REPUBLIC OF CAMEROON
the Republic of Cameroon (French: République du Cameroun), is a country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Nigeria to the west; Chad to the northeast; the Central African Republic to the east; and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo to the south. Cameroon’s coastline lies on the Bight of Biafra, part of the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean.
French and English are the official languages of Cameroon. The country is often referred to as “Africa in miniature” for its geological and cultural diversity. Natural features include beaches, deserts, mountains, rainforests, and savannas. The highest point at almost 4,100 metres (13,500 ft) is Mount Cameroon in the Southwest Region of the country, and the largest cities in population-terms are Douala on the Wouri river, its economical capital and main seaport, Yaoundé, its political capital, and Garoua. After independence, the newly united nation joined the Commonwealth of Nations, although the vast majority of its territories had previously been a German colony and, after World War I, a French mandate. The country is well known for its native styles of music, particularly makossa and bikutsi, and for its successful national football team.
After World War I, the territory was divided between France and the United Kingdom as League of Nations mandates. The Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC) political party advocated independence, but was outlawed by France in the 1950s, leading to the Cameroonian Independence War. It waged war on French and UPC militant forces until 1971. In 1960, the French-administered part of Cameroon became independent as the Republic of Cameroun under President Ahmadou Ahidjo. The southern part of British Cameroons federated with it in 1961 to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. The federation was abandoned in 1972. The country was renamed the United Republic of Cameroon in 1972 and the Republic of Cameroon in 1984.
Cameroon enjoys relatively high political and social stability. This has permitted the development of agriculture, roads, railways, and large petroleum and timber industries. Nevertheless, large numbers of Cameroonians live in poverty as subsistence farmers. Power lies firmly in the hands of the authoritarian president since 1982, Paul Biya, and his Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement party. The English-speaking territories of Cameroon have grown increasingly alienated from the government. Politicians and civil society in English-speaking regions have called for greater decentralization and even complete separation or independence (for example: the Southern Cameroons National Council) from the former French-governed territories.
Economy and infrastructure
Cameroon’s per-capita GDP (Purchasing power parity) was estimated as US$2,300 in 2008, one of the ten highest in sub-Saharan Africa Major export markets include France, Italy, South Korea, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Cameroon is aiming to become an emerging country by 2035.
Cameroon has had a decade of strong economic performance, with GDP growing at an average of 4% per year. During the 2004–2008 period, public debt was reduced from over 60% of GDP to 10% and official reserves quadrupled to over USD 3 billion. Cameroon is part of the Bank of Central African States (of which it is the dominant economy), the Customs and Economic Union of Central Africa (UDEAC) and the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA). Its currency is the CFA franc.
Unemployment was estimated at 4.4% in 2014, and about a third of the population was living below the international poverty threshold of US$1.25 a day in 2009. Since the late 1980s, Cameroon has been following programmes advocated by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reduce poverty, privatise industries, and increase economic growth. The government has taken measures to encourage tourism in the country.
Cameroon’s natural resources are very well suited to agriculture and arboriculture. An estimated 70% of the population farms, and agriculture comprised an estimated 19.8% of GDP in 2009. Most agriculture is done at the subsistence scale by local farmers using simple tools. They sell their surplus produce, and some maintain separate fields for commercial use. Urban centres are particularly reliant on peasant agriculture for their foodstuffs. Soils and climate on the coast encourage extensive commercial cultivation of bananas, cocoa, oil palms, rubber, and tea. Inland on the South Cameroon Plateau, cash crops include coffee, sugar, and tobacco. Coffee is a major cash crop in the western highlands, and in the north, natural conditions favour crops such as cotton, groundnuts, and rice. Reliance on agricultural exports makes Cameroon vulnerable to shifts in their prices.
Livestock are raised throughout the country. Fishing employs 5,000 people and provides over 100,000 tons of seafood each year. Bushmeat, long a staple food for rural Cameroonians, is today a delicacy in the country’s urban centres. The commercial bushmeat trade has now surpassed deforestation as the main threat to wildlife in Cameroon.
The southern rainforest has vast timber reserves, estimated to cover 37% of Cameroon’s total land area. However, large areas of the forest are difficult to reach. Logging, largely handled by foreign-owned firms, provides the government US$60 million a year in taxes (as of 1998), and laws mandate the safe and sustainable exploitation of timber. Nevertheless, in practice, the industry is one of the least regulated in Cameroon.
Factory-based industry accounted for an estimated 29.7% of GDP in 2009. More than 75% of Cameroon’s industrial strength is located in Douala and Bonabéri. Cameroon possesses substantial mineral resources, but these are not extensively mined. Petroleum exploitation has fallen since 1986, but this is still a substantial sector such that dips in prices have a strong effect on the economy. Rapids and waterfalls obstruct the southern rivers, but these sites offer opportunities for hydroelectric development and supply most of Cameroon’s energy. The Sanaga River powers the largest hydroelectric station, located at Edéa. The rest of Cameroon’s energy comes from oil-powered thermal engines. Much of the country remains without reliable power supplies.
Transport in Cameroon is often difficult. Except for the several relatively good toll roads which connect major cities (all of them one-lane) roads are poorly maintained and subject to inclement weather, since only 10% of the roadways are tarred. Roadblocks often serve little other purpose than to allow police and gendarmes to collect bribes from travellers. Road banditry has long hampered transport along the eastern and western borders, and since 2005, the problem has intensified in the east as the Central African Republic has further destabilised.
Intercity bus services run by multiple private companies connect all major cities. They are the most popular means of transportation followed by the rail service Camrail. Rail service runs from Kumba in the west to Bélabo in the east and north to Ngaoundéré. International airports are located in Douala and Yaoundé, with a third under construction in Maroua. Douala is the country’s principal seaport. In the north, the Bénoué River is seasonally navigable from Garoua across into Nigeria.
Although press freedoms have improved since the first decade of the 21st century, the press is corrupt and beholden to special interests and political groups. Newspapers routinely self-censor to avoid government reprisals. The major radio and television stations are state-run and other communications, such as land-based telephones and telegraphs, are largely under government control. However, cell phone networks and Internet providers have increased dramatically since the first decade of the 21st century and are largely unregulated