Cameroon gets $474 mln debt relief from France

YAOUNDE, July 1 (Reuters) - France signed a debt relief package worth 214 billion CFA francs ($474 million) with Cameroon on Friday.

The debt forgiveness deal for the period 2011-2016 includes 128 billion CFA francs to boost agriculture and rural development while the rest will be used to improve the oil-producing nation’s urban infrastructure.

Cameroon’s $22 billion-a-year economy is the biggest in the region but economic growth has been hit by poor infrastructure. Only about 20 percent of roads are asphalted, making it difficult for farm produce to reach its markets.

French cooperation minister Henri De Raincourt said at the signing ceremony that the second phase of the debt relief package would focus on agriculture and rural development to ensure food security and curb the exodus from rural areas.

“By supporting agriculture, France’s intention is to maintain low prices of basic food crops, stimulate growth of export crops and ensure food security so that Cameroon will not need to import,” the minister said.

Cameroon is one of the biggest recipients of French aid in sub-Saharan Africa. The country received 352.7 billion CFA between 2006 and 2010. (Reporting by Tansa Musa; writing by Bate Felix; editing by Robert Woodward)