The Investment Charter (in French), adopted in 2002 to attract foreign investors and streamline investment procedures is still not fully implemented. More recently, in an attempt to encourage foreign investment, President Biya enacted a new investment code (in French) in 2013. The new code has the potential to significantly improve the investment climate in Cameroon by removing distinctions between local and foreign investors and by removing minimum investment requirements, according to a May 2013 AllAfrica article. Despite these positive developments, the US Department of State 2013 reports that Cameroon's legal and regulatory systems are inefficient and are often arbitrarily interpreted and enforced. This is confirmed in a 2012 report published by the United Nations Development Programme, which notes that almost 9 out of 10 interviewed firms consider the policies and regulations as well as the government's interpretation of these to be inconsistent and unpredictable. Accordingly, Cameroon ranks poorly in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014 when measuring the strength of investor protection in Cameroon.
According to the World Bank & IFC's Doing Business 2014, Cameroon has made progress in several areas including in starting a company and in trading across borders. According to the US Department of State 2013, the government has set up a one-stop shop aimed at simplifying business registration in a number of cities, including Yaounde, Bafoussam, Douala, Garoua and Bamenda. The government also established three Certified Taxation Management Centres (in French), primarily for SMEs, to provide assistance in the management, supervision and payment of fiscal obligations.
Central public institutions are often ineffective and, according to the Bertelsmann Foundation 2014, peripheral powers of traditional authorities frequently exceed the power of state representatives. There is a risk that these leaders may occasionally act to enforce their own policies and the government continues to struggle to fully co-opt them to its agenda. Even though recent progress has been made, public procurement is reportedly a problematic area. According to the same source, foreign trade is distorted by state regulation, special rules and tariff barriers, although Cameroon's membership in the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC, in French) has facilitated the establishment of some common trade rules. CEMAC also sets uniform rules of the game for market participants, but state intervention continues and the institutional setting for free markets and competition is reportedly inadequate.
Cameroon is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA, in French), which has the purpose of bringing business laws in member countries in line with one another. Business laws are relatively clear, but challenges lie in their implementation. Cameroonian law provides foreign and domestic investors with property rights protections that comply with international standards and do not discriminate between foreign and domestic companies. On the negative side, unreliability, non-transparency and inefficiency in the judiciary weaken the rule of law. The US Department of State 2013 reports that in practice, courts and administrative agencies grant preferential treatment to domestic companies and have been accused of corrupt practices. Local companies routinely exert pressure on the courts, which may be swayed by large bribes or by the status of politically influential persons. A company may choose from several arbitration procedures: adjudication by local courts, arbitration by the international courts or international arbitration centres, according to Cameroonian law and the arbitration regimes of which Cameroon is a member. These arbitration regimes include the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and the New York Convention 1958. Cameroon accepts binding international arbitration between foreign investors and the government. Cameroon's Council of Business Managers and Professional Associations (GICAM) created its own arbitration centre to handle business disputes (see Private Anti-Corruption Initiatives). Access the Lexadin World Law Guide for a collection of legislation in Cameroon.