July 7, 2018 / 10:46 AM / 4 months ago

IMF says Cameroon's economic growth to rise to 4 percent in 2018

DAKAR, July 7 (Reuters) - Cameroon's economy is expected to grow 4 percent this year, up from 3.2 percent in 2017 due to the start of natural gas production and construction work for an upcoming soccer tournament, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said.

Growth was slower in 2017 because of a sharp decline in oil output but new infrastructure projects and increased private investment should bring it to at least 5 percent in the medium term, the IMF said in a statement late on Friday.

Cameroon, one of central Africa's largest economies, produces about 180,000 barrels per day of oil and is Africa's fourth-biggest cocoa producer.

The IMF statement followed a decision by its executive board to approve the disbursement of $77.8 million as part of a three-year, $680.7-million financial aid package.

The IMF warned, however, that the economy faces considerable risks, including deteriorating security in its English-speaking regions -- cocoa and oil-producing areas where separatists are waging a deadly insurgency, and high debts.

"With significant spending pressures associated with the 2018 elections, a worsening security situation and the 2019 African Soccer Cup, any additional oil revenue should be saved," said Mitsuhiro Furusawa, the Fund's deputy managing director, referring to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations due to be held next June.

President Paul Biya is due to stand for re-election in the vote later this year. The 85-year-old has governed since 1982 with little tolerance for dissent. (Reporting By Aaron Ross Writing by Helen Popper )

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