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Cameroon

Capital city: Yaoundé

Population: 26.88 million (2021)

Land area: 475,442 km²

Official languages: French, English

Legal system: French civil law system including national law and customary law

Time zone: GMT+1

Currency: XAF (Central African CFA Franc)

GDP: 44.89 billion USD (2021)

Main industries: Petroleum production and refining, aluminium production, food processing, light consumer goods, textiles, lumber, ship repair

Principal exports: Petroleum, cocoa, coffee, and cotton

Cameroon is situated in Central Africa, bordering the Bight of Biafra, between Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria. Its ethnically diverse population is among the most urban in western Africa. The largest city is Douala, which is the country’s main port and economic capital with its commercial and industrial activities. Yaoundé is the second largest city and the political capital of Cameroon. The country’s name is derived from Rio dos Camarões (“River of Prawns”)—the name given to the Wouri River estuary by Portuguese explorers of the 15th and 16th centuries. Camarões was also used to designate the river’s neighbouring mountains. Until the late 19th century, English usage confined the term “the Cameroons” to the mountains, while the estuary was called the Cameroons River or, locally, the Bay. In 1884 the Germans extended the word “Kamerun” to their entire protectorate, which largely corresponded to the present state.

Demographics

The country has more than 240 different ethnic groups which are found in three main linguistic groups: the Bantu-speaking peoples of the south, the Sudanic-speaking peoples of the north, and those who speak the Semi-Bantu languages, situated mainly in the west. French and English are the official languages.

History

In 1955, the outlawed Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC), based largely among the Bamileke and Bassa ethnic groups, began an armed struggle for independence in French Cameroon. This rebellion continued, with diminishing intensity, even after independence. Estimates of death from this conflict vary from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.

French Cameroon achieved independence in 1960 as the Republic of Cameroon. The following year the largely Muslim northern two-thirds of British Cameroon voted to join Nigeria; the largely Christian southern third voted to join with the Republic of Cameroon to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. The formerly French and British regions each maintained substantial autonomy.

Key dates

1520 – Portuguese set up sugar plantations and begin slave trade, taken over by the Dutch in the 1600s.

1884 – Cameroon becomes the German colony of Kamerun. It expands in 1911 when France cedes territory to Germany.

1916 – British and French troops force Germans to leave Cameroon, which is partitioned between France and Britain at the end of the First World War.

1958 – French Cameroon granted self-government with Ahmadou Ahidjo as prime minister. The country becomes independent two years later, and Mr Ahidjo becomes president.

1961 – Britain’s Cameroons colonies divide between Cameroon and Nigeria after a referendum. A large-scale insurrection mars the country’s first years of independence until it is put down in 1963 with the help of French forces.

1982 – Prime Minister Paul Biya succeeds Ahidjo, who flees the country the following year after President Biya accuses him of masterminding a coup.

1998 – Cameroon classed as the most corrupt country in the world by business monitor Transparency International.

2014 – Cameroon faces increased attacks from the jihadist group Boko Haram.

2016 – Activists in Anglophone areas step up a campaign for greater autonomy, prompting a fierce response from the government.

Government and Legal System

The politics of Cameroon takes place in a framework of a unitary presidential republic, whereby the President of Cameroon is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly of Cameroon.

The legal system and the sources of law in the country has been significantly shaped by the dual English-French colonial legal heritage that has given rise to its dual legal system in the country. Cameroon has a bijural system with the English Common Law operating in the two Anglophone regions of Northwest and South West and the French Civil Law operating in the eight francophone regions. The main sources of Cameroonian law are the Constitution, legislation, judicial precedents, and customary law.

Economy

In the two decades following independence, Cameroon was prosperous. The government initially concentrated on expansion of educational facilities, diversification of farm production, selective industrialization, rural development, and the introduction of rural cooperatives. In subsequent years, however, less central planning and more reliance on private enterprise and free trade became the dominant trends.

Cameroon is the largest economy in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC). In April 2017, the Country Economic Memorandum issued by the World Bank notes that if Cameroon is to become an upper-middle-income country by 2035, it will have to increase productivity and unleash the potential of its private sector. Cameroon’s growth target—a real GDP growth rate of approximately 8% (5.7% per capita) between 2015 and 2035—will be jeopardized by the COVID-19 crisis and fell to 0.73% which although not optimal whatsoever, is still a better outcome than the World Bank estimate of -0.2%.

Trade

Cameroon’s GDP in 2019 stood at US$39 billion, with exports amounting to US$5.21 billion and imports US$6.1 billion. The top exports for the year were crude petroleum (36.3%), cocoa beans (12.8%), sawn wood (9.9%), gold (8.7%), and petroleum gas (7.8%). Main export destinations were China (17.4%), Netherlands (13.5%), Italy (9.1%), UAE (7.6%) and India (7.3%). Top imports comprised of crude petroleum (5.7%), scrap vessels (5.47%), rice (5.3%), packaged medicaments (2.8%), and refined petroleum (2.5%). Main import suppliers were China (27.6%), Nigeria (14.6%), France (9.4%), Belgium (5.5%), and Thailand (3.9%).

Investment Opportunities

According to the African Development Bank, if the extinction of the COVID-19 pandemic remains on the predicted trajectory, Cameroon can bounce back to pre-pandemic GDP growth of 4% by end of 2021/early 2022. Cameroon has maintained long lasting political stability and democratic values under the current regime which minimizes security risks for investors. With a growing middle class, abundance of cheap but highly skilled labour and its “Cameroon Vision 2035” agenda, the state is looking to upgrade into a middle/upper middle economy. Cameroon is in an enviable geographical position whereby it connects Central and Western Africa and has direct access to the South Atlantic Ocean via its Port of Douala which, despite the logistical disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, lent its state a profit of 3.6 billion XAF profit. Cameroon is affluent in natural resources across a diverse selection of sectors; for mining products such as petroleum, gas, bauxite, iron, nickel, wood, and agricultural products including cocoa, coffee, cotton, banana, palm oil and pineapple. The government of Cameroon encourages investment in the production and packaging of products and is giving special focus to upgrading the state’s infrastructure for which it has acquired IMF lending and approval for current projects therefore investors can reap the benefits without worry of debt risk.

Sources

https://www.britannica.com/place/Cameroon/Cameroon-under-Biya

https://thecommonwealth.org/our-member-countries/cameroon

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13148483

https://www.thoughtco.com/brief-history-of-cameroon-43616

https://www.ifla.org/files/assets/alp/BSLA/bsla-helsinki-presentations/138-Garga-Shafack-Cameroon-BSLA.pdf

https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/cameroon/overview

https://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/cameroon.htm

https://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Cameroon.html

https://oec.world/en/profile/country/cmr

https://oec.world/en/profile/country/cmr