To register an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) in Cameroon, the Law No. 99/014 of 22nd December 1999 must be complied with. This law regulates the formalities/steps to register an NGO in Cameroon. A Non-Governmental Organization is a declared Association or foreign association. Any person desirous to register an NGO in Cameroon must understand that a Non-Governmental Organization is authorized to participate in the execution of missions of general interest. In Cameroon Non-Governmental Organizations are also referred to as Civil Society Organizations(CSO). NGO registration in Cameroon is done in accordance with the legal framework established by Law No 99/014 of 22nd December 1999 and Law No 90/053 of 19th December 1990 on the freedom of association. These laws provide the legal guidance for registering a non-governmental organization in Cameroon. To register an NGO in Cameroon, the interested applicant must know the difference between an NGO and an Association. A major difference between a non-governmental organization and an association is its legal framework. An association is more liberal whilst an NGO is subject to certain formalities. A non-governmental organization can benefit from international support whilst a association is limited to the confines of the national territory. NGOs in Cameroon are managed by a Board of Trustees. This Board of Trustees are responsible for the direction, supervision and success of the activities of the Non-Governmental Organization. The rules governing non-governmental organizations in Cameroon permit the organization to accept gifts, legacies, and subventions. To register an NGO in Cameroon, the applicant must know that there is a difference in procedure when it concerns an International NGO wishing to operate in Cameroon and a Local NGO of Cameroon origin. However, for purposes of clarity, some questions are frequently asked by interested applicants to wit;
- Who is eligible to setup an NGO in Cameroon?
Persons of 18 years of age and above, who have a good criminal record, not bankrupt nor insane.
- What is the minimum membership for an NGO in Cameroon?
An NGO can have a minimum of 4 members in Cameroon.
- What are the offices to be set up in order to register an NGO in Cameroon?
The following offices have to be established to register an NGO in Cameroon;
- The office of the president
- The office of the Secretary General
- The office of the financial secretary/Treasurer
- The office of the Legal adviser
- The programs officer
- The technical adviser etc.
- How are members of the executive bureau/board selected?
Members of the executive bureau/board are selected through elections by the general assembly. The commitment of members are a pivotal factor for election into the executive bureau/board.
- How long is the term of office of members in the executive bureau/board?
It is advisable for members of the executive bureau/board to be elected for a three year term renewable.
- How is the constitution of an NGO to be registered in Cameroon authenticated?
The constitution of an NGO to be registered in Cameroon is authenticated by the signature of the executive members of the NGO alongside their specific information required by law.
- What is the proof that an NGO application has been accepted for registration in Cameroon?
An acknowledgment of receipt will be issued by the bureau of the Sub-Prefect and Prefect attached to the constitution and accompanied by the following
- A reference number affiliated to the Service of Social and Cultural Affairs,
- The objectives of the Association,
- The tabular format of the persons running the Association, and
- The fact that the NGO shall operate in conformity with Article 7 of Law No. 90/053 of 19/12/90 relating to the functioning of associations in Cameroon.
- The official stamp of the Prefect will be affixed on all the pages of the constitution. This is only after possible after fulfilment of all the conditions required for the constitution to be properly drafted.
- What is an NGO status Agreement in Cameroon?
This is an agreement which is granted by the Government of Cameroon through the Ministry of Territorial Administration to a duly registered Association or Civil Society Organization in Cameroon which has completed the successful three year activity period in Cameroon from the date it was registered.
- When is an agreement obtained to run an NGO in Cameroon?
According to article 4 of law No 99/014 of December 1999 regulating NGOs in Cameroon, all associations regularly declared or all international associations duly authorized to operate in Cameroon which justify a 3 years contribution in the priority domain of law, economy, social, cultural, humanitarian, health, sports, environmental protection in Cameroon can be granted the agreement to obtain the status of an NGO in Cameroon.
- What is the duration of an NGO, Association or Civil Society Organization in Cameroon?
An NGO, Association or Civil Society Organization has a lifespan of 99 years to exist in Cameroon.
- Are there any obligations after the agreement to obtain an NGO status in Cameroon is obtained?
Yes, the founders or mandates of the NGO has to deposit at the office of the Governor of the region in which the NGO head quarters is situate or as the case may be the place of its principal establishment in accordance with article 6 of law No 99/014 of December 1999 regulating NGOs in Cameroon.
- Is the status of an NGO automatic upon submission of the agreement at the service of the Governor of the region?
No. when the governor receives the agreement from the founder, he has a deadline of 15 days from the date of deposit of the agreement file at his service to transmit the file to the commission in charge of applications for an NGO status agreement.
- Can a provisional agreement of 3 years be accorded the status of an NGO?
Yes, in exceptional circumstances per article 5 of law No 99/014 of December 1999. The founder or representative who made the application is obliged to produce to this effect; a stamped application which contains the name of the organisation, objects, head office address, names, profession and domicile of the founder or representative, the programe of the activities and copies of the constitution of the organisation.
- When is the NGO status agreement granted?
The agreement to an NGO status is granted after a positive feedback from the commission and the decree of the Minister of Territorial Administration.
- What is the duration of the NGO status agreement?
An NGO status agreement per article 10 of Law No. 99/014 of December 1999 has a 5 years validity period.
- What is the legal regime of an NGO status agreement?
According to article 11 of law No. 99/014 of December 1999, such an agreement is personal, non-transferable and unassignable.
- Can an NGO in Cameroon fuse or split?
According to article 19 of law No. 99/014 of December 1999, NGOs can fuse or split in view to effectively and efficiently accomplish their missions.
- Can NGOs in Cameroon be affiliated?
NGOs in Cameroon can be affiliated to one another be they local NGOs or International NGOs without a change in their constitution in so far as they have the same objectives.
- What is the tax regime applicable to NGOs in Cameroon?
Per article 18 of Law No 99/014 of December 1999, NGOs are to benefit from tax exoneration in conformity with the General Tax Code (Directorate General of Taxes, Ministry of Economy and Finance). Moreover, the customs and tax regime applicable to NGOs is determined as per needs by the finance law of Cameroon.
- Can an application to register an NGO or Association in Cameroon be rejected?
Yes. If the required elements are not contained in the constitution of the NGO or Association. It is advised that a competent Attorney prepare the constitution in strict due diligence. The absence of one element is sufficient for a rejection. Once an application to register an NGO or Association is rejected, the file is given back to the applicant and the constitution must be re-done.
- What Justifies a successful three year operation for an Association to gain the status of an NGO in Cameroon?
The Association must have successfully organized seminars and workshops in the priority areas as stipulated by the law, make donations, show proof of positive impacts in the Cameroon society through their activities, show proof of monthly and yearly reports, and yearly audits of their financial activities.
- Can membership of an NGO registered in Cameroon be lost?
Yes. Membership can be lost under the following circumstances;
- Willful resignation
- Mental incapacity of the member
- When the member is involved in criminal activity and has been convicted of the crime
- A member who has ceased to observe the objectives and mission of the NGO etc.
STEPS TO REGISTER AN NGO/ASSOCIATION IN CAMEROON
To register an NGO in Cameroon, the interested person must ensure that the activities of the organization fall within the priority domains as established through the legal text. These domains include; legal, economic, social, health, education, culture, humanitarian etc. The other modalities to be fulfilled before the registration process is engaged are as follows;
- Select the name and abbreviation of the proposed NGO: The name should always have the word Association or Foundation to depict the purpose of the Non-Governmental Organization.
- Set up the functionality plan/goals of the NGO: The goals should be directed towards charitable activities activities in the priority domain of law, economy, social, cultural, humanitarian, health, sports, environmental protection in Cameroon in accordance with article 4 of law No 99/014 of December 1999
- Appoint the members and Trustees of the NGO: Trustees should be persons of 18 years and above with a clean criminal record in Cameroon.
- Appoint the Exco bureau of the NGO: This is the Body which operates as the governing council of the NGO.
- Consult a certified Attorney.
- Draft the Constitution of the NGO: The constitution to be drafted by a competent attorney should contain the preamble of the NGO, the name-logo-status, the organization, aim, objectives, the income and property clause, membership and general meeting clause, management clause, powers of the organization, meetings and procedures of the committee, annual general meetings, management of finance, duration of the NGO etc.
- Draft the minutes of meeting appointing the Exco bureau, board of trustees and adopting the functionality plan/goals of the NGO: The minutes should comprise of the following resolutions;
- The Name, abbreviation and objectives
- constitutive general assembly
- format of elected executive etc.
- Compilation of all documents for filing and registration: The Attorney will compile all the documents needed for the grant of an authorization to operate an NGO in Cameroon. These documents entail the following, an authenticated Constitution, the Constitutive general assembly, the minutes of meeting, the passport size photo of all the trustees, the Identification Card of all the trustees and members of the Exco bureau, the impression of the seal of the Organization, Application letter duly stamped etc.
- submission of the complete file of the NGO at the competent Administrative Offices.
- Apply for a Bank account to be opened in the name of the NGO with the authorized signatories as appointed in the constitution.
REGISTRATION PROCESS TO ACQUIRE AN NGO STATUS AFTER THE THREE YEAR PERIOD OF AN ASSOCIATION
The process to register an NGO in Cameroon, entail the production of certain documents by your attorney to be submitted. These documents include but not limited to;
- An application
- A copy of the declaration receipt or the authorization
- An evaluation report of activities for the last three years and the program of activities
- The minutes of the extra-ordinary general assembly serving as a constituent assembly of the non-governmental organization.
- The name, goals and headquarter of the non-governmental organization as well as the names, profession and residence of those who are in charge of the administration or management etc.
The competent authority will receive and study the file and a response is delivered upon approval from the Ministry of Territorial Administration in accordance with the December 1999 Law.
MODALITIES TO REGISTER AN INTERNATIONAL NON GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATION IN CAMEROON
The procedure to register an international NGO is different from the steps to register an NGO in Cameroon. The steps to register an international NGO in Cameroon are as follows;
- The country Director will have to get accreditation from the mother NGO.
- The documents of the mother NGO and the Cameroon branch will be compiled and addressed to MINAT.
- MINAT shall seize MINREX to verify the authenticity and seriousness of the mother NGO.
- The country director will be investigated by the DGSN and a morality report drawn up.
- The authorization shall be issued by MINAT upon a positive outcome of the procedure.
The Minister in charge of territorial Administration can after receiving justifiable reasons from the commission, suspend by decree for a 3 year period all NGO activities which do not comply with its objectives.
NGOs can be dissolved in the following cases;
- By members in accordance with the constitution
- By court decision
- By decree of the Minister in charge of territorial administration in the event of public order or public security.