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Circular Letter of the Minister of Employment and Vocational Training of 22/06/2022, Concerning the Modalities for Obtaining Work Permits

The Cameroonian Minister of Employment and Vocational Training, Mr. Issa Tchiroma Bakari has issued a circular letter dated 27 June 2022, reminding employers in the public, parastatals, and private sectors of the obligation to abide by the provisions governing the issuance of work permits to foreign employees. As a reminder, in the Cameroonian context, a work permit is the endorsement (visa) of an expatriate’s employment contract. 

In substance, the Minister summons all employers who apply for work permits, to attach to their application file the name of a Cameroonian staff who will assist (for training purposes)[1] the expatriate in his role to guarantee a transfer of skills.

The content of the Minister’s letter rejuvenates the talk on the need for nationals to occupy strategic positions in the companies in the country thereby posing the concern for a transfer of knowledge/skills. The governing laws on labor (I) stipulates the plan for the Cameroonisation of positions as a requirement for obtaining a work permit with the intention to secure such jobs for skilled nationals in the country (II).

  1. THE TEXTUAL FRAMEWORK OF THE PLAN FOR THE CAMEROONIZATION OF POSITIONS

“The right to work is recognized as a fundamental right of every citizen. The State shall do everything possible to help him/her to find a job and to keep it once he/she has obtained it”[2]. It is in these terms that the Cameroonian legislator, through the Labour Code, enshrines and recognizes the right of every Cameroonian to work. It is undoubtedly to comply with this legislation that the Minister of Employment and Vocational Training in his circular letter of 27 June 2022 reminds the heads of private and public enterprises, of the need for the prerequisite to be fulfilled before the issuance of a work permit to a foreigner, the recruitment of a Cameroonian to assist him, by way of ensuring the continuity of the position by a national[3].

Indeed, Cameroonian law, far from discriminating, is concerned with expanding employment opportunities for nationals and securing their jobs, thus the term Cameroonisation of jobs. This is a mechanism by which the Cameroonian government grants a preponderance to nationals in the occupation of jobs. Therefore, no foreigner should be recruited for a job in Cameroon without the employer having first completed certain formalities imposed by the law. First, the recruiter is obliged to ensure that the skills required for the job do not exist locally, and therefore require the recruitment of a foreigner. Notwithstanding the provisions of the Labour Code relating to the contract of foreign workers, the jobs of laborers, workers and supervisors can only be entrusted to a foreigner on presentation of a document issued by the manpower service certifying the lack of workers in the specialty for which the recruitment is being made[4]: this is known as the certificate of lack of manpower. In its substance, the law of 15 July 1993 gives pre-eminence to workers of Cameroonian nationality and sets the exception that can allow the recruitment of a foreigner.

In the case of a lack of national to occupy a position in the company leading to the recruitment of a foreigner, the Cameroonian legislator has established the conditions and modalities of this recruitment, which is subject to obtaining a work permit, before the execution of the work contract. Filling for a work permit requires a prerequisite which includes presenting cameroonisation plan[5] to be obtained before filing for a work permit.

The Cameroonisation plan is the focus of the Minister’s circular letter as indicated in his opening statement “I have noticed the absence of the plan for the cameroonization of position in the file presented to me for work permit approvals …” The plan for the Cameroonization[6] position is a document that provides details on the foreigner who has been recruited for the job position and the contact details of the person the company has identified to work closely with the expatriate to ensure a transfer of knowledge to the national. The intention is that once the work permit which is valid for two years expires the company has a national to replace the expatriate thereby there would be no need to hire another foreigner or request for the renewal of the work permit since there would be an available replacement.

  1. BEYOND THE LEGAL ASPECTS, A REAFFIRMATION OF THE PROTECTION OF JOBS AND WORKERS

The economic crisis being the cause of the downturn of the economy since the mid-80s has affected the supply of jobs and eventual protection of workers. Similarly, the employment policy implemented by the public authorities is far from generating sufficient dependent and independent jobs. On the other hand, employment in general, and youth employment, are one of the most crucial problems affecting the country despite the efforts and strategies implemented by various government bodies to curb unemployment. Considering this situation, this circular letter is not only about aligning with the legal prescriptions in terms of labour law, but also about providing certain protection of jobs on the national territory, by privileging nationals who are increasingly acquiring advanced knowledge and skills in various fields, on the national and international levels.

It should be noted that this letter from the Minister addresses companies in all sectors of activities particularly those identified as priority sectors, carriers of growth and employment in the National Development Strategy, hence the need to provide them with special protection to reserve them as a priority for nationals, and at the same time resolve the issue of unemployment.

In addition, the government also offers an alternative to the companies in search of labour to prioritize training internal resources by sponsoring nationals to vocational training centre centres before any recourse to foreign labour.

It should be noted, however, that this letter is not intended to repatriate foreign workers from Cameroon, but to better reframe their activities, while reinviting companies and the Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training to agree on the essential positions that must be occupied by foreigners to protect their interests. There will be sanctions against companies that do not comply, including the eventual expulsion of the foreign worker.

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Leon Van Merwe –  [email protected]

Keseena Chengadu- [email protected]