Sand Extraction – Modernisation As Trump Card [analysis]

The decision by transporters of sand, notably those operating from Ebebda to down tools has systematically grounded construction work in the city of Yaounde and its environs.

Truck owners say they are irked by numerous control points which take a good chunk of their earnings. For a distance of less than 100 kilometres, truck drivers are said to settle scores with about 12 check points leading to a reduction of at least FCFA 30,000 from their earnings. Once at a check point, they are forced to settle a combined control team of police, gendarmes and council officials. Worthy of note are the control points erected near Soa, Nkoumetou, Obala, Sa’a, Monatele, Balamba and Bafia.

The gravity of the problem could not leave the authorities of the Centre Region indifferent. This explains the meeting with the Governor of the Region in a bid to find a lasting solution to the problem. The meeting ended with an agreement to convene another enlarged meeting, a week later with authorities of the Ministry of Transport, police and gendarmeries as well as other actors in the sector. Meantime, truck owners have accepted to liftoff the stike action pending the meeting. That notwithstanding, the whole issue seems to go beyond simple police and gendarme controls.

Whereas the several controls incidentally have a direct effect on the price of sand, so far considered a major construction material, it is important to note that the whole sector needs to be completely revamped. What striking truck owners may not have said aloud is that sand dredging is such a fertile activity that it is fast attracting the interest of foreign investors who want to come into the business, invest in it and make fast cash. Chinese investors are already into quarrying activity and are said to have introduced lots of modern technology in its exploitation leading to significant reduction in the price of concrete.

Sand extraction from River Sanaga, the main source of the material for the Centre Region and from many other sites in Cameroon remains rudimentary. It suffices for a young energetic guy who knows how to swim to get his bucket, obtain a boat, get into the river and start extracting the valuable material into the boat. You find him disappear under the water and sometime spend more than two minutes before emerging with the quantity of sand he has succeeded to gather. This exercise, for sure, is quite tedious and this partly explains the high price customers have to pay to acquire the material. Once the sand has been ferried out to the shore, it is deposited in heaps before loaded into trucks for transportation. The good thing about the whole exercise is that it provides employment to the younger generation.

But apart from the employment opportunity, the business could undergo profound transformation and bring in even more revenue if modern equipment is deployed. That exactly is what foreign investors are eying. The unfortunate thing is that nationals have been lukewarm about the sector which they very well know is lucrative. The question is how best to whip up their interest and get them into the mainstream of the business. Modern equipment will not only ease sand dredging, but will result in significant drop in the price of sand. While waiting for the private sector to take the bull by the horns, it may be important for government to take special measures to ease the setting up of such enterprises. If that is not done, there might be no other option than to accept foreign offers.

Source : Cameroon Tribune

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