest is borne by the Cameroonian government. The state-owned China Harbor Engineering Corporation (CHEC) is carrying out the construction. The transport infrastructure in the region is also to be rebuilt.

Natural resources for China

With the construction of the port, Cameroon hopes that it will give the economy a new boost. In addition, it should relieve the port of the most populous city of Cameroon Duala and serve as a berth for larger ships. The nearby iron deposits, which are to be connected by a planned rail and road network, are important for resource-hungry China.

The whole village of Lolabe had to make way for the project. The Chinese property developer CHEC built housing developments for the 300 villagers. Cameroon's land law is not clearly regulated. The residents of Lolabe from the Yasa people founded the village at the beginning of the 20th century without appropriating land or dealing with the authorities. Very few therefore have documents that prove that they own the property. If it weren't for the port, the residents of Lolabe would still not know what real estate means. They received little compensation and were forced to leave their homes abruptly.

Cameroon's Prime Minister Yang with China's President Xi in Beijing in 2015

Excessive corruption

But that's not all: of the equivalent of 36 million euros that Prime Minister Philémon Yang approved as compensation in 2010, only 22 million were paid out in 2013 after the official conclusion. Probably the rest ended up in the hands of corrupt officials.

"When they heard that construction was starting at the port, the villagers were very optimistic. We hoped that the construction would bring work and improve our lives," says Theodore Ivaha, Lolabe's deputy village chief. "But for a few years now we've been annoyed that we don't benefit from it at all."

Although the construction site has created new jobs, these will not be occupied by locals, but by Cameroonians from other parts of the country. The reason for this is the necessary qualifications, which most people from the Kribi region, especially the villages in the immediate vicinity of the port, do not have.

The villagers waited in vain for CHEC staff to personally visit their village to recruit workers. This practice is common for French companies in the country. But that didn't happen. The vacancies were announced by notices and quickly filled. Many of the Cameroonians who moved there are accused by the locals of "stealing" their jobs.

Beaches in Kribi

Chinese builder, Cameroonian construction worker

Cameroonian workers complain about harsh working conditions, while Chinese supervisors criticize poor work ethics. "It's like looking for gold in the sand," says site manager Qiangqiang Li.

Bridging these cultural differences is not easy. Chinese employees live in a closed camp at the port with a dormitory, offices and a canteen with a Chinese cook. The 300 or so Chinese rarely leave the port area. There is hardly any exchange with locals. Contrary to what was initially hoped, local products find little buyers among the Chinese.

Christophe Bobiokono, an investigative journalist by profession, says: "The government should mediate between foreign companies and local residents and state the wishes of the residents in order to help foreign organizations and companies promote local development. But in Africa many fail Governments, which is why foreign companies can't rely on them. "

So it is up to CHEC and the locals to set up a functioning communication platform together. There are first approaches in the work environment. The many workers who have moved from other parts of the country are hoped for more tourism through family visits.