Accepted paper:

The Bureaucratic Work of Economic Governance: Freight Bureaus in the Central African Transport Corridor


Jose-Maria Munoz (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

Cameroon's freight bureau plays a key role in governing freight transport along the Douala-N'Djamena and Douala-Bangui corridors. This paper explores the bureau's interactions with its clients and the ways in which formalities (and their circumvention) shape those interactions

Paper long abstract:

Created in 1993 in a period of political uncertainty and economic downturn, Cameroon's Bureau de Gestion du Fret Terrestre (Road Freight Management Bureau, BGFT) is entrusted with monitoring the observance of freight sharing agreements between Cameroon and its landlocked neighbours Chad and Central African Republic. Today, the BGFT presides over a sector that handled the more than 11 million tonnes that went through the port of Douala in 2015. The bureau advertises and approves the allocation of all available international freight, keeps comprehensive statistics on transport flows, fixes minimum and indicative transport rates, and issues documents such as the international waybill and the safe-conduct that are required for trucks and goods to circulate. It thus plays a key role in governing freight transport alongside what is commonly known as the Central African transport corridor. Building on long-term ethnographic research, this paper focuses on the interactions that take place at different nodes of the BGFT's dense network of offices and checkpoints between its agents and the different actors who make a living from freight transport. It explores the interplay between bureaucratic formalities and their circumvention. It argues that such tactical engagements with rules have to be framed within the broader assemblages on which international trade and transport are premised. This paper aims to further our understanding of the complexities and ambiguities that characterise emerging modes of economic governance

panel P202
Taking rules seriously: Between formality and informality in African bureaucracies