Factors contributing to the failure of development projects in Cameroon

Introduction

The high rate of project failures in Cameroon is a course for concern (1) ; (2), given the negative impacts on the livelihood of the population. The common usage of projects in all fields explains the importance of project development and implementation in the development process. This has made project management a major subject and competence in all developmental sectors. Considering the direct relationship between reaching projects’ objectives and the long-term development of a country or an organization, aspects regarding projects’ success and the success factors of projects are topics of great interest in our world faced with challenging economic and social conditions. Reaching projects’ objectives in compliance with constraints of cost, time and performance is usually challenging, relying on the adequate consideration of several factors of different level of complexity and integration (3). That’s what prompted the researcher to realize this research to assess the factors contributing to the failure of construction projects in Cameroon and more specifically to determine what is considered as a project failure, to investigate the internal factors leading to project failure, to identify the external factors contributing to project failure and to propose tangible recommendations.

When is a project considered as a failure?

Implementing successful projects generates positive effects on the welfare of people, influencing not just short and medium, but also long-term development. In their efforts to strengthen the debates on project failure, (4) opine that a failed project is one that does not meet stakeholders’ expectations. These expectations are related to time, quality, cost, and benefits to all stakeholders. (5) admits that these factors are perceived differently by project stakeholders due to different professional and educational backgrounds, which influence their assessment of project failure.

It was earlier argued that the factors that cause project to be perceived as a failure may be quite different from those that contribute to R&D project failure (6) ; (7). This was supported by (8) who stressed that while there are similarities R&D projects, differences predominate.

From the interviews held with some 13 key informant persons from state and non state partners, it appears that: “A project is considered a failure if it does not meet its goals within the previously defined time frame, resources, and requirements”.

Internal Factors contributing to projects failure in Cameroon

The problem of delays in the execution of public projects is a phenomenon which has far-reaching implications on both beneficiaries and the development of affected areas and it in this footing that (9) complains of the failure of development projects in Cameroon. According to the author, over 2018-2021, contractors abandoned 38 projects programmed in the public investment budget in Adamawa. This was revealed by Amadou Bello, the Regional Delegate to the Minister of Economy in Adamawa, during a field visit carried out by Yaouba Abdoulaye, Minister Delegate to the Minister of Finance. According to regional tri-weekly newspaper; l’œil du Sahel, which reports the figures, 81.5% of the projects (worth XAF1.2 billion overall) were abandoned because the contractors went bankrupt. In 5.2% of the cases, the projects were abandoned because the public treasury failed to pay the invoices issued by contractors, we also learned. The authorities hammered that by abandoning those projects, contractors indirectly hinder infrastructural development in Adamawa, which is officially one of the four poorest regions in the country; the three other is being the North, the Far-North, and the East. The ANTIC / NAICT (National Agency for Information and Communication Technology) in 2017 reported that, government poised to reverse high failure rate of ICT projects in Cameroon. The ICT sector in Cameroon has been identified by government as one of the key pillars in propelling the nation to an emerging economy by the 2035 threshold. But the high failure rate in the execution of ICT projects initiated by various public institutions in the country signals an inconsistency in the impetus needed  from this sector to streamline public service delivery, trigger growth, wealth and job creation. According to a survey conducted by ANTIC in 2016 to evaluate the execution rate of ICT related projects in government ministries, over 75 percent of ICT projects initiated during the last five years failed and these statistics are obviously alarming. Olusola (10) questioned himself why International Development projects fail in Africa thus supporting (11) who concluded that it is no longer amazing to Cameroonians seeing incomplete projects or abandoned ones in their country. (12) In the same perspective concluded that governments and organizations, especially governments in developing countries, have witnessed project failures in their project implementation, although there might be some differences in the causes, effects and consequences of such failures among governments. According to Business in Cameroon in 2023, the Public Investment Budget (BIP) in Cameroon was executed at 74.99% in 2021, according to the National Committee for Monitoring the Physical and Financial Execution of Public Investment. Compared to 2020, when the rate was 92.36%, this makes a decline of 17.4%. This means that even during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, which would have slowed the progress of many projects across the country, more projects were implemented compared to 2021. The same institution reported that the execution rate of public investments projects in Cameroon rose 5.2% year-on-year to 56.10% at the end of September 2022 from 50.90%. But with a failure rate of average 46.5%, the situation is really of high concern. High rate of project failure in developing countries and especially in Cameroon is therefore established with very unpleasant statistics factoring the context.

From interviews conducted with 11 state and non state actors, it appears that, corruption, poor governance, embezzlement of projects funds and the lack of competence of the projects managers are the most prominent internal factors contributing to the failure of development projects in Cameroon.

External Factors leading to the failure of projects in Cameroon

Jeffrey & Samuel (13) argued that, unforeseen economic downturns or changes in governmental regulations can precipitate the failure of a prospectively successful project. Still in the frame of external factors, client satisfaction was perceived another major indicator of project performance and so far an external measure of effectiveness as well. Socio-cultural and political interference, poor leadership and corruption were some of the leading external factors to project failure pointed out in Nigeria (14) which are almost the same in Cameroon where, the political environment happens to be the most important factor, followed by the technological environment and the economic environment. The physical environment as indicated by the statistical trend is quite favorable but is hindered by poor town planning and encroachment in the buffer zone as explained by community leaders and members of management committee during interviews the researched conducted with them.

Policy Recommendations

The study recommends to policy makers, to the media and to the public to:

  • Ensure development projects success in Cameroon through full involvement and participation during all the phases of the process;
  • Improve on procurement procedure by reducing bureaucracy delay at all levels, and unfair practices like corruption and favouritism;
  • Improve on communication to make sure that all the stakeholders are kept abreast of the progress of the project and the challenges faced such that concerted solutions can be provided;
  • Practice good leadership that makes sure the objectives are met while mitigating corruption and embezzlement of funds.
  • Also, community members should sacrifice personal interest to general interest by ensuring the sustainability of the project like the requested token contribution;
  • To formalize the project management committee, capacitate and empower them to monitor and contribute in ensuring the sustainability of the project;
  • To ensure transparency and fair practices by the project management committee;
  • To develop a comprehensive schedule for the implementation of the project with the participation and monitoring of all the stakeholders;
  • To maintain an updated project trouble-shooting mechanism with the involvement of all the stakeholders;
  • To employ competent staff, to use adequate and standard materials, to have an independent auditing and evaluation of the project with the participation of the community or beneficiary people;
  • To use modern digital work platform or project management software because while minimizing failure helps to concentrate on the successful execution of the projects;
  • To improve on procurement procedure by reducing bureaucracy delay at all levels and unfair practices like corruption and favouritism.

 

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