Life In Campo : Coping In The Absence Of Trade

Trade with neighbouring Equatorial Guinea that used to make Campo tick is no more. Today, officials of the local customs post and government offices who used to oversee the regularity of such trade are idle. Until early March 2020, trade provided the lifeline to people on either side of the maritime border. Campo, a little Cameroonian town perched on the banks of the Atlantic Ocean in Ocean Division, South Region, is just a stone throw from the Equatorial Guinean town of Rio Campo. Both towns are separated by the Ntem Delta whose waterway of just under a kilometre-wide forms part of the Atlantic Ocean. 

Cross-border trade in fish, foodstuff, household goods, coconut and can drinks has since been brought to a complete standstill. Ipoua Robert Olivier, the Mayor of Campo, says the economic impact of the border closure as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic is enormous on both the Cameroonian and Equatorial Guinean economies. In Campo, the number of unemployed has risen sharply, with prices of goods imported from Equatorial Guinea have started going up. Ipoua warns of the urgent need to cushion the effects of the border closure on local business people and the general public. 

Today, the little fishing that still goes on in Campo is only for local consumption. Literally speaking, Campo residents are confined to their town as there is little or no vehicle traffic to the divisional headquarters, Kribi, 75 km away. Reason why Cameroon Tribune’s team did not bypass any public transport vehicle or commercial motorcycle during its trip from Kribi to Campo and back. “If the border closure lasts long, locals will be unable to bear it, given that they do not have any other major means of livelihood,” Ipoua warns. 

The Divisional Officer for Campo, Joel Eteme Elanga, concurs, but adds that the Minister of Trade has taken up the matter. “We are awaiting the implementation of the measures so that Campo is not left out of what big towns and cities in the country will be offered,” Elanga says with an air of great expectation. 

“Though there is no more trade going on between Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea through Campo, I don’t think it will come to the point of starving. People still fish for local consumption and carry out their normal crop farming activities,” the DO continues. “The Circle of the Friends of Cameroon, CERAC, was recently in Campo during which they offered crop and fishing tools and equipment. With this, the people will intensify their crop farming and fish farming activities in order to continue to meet some of their basic needs,” Elanga notes with confidence.

While the economic prospects in Campo for now are gloomy, it is not the case with Charles Aime Emale, a fisherman. “The closure of the Cameroon border has not affected my activities in any way. I am based in Kribi, 75 km from Campo. I only come to Campo to fish during particular seasons. Most of my catch is sold in Kribi, and never in Equatorial Guinea. I sell only a little portion of my fish in Campo. Campo fishermen who used to sell their catch in Equatorial Guinea are greatly affected, but this is not the case with me,” Emale notes.

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