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Republic of Cameroon

République du Cameroun

CAPITAL: Yaoundé

FLAG: The flag is a tricolor of green, red, and yellow vertical stripes with one gold star imprinted in the center of the red stripe.

ANTHEM: The national anthem begins "O Cameroun, berceau de nos ancêtres" ("O Cameroon, cradle of our ancestors").

MONETARY UNIT: The Communauté Financière Africaine franc (CFA Fr), which was originally pegged to the French franc, has been pegged to the euro since January 1999 with a rate of 655.957 CFA francs to 1 euro. The CFA franc is issued in coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 CFA francs, and notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 CFA francs. CFA Fr1 = $0.00192 (or $1 = CFA Fr521.74) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Youth Day, 11 February; Labor Day, 1 May; National Day, 20 May; Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include Ascension, Good Friday, Easter Monday, End of Ramadan (Djoulde Soumae), and Festival of the Lamb ('Id al-Kabir or Djoulde Laihadji).

TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.


Situated in West Africa, Cameroon, shaped like an elongated triangle, contains an area of 475,440 sq km (183,568 sq mi), extending 1,206 km (749 mi) ns and 717 km (446 mi) ew. Comparatively, the area occupied by Cameroon is slightly larger than the state of California. It is bordered on the n and ne by Chad, on the e by the Central African Republic, on the e and s by the Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea, on the sw by the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean), and on the w and nw by Nigeria, with a total boundary length of 4,993 km (3,103 mi). The coastline accounts for 402 km (249 mi) of this length.

Cameroon's capital city, Yaoundé, is located in the south central part of the country.


There are four geographical regions. The western lowlands (rising from sea level to 600 m/2,000 ft) extend along the Gulf of Guinea coast and average about 100 km (60 mi) in width. The northwestern highlands consist of forested volcanic mountains reaching over 2,440 m (8,000 ft) in height. Mt. Cameroon (4,095 m/13,435 ft), which stands isolated on the coast to the south, is the nation's only active volcano and the highest peak in West Africa. The central plateau region extends eastward from the western lowlands and northwest highlands to the border with the Central African Republic and northward to the Bénoué (Benue) River. It includes the Adamawa Plateau, at elevations of 900 to 1,500 m (2,950 to 4,920 ft). This is a transitional area where forest gives way to savanna. The northern region is essentially a vast savanna plain that slopes down to the Chad Basin. Of the two main rivers, the Bénoué is navigable several months during the year, and the Sanaga is not navigable. Part of Lake Chad is in Cameroonian territory.


The southern and northern regions of the country are two distinct climatic areas. On the coast, the average annual rainfall ranges between 250 and 400 cm (100 and 160 in); in the inland south, between 150 and 250 cm (60 and 100 in). The western slopes of Mt. Cameroon receive 600 to 900 cm (240 to 350 in) a year. The mean temperature ranges from 22° to 29°c (72° to 84°f) along the coast. In the south there are two dry seasons, November to March and June to August. The northern part of the country has a more comfortable climate. Total rainfall drops from 150 cm (60 in) a year in the central plateau to 60 cm (24 in) northward near Lake Chad, and the mean temperature ranges from 23° to 26°c (73° to 79°f), although it can reach 50°c (122°f) in the far north. The dry season in the north is from October to March.


Cameroon possesses practically every variety of flora and fauna found in tropical Africa. Dense rain forest grows along the coast and in the south. This gives way northward and eastward to open woodland and savanna. Wooded steppe is found in the northern panhandle. Major game animals include buffalo, elephant, hippopotamus, antelope, Derby eland, and kudu. Twenty-two primate species are known in the coastal forests along the Gabon border. As of 2002, there were at least 409 species of mammals, 165 species of birds, and over 8,200 species of plants throughout the country.


Cameroon has 18 national parks and equivalent protected areas covering about 2 million hectares (6 million acres), about 4.5% of the country. Nevertheless, poaching is a major problem because of insufficient guards. Destruction of the remaining forests is heavy, even within reserved lands. Fires and commercial exploitation of the forests have resulted in the elimination of 200,000 hectares (494,200 acres) per year. Overgrazing is degrading the semiarid northern range lands. By the mid-1980s, Cameroon had lost 40% of its mangrove swamps. The Dja Faunal reserve is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Air pollution is a significant environmental problem in Cameroon. The main sources of pollution are industrial chemicals and vehicle emissions. Cameroon has 273 cu km of renewable water resources. About 84% of urban dwellers and 41% of the rural residents have access to safe drinking water.

The country also has a problem with volcanic activity, flooding, and insect infestation. In August 1986, poisonous gases emanating from Lake Nyos in northwestern Cameroon killed 1,746 villagers, by official count. The lake lies within the crater of a dormant volcano, and scientists speculated that the toxic gases were released by molten rock that had seeped into the lake.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 42 types of mammals, 18 species of birds, 1 type of reptile, 50 species of amphibians, 35 species of fish, 1 type of mollusk, 3 other species of invertebrates, and 334 species of plants. Threatened species include the cheetah, Allen's swamp monkey, the spotted eagle, and the Cameroon clawless otter.


The population of Cameroon in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 16,380,000, which placed it at number 58 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 44% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 99 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 2.3%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The government planned to address the high birth rate, which averages five per woman, with only about 7% of women using contraception. The projected population for the year 2025 was 22,440,000. The population density was 34 per sq km (89 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 48% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.74%. The capital city, Yaoundé, had a population of 1,616,000 in that year. Douala had a metropolitan population of 1,980,000. Other cities and their estimated populations include Garoua (425,000), Maroua (299,600), and Bafoussam (242,000).

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has had a significant impact on the population of Cameroon. The UN estimated that 11.8% of adults between the ages of 1549 were living with HIV/AIDS in 2001. The AIDS epidemic causes higher death and infant mortality rates, and lowers life expectancy.


In 1981, nearly 10,000 Cameroonians living in Gabon were repatriated following anti-Cameroonian demonstrations there. At the end of 1980 there were 110,000 refugees from Chad at a camp in Kousséri, but by the end of 1981, all but 25,000 had returned to Chad. The camp was closed in March 1982, with the remaining refugees transferred to the Poli region. As of 1995, there were an estimated 42,900 Chadian refugees in Cameroon. In 1998, the voluntary repatriation of Chadian refugees continued, but a new group of refugees, mostly urban dwellers seeking asylum, began arriving from Rwanda, Republic of Congo (ROC), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC). As of 2000 there were 150,000 migrants living in Cameroon. As of 2004, 58,861 people were registered as refugees, mainly from Chad and Nigeria. Another 6,123 were registered as asylum seekers. The net migration rate estimated for Cameroon in 2005 was zero. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


Cameroon has an extremely heterogeneous population, consisting of approximately 250 ethnic groups. Cameroon Highlanders constitute the majority at 38% of the total population. They include the Bamileke and the Bamoun. The coastal tropical forest peoples, including the Bassa, Douala, and many smaller entities account for about 12% of the population. In the southern tropical forest, ethnic groups include the Ewondo, Bulu, and Fang (all Beti subgroups), and the Maka and Pygmies (officially called Bakas). They account for about 18% of the population. The Fulani (Peuhl) account for about 14% of the population and the Kirdi account for about 18%.


French and English are the official languages. However, there are 24 major African language groups, with some 270 indigenous dialects spoken. Most belong to the Bantu and Semi-Bantu (or Sudanic) language groups.


About 40% of the population are at least nominally Christian, of whom approximately half are Roman Catholics and half are affiliated with Protestant denominations. As many as 20% are at least nominally Muslim and about 40% practice traditional indigenous religions or no religion at all. Many of the indigenous religions are practiced primarily in rural areas.

The Fulani people in the north are mainly Muslim, as are the Bamoun group of the western provinces and the Kirdi. The Christian missionaries (Protestants since 1845 and Roman Catholics since 1890) have been particularly active in other areas, with the English-speaking citizens of provinces of the western region being primarily Protestant and the French-speaking citizens in provinces of the southern and western regions being predominantly Catholic. Missionary groups include Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Unification Church, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Mormons.

Social discrimination by Muslims against those of indigenous religions is fairly widespread. In the northern region, the tension between the Fulani and Kirdi groups is based in part on such past religious differences. The Fulani have been traditionally Muslim while the Kirdi have traditionally practiced indigenous religions. Many of the Kirdi are now Muslim, yet they remain economically, socially, and educationally disadvantaged in this region.

Freedom of conscience and freedom of religion are guaranteed by the constitution and these rights are generally respected in practice. Relations between the government and religious groups are governed by the Law on Religious Congregations. All religious groups must register with the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization; however, there are no specific penalties for failure to register. The practice of witchcraft is considered a criminal offense, however, prosecution is generally applied only in conjunction with other criminal actions, such as murder. Certain Christian and Muslim holidays are celebrated as public holidays.


In 2002, Cameroon had about 80,932 km (50,340 mi) of roads, of which only 5,398 km (3,358 mi) were paved. Unpaved roads are not usable in all seasons, and as a result, the government recently has been rerouting and paving heavily used roads in order to provide all-weather links between agricultural areas and commercial shipping centers. A major highway between Yaoundé and Douala was opened in 1985. In 2003 there were 157,800 passenger automobiles and 84,250 commercial vehicles in use.

Cameroon's railroad system consists of 1,008 km (626 mi) of 1.000-m narrow gauge railways. The oldest line, constructed before 1927 and rebuilt in the mid-1980s, links Douala to Yaoundé (307 km/191 mi) and Douala to Nkongsamba (172 km/107 mi). On the DoualaYaoundé line there is a spur from Ngoume to Mbalmayo (30 km/19 mi). Kumba is linked to the DoualaNkongsamba line by another spur. The Trans-Cameroon Railway, Cameroon's most recently constructed line, extends the DoualaYaoundé line northward 622 km (386 mi) to Ngaoundéré, a cattlemarketing city on the Adamawa Plateau.

Of the operating maritime ports in Cameroon, Douala is the busiest and most important. Lesser ports include Kribi, used chiefly for the export of wood, and Limbé, used only for palm-oil exports. Garoua, on the Benoué River, is the main river port, but it is active only from July to September. In 2005, Cameroon's merchant fleet consisted of one petroleum tanker, totaling 169,593 GRT.

The main international airport is at Douala. Secondary international airports are at Yaoundé and Garoua. In total, there were 47 airports in 2004, only 11 of which had paved runways as of 2005. Cameroon Airlines, which went into operation 1 November 1971, flies to Paris, London, Frankfurt, Brussels, and many African cities; it also operates all scheduled domestic flights. In 2003, about 315,000 passengers were carried on domestic and international flights. Cameroon Airlines is jointly owned by the government and Air France. Among the other airlines serving Cameroon are Pan Am, Air Afrique, Alitalia, Swissair, Iberia, Air Zaire, Air Mali, and Nigeria Airways.


Linguistic evidence indicates that the area now known as Cameroon and eastern Nigeria was the place of origin of the Bantu peoples. After the 12th century ad, the organized Islamic states of the Sudanic belt, especially those of the Kanem and Fulani peoples, at times ruled the grasslands of northern Cameroon. Small chiefdoms dominated the western highlands and coastal area. Portuguese travelers established contact with the area in the 15th century, but no permanent settlements were maintained. Slaves, however, were purchased from the local peoples.

The modern history of Cameroon began in 1884, when the territory came under German rule after the explorer Gustav Nachtigal negotiated protectorate treaties with the local chiefs. Although British missionaries had been active in the area since 1845, the United Kingdom recognized the German protectorate, called Kamerun, which included areas that were later to become British Cameroons and French Cameroun. During their occupation from 1884 to 1914, the Germans advanced into the interior, cultivated large plantations, laid roads, and began constructing a railroad and the port of Douala. When World War I broke out, the territory was invaded by French and British forces. After the war, one-fifth of the former German Kamerun, which was contiguous with eastern Nigeria, was assigned to the United Kingdom, and the remaining four-fifths was assigned to France under League of Nations mandates.

During the period 191939, France made notable contributions to the development of the territory. Agriculture was expanded; industries were introduced; roads were built; medical services were broadened; and more schools were established. Political liberty was restricted, however, and the system of compulsory labor introduced by the Germans continued. In August 1940, Col. Philippe Leclerc, an envoy of Gen. Charles de Gaulle, landed at Douala and seized the territory for the Free French. The birth of the Fourth French Republic and the UN trusteeship in 1946 signified a new era for the territory. French Cameroun was granted representation in the French National Assembly and the Council of the Republic. An elected territorial assembly was instituted and political parties were recognized, thus establishing a basis for Cameroonian nationalism.

Immediately after the setting up of the trusteeship in 1946, many parties began to emerge, but only one had effective organization and strength, the Union of Cameroon Peoples (Union des Populations du CamerounUPC). The party demanded immediate reunification of the British Cameroons and French Cameroun and eventual independence. In 1955, the UPC, accused of being under extreme left-wing influence, launched a campaign of sabotage, violence, and terror that continued sporadically until 1971, 11 years after independence. The death toll from this struggle has been estimated at between 10,000 and 80,000.

A new stage in self-government was reached in 1957, when the French government created the autonomous state of Cameroun, and Cameroonian institutions were created along the lines of French parliamentary democracy. In 1958, the Legislative Assembly of Cameroun voted for independence by 1960, and France and the UN General Assembly assented. In 1959, the last step in the evolution of political institutions prior to independence took place when a government of Cameroun was formed and given full internal autonomy. Ahmadou Ahidjo became prime minister. Earlier in the year, on 1 January 1959, the Kamerun National Democratic Party had won the general elections in Southern British Cameroons, and John Foncha had become prime minister. Soon Foncha and Ahidjo were discussing the possibilities of unification upon the achievement of independence.

On 1 January 1960, Cameroun became an independent republic. Fierce UPC-led riots in the Dschang and Nkongsamba areas caused Ahidjo to summon French reinforcements to suppress the rebellion, but intermittent rioting continued. A draft constitution was approved in a referendum of 21 February, and on 10 April a new National Assembly was elected. Ahidjo's Cameroun Union Party won a majority, and Ahidjo, who ran unopposed, was elected president in April 1960.

During 1960, consultations between Foncha and Ahidjo continued, and a proposed federation was tentatively outlined. On 11 February 1961, separate plebiscites were held in the Southern and Northern British Cameroons under the auspices of the United Nations. The voters in Southern Cameroons chose union with the Cameroun Republic, while those in Northern Cameroons opted for union with Nigeria, which was accomplished on 1 June 1961. During the months that followed, terrorist activity was renewed and the Cameroun Republic had to devote one-third of its national budget to the maintenance of public order.

A draft constitution for the federation was approved by the Cameroun National Assembly on 7 September 1961, and the new federation became a reality on 1 October. The Cameroun Republic became the state of East Cameroon, and Southern British Cameroons became the state of West Cameroon in the new Federal Republic of Cameroon, with Ahmadou Ahidjo as president and John Foncha as vice president. Both were reelected in 1965, but Foncha was later replaced as vice president, and the office was abolished in 1972.

A proposal to replace the federation with a unified state was ratified by popular referendum on 20 May 1972; the vote was reportedly 99.97% in favor of unification. A new constitution went into effect on 2 June, under which the country was renamed the United Republic of Cameroon. Ahmadou Ahidjo remained president of the republic; running unopposed, he was reelected for a fourth five-year term on 5 April 1975. In June, by constitutional amendment, the office of prime minister was created, and Paul Biya was appointed to the post. Ahidjo, reelected unopposed, began his fifth five-year term as president in May 1980. In November 1982 he resigned and was succeeded by Biya; Ahidjo remained head of the ruling party, the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM).

Biya proved more independent than Ahidjo had anticipated. Following allegations of a military coup plot allegedly masterminded by Ahidjo, the former president retired to France in August 1983, and Biya became party chairman. Ahidjo was sentenced to death (later commuted to life imprisonment) in absentia in February 1984. Biya's own presidential guard attempted to overthrow the government in April; the rebellion was stamped out by the army. Purges followed, and 46 of the plotters were executed. A state of emergency was declared, which lasted several years. Late in 1984, the position of prime minister was abolished, and the name of the country was changed to the Republic of Cameroon.

Despite democratic reform begun in 1990 with the legalization of political parties other than the CPDM, political power remains firmly in the hands of President Biya and a small circle of CPDM members from his own ethnic group. Biya was reelected on 11 October 1992 amid accusations of voting irregularities. Biya reportedly got 39% of the vote to 35% for John Fru Ndi. (Ndi briefly proclaimed himself president before the government released the polling figures.) In contrast, the 1 March 1992 legislative election was considered free and fair by international observers, although many parties boycotted the elections and the CPDM won several constituencies by default. But even though opposition parties were well-represented in the legislature (92 of 180 seats), there were, according to the 1992 constitution, few legislative or judicial checks on the president.

Following the elections, civil unrest erupted as the population expressed the widespread belief that Ndi had won the presidential elections. By late 1992, Ndi and his supporters were under house arrest and the international community had made clear its displeasure at the antidemocratic and increasingly violent turn the Biya regime was taking.

Biya agreed in May 1993 to hold a so-called Great National Constitutional Debate and in June he began preparing a draft of a new constitution to be adopted either by referendum or by the National Assembly. In 1994, 16 opposition parties formed a loose alliance, dominated by Ndi's Social Democrats, to work for constitutional and electoral reform. In October 1995, the CPDM reelected Biya as its leader. In December of that year the National Assembly adopted a number of amendments to address the power of the president. These reforms included a strengthening of the judiciary, the creation of a partially elected 100-member senate, the creation of regional councils, and the fixing of the presidential term to 7 years, renewable once. Strikes and demonstrations became commonplace as Biya resisted implementation of reforms.

The May 1997 legislative elections were marred by mismanagement, vote-rigging, and fraud, resulting in the Supreme Court's cancellation of results in three constituencies (seven seats). Based on the misconduct of these elections, the opposition boycotted the October 1997 presidential elections, in which Biya claimed victory with 93% of the vote. To add further insult, Cameroon topped Transparency International's list of the most corrupt countries in the world in 1998, prompting the creation of an anticorruption body.

On 30 June 2002 the country held legislative and municipal elections that again were denounced by the opposition as fraudulent. The Supreme Court cancelled the results of nine constituencies, ordering new elections in these constitutencies on 15 September. In the end, the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM)/Rassemblement Démocratique du Peuple Camerounaise (RDPC) won 149 of 180 seats.

The victory for the ruling party was cemented with the reelection of the 72-year old president Paul Biya in October 2004, thus enhancing the chances of continued domination by the ruling party until the end of his term in 2011. By 2006, appeals were being heard in Biya's home province in favor of a constitutional amendment that would allow him to run for another term when his current term expires. However, against the backdrop of worsening social conditions and high poverty, students protested and conducted strikes for several weeks in April 2005, and clashes with police led to two student deaths. Opposition parties registered their intention to block any attempt to amend the constitution that would allow Biya to run for a third term.

In early 2006 a final resolution to the dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria over the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula was expected. In October 2002, the International Court of Justice had ruled in favor of Cameroon. Nonetheless, a lasting solution would require agreement by both countries' presidents, parliaments, and by the United Nations. The peninsula was the site of fighting between the two countries in 1994 and again in June 2005, which led to the death of a Cameroonian soldier.


Under the 1972 constitution, as amended in 1984, Cameroon has nominally been a republic headed by a president elected by universal suffrage to successive five-year terms, amended to a maximum of two seven-year terms under the 1996 constitution. The president appoints the ministers, vice-ministers, and regional functionaries; is the head of the armed forces; and promulgates the laws. Since 8 December 2004, Ephraim Inoni has been the prime minister. The president can decree a state of national emergency and can be invested with special powers. The next presidential election was due in October 2011.

The legislative branch is composed of a National Assembly of 180 members from 49 single and multi-seat constituencies. The Assembly is directly elected to a five-year term by universal suffrage. Members meet three times a year in March, June and November. Elections were last held in June and September 2002; the next elections were due in June 2007.

Government checks and balances remain extremely weak under a strong executive system. Censorship was abolished in 1996, but the government sometimes seizes or suspends newspapers and occasionally arrests journalists. A 1990 law authorizing private radio and television stations was implemented by decree in 2000; however, the annual licensing fees are prohibitive. Nonetheless, in 2001, over 100 licensing applications were filed by independent broadcasters. The government's human rights record has been improving over the years but remains generally poor.


The Cameroon National Union (Union Nationale CamerounaiseUNC) was Cameroon's sole legal political party until 1990. It was formed in 1966 through a merger of the Cameroon Union (Union Camerounaise) and the Kamerun National Democratic Party, the major political organizations, respectively, of the eastern and western regions, and four smaller parties. The UNC sponsors labor, youth, and women's organizations and provided the only list of candidates for the 1973, 1978, and 1983 legislative elections.

Ahmadou Ahidjo became the first head of the UNC in 1966 and continued in that capacity after his resignation as the nation's president in 1982. Following President Biya's assumption of emergency powers in August 1983, Ahidjo, then in France, resigned as party leader. Biya was subsequently elected party chief at a special party congress in September. In 1985, the UNC was renamed the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM or Rassemblement Démocratique du Peuple CamerounaiseRDPC).

Opposition parties were legalized in 1990. In the elections to the National Assembly on 1 March 1992, the RDPC/CPDM won 88 of the 180 seats; the National Union for Democracy and Progress (UNDP), 68 seats; the Union of Cameroonian Populations (UPC), 18 seats; and the Movement for the Defense of the Republic (MDR), 6 seats. The RDPC/CPDM and the MDR formed a coalition.

In the presidential election of 11 October 1992, the voting was splitRDPC/CPDM 40%; Social Democratic Front (SDF), 36%; and UNDP 18%. The SDF accused Biya of stealing the election, but Biya was reelected to his post as head of the RDCP/CPDM in October 1995.

In the May 1997 National Assembly elections, the RDPC/CPDM took 109 seats, the SDF 43, the UNDP 13, the UDC 5, others 3, and cancelled constituencies 7. The opposition, backed by international observers, declared the legislative elections highly flawed, and based on their perception of misconduct, the main opposition parties boycotted the presidential elections of October later that year.

The SDF and its allies in the Union for Change remain critical of Biya but are also critical of France, which they call an "accomplice of those in power." However, in 2000 the alliance reportedly was falling apart as the SDF sought to distance itself from the SCNC. The SCNC apparently was accusing the SDF of delaying independence for the northwest and southwest English-speaking provinces by refusing to force its English-speaking members of parliament to resign from the Francophone-dominated National Assembly. Moreover, some members of the opposition wanted their party leaders to join Biya's coalition government so they could share the spoils of office.

By 2000, Biya had shored up his government by forming a coalition with the northern-based UNDP, which had 13 Assembly seats, and with the UPC, which had one seat. Together, the ruling coalition gave Biya a four-fifth's majority in the Assembly. The coalition government enjoyed support from seven of Cameroon's 10 provinces, and thus secured former President Ahidjo's northsouth alliance, which he had created in 1958.

In the June and September 2002 National Assembly elections, the RDPC/CPDM took 149 seats, the SDF 22, the UDC 5, the UPC 3, and the UNDP 1. Voting irregularities in 9 constituencies (17 seats) in the June elections led to the subsequent by-elections in September for those seats. Nineteen of the SDF's seats came from the English-speaking northwest province. The biggest loser in the election was the UNDP: it had won 68 seats in 1992 and 13 seats in 1997. Observers attributed the party's poor showing to its participation in the RDPC/CPDM-led government.

In the 11 October 2004 election, President Paul Biya was reelected with 70.9 % of the vote. His longtime opponent, John Fru Ndi scored 17.4%, Adamou Ndam Njoya took 4.5%, and Garga Haman Adji came in last with 3.7%. Biya's second seven-year term extended through October 2011; constitutionally he was not eligible to run for reelection.


The Republic of Cameroon is divided into 10 administrative provinces, each placed under the jurisdiction of a governor appointed by the head of state. Each province is subdivided into departments, which are under the administrative control of divisional officers (préfets ). In turn, departments are composed of subdivisions (arrondissements ) headed by assistant divisional officers (sous-préfets ). Municipal officials are elected for five-year terms. Traditional institutions such as chiefdoms were in noticeable decline during the 1970s and 1980s, although traditional rulers were treated as administrative adjuncts and received a government salary.

In 1996, Biya's government organized relatively free and fair municipal elections where opposition candidates won in nearly every major city. However, three-fourths of the local councils are dominated by the ruling coalition. Municipal elections for 336 local councils were held on 30 June 2002, and were charged by church leaders and opposition politicians as being flawed; votebuying, stuffing of ballot boxes, intimidation, and multiple voting were among the accusations brought by the opposition. In January 2003, Biya announced that the government would begin a major program of decentralization to complete the process of democratization begun by the June parliamentary and municipal elections.


Cameroonian law has three main sources: local customary law, the French civil code, and British law, although drafting of a unified code was reported under way in the 1980s. The Supreme Court, in addition to its other powers and duties granted by the constitution, gives final judgment on such appeals as may be granted by the law from the judgments of the provincial courts of appeal. The system also includes appeals courts in each of the 10 provinces, courts of first instance in each of the country's 58 divisions and a 15-member High Court of Justice, appointed by the National Assembly. Proposals for appointments and sanctions against magistrates throughout the republic are started by the Higher Judicial Council, of which the head of state is president. A Court of Impeachment has the right to try the president for high treason and cabinet ministers for conspiracy against the security of the state.

A State Security Court established in 1990 hears cases involving internal or external state security. Traditional courts that resolve domestic, probate, and minor property disputes remain an important element in the judicial system. These courts vary considerably according to region and ethnic group. Appeal is possible in most cases to traditional authorities of a higher rank.

Prior to the 1995 amendments (promulgated in 1996) to the 1972 constitution, the judiciary was supervised by the Ministry of Justice, part of the executive, and did not function as an independent branch of government. The December 1995 amendments provided for a more independent judiciary. However, as of 2003, these provisions were not implemented. There continues to be reported abuses, including beatings of detainees, arbitrary arrests, and illegal searches. The judiciary remains frequently corrupt, inefficient, and subject to political influence.


Cameroon's armed forces totaled 23,100 active personnel in 2005. The Army had 12,500 personnel organized into three military regions. Equipment included 65 reconnaissance vehicles, 55 armored personnel carriers and over 94 pieces of artillery. There were no tanks. The Navy had an estimated 1,300 personnel, whose primary naval units were 21 patrol/coastal vessels. The Air Force had 300 personnel, and 15 combat capable aircraft, including 15 fighter aircraft and three attack helicopters. Paramilitary gendarmerie totaled 9,000. The defense budget in 2005 totaled $306 million.


Cameroon was admitted to UN membership on 20 September 1960 and is a member of ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies. Cameroon is also a member of the African Development Bank, G-77, the African Union, the Islamic Development Bank, the Monetary and Economic Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Central African States Development Bank, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), and the ACP Group. The nation is part of the Franc Zone. Cameroon was formally admitted to the Commonwealth of Nations in 1995. The nation is part of the Nonaligned Movement. In environmental cooperation, Cameroon is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES, International Tropical Timber Agreements, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Cameroon's economy is based on a diversified and self-sufficient agriculture supplemented by substantial petroleum production and a sizable manufacturing sector. Coffee and cocoa are Cameroon's principal agricultural exports, along with cork, wood, and cotton. Cameroon in 2002 stood as number six in the world among cocoa producers, and is the eighth-largest producer of coffee. Petroleum, basic manufactures, and machinery and transport equipment provide additional export revenues. The government is trying to stimulate more timber processing. Construction is a growth sector.

The economy suffered since the 1986 decline in the prices for oil, cocoa, coffee, and cotton, as well as the appreciation of the CFA franc, which contributed to the erosion of GDP by more than 60%. Some economic reforms were then initiated, but the government was unable to meet the financial and economic reform goals of several International Monetary Fund (IMF) standby programs.

In January 1994, France devalued the CFA franc, causing its value to drop in half overnight. Immediately, prices for almost all imported goods soared, including prices for food and essential drugs. The devaluation encouraged new investment, particularly in oil, and discouraged the use of hard currency reserves to buy products that could be grown domestically. Cameroon's real GDP increased by 3.3% in 199495, an improvement from the decline of 4.3% in 199394. The 2001 real growth rate of the GDP was around 5%.

An IMF agreement was signed in 1997, an Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) program which concluded in 2000. In 1999, the ESAF was replaced by the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF), under which Cameroon was to receive assistance for three years (beginning in 2000). The IMF is pressing for reforms in the areas of budget transparency and privatization. Cameroon is attracting some foreign investment: French and South African companies have bought previously state-owned enterprises, including banks and railroads. The $4 billion, 670-milelong (1,070 km) Chad-Cameroon petroleum pipeline, which was underway in 2003, could potentially increase revenues dramatically. Production is estimated to be 225,000 barrels per day.

The economy expanded by 4.3% in 2004, down from 4.5% in 2003; in 2005, the GDP growth rate was expected to shoot up to 5.9%. The inflation rate has been fluctuating, dropping from 4.5% in 2001 to 0.4%, but it did not pose serious problems to the overall health of the economy. Unemployment has remained fairly stable, hovering at around 6.5%. While all indicators point to a stable economic system, Cameroon still has a lot of reforms to implement, and it is still susceptible to changes in oil and cocoa prices.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Cameroon's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $32.4 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $2,000. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 5%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 1.5%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 44.8% of GDP, industry 17.3%, and services 37.9%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $11 million or about $1 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.1% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $884 million or about $55 per capita and accounted for approximately 7.5% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Cameroon totaled $8.860 billion or about $550 per capita based on a GDP of $12.5 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 4.1%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 33% of household consumption was spent on food, 8% on fuel, 2% on health care, and 9% on education. It was estimated that in 2000 about 48% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


As of 2005, Cameroon's workforce totaled an estimated 6.86 million, of which 70% were engaged in the agricultural sector, with 13% in commerce and industry. The remaining 17% were in varying occupations. In 2001, the unemployment rate was estimated at 30%.

Although workers are allowed to organize and join unions, there are numerous government-imposed restrictions. Private and public sector employees cannot belong to the same union, nor can a union include different or closely related sectors of the economy. In addition, under penalty of fines and/or prision for union members, a union must register with the government. In practice, unions have found it difficult to obtain registration. Those unions which are registered have been the subject of harassment and interference by the government. The law recognizes the right to strike, but only after mandatory arbitration. However, decisions arising from arbitration are not legally enforceable and can be overturned or even ignored by employers or the government. The right to strike is denied to national security personnel, civil servants and prison system employees.

There are minimum working age and safety and health regulations; however, a lack of resources has greatly compromised their enforcement. The minimum wage in 2005 was about $47 per month, but was not enough to support a wage earner and family. The workweek is set at 40 hours in public and private nonagricultural firms, and 48 hours in agricultural endeavors. The minimum age of employment is 14 years, although this is not enforced. Child labor remains a problem in Cameroon as does forced and compulsory labor.


Agriculture was the main source of growth and foreign exchange until 1978 when oil production replaced it as the cornerstone of growth for the formal economy. In 2004, agriculture contributed 44% to GDP. Agricultural development and productivity declined from neglect during the oil boom years of the early 1980s. Agriculture was the principal occupation of 56% of the economically active population in 2003, although only about 15.4% of the land was arable. The most important cash crops are cocoa, coffee, cotton, bananas, rubber, palm oil and kernels, and peanuts. The main food crops are plantains, cassava, corn, millet, and sugarcane. Palm oil production has shown signs of strength, but the product is not marketed internationally. Cameroon bananas are sold internationally, and the sector was reorganized and privatized in 1987. Similarly, rubber output has grown in spite of Asian competition.

Cameroon is among the world's largest cocoa producers; 130,000 tons of cocoa beans were produced in 2004. Two types of coffee, robusta and arabica, are grown; production was 60,000 tons in 2004. About 85,000 hectares (210,000 acres) are allocated to cotton plantations. Some cotton is exported, while the remainder is processed by local textile plants. Total cotton output was 109,000 tons in 2004. Bananas are grown mainly in the southwest; 2004 estimated production was 630,000 tons. The output of rubber, also grown in the southwest, was 45,892 tons in 2004. Estimated production in 2004 of palm kernels and oil was 64,000 and 1,200,000 tons, respectively. For peanuts (in the shell) the figure was 200,000 tons. Small amounts of tobacco, tea, and pineapples are also grown.

Estimated 2004 production of food crops was as follows: sugarcane, 1,450,000 tons; cassava, 1,950,000 tons; sorghum, 550,000 tons; corn, 750,000 tons; millet, 50,000 tons; yams, 265,000 tons; sweet potatoes, 175,000 tons; potatoes, 135,000 tons; dry beans, 95,000 tons; and rice, 62,000 tons.


In 2004 there were 5,950,000 head of cattle, 4,400,000 goats, 3,800,000 sheep, 1,350,000 hogs, and 31 million chickens. Most stock breeding is carried out in the north. Ngaoundéré has one of the largest and best-equipped slaughterhouses in Africa. Meat production in 2004 included 95,000 tons of beef, 30,000 tons of poultry, 16,200 tons of pork, 16,380 tons of mutton, and 15,700 tons of goat meat. Dairy and other livestock products that year included 189,300 tons of milk, 13,400 tons of eggs, and 13,000 tons of cattle hides. Meat products are exported to UDEAC countries. During 200204, livestock production was up 2.3% compared to 19992001. Attempts to improve livestock and hides and skins have been hindered by the social system, in which livestock constitutes a source of prestige, security, and wealth; by slowness in developing an effective transportation system; and by difficulty in controlling the tsetse fly.


The fishing industry is not highly developed. Most fish are caught by artisan fishermen in rudimentary motorized pirogues. The total catch was an estimated 108,121 tons in 2003.


The forested area of 23.9 million hectares (58.9 million acres) occupies about 51% of the land area. Forestry is mostly conducted in the Littoral, Center, South, and South West provinces. Of the 300 commercially valuable species, the principal types of trees felled are assié, azobe, dussil, eloorba, mahogany, sapele, sipo, illomba, ayus, iroko, dibetu, and silk cotton. Timber exports in 2003 were valued at $403.4 million. In 2003, roundwood production was estimated at 10.9 million cu m (384 million cu ft). Wood sales make up the fourth-largest source of foreign revenue, but infrastructural problems and weak demand for lower-quality wood limits the development of the forestry sector.


While Cameroon has steadily increased its oil production, the discovery and exploitation of other mineral resources have been slow. Bauxite deposits, in the Minam and Martap regions, were estimated at 1 billion tons. Iron deposits containing an estimated 200 million tons have been discovered south of Kribi.

Other mineral deposits included diamonds, tin, gold, mica, marble, columbo-tantalite, silica sand, cassiterite, lignite, and rutile. Gold, the sole commercially exploited mineral, yielded an estimated 1500 kg in 2004 and was produced by small-scale artisanal miners, mostly in the eastern part of the country. Limestone production was 260,000 metric tons, and production of pozzolana, ash for cement was 600,000 metric tons in 2004. Diamond production in 2004 was estimated at 12,000 carats, and as with gold, was produced by small-scale artisanal miners.


Cameroon began offshore oil production in 1977. Annual production has gradually fallen since 1985, and the decline is expected to continue as existing reserves are depleted. Output amounted to 76,600 barrels per day in 2001, down from 100,000 barrels per day in 1999. However, Cameroon is sub-Saharan Africa's sixth-largest crude oil producer, with output in 2003 at 67,000 barrels per day, and estimated reserves at 400 million barrels as of 1 January 2004, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Field development and production began in the Kribi-Campo basin in the mid-1990s, and the Ebome field came online in 1996. As of 2002, the major operators were ExxonMobil, Shell, and TotalFina Elf. Work was under way on development of the Doba basin oil fields and construction of a pipeline between Cameroon and Chad, with the aid of a $93 million loan from the World Bank. Production was expected to have begun in early 2004. In October 2002, Cameroon and Nigeria, both of whom claimed the potentially oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula, received a ruling on the dispute from the International Court of Justice, which granted the peninsula to Cameroon. Cameroon's petroleum consumption in 2001 was 22,000 barrels per day.

The country reportedly has large reserves of liquid petroleum gas, which are largely untapped. According to the EIA, Cameroon's natural gas reserves stood at 3.9 billion cu ft as of 1 January 2004, with no known production in 2002.

Hydroelectric resources remain the most readily exploitable form of energy in Cameroon, which, together with the Democratic Republic of Congo, is considered to have the greatest hydroelectric potential in Africa. Electrical energy is produced primarily by two hydroelectric stations on the Sananga River. Nearly 60% of the power from these stations goes to the aluminum smelter at Edéa. Cameroon's electrical capacity was 0.81 million kW in 2002, for which output for that year was 3.249 billion kWh, of which about 90% was from hydropower and the remainder from fossil fuels. Consumption amounted to 3.022 billion kWh in 2002.

In the 1980s, hydroelectric capacity was expanded by an additional complex on the Sananga River (Song-Loulou) and a 72MW generator (built with Chinese aid) on the Bénoué. However, despite Cameroon's impressive waterpower resources, the national electricity grid runs principally from Douala to Yaoundé and from Douala to Bafoussam. Most other areas are served by diesel-generated electricity or have no electricity at all. Cameroon's National Energy Plan attempts to prepare for a diminishing petroleum output. Hydro-Québec of Canada conducted a feasibility study of the Nachtigal Power Station, which could provide 280 MW of hydroelectric power on the Sananga River north of Yaoundé. In 1998, Hydro-Québec was awarded a contract to upgrade the Song-Loulou hydroelectric facility.


Industry accounted for 17.39% of GDP in 2002. Considerable advances in industrial development have been made in recent years, mostly in the south. Cameroon's first oil refinery opened at Limbé in May 1981. Since then, oil production has gained paramount importance for the country. Cameroon is sub-Saharan Africa's fifth-largest oil producer. The government, once a large shareholder in many industries, including aluminum, wood pulp, and oil refining, now advocates privatization. The government reported an annual growth of 8.2% in the manufacturing sector for 1998. Exports of logs and rubber were down 50% in 1998, partly because of tightening logging restrictions. There is a rubber factory in the Dizangué region, and about 20 large sawmills and 5 plywood factories and lumber mills.

The first industrial establishment not connected with agriculture processing and forestry was the Cameroonian Aluminum Refining Co. In 1957, the company opened at Edéa, importing ore from Guinea. Output was estimated at 74,800 metric tons in 1995. This was the only public sector monopoly not privatized by the year 2000. The most significant agricultural processing enterprises were the peanut and palm oil mills at Edéa, Douala, Bertoua, and Pitoa; soap factories at Douala and Pitoa; and tobacco factories at Yaoundé. Other concerns included a factory at Kaélé that produced cotton fiber and a cotton oil plant there that produced for export. There was a textile-weaving factory in Douala and a bleaching, dyeing, and printing factory in Garoua.

Cement plants were at Figuil and near Douala; in 1995, cement production was 620,000 tons, but demand for cement declined because of decreased public works. However, as of 2001, the construction sector had expanded, due in part to foreign financing of road construction. Residential and commercial construction was also underway. These construction projects boosted cement production. Several breweries supply both internal demand and surplus for export. Other manufactured products include beer and soft drinks, cigarettes, flour, chocolate, cocoa paste, construction materials, furniture, and shoes.

The $3.7-billion Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline, with estimated production at 225,000 barrels per day, was completed in late 2003. Although Cameroon's oil production was expected to decline in 2003 (crude oil production was 76,600 barrels per day in 2001, down from 84,000 barrels per day in 2000) as older oil fields become exhausted and fewer new discoveries are made, the position of Kribi as the end point on the pipeline and Cameroon's refinery capacity could turn the nation into a major oil transport center. The government-controlled Sonara (Société Nationale de Raffinage) oil refinery in Limbe produces 42,000 barrels per day. In October 2002, the International Court of Justice ruled in Cameroon's favor in a border dispute with Nigeria over the Bakassi Peninsula. Cameroon now has sovereignty over the peninsula, which is located in the Gulf of Guinea and is believed to contain significant oil reserves. Large-scale exploration and exploitation of the Bakassi reserves is expected to compensate for the decline in Cameroon's other reserves.

Cameroon has great potential for hydroelectric power, and it could become an exporter of electricity. The state-owned electricity utility Sonel (Société Nationale d'Electricité du Cameroun) was being privatized as of 2001. Cameroon has natural gas reserves of approximately 3.9 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), and known gas fields had yet to be developed by 2003.

By 2004, the share of the industry in the overall GDP has fallen to 20.1%; agriculture was the main contributor to the economy43.7%, and also the largest employer, with more than 70% of the labor force; services came in second with a 36.2% share of the GDP. In October 2005, the government and Alcan Primary Metal Group made plans to expand the Alucam aluminum smelter and to construct a new hydroelectric power station in Edeaa $900 million investment project.


The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research is charged with formulating research policy and programs in Cameroon. It operates five university institutes and five research institutes concerned with soil science, hydrology, nutrition, psychosociology, demography, economics, geography, archaeology, botany and vegetal biology, and medical entomology. The French Institute of Scientific Research for Cooperative Development is located in Yaoundé. The universities of Buea, Yaoundé, and Douala (founded in 1977, 1962, and 1977, respectively) have Faculties of science. The University of Dschang (founded in 1977) offers training in agricultural sciences. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 45% of college and university enrollments. For the period 1990-01 there were only three researchers and four technicians actively engaged in research and development. High technology exports in 2002 totaled $1 million, accounting for only 1% of all manufactured exports.


Most imported consumer goods are distributed among the European population and the salaried and urban African workers. The internal markets are run by African entrepreneurs, while important import-export houses are controlled by Europeans, usually French. The main firms are found in Douala (the main port and industrial center) and Yaoundé (the capital city). The internal markets deal mainly with cattle, locally produced foodstuffs, and textiles, sewing machines, and radios. Trade in capital equipment and construction materials is practically restricted to the local industrialists and government contractors. Agricultural extension, modernization programs, cooperatives, and provident societies have all assisted in expanding markets. Credit, marketing of produce, transport of produce, and storage fall within their jurisdiction.

Economic reforms toward privatization have been in effect throughout the late 1990s. Though progress has been slow, by the end of 2001 four out of eleven state-owned assets were privatized under the current economic program.

Usual office hours are from 7:30 am to noon and from 1:00 to 3:30 pm, Monday through Friday, and 8 am to noon Saturday. Many businesses are open from 8 am to 6 pm. Banks are open 8 to 11:30 am and 2:30 to 3:30 pm.


Crude petroleum was the most expensive export from Cameroon (35%) in 1999, ending up primarily in France. Wood exports accounted for over a fifth of Cameroon's exports (21%). Cocoa (10%) led agricultural exports, while aluminum (6%) led mineral exports. During the 1990s, Cameroon's export-import volume either remained stable, or increased.

In 2004, exports reached $2.5 billion (FOBfree on board), while imports grew to $2.0 billion (FOB). The bulk of exports went to Spain (15.2%), Italy (12.3%), the United Kingdom (10.2%), France (9.2%), the United States (8.8%), South Korea (7.1%), and

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 2,245.8 2,020.7 225.1
Spain 491.0 27.0 464.0
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 302.1 68.1 234.0
France-Monaco 243.8 390.6 -146.8
Netherlands 238.3 64.3 174.0
United States 169.1 102.3 66.8
China 98.2 86.8 11.4
Other Asia nes 59.1 59.1
Belgium 56.4 84.8 -28.4
South Africa 53.2 44.1 9.1
Chad 45.7 45.7
() data not available or not significant.

the Netherlands (4.3%). Imports included machinery, electrical equipment, transport equipment, fuel, and food, and mainly came from France (28.2%), Nigeria (9.9%), Belgium (7.6%), the United States (4.9%), China (4.8%), Germany (4.6%), and Italy (4.1%).


In the late 1970s, increased oil production compensated for the low world market prices of Cameroon's agricultural exports and helped the country achieve a favorable balance of payments. From 1994 to 1997, the volume and value of Cameroon's exports increased annually, in part due to the CFA currency devaluation. As of the early 2000s, cocoa and lumber exports had declined, due in part to lower world commodity prices. Petroleum remains Cameroon's chief export commodity. Cameroon has been attempting to attract further foreign investment into offshore and onshore concessions to raise export earnings. Cameroon imports primarily semiprocessed products and other industrial goods, machinery, and food products.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2000 the purchasing power parity of Cameroon's exports was $2.1 billion while imports totaled $1.5 billion resulting in a trade surplus of $600 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 1995 Cameroon had exports of goods totaling $1.74 billion and imports totaling $1.11 billion. The services credit totaled $304 million and debit $499 million.

Exports of goods and services reached $3.7 billion in 2004, up from $3.2 billion in 2003. Imports grew from $3.2 billion in 2003, to $3.7 billion in 2004. The resource balance was consequently insignificant in both years, reaching $14 million in 2003, and $40 million in 2004. The current account balance was negative, improving from -$317 million in 2003, to -$183 million in 2004. Foreign exchange reserves (including gold) grew to $119 million in 2004, covering less than one month of imports.

Current Account 89.9
    Balance on goods 626.9
        Imports -1,109.0
        Exports 1,735.9
    Balance on services -194.2
    Balance on income -412.2
    Current transfers 69.5
Capital Account 20.4
Financial Account 43.3
    Direct investment abroad -0.6
    Direct investment in Cameroon 7.3
    Portfolio investment assets -26.2
    Portfolio investment liabilities
    Financial derivatives
    Other investment assets -146.8
    Other investment liabilities 209.6
Net Errors and Omissions -138.1
Reserves and Related Items -15.4
() data not available or not significant.


The bank of issue is the Bank of the Central African States (Banque des États de l'Afrique Central-BEAC), which replaced the Central Bank of the State of Equatorial Africa and Cameroon in November 1972. Its headquarters are in Yaoundé. In 1993, member states of the BEAC created a supranational supervisory authority, Commission Bancaire de l'Afrique Centrale (COBAC) in order to secure the region's banking system. The government's Exchange Control Office controls all financial transactions effected between Cameroon and foreign territories.

Cameroon's banking system consisted of nine commercial banks with 60 branches in 1999. The major commercial banks, all with important foreign participation, were the Amity Bank, Banque Internationale du Cameroun pour l'Epargne et le Credit (the last bank to be privatized, in 1999), Caisse Commune d'Epargne et d'Investissement, Commercial Bank of Cameroon, Citibank, Societe General de Banque au Cameroun, Standard Chartered Bank, and the Societe Commerciale de Banque Credit Lyonnais-Cameroun. There was also a savings bank and a postal bank. Informal savings and loan systems known as tontines take the place of banks for many tribal members, with repayment enforced by social pressure.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $971.3 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $1.6 billion. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 6.5%.

In April 2003 the Douala Stock Exchange was declared open for business by Cameroon's prime minister, Peter Mufany Musonge, although no exact date was given for the start of trading or the number of companies that will be listed. Cameroon has been criticized for a lack of transparency in its economic institutions and observers question whether the exchange will perform to international standards. The recently privatized electricity company, AES Sonel, is expected to be one of the first companies listed on the exchange when 5% of its shares are offered for sale to its employees; a sale required by an agreement between the company and the government.


As of 2003, there were a number of foreign (predominately French) and domestic insurance companies doing business in Cameroon. However, foreign firms must have local partners. Cameroon was one of the fourteen French-speaking African nations that adopted a common code with respect to the insurance sector. Enforcement of these new regulations led to the closure of some weak insurance companies and the restructuring of the sector.


Cameroon relies heavily on customs duties and direct taxes as sources of government revenue. Most of Cameroon's oil revenues do not appear in the national budget and are maintained in secret accounts abroad. The year 2000 budget was increased from $112 million to almost $2.2 billion in order to repay public debt, subsidize national education, public health, maintain infrastructure,

Revenue and Grants 867.46 100.0%
    Tax revenue 690.99 79.7%
    Social contributions 18.71 2.2%
    Other revenue 157.76 18.2%
Expenditures 859.8
    General public services 375.22 43.6%
    Defense 81.83 9.5%
    Public order and safety 34.02 4.0%
    Economic affairs 58.74 6.8%
    Environmental protection
    Housing and community amenities 8.23 1.0%
    Health 29.63 3.4%
    Recreational, culture, and religion 6.3 0.7%
    Education 103.15 12.0%
    Social protection 3.92 0.5%
() data not available or not significant.

and fund the police and armed forces. Also in 2000, the government of Cameroon was commended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for sound macroeconomic policies and thereby qualified for $2 billion in debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Cameroon's central government took in revenues of approximately $3.2 billion and had expenditures of $2.7 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $558 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 64.8% of GDP. Total external debt was $9.223 billion.

The IMF reported that in 1999, the most recent year for which it had data, budgetary central government revenues were CFA Fr867.46 billion and expenditures were CFA Fr859.8 billion. The official exchange rate for 1999 reported by the IMF was us$1 = CFA Fr615.70. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 43.6%; defense, 9.5%; public order and safety, 4.0%; economic affairs, 6.8%; housing and community amenities, 1.0%; health, 3.4%; recreation, culture, and religion, 0.7%; education, 12.0%; and social protection, 0.5%.


The tax on individual income ranged from 10-60% in 1996. Also levied were housing fund and employment taxes, a tax to finance Cameroon television, and social security taxes. The corporate tax rate was 38.5%. There is an 18.7% value-added tax (VAT) on goods and services sold in Cameroon, although some transactions are exempt. Other levies include taxes on business licenses, certain consumption goods, and stock dividend distributions.


In accordance with the trusteeship agreement between France and the United Nations, all nations had equal tariff treatment in Cameroon when it was a trust territory. Many types of goods essential for economic, social, and educational development were exempt from duty. Export duties were moderate. Despite this situation, the direction of Cameroon's trade was to the franc currency zone and importers were required to secure import licenses for nonfranc zone products. Following independence, the import licensing system was continued, but was lest strict for EU countries.

In 1994, Cameroon's new Regional Reform Program included reduced taxes on imports, from over 74%, and reduced the overall rate from a maximum 200% to a maximum 70% on luxury goods, and a minimum of 5% on necessities. AS of 2006, however, Cameroon employed the common external tariff (TEC) using four categories: necessities, 5%; raw materials and equipment, 10%; semifinished goods, 20%; and finished products, 30%. There was also an excise tax and an indirect tax on consumer goods, of 25%.

The 2000 Financial Law was designed largely to attract foreign capital, providing exemptions from export duties on bananas, cocoa, coffee, cotton, rubber, sugar, palm oil, and medicinal plants. Legislation to establish free trade zones was enacted in 1990. Prohibited imports include certain sanitary products, chemicals, toxic waste, some cosmetics, and some food items.


Under the terms of a structural adjustment program, Cameroon has liberalized its investment code, eliminated most price controls, reduced import and export duties, and sought to privatize its parastatals. Foreign and domestic investors are provided with guarantees that substantially comply with international standards. Cameroon's investment code, enacted in 1990, eliminated requirements for technology transfer and geographic location. Investments are not screened and foreign exchange privileges are not rationed. Investors can freely transfer dividends, return of capital, and interest and capital on foreign debt. The code requires at least 35% Cameroonian equity ownership in small- and medium-sized enterprises. In 1990, Cameroon also promulgated an industrial free zone (IFZ) regime which features a comprehensive package of incentives (a ten-year tax holiday and 15% corporate tax year beginning the 11th year) for enterprises which export at least 80% of their output, with licenses awarded by an independent regulatory agency, the National Office for Industrial Free Zones (NOIFZ). From 1996 to late 1999, the licensing process was suspended pending audits, but in 2002, the government declared all of Cameroon an IFZ, with benefits available to any enterprise meeting the export criterion. Cameroon has a special agreement with France only recently implemented which gives preferential treatment to France, including a special 15% tax and tax deductions for technical assistance.

Despite Cameroon's attractive investment code and IFZ regime, few foreign investors have come forward because of problems in its implementation. In 2002, Transparency International scored Cameroon 2.2 on its 10-point International Corruption Perceptions Index, ranking 90th of 102 countries scored. In June 2003, the government got a soft official development assistance (ODA) loan from the World Bank for about $50 million to help it buy back $953.3 million of commercial debt and suppliers' credits at 14.5% face value. If acceptable to creditors who have not received payments for years, this could increase Cameroon's attractiveness for foreign investment.

The government does not publish reliable statistics on foreign investment, but according to estimates by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), foreign direct investment (FDI) in Cameroon was in the range of $30 million to $50 million from 1997 to 2000. FDI inflow rose to $75 million in 2001, reflecting the sale of 56% of the state electricity company, Sonel, to the US company AES Sirocco for about $70 million.

France has been the biggest source of foreign investment. The French company Pechiney has long owned the majority share of Alucam, the state aluminum complex, and in the privatization process begun in 1994, a French firm bought a state sugar mill in 1998; a French telecom firm was granted a mobile telephone license in 1999 and a French bank bought Cameroon's last state bank in 2000. South African firms acquired controlling shares in the privatized national railroad and the state-owned mobile telephone company. The Commonwealth Development Corporation had over £36 million (us$58 million) invested in Cameroonian enterprises as of 1999, including CDC, HEVECAM, Printpak, SNEC, and SOCATRAL. In 2001 and 2002, the principal investors in the $2.2 billion Chad/Cameroon pipeline project were ExxonMobile with 40% (also the project operator), Petronas of Malaysia (35%), and ChevronTexaco (25%), with the US Export-Import Bank providing $158 million in loan guarantees for the project.

In June 2003, the government officially launched the Douala Stock Exchange, after more than three years of preparation and two missed launch dates, with the announced purpose of facilitating foreign investment in the Cameroon economy. No listings had yet been published.

In October 2005, a major investment plan for Alucamthe country's main aluminum smelterwas devised between the government and the Alcan Primary Metal Group. The investment plan was estimated to cost around $900 million and targeted an expansion and upgrade of the smelter and the construction of a new hydroelectric power station in Edea. A new cobalt mine is planed to open in Cameroon's Eastern Province in 2006, which would translate into significant inflows of capital and which would make Cameroon the world's leading producer of cobalt.


The government has initiated several efforts to further reduce its role in the economy and to promote private sector development during the 1990s and early 2000s, including reforms in taxation, tariffs, labor, and trade. Price controls were lifted in 1994 with the exception of pharmaceuticals, petroleum products, and goods and services produced by public monopolies. The government marketing board for coffee and cocoa was restructured and most restrictions on marketing and exporting were eliminated. During 1996, the government took bids from private companies for the privatization of the state-owned rubber company, shipping company, and railroad.

A prominent feature in Cameroon's economic development strategy was the development of an Industrial Free Zone (IFZ), which covers the entire country. Manufacturing and service industries authorized to operate under the program pay no duties on imported inputs, require no licenses, and are exempt from customs control. An IFZ firm must produce goods or services that are 80% export-bound and which are not environmentally destructive.

Multilateral aid from international financial institutions and UN organizations totaled $606 million in 1996. France agreed to loan $55 million in 1999 while the Paris Club agreed to reduce debt by 50% and reschedule payments through 2000. Total external debt in 2000 was $10.9 billion. Cameroon had a three-year $133.7 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved in December 2000 that was due to expire in December 2003. The country reached its decision point under the IMF/World Bank's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative in October 2000, qualifying for some $2 billion in debt relief. The ongoing construction of the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline in 2003 resulted in growth in the service sector. Economic development remained fragile, however, in part due to a decline in oil output. The government needs to focus on revenue collection, and target spending to key poverty-reduction policies such as health, education, and basic infrastructure.

Economic growth levels are expected to continue to hover between 4% and 5% in coming years, reaching around 4.5% in 2007. While oil production is expected to pick up in the future (as a result of recently discovered oil fields), the overall effect on the economy will probably be offset by weak oil prices. Agriculture is expected to be an important growth sector, owing to high and steady returns on the production of cocoa, coffee, cotton, and timber.


Social services were introduced by the French in 1950. The current law provides an employees' old age, disability, and survivors' pension plan, financed by employee and employer contributions. Benefits are also paid for occupational diseases and accidents. Old age benefits are payable at age 60, or age 50 for early retirement. Maternity benefits are available for working women, but there are no general sickness benefits. There is a work injury insurance program covering all employed persons which provides cash benefits and medical care as well. Covered employees with children under the age of 14 receive a family allowance. Family assistance is a part of the traditional social system.

Although the constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex, under powerful customary laws, women do not have the same rights as men. Inheritance practices are dictated by tradition and custom, which favor male heirs. Custody of children after a divorce is determined by the husband's wishes, and spousal abuse is not accepted as grounds for divorce. Domestic violence is common and polygamy remains legal. As of 2004, child labor and incidents of slavery continued.

There are over 200 different ethnic groups in Cameroon, and instances of ethnic favoritism are widespread. There are serious human rights abuses, including political and extrajudicial murders. Arbitrary detention and physical abuse of detainees is common. Although the press is independent and criticizes the government, the authorities seek to intimidate journalists. The government has also failed to cooperate with nongovernmental organizations monitoring human rights. Prison conditions are harsh and life threatening.


The Ministry of Public Health is responsible for the maintenance of all public health services. Many missionaries maintain health and leprosy centers. The government is pursuing a vigorous policy of public health improvement, with considerable success in reducing sleeping sickness, leprosy, and other endemic diseases. The demand for all types of health services and equipment is high and constant. The need for modern equipment is especially urgent, with many clinics using outdated equipment, some of which is imported illegally from Nigeria.

Malaria is prevalent in the Bénoué River Valley, the basin of Lake Chad, the coastal region, and the forests of southern Cameroon. A large percentage of the adult population is affected. Other serious water-borne diseases are schistosomiasis and sleeping sickness, which is spread by the tsetse fly. Cameroon lies in the yellow fever endemic zone.

As of 2004, there were an estimated 7 physicians, 36 nurses, 1 dentist, and 1 midwife per 100,000 people. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 5% of GDP.

In 2005, the average life expectancy was 51 years. The estimated death rate in 2002 was 12.08 per 1,000 people and the birth rate was estimated at 35.66 per 1,000 people. As of 1999, only an estimated 19% of the country's married women (ages 15 to 49) used any type of contraception. The infant mortality in 2005 was 65 per 1,000 live births. An estimated 29% of children under the age of five suffered from malnutrition. In the same year, 62% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 92% had adequate sanitation. In 1999 Cameroon immunized children up to one year old for tuberculosis (52%); diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (48%); polio (37%); and measles (31%).

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 6.90 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 560,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 49,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


Differences in climate, building materials, and patterns of living have resulted in a variety of traditional structures in rural areas. After 1946, the French government took measures to cope with growing urbanization, particularly in Douala and Yaoundé. There is still a housing shortage and many people still live in thatched hovels of mud and wood, with no running water or modern facilities. In 2000, only 62% of the population had access to improved water sources. The Cameroonian government has engaged in housing improvement and construction programs in urban and rural areas. A new population and housing census was scheduled to begin in 2005; the last census was taken in 1987.


Education is free in state schools and compulsory between ages 6 and 12. There are Francophone and Anglophone systems running side by side. The primary level of the Francophone system covers a six-year course of study. This is followed by four years of general secondary studies and three years of upper secondary studies. The primary schools of the Anglophone system cover a sevenyear course, followed by five years of lower and two years of upper secondary studies. Both systems offer seven-year technical programs for secondary students as well. Working alongside the public schools are the missionary schools, which have been extremely important in the history of Cameroonian education. Government funds are available to mission and private schools. The school year runs from October to July.

In 2001, about 2,742,000 students were enrolled in primary schools and 836,000 were enrolled in secondary schools. It is estimated that about 70% of all students complete their primary education.

The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 57:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 21:1.

There are two universities in the capital, in addition to those in Dschang, Nhaoundere, Duala and Buea. At Yaoundé University (founded in 1962), there are faculties of science, law and economics, and arts at Yaoundé, which maintains four regional campuses. Higher institutions attached to the university include the University Health Sciences Center, the Higher School of Sciences and Techniques of Information, the Institute of International Relations, the Advanced Teachers Training College, and the Polytechnic School. There is also a national school of public administration and an institute of business administration. In 2003, about 5% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 67.9%, with 77% for males and 59.8% for females.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 3.8% of GDP, or 17.3% of total government expenditures.


The National Archives is in Yaoundé and has an annex in Buea, where documents on colonial conditions and administration are stored. The National Archives also serves as the National Library of Cameroon and has a library of about 64,000 volumes in Yaoundé. The University of Yaoundé has about 90,000 volumes. There is a public library system with about 40 branches. The French Cultural Institute maintains a library in Douala with approximately 15,000 volumes. Douala also houses the Pan African Institute for Development Library, with about 13,000 volumes. The Cameroon Association of Librarians, Archivists, Documentalists and Museologists (ABADCAM) was established in 1974.

The Museum of Douala has prehistoric and natural history galleries devoted primarily to the main Cameroonian ethnic groups. The Museum of Bamounian Arts and Traditions at Foumban maintains objects of ancient art and a small library. The museums of Diamaré and Maroua at Maroua have ethnographic materials. Dschang has an ethnographic museum devoted to the Bamiléké and a fine-arts museum. Yaoundé has a museum of art and archaeology and a museum of Cameroonian art. There are also museums in Bamenda, Kousséri, and Mokolo.


The telecommunications network has been improving over the years. An automatic telephone exchange system links all important cities and towns. Cable, telegram, and telex services connect Cameroon to the outside world. In January 1974, a satellite telecommunications earth station was inaugurated, greatly improving the quality of Cameroon's international telephone service. However, service is still limited to mostly business and government use. In 2003, there were an estimated seven mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 66 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

In 1987 Cameroon's radio and television networks were merged to form the Office de RadiodiffusionTélévision Camerounaise (CRTV), which operates under the authority of the Ministry of Information and Culture. There are broadcasting stations at Yaoundé, Douala, Garoua, Buea, Bertoua, Bamenda, and Bafoussam, offering programs in French, English, and many African languages. In 2004, there were about 20 privately owned radio stations operating in the country; however, these were not officially licensed. The state-owned Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV) is the only officially recognized and fully licensed broadcaster in the country. In 2003, there were an estimated 161 radios and 75 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 5.7 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 4 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were three secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

Most Cameroonian publications are issued irregularly and have small circulations. The majority are published in French, but some appear in Bulu, Duala, and other native languages of Cameroon. The major daily is the Cameroon Tribune, the official government newspaper, published in French in Yaoundé, with a weekly English-language edition; circulation was 66,000 in French and 20,000 in English as of 2002. There are 40 to 50 private newspapers, most of which are published sporadically.

The constitution guarantees freedom of the press, but in practice the threat of government censorship generally prevents opposition viewpoints from appearing in print, especially in the government-controlled press.


The various economic interests of the country are represented in the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Mines in Douala and the Chamber of Agriculture, Pasturage, and Forests in Yaoundé. The Cameroonian Union of Professional Syndicates acts as a coordinating agency of the 20-odd syndicates of merchants and producers. There are also the Professional Banking Association and the Confederation of Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises. The government has encouraged the formation of cooperatives. The National Produce Marketing Office, created in 1978, has a monopoly on marketing cocoa, cotton, coffee, peanuts, and palm kernels. It is responsible for the prices paid the producers, the quality of produce, and the development of production.

The Association to Fight Against Poverty and AIDS, founded in 1999, seeks to improve the lives of women through education, health, farming, economic development and women's rights. Cameroon Association for the Protection and Education of the Child was founded in 2002 to work on issues of children's welfare, particularly among disadvantaged and abused children of rural areas. There are student unions based at the universities in Yaoundé and Douala. There are sports organizations in the country representing such pastimes as baseball, softball, badminton, and handball. There is also an organization of the Special Olympics. The Boy Scouts of Cameroon and Girl Guides are active in the country, as are chapters of the YMCA/YWCA.

Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs International, are also present. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, Habitat for Humanity, UNICEF, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and Caritas.


All visitors to Cameroon must have valid passports, visas, onward/return tickets, and certificates showing yellow fever immunization.

Cameroon's chief tourist attractions are its forests, savanna, jungle, and wild game. The national parks and game reserves are equipped with camps for tourists. In October 2005, the government announced the creation of two new national parks, Boumba Bek and Nki. Together the parks house 283 bird species and 300 species of fish. The diverse ethnic groups, their cultures, and Cameroonian art have also proved of interest to visitors. There are several first-rate hotels in the major cities.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in Yaoundé at $255 per day, in Douala, $267, and in smaller towns, $112.


Ahmadou Ahidjo (192489) was president of Cameroon from 1960 until 1982. Paul Biya (b.1933), after having served as prime minister since 1975, became president in 1982. William-Aurélien Eteki Mboumoua (b.1933) was OAU secretary-general during 197478 and foreign minister of Cameroon during 198487. The best-known literary figures are the novelists Ferdinand Oyono (b.1928) and Mongo Beti (19322001).


Cameroon has no territories or colonies.


Austen, Ralph A. Middlemen of the Cameroons Rivers: the Duala and Their Hinterland, c.1600c.1960. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

DeLancey, Mark W. and Mark Dike DeLancey. Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Cameroon. 3rd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2000.

. Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Cameroon. [computer file] Boulder, Colo.: netLibrary, Inc., 2000.

Frings, Viviane. Kingdom on Mount Cameroon: Studies in the History of the Cameroon Coast, 15001970. Providence, R.I.: Berghahn Books, 1996.

Goheen, Miriam. Men Own the Fields, Women Own the Crops: Gender and Power in the Cameroon Grassfields. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

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Republic of Cameroon

Major Cities:
Yaounde, Douala

Other Cities:
Bafoussam, Bertoua, Buea, Dschang, Ebolowa, Edéa, Foumban, Garoua, Kumba, Maroua, Ngaoundéré, Nkongsamba


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 2000 for Cameroon. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


An Africa in miniature, the Republic of Cameroon contains examples of all the geography and people south of the Sahara: steamy equatorial jungles inhabited by pygmy hunters and the great apes; vast plains alive with African wildlife; white sand beaches; and Mount Cameroon, a still active volcano, rising 13,428 feet above sea level.

Each region is characterized by distinct societies: from the Muslim traders and pastoralists in the north; to the farmers and craft-makers of the west; to the forest peoples of the south. A cultural mosaic containing over 200 ethnic groups speaking 24 major African languages and three world languages: English, French, and Arabic. Cameroon's only common feature appears to be its variety.

Cameroon's two major cities are Douala and Yaounde. Douala, the most densely populated, is a major port of call along the coast of West Africa and is acknowledged to be Cameroon's commercial center. Yaounde, situated in a lush hilly region in the interior, is the political capital and seat of government.

While not considered a tourist destination, Cameroon offers the determined traveler a broad spectrum of African sights and insights into the sub-Saharan region.



Yaounde, the capital, is in central south Cameroon, 168 road miles inland, east of Douala. Yaounde is 4 degrees north of the Equator at an altitude of 2,500 feet and has a relatively mild climate. Daily temperatures can vary as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit-from a high of 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit, to a low of 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Yaounde is situated amidst forested hills. The city stretches for 5 miles, over seven hills, in an area of lush vegetation. While Yaounde has modern buildings and services, a lack of maintenance, especially on roads, and infrequent garbage pickup degrade the quality of urban life. An excellent highway system connects Yaounde with the other major cities of Douala, Bafoussam, and Bamenda, as well as the beaches at Kribi and Limbe.

Yaounde's population is about 1,446,000. The number of foreigners has steadily declined since Cameroon's mid 1980s economic downturn. Neither tourism nor business opportunities abound in Yaounde to attract significant numbers of visitors.


Local produce (fresh fruits and vegetables) is plentiful and reasonably priced.

Most other foodstuffs are available locally, but generally are imported and more costly than in the U.S. Fresh milk is not available-only dried and sterilized (UHT) long-life milk. Locally produced coffee, tea, soft drinks, and beer are plentiful. Specialty or ethnic food items are not available locally.

Butcher shops, grocery stores, and the local open-air markets provide fresh meat, fish and shrimp, canned goods, tropical fruits, and vegetables. Frozen meat from Europe is also available. Meats bought at the local market will need to be cleaned, trimmed, and cured before cooking. All fresh fruits and vegetables must be washed and properly soaked in an iodine or Clorox solution before being stored, peeled, or eaten.

General food items are priced higher, and certain items are unavailable.


Bring an ample supply of all types of clothing for each family member. Although the climate is mild for the Tropics, with no real change of season, 100% cotton or cotton/polyester fabrics are recommended. A light jacket, wrap or sweater is useful on cool evenings. Drycleaning is expensive, and the service is poor. Umbrellas are a necessity. Local shoes are unreasonably expensive, of poor quality and durability, and selection is limited.

Women: Dresses, skirts, pantsuits, and slacks can be worn for office or everyday wear. Sometimes women wearing pantsuits are denied entry into Cameroonian Government buildings. At "American" casual gatherings, slacks, jeans, or informal dresses are typical. Americans are the casual dressers; Cameroonians rarely are! Shorts are appropriate only at the American School of Yaounde Recreation Center or for sports. Evening wear consists of long, casual-to-semiformal dresses, as well as short cocktail dresses. Long-sleeved dresses and blouses can be worn in the evenings. Shawls and sweaters are also useful for cool nights. Stockings may be worn, but they are neither necessary nor practical.

Supplies and Services

Most essential nonfood items, such as cosmetics, toiletries, drugstore supplies (excluding prescriptions), sports equipment, pet supplies, and sewing materials and notions are sold locally. However, few American brands are available, costs are normally higher than in the U.S., the quality of the goods is often questionable, and availability is always uncertain. For these reasons and to meet personal preferences, ship a 2-year supply or order these items periodically from the U.S. Bring an initial supply of photographic film and plan to reorder later as local film is expensive and may have been on the shelf in non-airconditioned stores for some time. Insect repellent is not available locally and it is advisable to bring products that contain at least 31.5% DEFT. Hardware stores are well stocked with French-made goods.

Ship sports equipment for golf, tennis, and swimming, i.e., balls, racquets, clothing, shoes, etc., with your household goods. Sports equipment or supplies may also be reordered from several U.S. companies. For children, consider bringing several swimsuits, masks, goggles, flippers, inflatable armbands and rings.

Repair of minor camera, radio, and stereo equipment is available, but the quality is questionable. Parts for most U.S.-made products are unavailable. Many local photo shops offer 25-minute developing of color film; quality varies from mediocre to very good, with prices around $7.50-$10 per 24-exposure roll.

Hairdressers with Western-style standards of cleanliness are available but limited in number and of middling quality. Pricing is comparable to a smaller U.S. city. Several barbers are available at reasonable prices. Shoe repair services are acceptable.

Yaounde has many tailors and dressmakers. In general, dressmakers charge reasonable prices, but tailors of Western-style clothing charge more. Local fabrics are reasonably priced and many people have African-style shirts, pants, dresses, and casual clothes made to supplement their wardrobes. Dry-cleaning shops are expensive with inconsistent results.

Domestic Help

Due to the additional and complicated procedures necessary in food preparation, shopping, entertaining, gardening, and the extraordinary demands of house cleaning and laundry, domestic help is desirable. Most U.S. households employ at least one steward who may perform a combination of kitchen and household cleaning responsibilities. Depending on personal needs, one can also hire cooks, nursemaids, launderers, gardeners, and part-time help.

Both English-speaking and French-speaking domestics are available. Salaries for domestics range from approximately US $50 to US $150 monthly depending on qualifications, duties, and hours worked. Employers are responsible for payment into the Cameroonian equivalent of social security, CNPS (Casse Nationalle de Prevoyance Sociale) at a rate of 12.95% of the salary paid to the domestic. A 54-hour week, with 1 day off, is the official Came-roonian workweek. Few domestics live-in.

Religious Activities

The Yaounde region is primarily Christian. Roman Catholic masses are held in French or a local language. English-language mass is held once a week at Mt. Febe monastery. Weekly English-language services are available at the Bastos Presbyterian Church, and Etoug-Ebe and Faith Baptist Churches. The Greek Orthodox Church conducts early masses in French followed by Greek masses. The American Jewish and Israeli communities jointly sponsor ad hoc Jewish holiday observances. The International Christian Fellowship (interdenominational) holds its services at the Hilton Hotel on Sunday mornings. A branch of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints holds Sunday morning services in French with English Sunday school classes.


The American School of Yaounde is an independent coeducational school founded in 1964. It offers an educational program from prekindergarten through grade 12 for English-speaking students of all nationalities. Grades 11 and 12 are supplemented by correspondence study from the University of Nebraska. The school year is made up of four terms extending from late August to late October, early November to late January, early February to mid-April, and mid-April to mid-June with 180 days of instruction.

The school is governed by an eight-member School Board elected for 2-year terms by the School Association. Half of the Board members are elected at each October meeting. The U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon also appoints a representative to the Board. Parents or guardians of children enrolled in the school are automatically Association members.

The curriculum is that of traditional U.S. public schools with the use of modern materials including microcomputers and up-to-date teaching techniques in all subject areas. All instruction is in English, with French being taught at all levels. English as a Second Language (ESL) support is offered through grade 10 to students whose English is not fluent. The school is accredited by the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges and the European Council of International Schools. Currently, the school has no learning specialist on staff; so, students with moderate to severe learning problems may not be admitted if it is determined that our program is not appropriate for them.

There are 23 full-time and 1 part-time faculty members in the 1999-2000 school year, including 12 U.S. citizens, 3 host-country nationals, and 8 third-country nationals. All staff members are fully certified and registered with their respective country's educational department, and most of the teachers are U.S. certified and trained.

Enrollment at the beginning of the 1999-2000 school year is 148.Of the total, 34% are U.S. citizens, 17.5% Cameroonian, and 49% are children of 20 other nationalities.

The school has 13 classrooms, 2 computer rooms, a second language center with 2 rooms, a library for student use with separate primary and secondary sections, a swimming pool, a volleyball/basketball court, and 4 tennis courts, a restaurant, and a large covered assembly area. The playground is divided into an area for the smaller children with modern Big Toys playground equipment and an abbreviated soccer field. The school is located on property owned by the U.S. Embassy.

In the 1999-2000 school year, about 95% of the school's income is derived from tuition. The annual tuition rates are: Early Childhood: $2,020; PreK: $2,500; Kindergarten: $6,780; Grades 1 to 5: $8,850; Grades 6 to 8: $9,090; Grades 9 to 12: $9,260; and, ESL supplement: $1,000. Transportation by school bus (optional) is $1,250 per year per child. (All fees quoted in U.S. dollars). Rain Forest International School (RFIS) is a Christian high school (grades 9 to 12), associated with the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), a large missionary group specializing in Bible translations. RFIS, which started in the 1991-92 school year, offers an international curriculum taught in English. Middle States Association of Colleges and the Association of Christian Schools International accredit RFIS. Current enrollment is 56 and RFIS has added 10 students in the past 5 years and is expected to continue to grow at that rate. Tuition charges for 2000 are US $7,300. Separately managed hostels provide residences for boarding students.

Ecole Internationale Le Flamboyant is a private preschool and elementary school started in 1986. Accreditation is by MINEDUC of Cameroon and A E F E of France Instruction is in French and tuition is $1,900-$3,300 for 2000.

Local schools, whether public or private, use the French language and teaching system. All local schools have large classes, minimizing individual attention. They are appropriate only for children who have a firm knowledge of French and are accustomed to the French educational system. A French elementary school and high school have very high standards and admission is very difficult. A private nursery school and two technical schools also provide instruction in French.

The University of Yaounde provides a French-style education with instruction in both French and English.


The most popular sporting activities are tennis, golf, and swimming. Expatriates sometimes organize softball, basketball, soccer, and volleyball games.

American School of Yaounde Recreation Center (ASOY) has a membership that is open to the international and Cameroonian community to take advantage of the school's sports, restaurant and recreational facilities. Facilities include: a swimming pool and toddler's pool supervised by lifeguards; four tennis courts, two of which are lighted; a combination volleyball and basketball court; a Ping-pong table; Video Club (NTSC cassettes); The Parrot's Club Canteen, a bar and full-service restaurant; and, a multipurpose hall, which may be rented for private parties. Swimming lessons and TaeKwonDo are available. The Recreation Center is open 6 days a week, from 9 am to 6 pin except Mondays and holidays. The Club hosts special functions such as tennis tournaments and bazaars and will cater for private parties. The school's soccer field and playground are available outside of school hours. Membership fees vary according to family size. The 2000 annual fees for ASOY are about 70,000 CFA (US$110) per adult & 35,000 CFA (US$55) each per first 2 children, and 95,000 CFA (US$150) for singles. ASOY students are automatically members of the Recreation Center.

Hilton Health Club is located in the basement of the Hilton Hotel. Their facilities include a sauna, jacuzzi, weight room, pool, and tennis courts. They also offer a variety of exercise/fitness classes. Membership is based on family size, and can be arranged monthly or annually.

Tennis Club of Yaounde has four lighted tennis courts and a bar. Racquets can be strung here. Membership is usually full. The Club offers several good tennis exhibition matches every year and also sponsors various tournaments.

Club Noah has a serene hilltop location 10 minutes from Bastos, the primary residential area for most Americans and expatriates. It has three lighted tennis courts, a large swimming pool with poolside cabana offering snacks, and a squash court. Members are usually French speaking.

AMT, The French Military Club, offers three lighted tennis courts and a clubhouse. Judo lessons are given, and there is a boliche area.

Club Hippique offers stables and riding lessons for the beginner to the advanced rider. There are also competitive riding and jumping events.

Yaounde Golf Club, located at the foot of Mont Febe, has one of the most spectacular courses in West Africa. The Club offers an 18-hole course with sand greens, a practice range, and a clubhouse. Daily and weekend rates as well as annual memberships are available.

Par Cours Vita, located near the Mont Febe Hotel, is a one-kilometer outdoor course that offers various exercise spots along a scenic walk-way.

Mont Febe Club, located in the Mont Febe Hotel, offers a swimming pool, two tennis courts, indoor and outdoor restaurants and a bar. Daily, monthly, or annual fees may include either tennis or swimming, or both.

Club France offers a wide range of facilities. The four tennis courts (three lighted), two squash courts, volleyball, basketball, semi-Olympic sized pool, kiddie pool, are only a small portion of activities available. There is also a multipurpose gym, library, poolroom, bridge room, skateboard course, TV room (satellite dish), petanque, and a bar and restaurant.

Hotel Des Deputes offers two tennis courts and a swimming pool. Daily, monthly, or annual fees are available.

Bird and small-game hunting spots exist in the Yaounde area. Big-game hunting is possible in other parts of the country, although permits are expensive. While ammunition is available locally, it is expensive, limited in supply, and not the best quality. Bring all hunting equipment and ammunition from the U.S. The importation of firearms and ammunition requires the Ambassador's written approval in advance (see Firearms and Ammunition).

An abundance of colorful African birds in and around Yaounde affords frequent opportunities to bird watch. Bring a pair of binoculars. West African and sometimes South African bird books are used for personal reference in identifying birds as there is no Central African book in print. The Bird Club of Cameroon, which is a member of the American Birding Association, organizes birding walks and trips within the area.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Activities such as a visit to the Yaounde zoo, a piroque (dug-out canoe; ride on the Nyong River, swimming a Luna Park in Obala or viewing nearby Nachtigal Falls, guided tours of the Sanaga tobacco plantation in Batchenga and touring the Mbalmayo Art Institute are good diversions near Yaounde.

Long weekends to the beaches at Kribi and Limbe, trips to the mountains of the West and Northwest or the northern plains and Waza provide changes of atmosphere and climate Good roads exist between most major cities, but once off of the main roads, the secondary roads are in poor shape. Four wheel drive is a necessity on most secondary roads. Limited air transportation is available to all major cities.

Douala is 3 hours away by road and 30 minutes by plane. It is the biggest city in Cameroon-and because of its large expatriate population, Douala offers many good restaurants with various cuisines. Shopping is better than in Yaounde because of greater selection and slightly more reasonable prices.

Limbe, an oceanside town formerly called Victoria, is located less than 1-1/ 2 hours from Douala. Limbe is known for its wide, flat, black volcanic sand beaches; but white sand beaches also exist not far from the major hotels. Pleasant accommodations can be found at an oceanside hotel, which provides both fresh and saltwater pools and a tennis court. Another hotel about 6 miles out of town offers a quiet oceanside getaway near the site of the lava flow from when Mt. Cameroon erupted in early 1999. Several of the beaches in the area are tidal and do not exist at high tide.

Buea is a mountainside village located about 30 minutes from Douala. Situated at the foot of Mt. Cameroon, it offers a charming setting, cool climate, and adequate accommodations. This is the starting point for climbing Mt. Cameroon.

Mt. Cameroon, at 13,428 feet, is the loftiest peak in sub-Saharan West Africa and provides a challenging, yet not technically difficult (by alpine standards), hiking experience. The climb normally takes 2 days. You must have camping gear (i.e., sleeping bags, portable stove, hiking shoes, etc.), warm clothing, and be prepared to spend the night on the mountain in a primitive hut. Many Americans have made this climb during their tour and found it to be an exhilarating experience. The American School of Yaounde organizes an annual Mt. Cameroon expedition in February each year and adults from the American community are welcome to join this group.

Kribi is a beach resort, about a 3-to 4-hour drive from Yaounde. The white sand beaches are wide and virtually deserted for much of the year. Hotel accommodations are numerous but fill up quickly on weekends during the dry season months of December and January. Some families enjoy camping on campsites along the beach.

The West and Northwest Provinces are located in a mountainous and cool region about a 5-hour drive from Yaounde. This area is the home of the interesting Bamileke and Bamoun cultures. African art and handicrafts of the region are among its attractions, with handi-craft centers in Bamenda and Foumban. Older precolonial European style hotels in Dschang, Bali, Bafoussam, and Bamenda offer limited accommodations of uneven quality.

A trip to northern Cameroon offers by far the most striking change of scenery, climate, and culture. Its sparsely vegetated savanna terrain, scorching temperatures, Moslem culture, and primitive ambiance contrast starkly with the more developed southern parts of the country. Among several game reserves, Waza is considered one of the best in West Africa. During the dry season, many varieties of wild game are easily viewed as the animals congregate at the few remaining waterholes. Although a journey to the north is long and expensive and the climate hot and dusty, these factors should not deter those interested in a unique African experience. About 12 days are needed if traveling entirely by road. Another option, which is more expensive but saves time, is to travel from Yaounde to Ngaoundere by train, which will also transport your car, and drive north from there on a good paved road. Even more expensive air package tours include accommodations and meals. Rental ground transport is available in the extreme North but quite expensive.


One modern, air-conditioned movie theater in Yaounde shows European and American films-all dubbed into French. Although recent high-quality American films are shown occasionally, first-run European films are shown more often.

Yaounde has several discotheques that are loud, dark, crowded, smoke filled, and expensive, but provide good Western and African music for both dancing and listening. Several clubs provide live African music.

Major Cameroonian holidays provide colorful parades with native dancing and music.

The American, French, and German cultural centers and the British Council offer occasional concerts, films, and lectures. Some well-known entertainers of international fame come to Yaounde at least once a year.

Yaounde has numerous restaurants: Russian, Italian, Greek, Vietnamese, Chinese, Lebanese, and many others that serve standard French cuisine. Hilton Hotel and Hotel Mount Febe also have good restaurants at more expensive prices. A few restaurants offer take-out service and a couple of restaurants recently began pizza delivery services. Prices at most restaurants are comparable to the U.S., for example, a two-course meal usually costs between $8 and $15 each, excluding drinks, dessert, and tip. The tipping rate for service is much less than in the U.S. Don't miss the opportunity to try numerous African restaurants serving traditional Cameroonian dishes. "Chicken" or "fish" houses abound, serving chicken, fish, plantains, and/or fries. Most are good, some excellent, more reasonably priced than full-service restaurants.

Social Activities

Most entertaining is done casually in the home. Aside from representational entertaining, most gettogethers are informal dinners, luncheons, barbecues, and cocktail parties. Tennis, swimming, golf, board games, and charades are among the most popular activities here. Both Boy and Girl Scouts have programs here. The American School of Yaounde (ASOY) has an excellent afterschool activity program as well.

Americans mingle freely with both the Cameroonian and European communities. Since the vast majority of both these groups are French speaking, knowledge of that language is essential for easy socializing.

Broadening your contacts within the diplomatic and local community greatly enhances your tour and provides further social activities as well.


Douala is a 3-hour drive west of Yaounde and is about four degrees north of the Equator at an altitude of roughly 40 feet. It is 12 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean on the Wouri River. The surrounding terrain is flat or gently rolling and crisscrossed with numerous creeks. A tropical rain forest begins at the edge of town and extends inland.

High heat and humidity characterize the climate. Temperatures fluctuate between the mid-70s and the low 90s. Relative humidity averages in the mid-80s. Dust can be a problem during the dry season for those with allergies.

Douala is a sprawling city of wide avenues crowded with cars and motor scooters during rush hour. Modern houses and buildings appear beside the prewar examples of traditional colonial architecture (with verandas, louvered shutters, and thick walls). A pleasant, cosmopolitan city, Douala is Cameroon's largest urban center, with a population estimated at 2,800,000. It has a sizable foreign community, with particularly large Nigerian and French populations. About 200 Americans live in the Douala area, many of who are employed in the petroleum sector. The consular corps includes the Consulate General of France; Consulates of Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, and China; and honorary consuls for Zaire, the Netherlands, Belgium, Togo, the Central African Republic, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Italy, and Tunisia.

Douala is Cameroon's economic capital and its gateway to the world. The port handles some 4 million tons of cargo annually for both Cameroon and the inland countries of central Africa. Its airport serves as a major regional air hub. Douala is the terminal point for Cameroon's railroad lines. The city has considerable light industry located primarily in industrial zones on either end of the city, producing a variety of goods such as plastics, soap, perfume, household appliances, bags, cigarettes, cement, chocolate, and cocoa powder for the national and regional markets.

An American Business Association and an International Women's Club hold monthly luncheon meetings.


A wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish are readily available and are moderately more expensive than in Washington, DC. A trip to the local fish market will reveal very fresh fish of several species, including capitan, flounder, barr, world-class shrimp, and others. Local paper products, cosmetics, toiletries, and baby and pet food are limited in supply, of quality significantly less than you may be familiar with, and expensive.


In Douala, there is little change in temperature and lightweight clothing is advisable due to the heat and humidity. Men usually wear a suit or jacket, shirt, tie, and slacks at the office. Women usually wear a lightweight suit or dress at the office. Cameroonians dress more formally in daily wear and do not normally wear shorts except when playing sports. Drycleaning services are plentiful and generally of good quality but more expensive than in Washington, D.C. Bring enough shoes to last an entire tour (or plan to mail order) because size, selection, and quality are limited. Umbrellas are necessary and available locally but raincoats are seldom worn due to the humidity.

Supplies and Services

Some items either not available or of limited availability are: cosmetics, paper products, contact lens supplies, common contraceptives, shower curtains, and fragrances. Prearrange delivery from the U.S. of prescription drugs to assure a continuous supply.

Douala has one recommended private medical clinic-Polyclinic Bonanjo. It is acceptable for general health care, but specialized treatment must be sought outside the country.

Competent tailors and dressmakers can be found and can copy existing clothing or make it from pictures you supply. Bring sewing notions (buttons, zippers, elastic, and favorite patterns) with you from the U.S. Colorful, locally produced cotton material is inexpensive; other materials are imported and costly. African-style dresses and caftans embellished with embroidery or batik are plentiful.

Shoe repair services are available and satisfactory. Barbershops and beauty shops in town are good, although expensive. Repair work on radios, videos, and electronic equipment is reasonably well done in Douala. Camera repairs are not generally done locally. Film is plentiful and local film development is good but expensive. Watch repair is limited to battery changes.

Although Douala has some specialty stores, sports equipment stores, and bookstores, bring sports and hobby equipment and supplies to avoid limited availability and high local prices. English-language books, records, and children's games are best brought or ordered from the U.S.

Automobile servicing is satisfactory for most Japanese and European cars. Service and parts for most U.S. vehicles are minimal at local Came-roonian dealers. Local mechanics are innovative and can usually be relied upon to keep your car, whatever make, running. Bargaining in advance and ability to pay determine the cost.

Taxis are readily available and inexpensive but due to increased criminal activity should be used with caution. Taxis cannot be summoned by telephone. There are some car rental agencies located in Douala.

Domestic Help

Domestic help is recommended and readily available. Male domestics are plentiful; female domestics are harder to find. It is a good idea to request recommendations from your predecessor. Salaries are paid in CFA at the equivalent of US$75-$100 a month for a house domestic and up to US$150 for a cook/house domestic. They commonly work six 9-hour days a week. After serving a year they are entitled to 3-week's paid vacation.

Religious Activities

Catholic, Anglican, and Moslem services are normally conducted in French. Douala also has a large Baha'i community.


The American School of Douala (ASD) provides an American-style curriculum for prekindergarten through grade 8. High-school students must plan to attend schools in Europe or the U.S. Present enrollment is about 100 students. The other private school attended by expatriate children is the French-run Ecole Dominique Savio, which provides a traditional French education for nursery through the Baccalaureate. Aside from admission of 2-to 4-year olds to the nursery school, Ecole Dominique Savio only enrolls students with a firm knowledge of French.


Outdoor sports activities are somewhat curtailed during the heavy rainy season from June through October. Many people jog or swim throughout the year

single joggers should use caution. There is a weekly Hash House Harriers run and a Scottish dancing group. There are several active tennis clubs and Tiko has a 9-hole golf course nearby. The local marina has water ski and wind surf areas. In addition, there are riding clubs as well as several modern exercise/dance studios offering aerobic, circuit training, and other activities.


Perhaps the chief form of entertainment in the city is dining out in Douala's fine restaurants, which offer French, Chinese, Southeast Asian, Lebanese, Indian, Russian, Italian, and Cameroonian cuisine. Douala also has three modern air-conditioned movie theaters that show movies in French.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Three nearby towns (1 to 1-1/ 2 hours drive from Douala) offer quiet diversions from the bustle of the city. Buea is charmingly situated at the base of Mt. Cameroon, West Africa's highest mountain, and is the starting point for hikes to the summit. The Mountain Hotel has a swimming pool and good food. Limbe is a quaint oceanside town with black volcanic sand beaches and a botanical garden. Several hotels are available and have swimming pools. Kribi has sparkling white sand beaches and is the beach most frequented by expatriates. There are many hotels available. A good highway connects Yaounde and Douala in about 3 hours. Distant drives can also be made to Foumban, Bamenda, and Dschang in the western, mountainous sections of the country.

Social Activities

Much of social activity revolves around informal at-home entertaining and slackens as people vacation during summer. The International Women's Club of Douala organizes weekly and monthly activities for members including French, English, and Spanish lessons, bridge, badminton, gourmet club, sewing, exercise classes, and Bible study. It raises funds during the year for charitable endeavors. Spouses are invited to participate in some activities.


BAFOUSSAM , with a population estimated at 113,000 in 2000, is located in the western part of the country, north-northeast of Douala. Bafoussam is a major trading area for the Bamiléké peoples. Trades include coffee (growing and processing), kola nuts, tea, and tobacco. The town has a hospital, wood and construction industries, a trade school, an airfield, and coffee processing plants.

BERTOUA is located in the southeastern section of Cameroon. Its airport, opened in 1976, has allowed the city to communicate with the rest of the country. Under major development, Bertoua now has better roads and a peanut oil factory. The population is over 20,000.

Near Limbe on the coastal region of western Cameroon, BUEA has points of interest for the history enthusiast. A former capital of German Kamerun between 1884 and 1919, historic sites of that period have been preserved. Such sights include the Prime Minister's Lodge, the Old Secretariat, the Bismarck Fountain, the Native Authority School, and the German Burial Ground. Buea served as the seat of the British commissioner for Southern Cameroons in 1922. Today, it is an administrative and trading center. Industries include textile, wood, and construction. Buea has an estimated population of over 30,000.

DSCHANG is located on a forested plateau in northwestern Cameroon. With its high altitude and airfield, Dschang is a tourist spot attracting both the traveler and the health seeker. This city has ample rainfall and a rough landscape. Dschang is a local trade center for agricultural products and livestock. There is a brick-making industry in town and bauxite deposits nearby. Tea processing is a relatively new project. The town has an agricultural college, hospital, and an airfield. The population is roughly over 22,000.

EBOLOWA , situated in the southwest, is roughly 70 miles (112 kilometers) south-southwest of Yaoundé. Ebolowa is a major producer of ivory and cocoa. This city has an airport, hospital, and a museum. Local sawmills prepare timber for export to the coastal town of Kribi. There were about 22,000 residents in 1981.

EDÉA , a city of almost 80,000 people in 1991, is an aluminum industry headquarters. Aluminum ingots, household products, and sheet metal are produced in Edéa. Surrounding the city are several cocoa and rubber plantations, stone quarries, and palm oil factories. Industries in and around Edéa are powered by an electrical power dam on the Sanaga River. Located near the far western border, it is linked by rail with Douala to the north and Yaoundé to the east.

FOUMBAN , a historic city, was once the capital of the Bamum kingdom. Located approximately 140 miles north-northwest of the capital, Foumban has an estimated population of over 45,000. A palace dating back to the 18th century now houses the Foumban Museum of Bamum Art, containing examples of wood carving, bamboo and raffia furniture collections, and copper and terrá-cotta masks. This city is a center for art and artists. The local crafts are known for their quality throughout Cameroon. Foumban holds coffee, tobacco, and cocoa to be sent on to Douala for export. The town has a hospital, airfield, and customs station.

Located in the northern part of the country, GAROUA had an estimated population of 142,000 in 2000. Services available in the city include an airfield, banks, a hospital, insurance companies, and a junior college. Garoua is near the Benue River, which makes it a good spot for fishing. Other industries include textile, cotton, peanut, and leather. Tourism is an important industry due to Garoua's close proximity to the Bénoué, Bouba Ndjida, and Faro game reserves.

KUMBA is a transportation hub that connects the city with Douala, Buea, Mamfe, and Bafang. It is located in the west and is known for its waterfalls and the nearby picturesque Lake Barombi Mbo. Industries include cocoa (Kumba's major export), bananas, oil palms, rubber, tea, and plantains. Forests and farms near Kumba supply resources for the town's lumber, construction, and food processing industries. Kumba has over 60,000 residents.

MAROUA is not as modern as some of Cameroon's southern cities, but it still serves as a major trade center. This calm and peaceful city is situated in the northern part of Cameroon, just below the Mandara Mountains and near the Kaliao River. Mud houses abound on the shaded streets of the neighborhoods, in contrast to the center of town where there are hotels, restaurants, and entertainment. The city's museum houses artifacts from the 10th century as well as new exhibits. Maroua's artisans are noted for their pottery, jewelry, metalwork, leatherwork, and embroidery. The town has a hospital, several mosques, a Protestant church, and a veterinary hospital. The Waza National Park is located several miles to the north. Maroua had about 123,000 residents in 2000.

NGAOUNDÉRÉ is located in the north-central Cameroon on the Adamawa Plateau. Large game reserves to the northeast (Boubandjidah National Park) and northwest (Benoue National Park) make this city a fairly popular tourist attraction. The main industries include perfume manufacturing, animal husbandry, dairying, hide preparation, and cotton ginning.

Ngaoundéré, a traditional capital of the Fulani people, is equipped with an airport, a hospital, and a customs station. Formerly part of the Adamawa kingdom, Ngaoundéré has about 61,000 residents

Near the western coast and north of the capital, NKONGSAMBA is the final destination for the railroad coming north from Douala. Exports include tobacco and coffee, which are sent by rail to Douala. The city is a commercial hub, the home of large banana, coffee, and palm oil plantations. Nkongsamba is serviced by a hospital, banks, airfield, sawmill, insurance companies, and food processing plants. Situated at the foot of Mount Manengouba, the city has an estimated population of over 125,000.


The Republic of Cameroon covers an area (184,000 square miles) slightly larger than the size of California and is located just north of the Equator at the hinge of the West African coastline. Shaped like an irregular triangle, Cameroon extends north-eastward from the Gulf of Guinea to Lake Chad, and borders six coastal and inland countries: Nigeria to the northwest; Chad and the Central African Republic to the north and northeast; and the Congo, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea to the south.

Cameroon has four distinct topo-graphical regions. The low coastal plains in the south are blanketed with equatorial rain forests extending to the Sanaga River. In central Cameroon, the rain forest yields to the Adamaoua Plateau-a vast, sparsely vegetated region. Stretching northward from the foot of this plateau to Lake Chad are the great northern plains, where savannas contrast starkly with unusual rock formations in the Mandara Mountains. To the west and northwest are rolling hills and volcanic mountains cloaked in lush vegetation. Here lies Mt. Cameroon, the highest peak (13,428 feet) in sub-Saharan West Africa.

Cameroon's climate is as varied as its geography. High humidity and temperatures with little seasonal variations characterize the coast and southern lowlands. In the Douala area, these conditions may cause household goods to rust, mold, or mildew. In the north, extremely high temperatures and little or no humidity are normal, although seasonal fluctuations occur.

In Yaounde, humidity and temperatures are lower, but fluctuate daily. Two rainy seasons are interspersed with two relatively dry periods. April and May bring the "mango rains." These moderately heavy rains average 8 inches monthly, then taper off into the drier months of June and July. Rainfall then increases to more than 12 inches monthly for August through November and recedes to as little as 2 inches monthly during the dry season of December through March. During the dry season temperatures may peak above 100°F and dust is a serious problem. This causes discomfort and health problems, especially for people that suffer with hay fever, allergies, and asthma and results in higher than normal incidences of respiratory infections, coughs, and colds. High humidity, temperature fluctuations, rust, mold, or mildew may damage household goods and personal effects such as stereo equipment, paintings, and books.


As of 2000, the population totaled about 15.9 million, with a growth rate officially estimated at 2.79% annually. However, the urban population in the two major cities has grown at a faster rate due to migration from rural areas. Nearly one-third of the populace resides in Littoral and Central Provinces-the location of the two largest cities in the country, Yaounde and Douala. Cameroon's population is young with 46% ages 14 and under. Life expectancy of the total population is short-only 51 years (males 49 and females 52).

About 11,000 Europeans (predominantly French) and 1,250 Americans live in Cameroon, including some 150 Peace Corps volunteers stationed throughout the country. There are also large immigrant populations of Chadians, Congolese, Senegalese, and Nigerians.

Cameroon and its neighbors have received countless human migrations. Cameroon's western highlands are widely thought to be where the Bantu migrations originated some 2,000 years ago. In the 18th and 19th centuries further migratory movements resulted from Islamic holy wars waged by the Fulani. As a result, Cameroon has become a meeting place of important cultural groups: Puels from the coast of Guinea; Fulani and Arab people from western Sudan; and Bantus from the Congo.

Because of the intermixture and absorption of these peoples, Cameroon has more than 200 identifiable ethnic tribes. In the north, one finds Moslem Fulani and Hausa groups as well as animist, Christian, or Moslem "Kirdis," the name given to the peoples who inhabited the region before the Fulani conquests. The western highlands are the home of the Bamileke and Bamoun peoples, among many others. The south is inhabited by the Beti, of which the Eton, Ewondo, Bulu, and Fang are the most important subgroups. The Bassa and Douala groups inhabit the coastal plains. The pygmies, the earliest inhabitants of the southern forests, still survive in that area.

Cameroon is unique among African nations because it is bilingual-French and English are the official languages. The elite generally speaks French in 8 of Cameroon's 10 provinces. English, most commonly pidgin, is predominant only in the Northwest and Southwest Provinces. Fulant is widely spoken in the three northern Provinces. Throughout the country, 24 African languages plus assorted dialects are spoken.

Christianity and Islam are practiced in Cameroon. Christians are estimated to constitute 33% of the population and Moslems approximately 16%; the balance (51%) practice animist or traditional beliefs.

Public Institutions

Cameroon became independent January 1, 1960, when East Cameroon (formerly French) became the Republic of Cameroon. On October 1, 1961, West Cameroon (formerly British) joined with East Cameroon to form the Federated Republic of Cameroon. With adoption of the constitution of May 20, 1972, the East and West formed a unitary republic. In January 1984, the National Assembly officially changed the country's name by dropping the word "United" before the Republic of Cameroon. The 1972 constitution was amended in 1996.

The President can name and dismiss Cabinet members and judges, negotiate and ratify treaties, accredit ambassadors, commute sentences, grant pardons, lead the armed forces, declare states of national emergency, and be invested with special powers. If the President dies or is permanently incapacitated, the speaker of the National Assembly becomes Acting President for up to 40 days until elections are held.

In the National Assembly, laws are adopted by majority vote of members present, except for cases where the President calls for a second reading. Adoption then requires approval by a majority of the Assembly's total membership. Only the President may ask the Supreme Court to review a law's constitutionality.

Each of the 10 provinces has a governor and an administrative staff appointed by the President, and each province's divisions and subdivisions have chief officers also appointed by the President. This internal administrative system is under the Ministry of Territorial Administration. Other ministries may have representatives at each level.

The legal system in eight provinces formerly under the French mandate is based on the French civil law system. The President, the Minister of Justice, and the President's judicial advisers (Supreme Court) top the judicial hierarchy. Next are the provincial appeals courts, chief judges for the divisions, and local magistrates. Traditional courts still play a major role in domestic, property, and probate law. Tribal laws and customs are honored in the formal court system when not in conflict with national law. Traditional kingdoms and organizations also exercise other functions of government. Traditional rulers are treated as administrative adjuncts and receive a government allowance.

Under pressure from the opposition, the government introduced several reforms in the 1990s to liberalize public institutions. These reforms provided for the creation of a bicameral legislature and the establishment of Provincial Assemblies. They also permitted formation of opposition political parties, independent newspapers, nongovermnental civic associations and ended censorship. While the government continues to occasionally impose restrictions on those with dissenting views, open public debate has increased greatly. Cameroon last held multiparty parliamentary elections on May 17, 1997. The former single party, the Cameroon Peoples' Democratic Movement (CPDM), which once held all 180 seats in the National Assembly, won 116 seats in the multiparty election with six other parties accounting for the remainder. In October 1997, Cameroon held the second multiparty presidential election in its history. According to official results, President Biya was reelected with about 93% of the vote, while major opposition parties boycotted the election. Credible local and international observers found flaws due to irregular campaign practices and vote tabulations. The Government has been singled out by domestic and international human rights monitors for serious abuses, including unlawful detention, torture, and occasional extrajudicial killing by security forces.

Arts, Science, and Education

Cameroon's art reflects the ethnic diversity of its people. Although ancestral traditions form the basis for most art forms, certain crafts, such as carving and painting cala-bashes, bas relief sculpture, engraving abbia stones, weaving baskets, and embroidering cloth and traditional batik works illustrate the presence of art in the daily lives of Cameroonians. Traditional art forms consist mainly of wood sculpture. Objects such as carved masks, statues; various ethnic groups thus translate decorative panels, beds, chairs, and doors into a multitude of expressions in wood. Two other interesting art forms are brasswork/bronzework and wood sculpture embroidered with glass beads by the peoples of the western highlands. In the northern provinces, local specialties include cloth weaving, leather goods, and decorative traditional arms made of brass. Copies of traditional art and native handi-crafts are being encouraged by the Government to promote the country's development efforts.

The Government wishes to combine the British and French educational systems into an integrated national education program, but the French system still prevails in most of the country. A comprehensive English program has been incorporated into the national curriculum to enhance Cameroon's official bilingual policy. The educational structure consists of primary, secondary, postsecondary professional, and university levels. Education in public primary schools is technically free and widely available, but expenses are incurred for books, materials, and uniforms. Primary education is compulsory for ages 6 to 14 and the enrollment rate is one of the highest in Africa. However, regional disparities exist with enrollment in the center and south higher than in the north. Further, enrollment drops off dramatically at the secondary level.

Most Cameroonians consider a university degree as a prerequisite for social and professional advancement, and education is highly valued. The government dedicates a large portion of the national budget to education, though universities are still woefully underfunded.

Cameroon has six national universities. The universities are officially bilingual though French is the dominant language at all of them except at Buea, which is the country's sole "Anglo-Saxon" university and is modeled on the British system. The six institutions are Yaounde I University, Yaounde II

University, the University of Douala, the University of Dschang, the University of Ngaoundere, and the University of Buea. There are also several highly regarded special institutions, the Grandes Ecoles. Two are affiliated with Yaounde I University: the Ecole Nationale d'Administration et de Magistrature (which trains much of the ruling elite and the senior technocrats), the Ecole Normale Superieure (which trains educators and administrators). Three of the institutes are affiliated with Yaounde II: the Institut des Relations Internationales du Cameroon (which trains all of the country's diplomats, as well as diplomats from 10 other African countries), the Ecole Superieure Polytechnique (which specializes in engineering and information technology), and the Ecole Superieure des Sciences et Techniques de l'Information et de la Communication (which trains journalists). Douala University houses the Ecole Normale Superieure de l'Enseignement Technique (which

specializes in business management and economics), while Buea University is the home of the Advanced School of Translators and Interpreters.

The Catholic University of Central Africa is the country's sole accredited private university. Established in 1994, it is well funded and managed and aims to have regional importance. Other private universities have been established in recent years, but the Government does not recognize degrees from these universities. The most important of them are the Bamenda University for Science and Technology and the Ndi Samba Private University of Yaounde.

Commerce and Industry

Cameroon has abundant natural resources, but it is a poor country whose estimated per capita income in 1999 was about $590. Cameroon is in the African Financial Community along with six central African and eight west-African countries and France. Through special arrangement, these African countries have as their currency, the African Franc, which provides for unlimited convertibility into the French Franc at a fixed rate (currently, 1 French Franc equals 100 African Francs). Cameroon is the largest economy in central Africa, and Yaounde hosts the regional central bank for the six central African countries that use the African Franc.

The government, in cooperation with the IMF and World Bank, has pursued since 1997 an economic reform program to reduce government control over the economy and stimulate more private-sector investment and growth. Between 1997 and 1999, Cameroon's economy grew annually at a 4%-5% annual rate, while at the same time the government more strictly controlled its own spending and allowed government employee salaries to decline relative to inflation. Cameroon's economy depends on agriculture, and Cameroon is a major exporter of bananas, coffee, cocoa, cotton, and rubber. Low world prices for cocoa and coffee in 1999 hurt Cameroonian farmers, while banana exporters faced stiff competition from Latin American producers. In some areas, farmers found export prices so low that they began to uproot cash crop acreage to produce food. Cameroon is generally self-sufficient in terms of food production. Cameroon exports a relatively small quantity of oil and its petroleum sector accounts for about one-fourth of export earnings and one-fifth of the government's budget. Cameroon's existing oil fields are nearing depletion, and the government adopted a new petroleum code in December 1999 to attract new foreign exploration of potential commercial fields in the Gulf of Guinea and in Cameroon's far north.

The government has been privatizing large state-owned companies such as banks, utilities, and food processing firms. Cameroon had suffered a major banking sector crisis in the middle of the 1990s, but by the end of the decade insolvent banks had been closed and the government privatized all state-owned banks. Today, Cameroon has nine banks, most of which are owned by foreign banking companies. The telecommunications infrastructure is overburdened and there are long delays for customers trying to establish phone service. The hope is to attract buyers for the state-owned telephone company to upgrade equipment throughout the country. Cameroon also has two new mobile telephone service companies. Internet service is relatively new, and the connections are very slow by Western standards.

Almost half of the country is covered by forest, but an inadequate transport system impedes the development of the agricultural sector because farmers cannot access larger markets. The rail network, totaling some 700 miles nationwide, is the most important element of the transport infrastructure. The main rail line links Douala Port to Ngaoundere in central Cameroon. Douala also serves as a landing point for much cargo ultimately destined for Chad and the Central African Republic.

Cameroon trades mostly with Europe and Asia; the U.S. accounts for only about 10% of Cameroon's foreign trade. Most of Cameroon's $73 million in exports to the U.S. in 1999 were crude oil, while the U.S. sold Cameroon about $38 million in goods in 1999, including machinery, cereals, and chemicals. U.S. firms operating in Cameroon include Del Monte, Dole, Mobil, Texaco, Citibank, and DHL. The government in 2000 is working with international donors on a national strategy to reduce poverty with special emphasis on education and health programs and rural infrastructure. Cameroon is also seeking foreign debt relief as part of its poverty reduction program.



An automobile is essential for Americans in Cameroon. Cars with high clearance are good for within the city driving given the numerous deep potholes and unpaved streets. Many people prefer 4-wheel-drive vehicles for out of town driving especially during the rainy season. High-end vehicles such as Land Rovers or Toyota Land Cruisers are not recommended because they have been specifically targeted by carjackers. Standard shift cars can be easier to repair.

Several European and Japanese automobile companies have sales and service facilities in Cameroon (Renault, Peugeot, Mercedes, Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Hyundai). Spare parts for American cars are rarely available locally but can be shipped through the pouch subject to restrictions, weight, and size limitations. Spare parts for standard European models and some Japanese models, when available, are priced substantially higher than in the U.S. For these reasons, bring spark plugs, points and condensers, oil filters, windshield wipers, fan belts, water hoses, extra tubes for tires, etc., for your vehicle.

Gasoline costs about US$2.75 per gallon (US$.75 per liter). High-octane gas is equivalent to low-octane gas in the U.S. Both leaded gas and diesel fuel are readily available throughout Cameroon. Automobiles equipped with narrow fuel tank filler necks and catalytic converters will require modification. The narrow filler neck can easily be replaced by requesting a regular one from the car manufacturer, or a neck filler adapter can be purchased locally. If the car is to be shipped back to the U.S., an Environmental Protection Agency waiver must be obtained before a U.S. garage can modify the equipment. If you operate the vehicle without first removing the catalytic converter, the leaded gas will damage it, and it will have to be replaced before the car can again be operated legally in the U.S. The cost for replacement is reimbursable, if done after returning to the U.S.


Yaounde has no bus transportation. Local taxi service is available in most cities and towns at reasonable rates. However, because of overcrowding, lack of safety precautions in taxis, indirect routes, frequent accidents, and increased criminal activity travelers are advised not to use the local taxi. If it is necessary to use a taxi for personal errands, it is possible to arrange for a taxi through known, reputable, persons for an hourly rate for sole use only.


Air service between the Cameroonian cities of Yaounde, Douala, Ngaoundere, Garoua, and Maroua is provided by Cameroon Airlines. A new airline service, National Airways Cameroon, began offering flights to some of the same cities in early 2000. IntraCameroon flights may be delayed or canceled. Most flights to other African destinations depart and arrive from the Douala airport. All fares are generally high with flights often delayed.

Trains run twice daily between Douala and Yaounde, and once daily to Ngaoundere. Each trip takes between 6 and 12 hours. "Bush taxis" or small vans provide intra-country travel between cities; however, they are usually overcrowded and should be used only as a last resort. Foreign and Cameroonian freighters sail frequently between the major European ports and Douala. American freighters sail between the U.S. and various West African ports, including Douala, but due to lack of cargo, stops in Douala are infrequent. Several French and American freighters accept passengers.


Telephone and Telegraph

An automatic dialing system exists between Yaounde, Douala, and most large towns. Local telephone service is poor because existing lines cannot handle the demand. Cameroon and the U.S. have a direct telephone link via satellite. Telephones and telephone lines are difficult to obtain.

Direct calls to the U.S. are about $7 a minute. Long distance charges can be minimized by the use of a "call-back" service. Direct calls are also possible to other African and European countries. Internet access costs about $60 for 20 hours usage per month or unlimited access for approximately $150 per month. Internet connections are slow and unreliable by Western standards.


International airmail letters take from 8 to 15 days to arrive from Europe or the U.S. International surface mail takes from 3 to 6 months, because of Customs complication, pilferage, and unreliable service.

Radio and TV

A shortwave radio is necessary for reception of BBC, VOA, and European stations. The three local stations (two AM, one FM) provide mostly domestic news and recorded music. Broadcasting is primarily in French, with three English newscasts daily. Cameroon television was inaugurated in March 1985 on the German PAL system, which is incompatible with the American NTSC system. The American School of Yaounde operates a tape video club of over 1,000 selections in VHS, NTSC format. Many Americans have VHS video machines in American NTSC format and bring videos or have family and friends mail videos. To enjoy both Cameroon television and American videos, two separate systems or a multisystem (with PAL and NTSC) TV (monitor-receiver) are necessary. Such equipment can be ordered from major European duty-free stores or purchased from base exchanges at U.S. military installations in Europe.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

The International Herald Tribune (published in Paris) is available by subscription or may be purchased in Yaounde and Douala through local bookstores. Although subscriptions cost much less than issues purchased locally (US$630 for 14 months versus US$2.50 per issue), delivery time is slower and more sporadic (7-14 days versus 3-5 days after publication). Several French newspapers and selected British journals are available. The government-run Cameroon Tribune is published 5 days a week mostly in French but with some English content. Some private Cameroonian newspapers are published weekly or bimonthly in French and English.

Bookstores and street vendors sell the international editions of Time and Newsweek. Several French and British magazines are available. Cameroon does not have any public lending libraries, but some English-language books, newspapers, and magazines are sold at local book-shops, newsstands, and hotels. The French Cultural Centers in Douala, Yaounde, Buea, Bamenda, Ngaoundere, and Garoua have a wide selection of French-language materials, which are also available in the cities' larger bookstores. The American Cultural Center in Yaounde has a good selection of English-language books, as does the British Council. The American School library is also well stocked with classics and contemporary materials of interest. It is open to the American Community.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

You are advised to bring an adequate supply of over-the-counter medications and updated prescriptions with at least a 90-day supply for all long-term medications. Prescriptions for maintenance medications can be ordered through Merck-Medco with most insurance plans. It is important to review your health policy and bring the necessary forms with you. Many well-stocked French pharmacies are located in Yaounde.

Hospital and medical services available locally are well below accepted U.S. standards. U Hopital General de Yaounde, is used for emergency intervention and stabilization. The hospital has a 24-hour on-call service, with medical and surgical specialists with U.S. and European training. The hospital suffers from inconsistent funding and inadequate medical supplies. Etoudi Clinic is a clean, fairly well equipped, private hospital that is primarily used for ophthalmology consultations. Good quality radiology services are available at Cabinet de la Cathedral. Women are strongly encouraged to have all necessary mammography screening completed before leaving the U.S.

We are fortunate to have a U.S.-trained dentist in Yaounde who provides standard American dental services in a completely modern U.S. equipped clinic. There are several French-trained dentists in Yaounde and an excellent Belgian dentist in Douala.

Community Health

The following tropical diseases pose a threat to those living in Cameroon: chloroquine-resistant malaria, amebic and other forms of dysentery, hepatitis, meningitis, filariasis, and fungal infections. HIV infections are increasing in Cameroon. All individuals relocating to Cameroon are strongly advised to begin antimalarial medicine prior to arrival. Individuals are encouraged to wear shoes at all times due to the increased risk for contracting parasitic or fungal infections.

During the dry season (December-March) there is an increased incidence of respiratory allergies, coughs, and colds. Individuals with allergies or asthma may be more likely to experience illness during the dry season. Normal childhood illnesses occur, but unusual problems among American children have been minimal.

Community sanitation in both Yaounde and Douala is comparable to that found in other West African cities, but is well below U.S. and European standards. Both Yaounde and Douala lack a central sewage system and garbage collection is inconsistent. The city water supply has been plagued by multiple problems and is not considered safe to drink. Although the water is chemically treated, the poor condition of water transport pipes and sporadic interruptions in service provide sources of contamination. A distiller and a source for filtered water are provided in each home. Bottled water is locally available for purchase.

Two Western-style grocery stores that have adequate refrigeration facilities and acceptable sanitation and health controls. Fresh milk is unavailable, but long-life sterilized milk, or powdered milk can be purchased locally. Local fruits and vegetables are abundant and generally excellent. They must be washed thoroughly with soap and water, and soaked in a Clorox or iodine solution before storing, peeling, or eating. All meats should be thoroughly cooked.

Preventive Measures

Yellow fever immunization is required for entrance into Cameroon. In addition, immunizations against polio, tetanus, typhoid, Hepatitis A and B, and meningitis are recommended before arrival. Anti-malarial medications should be started 1 week before arrival.

First-aid supplies, aspirin, vita-mins, insect repellent, sunscreen, Q-tips, and cotton balls may be unavailable locally.


Passage, Customs and Duties

Travelers from the U.S. or Europe fly directly to Yaounde Nsimalen Airport from Paris, Brussels or Zurich. Travelers around Africa must frequently go via Douala and sometimes an overnight stay in Douala is required. Travelers flying via West Africa should avoid Lagos as a transfer or stopover point if at all possible. International carriers serve Douala with direct air service from Brussels, Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, Zurich and Geneva on Sabena, Air France, Air Afrique, and Swiss air. Yaounde Nsimalen Airport has weekly direct flights from Zurich on Swissair, from Paris on Air France and Cameroon Airlines, and from Brussels on Sabena.

All airfreight should be well packed, waterproofed, and banded to protect against rough handling and tropical weather conditions. Good packaging also discourages pilferage. Air-freight shipments take 2-6 weeks to reach Cameroon from Europe or the U.S.

A valid passport and visa are required. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon, 2349 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 265-8790/94. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Cameroonian embassy or consulate

While photography is not officially forbidden, security officials are sensitive about photographs taken of government buildings, military installations, and other public facilities, many of which are unmarked. Photography of these subjects may result in seizure of photographic equipment by authorities. Due to the threat of harassment and the lack of signs designating sites prohibited for photography, photography is best practiced in private homes and among friends.

Cameroonian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Cameroon of items such as large quantities of medicine; customs restrict the importation of ivory. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Cameroon in Washington or one of Cameroon's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde or with the Embassy Office in Douala, and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Cameroon. The Embassy is located on Rue Nachtigal in Yaounde. The mailing address is B.P. 817, Yaounde, Cameroon, telephone: (237) 23-40-14, fax (237) 23-07-53. The Embassy Office in Douala can be contacted at (237) 42-53-31; fax is (237) 42-77-90.


Cats and dogs must have current certificates of good health and rabies vaccination. There is no quarantine imposed upon entry. To ensure speedy processing, animal should, if possible, be brought in a; accompanied baggage. African Gray parrots can be imported into Cameroon but must be accompanied by a CITES certificate and a health certificate. Yaounde has a few veterinarians with varying degrees of equipment, supplies, and training. Heartworm medication is recommended for dogs as a precaution. Bring medication with you from the U.S. Fleas and ticks can be a problem for dogs during certain times of the year.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

Cameroon's currency is the CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) Franc. One hundred (100) CFA Francs equals one French Franc. The CFA is linked directly to the French Franc and is thus a fairly convertible currency. As a result there is no problem with artificial exchange rates in Cameroon.

Credit cards and checks are rarely accepted. Cash, in local currency, is usually the only form of payment accepted throughout the country. Credit card cash advances are not available and most banks do not cash personal or traveler's checks. Two banks in Douala, Societe Generale des Banques du Cameroun, telephone (237) 43-00-02 and Cofinest, telephone (237) 43-10-53, have wire transfer services through Western Union.

No limitations exist on travelers checks, dollars, or other currency you bring or import after arriving. Dollars and other currencies are exchanged freely. The Cameroonian Government does not prevent export of currency previously declared or of amounts normally carried for travel expenses. Exportation of CFA Francs beyond moderate limits requires the permission of the Ministry of Finance.

The metric system of weights and measures is used exclusively in Yaounde and Douala and is the official system in Cameroon. Unofficial use of English measures is still encountered in parts of West (formerly British) Cameroon.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Feb. 11 Youth Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

May 1 Labor Day

May 20 National Day

May/June Ascension Day*

Aug. 15 Assumption Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day


Id al-Fitr*

Id al-Adah*



These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on Cameroon.

Barley, Nigel. Innocent Anthropologist: Notes from a Mud Hut. and A Plague of Caterpillars. Penguin Publishers.

Beti, Mongo. Mission to Kala. The Poor Christ of Bomba. King Lazarus. Heinemann Publishers.

Bjornson, Richard. The African Quest for Freedom and Identity: Cameroonian Writing and the National Experience. Indiana University Press, 1991.

DeLaney, Mark W Cameroon: Dependence and Independence. Westview Press, 1989.

DeLaney, Mark W and Mokeba, H. Mbella. Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Cameroon (2nd Ed). Scarecrow Press, 1990.

Denis, Alain. Beyond Legends: West Cameroon. Beyond Sight: Cameroon. Editions du Damalisque.

Durrell, Gerald. Bafut Beagles. Available in English and American paperback editions, 1954.

Etienne-Nugue, Jocelyne. Crafts and the Art of Living in the Cameroon. Louisiana State University Press, 1982.

LeVine, Victor T. The Cameroons From Mandate to Independence. University of California Press: Berkeley.

LeVine, Victor T. The Cameroon Federal Republic. Cornell University Press: New York, 1971.

Nelson, Harold, et al. Area Handbook for the United Republic of Cameroon. Government Printing Office: Washington, D. C., 1974.

Northern, Tamara. Expressions of Cameroon Art. The Franklin Collection. Rembrandt Press, 1986.

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Republic of Cameroon
République du Cameroun



Located on the west coast of Central Africa, Cameroon covers an area of 475,400 square kilometers (183,695 square miles), slightly more than California. Land boundaries extend for a total of 4,591 kilometers (2,853 miles) between Nigeria to the northwest, Chad to the northeast, the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) to the east, and the Republic of the Congo, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea to the south. The country also has 402 kilometers (249 miles) of coastline on the Bight of Biafra, part of the Atlantic Ocean. The topography of Cameroon is varied, ranging from tropical rain forests in the south to mountainous highlands in some western central regions, and semi-arid savanna in the far north.


The population of Cameroon was estimated at 15,421,937 in July 2000 and is growing at an annual rate of 2.47 percent. The birth rate is estimated at 36.6 births per 1,000 people and the death rate is 11.89 births per 1,000 people. If these trends continue, the population will approach 20 million in 2010. Cameroon has a very young population: 43 percent of its people are younger than 15, while just 3 percent are over 65. Though English and French are the "official" languages, there are 24 major language groups spoken by a diversity of ethnic groups. The CIA's World Factbook lists the religious composition as 40 percent Christian, 20 percent Muslim, and 40 percent indigenous beliefs, but these categories are not so neatly divided, as traditional animist beliefs are often mixed with Muslim or Christian beliefs.


Since gaining its independence in 1960, Cameroon's economy has swung from a long period of prosperity to a decade of recession , followed by a partial recovery. The economy depends on the production of various raw commodities and has therefore been vulnerable to price fluctuations for these commodities. The country remains primarily agricultural, but it has gradually diversified into the production of petroleum and lumber, and the provision of basic industries and services. Its abundant natural resources, favorable geographic position, and relative political stability have allowed Cameroon to build one of the most diverse and prosperous economies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Following independence in 1960, Cameroon enjoyed 25 years of prosperity before falling on hard times in the mid-1980s. During that period, the country developed a prosperous and diverse economy, based on agriculture, petroleum production, and some basic industries. Beginning in 1986, however, the economy shrank dramatically as low prices for oil, coffee, and cocoa reduced Cameroon's export income. Oil production also began a steady decline during the 1980s and fell from 9 million metric tons in 1986 to 5 million metric tons in 1997. Cameroon's GDP declined by 30 percent between 1986 and 1995. In 1993, the government was forced to reduce civil service salaries by 30 to 50 percent in an effort to limit its spending and, throughout this period, it tried with little success to revive the country by making structural adjustments and reforms. Only during the late 1990s did Cameroon begin emerging slowly from the doldrums, averaging annual growth of almost 5 percent from 1997-1999.

Beginning in the early 1980s, petroleum became Cameroon's largest single export commodity, accounting for nearly half of export earnings. Although agriculture continues to occupy most of the country's workforce, petroleum contributes the largest share of its export earnings. Falling prices and decreasing production levels reduced oil revenues to 30 percent of export earnings in the 1990s, but a surge in oil prices doubled Cameroon's oil revenues in 1999-2000. Lumber is Cameroon's second largest export, providing an additional 20 percent of export revenues. Agricultural commodities, especially coffee, cocoa, bananas, and cotton, account for most of the remaining export earnings. Cameroon also produces a number of food crops and light industrial goods that are sold in domestic and regional markets.

Several advantages have enabled Cameroon to prosper more than its neighbors. The country is blessed with a wealth of natural resources, especially its fertile land, petroleum, and lumber. Unlike all of its immediate neighbors, Cameroon has not been damaged by any serious civil conflicts, and enjoys an advantageous geographic position between Nigeria and several central African countries that provide growing markets. Two neighboring countries, Chad and the C.A.R., rely on Cameroon's transportation system and the port city of Douala for links to the outside world.

Cameroon's long economic crisis of the 1980s and 1990s contributed to a rising debt burden estimated at nearly US$7.7 billion, or 84 percent of GDP, in 1999. Debt service payments have reduced the value of export earnings and consumed an excessive portion (33 percent) of government budgets. In late 2000, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that Cameroon would qualify for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt relief initiative, which will provide US$100 million annually to cover debt service payments. Increased oil revenues have also helped to reduce the government's debt burden.

Pervasive corruption and government mismanagement have seriously hindered Cameroon's economy by creating an unfavorable business climate and discouraging investment. Based on a poll of private companies, Transparency International rated Cameroon as the world's most corrupt country for 2 consecutive years in 1998 and 1999. The country's main port, Douala, is particularly notorious for its corruption, inefficiency, and high costs, but corruption exists throughout the government bureaucracy where civil servants routinely obstruct paperwork until they receive their "gumbo," or tip. The government has initiated high-profile attempts to fight corruption, but these practices are not widely accepted and it remains difficult to eliminate. Corruption was aggravated by Cameroon's long period of economic decline, culminating in the government's decision to cut civil service salaries by up to 50 percent in 1993. Though Cameroon fell to 7th in Transparency International's 2000 listing, corruption has continued to have an adverse effect on Cameroon's economic expansion.

Economic figures in the 1990s indicated that Cameroon had made progress in reducing some of these problems. Four years of solid growth during the late 1990s followed a decade of decline and, in 2000, the government began a second 3-year structural adjustment program that aims to continue privatization of state enterprises and improvement of public management. The government has also revised tax laws and undertaken reforms to encourage investment, while several infrastructure projects should also help the business climate. During 2000-2004, the Chad-Cameroon Development project, one of the largest infrastructure projects in Africa, will provide Cameroon with a major economic boost, particularly in the construction and transportation sectors. This project will invest US$3.7 billion to build oil production facilities in southern Chad, a pipeline across Cameroon, and associated infrastructure in both countries.


Cameroon was originally colonized by Germany, but was divided between England and France after World War I. Since gaining independence in 1960, Cameroon has had only 2 presidents: Ahmadou Ahidjo, who relinquished power voluntarily in 1982, and Paul Biya, the current president, who was elected to a 7-year term in 1997.

Historically, political stability has proved one of Cameroon's most vital economic assets. The country has watched civil wars and serious unrest erupt in each of its neighbors, while managing to avoid major conflict within its own borders. Cameroon's first president, Ahidjo, ruled the country by sometimes authoritarian methods, but the resulting stability allowed for the growth of a highly diverse economy.

The popularly-elected Cameroonian president presides over the unicameral (1-house) National Assembly, comprising 180 seats. Members are elected by popular vote to a 5-year term of office, but the president has the power to lengthen or shorten the term of a government. Though Cameroon is a stable country with ostensibly democratic institutions, political power remains concentrated in the hands of President Biya and his ruling party. Like the heads of state of many neighboring countries in sub-Saharan Africa, President Biya has developed a democratic facade while maintaining effective control of most governmental institutions. Past elections have been marred by serious fraud, leading most major opposition parties to boycott the most recent elections in 1997. President Biya will be eligible for reelection in 2004.

The ruling Democratic Rally of the Cameroon People (RDPC) has dominated Cameroonian politics and controlled its government since independence. Since 1990, many opposition parties have freely organized themselves to compete in elections, but the opposition remains divided. The most prominent opposition parties include the Social Democratic Front (SDF), led in 2001 by John Fru Ndi; the National Union for Democracy and Progress (UNDP), led in 2001 by Maigari Bello Bouba; and the Cameroonian Democratic Union (UDC), led in 2001 by Adamou Ndam Njoya. All of these parties espouse similar ideologies of free enterprise.

Cameroon is handicapped by the lack of an effective and independent judiciary. Judges are appointed by the president, and courts are subject to the influence of money and politics. In 1999, Groupement Inter-Patronal du Cameroun (GICAM), an organization representing and coordinating Cameroon's largest businesses, established a business arbitration center in order to avoid the inefficiencies and uncertainties of Cameroon's legal system. A regional commercial court is due to be established in N'Djamena in Chad. Lack of an independent court system further deters foreign companies from investing in Cameroon.

The country is gradually reducing the legacy of state involvement in economic affairs that it inherited from France. Beginning in 1997, Cameroon began collaborating with the IMF and the World Bank on a new structural adjustment program. Four previous reform programs ended in failure, but the recent program has been more successful. Reforms have sought to privatize state enterprises and improve management practices in government. The tax code has been simplified and customs rules have been partly reformed in order to bring Cameroon into harmony with regional standards established by the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), the economic and monetary community of Central Africa.These measures have contributed to the recent turnaround in Cameroon's economy.

As part of its structural adjustment reforms, Cameroon is continuing the process of privatizing its state enterprises. Though the pace of this process has been slow, a state insurance company, the national railroad, the mobile telephone company, and all state banks have been privatized, as have several agro-industrial firms, including the state sugar company, a rubber company, and a palm oil company. Plans for the privatization of Cameroon Airlines and the Cameroon Development Corporation are well advanced, and the state electricity, water, and telephone companies should be privatized during the next 2 years. The privatization process has already contributed to recent economic growth by encouraging investment in developments that the state was unwilling to finance.

Cameroon's government generates revenues primarily from oil sales, customs duties , and taxes on businesses. Oil revenues declined from 50 percent of government revenue in the 1980s to 30 percent in the 1990s before returning to 50 percent when oil prices rose in 1999-2000. During the late 1990s, Cameroon began to revise its tax and customs codes to bring them into compliance with CEMAC standards. As part of CEMAC's regional integration plan, all 5 member-countries established a value-added tax and began to harmonize their customs duties.


Cameroon's infrastructure is partially developed, but inadequate investments have allowed some resources to deteriorate and lack of adequate infrastructure has impeded economic development in certain areas. Cameroon has developed a network of hydroelectric power stations that provide most of its electricity, while the telecommunications sector, previously stifled by government

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Cameroon 7 163 32 N/A 0 N/A N/A 0.00 20
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Nigeria 24 223 66 N/A 0 N/A 5.7 0.00 100
Gabon 29 183 55 N/A 8 0.4 8.6 0.02 3
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE : World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

monopoly , has recently seen a surge in investment. Privatization of the state electric, water, and phone companies is expected to stimulate further investment in infrastructure.

Cameroon's road system is partially developed, but many rural roads are heavily eroded and poorly maintained. The road network covers 34,300 kilometers (21,266 miles), only 4,300 kilometers (2,666 miles) of which are paved. Most provincial capitals are accessible through decent roads, but many rural areas are more difficult to reach, while mountainous terrain and annual torrential rains seriously degrade the road system in many areas. During 2000-2005, several major projects are expected to pave over 800 kilometers (500 miles) of roads and improve transportation links with Chad and the C.A.R. During 1999-2000, the European Union and France allocated over CFA Fr35 billion to road construction and maintenance projects. In the long term, the government has prepared a 15-year investment plan to pave 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) of roads.

A railroad links the port facilities in Douala to the capital city of Yaoundé and continues to the northern city of Ngaoundéré. In addition to serving Cameroon's capital city, this railway transports goods between Douala and Chad and the C.A.R. Under public management, investments were limited and the railroad experienced frequent breakdowns until 1999, when the government railroad, Fercam, was renamed Camrail and sold to 2 foreign companies, Groupe Bollore of France and Comazar of South Africa. These 2 companies planned to invest nearly US$50 million in infrastructure improvements. With increased traffic in materials for the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, Camrail hoped to raise its annual cargo from 2 million to 2.5 million metric tons.

Douala is one of Africa's largest ports, with annual traffic exceeding 5 million metric tons. In addition to serving Cameroon's interior regions, Douala also serves as a principal port for Chad, Congo, and the C.A.R. Douala has long been plagued by problems of slow, costly services and widespread corruption but, under pressure from the World Bank and the IMF, the government has begun drafting plans to reform Douala's port services. These reforms had not yet been clearly defined by 2000, but it is expected that management of certain port services will be privatized. In the longer term, Cameroon is planning to develop other port facilities in Limbe, Kribi, and Garoua. The port in Douala is not deep enough for the larger ships that are expected to carry an increasing share of sea cargo, but Kribi is more suitable for such traffic.

Cameroon has 3 international airports, in Douala, Yaoundé and Garoua, as well as 8 smaller airports with paved runways. The national airline, Cameroon Airlines, provides services between Cameroon and several neighboring countries, while Douala and Yaoundé are also served by several international airlines with connections to Paris and several cities throughout Africa.

Cameroon consumes approximately 3 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year, most of which is provided by hydroelectric power. The country's electricity grid is mainly confined to urban areas and industry consumes over half of the power supply. The state electricity company, Sonel, has not invested in any infrastructure improvements for over a decade, but when Sonel is privatized its managers are expected to improve infrastructure and develop a wider customer base over coming years.

Telecommunications are quite limited, but are expected to develop more quickly as the sector is liberalized . In 1999, Cameroon had less than 90,000 telephone lines, giving a telephone density of less than 6 phones per 1000 people, but licenses have now been granted to several cellular telephone companies and Internet service providers. The number of cellular and Internet users is still small, but is growing rapidly. Two cellular companies, 1 French and 1 South African, have invested in cellular networks and are competing aggressively to sign up clients.


Although primarily an agricultural economy, Cameroon has developed petroleum resources and a variety of industrial and service enterprises. Agriculture employed 70 percent of the working population and provided 42 percent of GDP in 1997. Commercial crops such as coffee, cocoa, and bananas provide a significant share of Cameroon's export earnings and additional crops are produced for domestic consumption. Lumber has grown into Cameroon's second largest export, but the country's forests will probably be exhausted during the next decade.

Cameroon has developed an array of industrial enterprises that provided 22 percent of its GDP in 1997. Though oil production levels have declined since the 1980s, petroleum still provides a large share of Cameroon's export earnings. Agro-industrial enterprises produce sugar, fruit juices, pasta, powdered milk, coffee, chocolate products, corn oil, and palm oil. A textile company produces fabric from cotton grown in northern provinces, and a cement company produces cement that is sold in Chad and the C.A.R. as well as domestically. Cameroon has recently tried to encourage domestic processing of its forestry resources by banning the export of raw lumber. Additional industries manufacture matches, batteries, beer, and mineral water. Most of these products are marketed in Cameroon and its neighboring countries.

The service sector provided an additional 36 percent of Cameroon's GDP in 1997. Cameroon has profited from its geographic position by providing transportation services to several neighboring countries. The banking sector currently includes 9 commercial banks and a number of smaller financial institutions. The energy and telecommunications sectors have stagnated over the past 2 decades due to the failure of government to invest in infrastructure. Banking, telecommunications, and insurance sectors are still in the process of being liberalized and a number of state services are being privatized.


Agriculture remains the backbone of Cameroon's economy, employing 70 percent of its workforce, while providing 42 percent of its GDP and 30 percent of its export revenue. Blessed with fertile land and regularly abundant rainfall in most regions, Cameroon produces a variety of agricultural commodities both for export and for domestic consumption. Coffee and cocoa are grown in central and southern regions, bananas in southwestern areas, and cotton in several northern provinces. In addition to export commodities, Cameroonian farmers produce numerous subsistence crops for family consumption. Principal food crops include millet, sorghum, peanuts, plantains, sweet potatoes, and manioc. Animal husbandry is practiced throughout the country and is particularly important in northern provinces.


The lumber industry is Cameroon's second largest source of export revenue behind petroleum, employing 25,000 workers and accounting for 7.4 percent of Cameroon's GDP. Cameroon's forest resources are concentrated in its southeastern provinces, near the borders with Congo and C.A.R. Cameroon has recently enacted laws to increase the processing of its forest resources by banning the export of raw lumber. Several foreign companies are competing in this industry and a total of 66 lumber-processing mills have been established. Annual production capacity has increased from 1.2 million cubic meters in 1994 to 2.68 million cubic meters in 1999, but lumber companies have been cutting down trees at an unsustainable rate. If the trend continues, Cameroon's forest resources will be almost exhausted by 2010. The government has enacted laws to improve the management of forest resources, but these laws have been poorly enforced.


An estimated 4 million Cameroonians depend on cocoa and coffee for their livelihood. Both commodities are produced by millions of farmers on small-scale farms. Cameroon is a major cocoa producer and exports approximately 120,000 metric tons of cocoa annually. In the late 1990s, annual coffee production has varied between 60,000 and 100,000 metric tons. Some of these commodities are processed locally, but most are exported to Europe. Coffee and cocoa prices recently fell to their lowest levels in nearly 30 years, thus reducing Cameroon's export earnings. Most of the country's coffee is produced in the western region of Moungo, while cocoa is produced primarily in central southern Cameroon. The coffee and cocoa industries were formerly under government control, but they were privatized beginning in 1995. Several hundred businesses initially jumped into the coffee exporting business, but several foreign firms have come to dominate the trade.


Banana exports have risen dramatically during the past decade, increasing from 80,000 to nearly 250,000 metric tons per year. This increase is due in large part to improved farming methods that have brought greater yields. In addition to these quantities for export, Cameroonian farmers produce another 700,000 metric tons of bananas and 1,300,000 metric tons of plantains for domestic consumption. Plantains are grown by individual small-scale farmers throughout southern and western Cameroon, while banana exports are produced primarily by 2 large companies in the southwestern region, the Marseille Fruit Company, and the Cameroon Development Corporation, which is currently being privatized.

Though productivity has recently increased, Cameroon's bananas are less competitive than Central American bananas. Cameroon is one of the leading suppliers of bananas to Europe, where the European Union has long offered them preferential market access. This has provoked a well-publicized trade dispute with the United States. In 1998, the United States won a decision from the World Trade Organization (WTO) to eliminate preferential access by 2006, putting less competitive Cameroonian producers at risk. Nevertheless, some observers believe that continuing gains in productivity will allow Cameroon's bananas to compete in 2006.


Cotton is produced in Cameroon's far northern provinces where it is the main cash crop . More than 300,000 farmers cultivate 172,000 hectares (424,840 acres) to produce 60-80,000 metric tons of cotton fiber a year. Cotton production is managed by a state enterprise, Sodecoton, that provides training for cotton farmers, supplies fertilizer and insecticides, and buys the crop. Sodecoton is in the midst of a slow privatization process. Cotton earnings have varied significantly according to fluctuations of rainfall in the northern provinces and prices on the international market. Prices have recovered some ground following their plunge in the 1980s and Cameroon's production has grown in recent years, but the cotton sector has not regained the profitability it enjoyed prior to the years of decline.


Rubber is produced primarily in the forested region of Niete, north of Yaoundé, by 3 agro-industrial companies, CDC, Hevecam and Safacam. The rubber yield plummeted from 58,000 metric tons in 1998-1999 to 32,000 metric tons in 1999-2000. The main producer, Hevecam, was purchased in 1996 by the GMG Group based in Singapore. Most of Cameroon's rubber is exported to the European Union. With average annual rubber exports valued at CFA20 billion (US$30 million), this industry provides 2 percent of Cameroon's export revenue.


Cameroonian farmers cultivate a variety of crops for domestic consumption, and increased their production throughout the 1990s. Cameroon has consistently been able to feed itself from subsistence crops that include plantains, corn, sweet potatoes, cassava, and millet. Farmers also grow a variety of vegetables for sale in local markets, while a number of fruits and vegetables are also exported to regional markets. In recent years, Cameroon has tried to decrease its reliance on traditional exports by encouraging the production of pineapples, avocados, plantains, and other foods for export to neighboring CEMAC countries.


Approximately two-thirds of Cameroon's rural population raises animals by traditional methods, keeping cows, goats, sheep, and chickens in their compounds. Farmers raise animals as savings, to earn extra income, and for their own consumption. In rural African culture, chickens and goats are slaughtered as a gesture of hospitality for relatives and important visitors. Some semi-nomadic families raise animals as their principal occupation, particularly in several northern provinces where much of Cameroon's meat is produced. Almost all of these animals are consumed in Cameroon. Overall, animal husbandry contributes an estimated 2.6 percent of the country's GDP.


Industry employs one-eighth of Cameroon's work-force and contributed 22 percent of its GDP in 1997. Cameroon has gradually developed a range of industrial ventures aimed mainly at domestic and regional markets. Many of these industries are based in the port city of Douala, the country's industrial capital, and have benefited from Cameroon's geographic position and its low energy prices. The development of petroleum reserves has been accompanied by the construction of light refineries. Cameroon has also developed the manufacture of several light consumer goods that tend to replace more expensive imports. These include batteries, pasta, palm oil, beverages, cigarettes, and textiles. The cement industry supplies the country's booming construction sector as well as some promising neighboring markets.


Cameroon is the fifth-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa and produced 100,000 barrels per day in 1999. Elf, Perenco, and Pecten International (a subsidiary of Shell) have produced crude oil from several different deposits. Petroleum production began in 1977 and reached a peak of 9 million metric tons in 1986, before declining to 6 million metric tons in 1996. Thereafter, production stabilized, and oil revenues in 1999-2000 surged from US$500 million to nearly US$900 million with the doubling of oil prices. In the late 1990s, Cameroon revised its laws to stimulate additional exploration, but has so far had limited success. One area where oil reserves hold promise is the Bakassi Peninsula, a region also claimed by neighboring Nigeria in a dispute that has been referred to the International Court of Justice. A state-owned company, Sonara, refines 1.5 million metric tons of imported crude oil and exports 40 percent of its product. Another state oil company, Société Nationale des Hydrocarbures (SNH), manages Cameroon's interests in the petroleum sector.


One of Cameroon's largest factories is an aluminum smelting plant in Douala, which produces aluminum from imported bauxite. In 1999, aluminum exports reached nearly US$100 million, representing 5 percent of the country's export revenues. Cameroon's cement company, Cimencam, operates a factory in Douala and one in Figuil, on the Chad border. In addition to the domestic market, these factories supply the entire markets of Chad and the C.A.R. Cameroon produces small amounts of gold in the eastern province near the border with C.A.R.


Beer and soft drinks are manufactured for the domestic market and are also exported to several neighboring countries. Two of Cameroon's 5 largest companies (measured in terms of annual profits in 1998-99) are beverage producers: Cameroon Breweries and Guinness. Cameroon Breweries, owned by the French company Castel, controls 70 percent of the beer market and holds licenses to produce several major international brands including Amstel, Mutzig, Castel, and Tuborg. It also produces Tanguy mineral water and Coca-Cola soft drinks. Guinness (based in the United Kingdom) holds 17 percent of the drinks market.


Cameroon has developed a number of small industries for processing its agricultural produce. The recently privatized domestic sugar company, Socucam, produces 100,000 metric tons of sugar for the domestic market. Panzani produces 4,500 metric tons of pasta in a factory in Douala, most of which is exported to regional countries. Cameroon makes Maggi bouillon cubes for cooking, while Chococam processes some of the country's raw cocoa to produce several chocolate products for regional markets. Cameroonians use copious amounts of palm oil in their cooking, and a number of companies produce approximately 100,000 metric tons of palm oil for the local market.


Cameroon has cotton and textile industries based in the northern provinces. Sodecoton gins Cameroon's raw cotton and sells 7 percent of its product to Cicam, a textile company. Cicam employs 1,500 workers at factories in Garoua and Douala, producing fabric sold on regional markets. Cicam is the largest textile producer in the Central African region, but it has experienced difficulties in competing against imports from Nigeria and East Asia. During the late 1990s, increasing imports of cheap used clothing from Europe and the United States reduced Cicam's domestic market.


Cameroon's service sector has begun to benefit from the ongoing privatization of banking, transportation, and telecommunications services. In 1997, services employed an estimated 17 percent of Cameroon's workforce and produced 36 percent of its GDP. During the late 1990s, the government privatized the railroad operator and a mobile telephone company, as well as several banks and insurance companies. The state telephone company, Camtel, was offered for sale in 2000. Investments in the petroleum sector are expected to stimulate further growth in Cameroon's service sector.


Cameroon profits from its geographical position by serving as the principal transportation link for Chad, C.A.R., and other neighboring countries. Cameroon's railroad has traditionally transported large volumes of wood from Cameroon and the northern Congo and cotton from Chad and northern Cameroon. Cargo volumes are expected to increase in coming years when rail will be used to transport pipes, fuel, and other materials for the Chad-Cameroon oil production and pipeline project.

In spite of many problems, port services in Douala have thrived along with the transportation sector. Douala handles over 95 percent of imports to Cameroon, Chad, and the C.A.R. Cargo volumes exceeded 5 million metric tons annually in the late 1990s and Douala's capacity is estimated at 7 million metric tons.


During Cameroon's recent economic resurgence, financial services have flourished, growing by 10 percent in 1999-2000. Total market resources increased from CFA Fr646 billion in 1999 to just over CFA Fr800 billion in 2000. Banking services are dominated by branches of several multinational banking groups such as Société Genérale, Crédit Lyonnais, and Standard Chartered Bank. During the late 1990s, Cameroon's largest state-owned bank, Banque International du Cameroun pour l'Epargne et le Crédit (BICEC), was privatized and another multinational, Groupe Populaire, took a controlling share. The banking sector expects continuing growth to be fueled by further privatization and rising investments associated with the Chad-Cameroon pipeline project.


A recent surge in telecommunications investment is expected to continue. Since the mid-1990s, 2 companies have begun investing in the provision of cellular services, and in 1998 the government divided the state telephone company into 2 entities, Camtel and Camtel Mobile. Camtel maintained a monopoly over fixed phone services, while Camtel Mobile offered cellular services. A second cellular license was sold to an affiliate of France Telecom, and Camtel Mobile was bought by MTN, a South African cellular phone company. The government is in the process of soliciting and evaluating bids from several foreign companies interested in buying a controlling share of Camtel. When Camtel is finally freed from government management, continuing investment and increasing access to telephone services will assure continuing growth in this sector.


There is a vast array of retail businesses of varying sizes in both rural and urban areas of Cameroon. Weekly rural markets attract farmers who sell their food crops while individual traders peddle a variety of household goods. Most durable goods, such as cars and household appliances, are sold in Yaoundé, Douala, and some provincial capitals. These urban centers also have shops offering a large variety of consumer goods.


During the 1990s Cameroon consistently ran trade surpluses , though these varied according to commodity prices. In 1999, for example, exported goods totaled almost US$2 billion, while imported goods amounted to almost US$1.5 billion. A surge in oil prices contributed to a 30 percent rise in the value of Cameroon's exports during the late 1990s. At the same time, lower revenues from cocoa and rubber were offset by increased revenues from coffee, cotton, and aluminum. In 1999-2000, oil provided nearly half of the country's export revenues, while agricultural products provided an additional 25 percent, lumber 16 percent, and aluminum 5 percent.

The European Union is Cameroon's biggest trading partner. It supplies most of Cameroon's imports, while receiving over 80 percent of its exports. All of Cameroon's principal exportsincluding oil, coffee, cocoa, bananas, cotton, lumber, and aluminumtravel primarily to European ports. In 1999-2000, 22 percent of Cameroon's exports went to Italy and another 16 percent to France. Cameroon also exports a variety of fruits, vegetables, and manufactured goods to neighboring countries. France has historically supplied the largest share of Cameroon's imports, which include machinery, processed food products,

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Cameroon
Exports Imports
1975 .447 .599
1980 1.384 1.602
1985 .722 1.151
1990 2.002 1.400
1995 1.651 1.199
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE : International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

and a range of other consumer goods. Although Cameroon exports crude and refined oil, it also imports fuel for its domestic needs. Fuel accounted for 20 percent of imports in 1999. Most of this fuel is imported and distributed by 4 international firms: TotalFinaElf, Mobil, Shell, and Texaco, while other goods are imported by a variety of trading firms and industrial companies.


Cameroon is part of the Central African Monetary and Economic Union (Communaute Economiquareue et Monetaire de l'Afrique Centrale, or CEMAC), a group of 5 francophone countries that use the same currency, the CFA franc. The CFA franc is tied to the French franc and can be readily exchanged at 50 CFA francs to 1 French franc. Cameroon, like all members of the CFA franc communities, has benefited from this stable currency.

As a member of the CFA zone, Cameroon was profoundly affected by the 50 percent devaluation of the CFA in 1994. The devaluation caused a temporary rise in inflation to nearly 30 percent in 1995 before descending to around 2 percent in the late 1990s. The country's economy appears to have benefited from this de-valuation, which made its traditional exports more competitive on world markets. In the short term, however, devaluation lowered living standards and probably increased poverty by raising prices while most salaries remained static.

CEMAC planned to open a regional stock exchange in Libreville, Gabon, in 2001, despite the existence of a limited stock exchange in Douala.


Though Cameroon's poverty indicators still compare favorably to other sub-Saharan countries, years of economic decline have increased the percentage of Cameroonians living in poverty. One study conducted by the

Exchange rates: Cameroon
Communaute Financiere Africaine francs (CFA Fr) per US$1
Jan 2001 699.21
2000 711.98
1999 615.70
1998 589.95
1997 583.67
1996 511.55
Note: From January 1, 1999, the CFA Fr is pegged to the euro at a rate of 655.957 CFA Fr per euro.
SOURCE : CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].
GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Cameroon 616 730 990 764 646
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Nigeria 301 314 230 258 256
Gabon 6,480 5,160 4,941 4,442 4,630
SOURCE : United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and cited in Marche Tropicaux estimated that this percentage rose from 40 percent in 1983 to 50 percent in 1999. Per capita income fell from US$1,100 in the early 1980s to around US$600 in the 1990s. The government reacted to Cameroon's shrinking economy by reducing producer prices and government expenditures during the early 1990s. Farmers who sold their cotton, cocoa, or other agricultural goods to state-run businesses saw their incomes drastically reduced. In 1993, the government also reduced civil service salaries by 50 percent, while de-valuation of the CFA franc in 1994 also contributed to increased poverty by raising inflation. In 1999, the UNDP ranked Cameroon as 134th out of 174 countries on its Human Development Index. The Index is a social and economic indicator which ranks poverty on the basis of statistics for life expectancy, access to clean water, adequate food, and the provision of health care, education, and public services. While Cameroon ranks high among sub-Saharan African countries, it still compares unfavorably with most Asian and South American countries.

As in most other developing countries, traditional measures indicate that poverty is most prevalent in rural areas. Studies have indicated that, in 1999, 20-30 percent of the population in Yaoundé and Douala lived in poverty compared to over 60 percent in rural areas. Nearly 80 percent of rural households lacked access to electricity compared to 20 percent of urban households. Rural households are also far less likely to have access to potable water and adequate health services, and children are less likely to continue their studies through secondary school. Nevertheless, rural families enjoy many advantages insofar as they grow their own food and build their own housing, and thus have less need for monetary income.

Different classes of varying income levels inhabit the urban areas. A large civil servant class is primarily stationed in Yaoundé, Douala, and provincial capitals. Civil service salaries have fallen from the levels enjoyed prior to Cameroon's recession, but they are still higher than the average Cameroonian income. Many urban dwellers make a living from informal sector activities such as shopkeeping, street vending, construction, etc. Basic foods are easily available and generally inexpensive, so famine is rarer than in neighboring countries. City dwellers usually live in cooked-brick, cement-block, or adobe housing and most have access to electricity. Cameroon's cities house the upper-class officials from both public and private enterprises, whose lifestyles are comparable to those in developed countries.

While government provides education and subsidized health services, users must also contribute certain fees for these services. Education is subsidized through the university level. Government and formal sector workers are required to participate in a state pension system. The extended family traditionally serves as a safety net in the informal sector, and children are regarded as retirement insurance since they are expected to take care of their elderly parents.


Cameroon has been called a miniature version of the African continent because of its varied topography and wide range of peoples and lifestyles. In rural regions, most of Cameroon's population cultivates food crops for their own consumption and cash crops to earn money. Farmers in different regions cultivate different cash crops: cotton in the north, coffee and cocoa in the south-central

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Cameroon 33 12 8 2 9 8 28
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Nigeria 51 5 31 2 8 2 2
Gabon 40 3 9 3 7 4 34
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE : World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

region, and bananas in the southwest. In the northern provinces, animal herders live semi-nomadic lives, migrating south in search of pastures during the dry season. Rural areas also host a number of small businessmen who purchase goods in rural markets and transport them for sale to urban vendors.

Most Cameroonians live the life of small-scale farmers. Their work routine is dependent on seasonal changes of weather, with different regions of the country subject to different seasonal cycles according to rainfall patterns. In all cases, farming families have annual periods for sowing their crops, laboring their fields, and reaping their harvests. All capable family members, including students and small children, usually contribute to this work, particularly during busy periods. Local schools sometimes plan their schedules to allow pupils the freedom to participate in the seasonal farm work.

Professional and civil servant classes live in urban areas, alongside unskilled workers, and the cities reflect this mix of classes whose lifestyles and living conditions vary according to their occupations and income. The majority of Cameroon's city-dwellers are involved in various informal sector activities that provide limited income. Women play a crucial role in the informal sector economy, supplementing their husbands' income through various working activities, particularly the preparation and selling of food and beverages. Like many other large African cities, Douala and Yaoundé are plagued with increasing crime problems.

Cameroon has a number of unions that represent both private and public sector workers, including civil servants, dock workers, and truckers. These unions have rights to organize, to bargain with employers, and to hold strikes. Some unions have engaged in political demonstrations, but they serve primarily to negotiate with employers for wage increases and prompt payments, and generally represent the interests of employees.


1884. Germany establishes a protectorate over the Douala region of coastal Cameroon.

1920. Cameroon is divided between England and France at the end of World War I.

1958. France grants self-rule to Cameroon and Ahmadou Ahidjo becomes its first president.

1960. Cameroon formally gains independence and joins the United Nations.

1961. British Southern Cameroon is federated with Cameroon, while British Northern Cameroon joins Nigeria.

1977. Cameroon begins to export oil.

1982. President Ahidjo resigns and is succeeded by Paul Biya.

1986. Cameroon's economy begins a decade of steep decline when prices for oil and other commodities plunge.

1990. Opposition political parties are legalized.

1994. Cameroon's currency, the CFA franc, is devalued by 50 percent.

1997. The government embarks on a program of structural reform in collaboration with the IMF and the World Bank, aimed at increased privatization.

2000. Work begins on the Chad-Cameroon Oil Production and Pipeline project.


Cameroon's economic growth is expected to continue in the near future, but several long-term problems remain. During 2000-2004, Cameroon is expected to receive a boost from the Chad-Cameroon Oil Production and Pipeline project. The country remains reliant on a limited number of export commodities and needs to diversify its economy and develop new export industries in order to ensure its long-term economic security. Corruption and lack of an independent and effective judiciary remain pervasive problems that have barely been tackled, despite some high-profile government campaigns aimed at improving the situation. Future levels of foreign investment may well depend on the success of these initiatives. Further short-term growth will make it easier for Cameroon to reform its investment climate and continue a program of economic liberalization.

The Chad-Cameroon Oil Production and Pipeline project is the largest infrastructure project in sub-Saharan Africa. A consortium led by Exxon will invest US$3.7 billion to build production facilities in southern Chad and a pipeline to transport oil to the Cameroonian port of Kribi. Nearly half of this investment will go to Cameroon, where most of the pipeline will be installed. The construction and transportation sectors will be the primary short-term beneficiaries of this project. Due in large part to this project, the construction sector already registered growth of over 75 percent in 2000, and the project will also impact positively on financial services and other sectors.

Cameroon remains vulnerable to falls in commodity prices, especially for oil. In addition, the valuable exports of petroleum and lumber are threatened as these resources gradually run out. Discovery of additional petroleum reserves may offset falling production levels from current oil fields, but lumber resources will be far more difficult to replace. Cameroon will need to establish more effective institutions for managing its forests and other natural resources. In the long term, Cameroon must diversify its economy and reduce its dependency on oil and agricultural products.


Cameroon has no territories or colonies.


"Cameroon" (special edition). Marchés Tropicaux et Méditerranéens. December 1999.

"Cameroon." The World Bank Group. <>.Accessed August 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Cameroon, Central African Republic and Chad. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

International Monetary Fund. Cameroon and the IMF. <>. Accessed August 2001.

Schatzberg, Michael G., and I. William Zartman, editors. The Political Economy of Cameroon. New York: Praeger, 1986.

"Special Cameroon." Marchés Tropicaux et Méditerranéens. 12January 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Cameroon. <>. Accessed December 2000.

Alexander Gazis




Communauté Financiére Africaine (CFA) franc. The CFA franc is tied to the French franc at an exchange rate of CFA Fr50 to Fr1. One CFA franc equals 100 centimes. There are coins of 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 CFA francs, and notes of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, and 10,000 CFA francs.


Crude oil and petroleum products, lumber, cocoa beans, aluminum, coffee, cotton.


Machines and electrical equipment, transport equipment, fuel, food.


US$31.5 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$2 billion (f.o.b., 1999). Imports: US$1.5 billion (f.o.b., 1999).

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Cameroon
Region: Africa
Population: 15,421,937
Language(s): African language groups, English, French
Literacy Rate: 63.4%
Academic Year: September-June
Number of Primary Schools: 8,514
Compulsory Schooling: 6 years
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 1,921,186
  Secondary: 459,068
  Higher: 33,177
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 88%
  Secondary: 27%
Teachers: Primary: 39,384
  Secondary: 14,917
  Higher: 1,086
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 49:1
  Secondary: 31:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 84%
  Secondary: 22%

History & Background

The Republic of Cameroon (République de Cameroun ) is a unitary, constitutional democracy located in western Central Africa. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean's Bight (bay) of Biafra to the southwest, Lake Chad to the northwest, Nigeria and Chad to the northeast, the Central African Republic to the east, and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Congo (Brazzaville) to the south, Cameroon measures about 475,440 square kilometers in area, 6,000 square kilometers of which is water. Slightly larger than the U.S. state of California, Cameroon's terrain is composed of coastal and inland plains, mountains, and high plateaus. Cameroon's climate also is varied, ranging from hot and semi-arid in the north to tropical along the Atlantic coast. Sometimes referred to as "the hinge of Africa," the country sits between the first and thirteenth latitudes, just north of the equator.

Falling under colonial control in the second half of the nineteenth century during the Europeans' "scramble for Africa," Cameroon was governed by the Germans from 1884 until the end of World War I. When Germany lost the war in Europe, Cameroon was divided between the French and the British in 1918. On January 1, 1960 the French-speaking provinces of Cameroon declared their independence from the French-administered United Nations trusteeship, whereas the British-speaking provinces became independent of the British-supervised United Nations trusteeship in October 1961. Northern Cameroons, the northernmost British province, voted to become part of Nigeria at independence while Southern Cameroons, the English-speaking southwestern highlands area, chose to follow a separate course of development before joining the French-speaking provinces in the Republic of Cameroon in 1972. Today, Cameroon is composed of eight Francophone and two Anglophone provinces.

By the year 2000 Cameroon's population had grown to about 15.4 million and comprised about 130 different ethnic groups, with most of the population belonging to a handful of groups. At the close of the twentieth century Cameroon's population was composed primarily of Cameroon Highlanders (31 percent of the population), Equatorial Bantu (19 percent), Kirdi (11 percent), Fulani (10 percent), Northwestern Bantu (8 percent), and Eastern Negritic (7 percent). Thirteen percent of the country's population belonged to other African ethnic groups, and less than one percent of the population was non-African in ethnic origin. Twenty-four indigenous African language groups are represented among the languages spoken in Cameroon, along with French and English. In terms of religious affiliation, Cameroon's population is similarly diverse, with about 40 percent of the people in Cameroon being Christian, 20 percent being Muslim, and another 40 percent practicing indigenous African religions.

Approximately half of Cameroonians lived in urban areas in 1999. Yaoundé itself, the national capital, had about 730,000 inhabitants in the 1990s, although Douala, the economic capital of the country, was the country's largest city. The population of Cameroon was growing at a rate of 2.47 percent in the year 2000. That year, the total fertility rate was measured as 4.88, with approximately 43 percent of Cameroon's population 14-years-old or younger, 54 percent 15 to 64 years of age, and only about 3 percent 65 or older, due to the low life expectancy in Cameroon (54.82 years at birth in the year 200054.01 for men and 55.64 for women). In 1999 Cameroon had an infant-mortality rate of 77.2 per thousand live births and an under-five-years child-mortality rate of 154 per thousand.

Cameroon's GDP was US$8.8 billion in 1999, with a real growth rate of 5.2 percent. GNP per capita that year was only about US$580; the country had recorded more than double that amount in earlier years when the economy was performing significantly better, before the January 1994 structural adjustment measures were taken. In 1997, about 42 percent of the GDP was derived from agriculture, 22 percent from industry, and 36 percent from services. Considering that the economy grew by about 3 to 5 percent of the GDP in each of the last three years of the 1990s, the potential for an economic upturn at the start of the new millennium was good. However, widespread corruption in the business and government sectors made it next to impossible to predict how the economy would fare as Cameroon entered the twenty-first century. Corruption interfered significantly with economic growth, since fraudulent business activity and bribes served to undercut the economic gains made. Cameroon's external debt was US$11.5 billion in 1999. With rich petroleum reserves and many natural resources, Cameroon has the potential to shine economically. However, continuing controversy over the placement of an oil pipeline running through Chad and Cameroon and contested parts of Nigeria due to the displacement of indigenous minorities living in the path of the pipeline and the possible environmental degradation to be caused by the offshore drilling and onshore transmission of petroleum resources were producing significant social and political upheaval in some parts of Cameroon around the year 2000 that was likely to impede the flow of petroleum through the region and into the national treasury.

About 13 percent of Cameroon was arable in 1993 and 38 percent of the country was covered by forests and woodlands in the late 1990s. About 60 to 75 percent of the population worked in the agricultural sector by the late 1990s, though most farmers practiced subsistence agriculture using traditional farming methods and their individual yields were relatively small. Unemployment in Cameroon measured about 30 percent in 1998. Cameroon received approximately US$606.1 million in international development assistance in 1995. In 1999, about US$14 million worth of active development projects coordinated by the World Bank were being implemented in the country, with US$12 million of these project funds coming from the International Development Association.

In 2001 Cameroon and several West-African countries came into the spotlight of international attention for the extensive use of slave laborers, including thousands of children, by large plantation owners growing cash crops such as coffee and cocoa for export. This problem of child abduction and forced child labor in this region of Africa had gone on for years but did not attract any serious outcries for reform until a few youths managed to escape from their captors early in 2001 and expressed their plight to a BBC news team. Only at this point did the international news media seemingly become aware of the massive scale of the interrelated problems of child abductions, the selling of children by impoverished parents, and forced child labor in the plantations regions of West and Central Africa.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Cameroon is a republic with a strong presidency largely directing Cameroonian civil and political life. The country's current Constitution was approved by referendum on May 20, 1972, and adopted June 2 of that year. The Cameroonian legal system is a civil law system based on the French system of justice, with some influence from the common law system of the British. All Cameroonians, women and men alike, are eligible to vote at age 21; young men are eligible for military service at age 18. Cameroon's chief executive is a president, elected to seven-year terms of office, with a limit of two terms (since 1995, when a constitutional amendment modified the rules for electing presidents). It was unknown, however, whether President Paul Biya would relinquish his position after completing his term in 2004. (Biya had become president in 1982 when President Ahmadou Ahidjo, Cameroon's first president, resigned after twenty-two years in office.) The executive branch of Cameroon's national government also includes a prime minister and a cabinet of ministers, all appointed by the president. Since 1996 the Prime Minister of Cameroon has been Peter Mafany Musonge. The ruling party for all the years Cameroon has been independent has been the Union Cameronaise, a party that has jealously guarded its privileged position and put obstacles up to prevent an ascent to political supremacy by any other opposition party in the country.

At the national level the Cameroonian legislative branch in theory consists of a bicameral legislature composed of a House and a Senate. However, in practice, as of early 2001 the country had yet to see a Senate directly elected by the people and functioning in its constitutionally rightful place as part of the national government.

Despite its constitutional foundations, Cameroon operates essentially as an authoritarian state dominated by one political party, under the leadership of President Biya. Although the country has a national legislature, the National Assembly, the President of the Republic consistently rules by decree or by promoting his own agenda and bills in the legislature, which at the start of the new millennium had yet to enact a bill proposed by a member of an opposition party. The judicial system in Cameroon also is effectively shaped by the president and does not operate independently of the executive branch. Cameroon does not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (the "World Court") in The Hague.

International human rights organizations and agencies such as Amnesty International and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the U.S. Department of State reported considerable problems with the abuse of human rights in Cameroon in 2000. Some of the most serious of these abuses were numerous extrajudicial killings and disappearances, and the unlawful detention and imprisonment of political opponents, members of the media, student protestors, and members of an opposition party labeled as secessionist for seeking greater independence for the formerly British parts of the country. Despite the widespread and egregious nature of the human rights abuses of which Cameroonian government officials, gendarmes, and "anti-gang" brigades were accused in the years since independence, Cameroon has been an active participant in many regional and international organizations and conferences. The country has received substantial social and economic development support from international agencies and intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations aimed at supporting sustainable, democratic development in Africa and in reforming Cameroon's overly one-party system of government.

The legal basis for Cameroon's educational system rests in the Constitution of 1972 and particularly in various national laws, regulations, and executive decrees made in the 1990s and afterwards. For example, a series of decrees in 1993 paved the way for the substantial revision of the higher education system in the country. An additional presidential decree in April 2001 refined and restructured the plan for creating new institutions and improving higher education in the country. Decree No. 95/041 of March 7, 1995, set up the Ministry of National Education. A National Forum on Education held two months later, in May 1995, led to the passage of the Law of April 1998 on vocational and technical education in the country. Each year, the prime minister makes a speech in June to announce the Government's anticipated program of actions to be taken in various sectors in the upcoming fiscal year. Through these speeches, policy goals are laid out before the members of the legislature, Government leaders, and the public, and the accomplishments of the previous year are reviewed. Much of the direction for national priorities in education can be ascertained through these speeches.

Educational SystemOverview

In 1999, approximately 81 percent of adult men fifteen years of age or older were estimated to be literate, as were almost 69 percent of adult women. This represented a significant improvement over conditions in 1995, when only about 63 percent of the Cameroonian population was estimated to be literateapproximately 75 percent of adult men and a little more than 52 percent women, based on UNESCO data. In 1995, Cameroon had had about 2.7 million adult illiterates, two-thirds of whom were women.

School enrollment rates for the late 1990s were not regularly recorded, making educational planning and evaluation considerably more difficult for government workers and educational specialists. The Government of the Republic of Cameroon estimated there were about two million students in primary and secondary schools in the year 2000, plus about thirty-five thousand tertiary students. Parallel English- and French-style school systems existed in the country, since national education plans for integrating students from the two main European language communities (the official languages of the country) were rather slow to be developed and implemented. Although school enrollment rates in Cameroon for basic education in the early 1980s had been among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa, attendance and graduation rates dropped markedly by the late 1990s. School enrollment rates decreased significantly as economic crises struck the country in 1985 and government funding was sharply cut for the education sector over the next few years.

School attendance for girls in Cameroon has been considerably lower, on average, than for boys, due to a variety of factors. The reasons for this gender disparity include the traditional undervaluing of formal education for girls among certain ethnic and religious groups and also sexual harassment of girls by male teachers and professors, a significant number of whom have demanded sexual favors of their female pupils and students, leading to a reluctance among many girls to attend school and an unwillingness of family members to send their daughters to school. In the 1990s significant World Bank support for education in Cameroon was directed toward increasing school participation rates for girls.

French and English are the official languages of instruction in Cameroonian public schools, although by fiscal year 2001-2002, efforts were being made to encourage the use of both French and English in the higher education institutes, to promote a sense of national unity and integration among university students, professors, and ultimately, the entire workforce trained through these institutions. The need to develop new textbooks, teaching approaches, educational programs, and course curricula relevant to Cameroon's diverse population was highlighted beginning in the 1990s in the World Bank's project reports. As of 1995, most textbooks used in Cameroon were produced outside the country. Cameroonians wrote just 28.6 percent of the 39 texts used in French-speaking primary schools. The picture was the same for English-speaking schools, where Cameroonians wrote 28.7 percent of the 51 texts listed for use in primary schools. Additionally, efforts to provide Cameroonian students, especially at the higher education level, with education on sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS increased after the turn of the millennium, with the June 2001 program report of Prime Minister Musonge to the National Assembly specifically referencing the need to reinforce medical training at the university level with assistance for information, educational, and communications activities related to these diseases, whose destructive effects were ravaging Cameroon, vastly increasing infant and child mortality rates, and diminishing the life expectancy of the general population in the country.

While training students in the use of computers, the Internet, and other high-technology learning tools, including distance learning, began to be prioritized in national educational planning by the end of the 1990s, the number of personal computers in Cameroon was quite smallonly 27 computers per ten thousand persons in 1999. Significant economic resources will be needed to improve the level of computer training and the availability of high-technology-oriented courses in Cameroon's schools.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Participation rates declined dramatically in preprimary, primary, and secondary education programs in the second half of the 1980s and throughout the 1990s, with somewhat erratic ups and downs in school attendance from one year to the next. In his 1996 critique of schooling and democratic development (or lack of development) in Africa, Ambroise Kom wrote that descolarisation (de-schooling) had rapidly increased at the preprimary, primary, and secondary levels. Kom cited a September 1994 nationally televised speech of the Minister of National Education, who apparently had casually noted that due to a lack of funding about 300,000 pupils were forced to drop out of school in the 1993-94 academic year. Observing that government figures often are more optimistic than reality, Kom implied that school dropout rates that year actually might have been considerably higher. In 1997 the gross enrollment rate at the primary level was about 83 percent, although it had been 114 percent back in 1987. Because teacher-training institutes in Cameroon were closed between 1990 and 1995 and very few primary-level teachers were hired for the ten-year period of 1987-97, classes were overcrowded and some areas of the country did not receive the teachers they needed to conduct classes or run schools.

The first six grades of compulsory schooling, normally provided to 6- to 12-year-olds (though with high repetition rates, students up to age 14 are often included) are considered basic, or primary, education in Cameroon. In the two Anglophone provinces, pupils generally begin school at age five and attend preprimary and primary school for seven years. For those who completed their primary education, the Certificat d'Etudes primaires élémentaires or the Concours d'Entrée en Sixieme was awarded in French-speaking schools and the First School Leaving Certificate was awarded in English-speaking schools.

In general, primary school enrollment rates in rural areas have been considerably lower than in urban areas in Cameroon. In 1994, for example, the gross enrollment rate of 6- to 14-year-olds in a sampling of ten urban areas of Cameroon was 65.9 percent, while the corresponding rate for ten rural areas studied was only 36.9 percent. Of the 6- to 11-year-olds living in those urban areas, 109.8 percent of the age group was enrolled in school in 1994; in contrast, only 58.9 percent of 6- to 11-year-olds living in the rural areas studied was enrolled. In the 1994-95 academic year, about 79.2 percent of all children enrolled in school in Cameroon went to public schools, while 20 percent attended private institutions. Primary schools in 1995 had a gross enrollment rate averaging 88 percent93 percent for boys and 84 percent for girls. The failure rate at the primary level in 1994 was 32.7 percent, and 4.9 percent of primary-level pupils dropped out of school in 1994. Repetition rates in 1997 averaged 29 percent at the primary levelonly slightly better than three years earlier.

Secondary Education

In the French-speaking parts of Cameroon in 2000, students generally attended secondary schools between the ages of twelve and nineteen. Four years were spent at the lower-secondary level and three at the upper-secondary level, with the Brevet d'Etudes du premier Cycle awarded to students graduating after the four grades of General Secondary school in the Francophone system (Collège d'Enseignement general or secondaire ) and the Baccalauréat awarded to successful completers of the last three years of secondary level (Lycées). In English-speaking secondary schools in the year 2000, students also usually attended education programs between the ages of twelve and nineteen, although typically the lower-secondary level entailed five years of study for 12- to 17-year-olds, culminated in the Cameroon GCE O Level, and was followed by a two-year, upper-secondary program for 17- to 19-year-olds, awarded the GCE A Level upon completion of their studies.

In both the Anglophone and the Francophone systems, technical secondary schools also exist where students can obtain an alternative education to the general, academically oriented course of studies described above. The technical programs also are normally seven years in length for students between the ages of twelve and nineteen. In the Anglophone system, Technical Secondary Schools lead to the end degree of City and Guilds Part III, which allows the graduate to go on to university or higher-level technical studies. In the French-speaking system, Lycées techniques (technical high schools) take the student through technical-training courses and qualify her or him for work or further study upon completion; the Brevet de Technicien and the Baccalauréat are the diplomas awarded, qualifying students to pursue careers or to study further at a higher-education institution. A government-sponsored conference held in April 1999, the National Forum on Technical and Vocational Secondary Education in Cameroon, followed up on the National Forum on Education of May 1995 by developing new thinking in how to modify technical and vocational training to better prepare students to meet the labor market's needs.

Gross enrollment ratios at the secondary level in 1994 were 32 percent for boys and 22 percent for girls, or 27 percent for secondary students as a whole. The net enrollment rate for secondary students was 22 percent. The failure rate at the secondary level in 1994 also was 22 percent. Twenty-four percent of secondary-level students in Cameroon dropped out of school that year.

Higher Education

In 1995 the gross enrollment rate for higher education in Cameroon was only 4 percent, with significant gender disparities: 7 percent of males and only 1 percent of females of higher-education age were enrolled in tertiary-level education and training programs. By 1998 enrollments had increased and were almost equivalent to what they had been before the higher education budget was trimmed in 1993. At the start of the new millennium Cameroon had six publicly supported universitiesthe Universities of Yaoundé I and Yaoundé II, plus the Universities of Buéa, Douala, Dschang, and Ngaoundéré. In addition, specialized institutions and schools of higher education offered students higher-level degrees and diplomas in various professions and occupations, with a gradually increasing emphasis on linking training opportunities to conditions in the labor market. The Catholic University Institute, established in 1990, was the main private university in the country.

World Bank analysts noted that a variety of factors led to significant flaws in many of the higher education institutes in Cameroon during the 1990s, the chief ones being that technical schools were "not providing meaningful job-oriented practical training due to a lack of teacher motivation, poor planning of the disciplines that are taught, resource constraints, and a complete separation between the colleges and the world of work" (World Bank 1997). Furthermore, management deficiencies associated with overly centralized decision-making often made it hard for schools to respond to local conditions and to the needs and preferences of students or faculty. By the turn of the millennium attempts were being made to correct these problems; both the Government of Cameroon and outside actors appeared to be well aware of the need for significant reforms.

The demand for vocational and technical education carefully matched to labor-market needs increased appreciably during the 1990s. By the end of the decade, government ministers and educators placed greater attention on trying to develop a model that could be successfully replicated throughout the country to train youth for jobs and secure higher levels of employment for the graduates of both secondary and tertiary education programs. One model that appeared promising was an experimental university at Douala, started after the university-level reform decrees of 1993. This school, the Institut Universitaire de Technologie de l'Université de Douala (University Institute of Technology of the University of Douala, or IUT Douala ), enjoyed close linkages with employers and entrepreneurs and was strikingly more successful at jobplacing its graduates. Over eighty percent of IUT Douala graduates found jobs not long after graduating, compared with the graduates of most other university programs who rarely succeeded at finding employment directly after graduation. Based on the success of IUT Douala, the World Bank in June 1998 offered four years of credit totaling US$4.86 million from the International Development Association to supplement funds from the Government and self-generated monies derived from the institute itself to further support and test the development of IUT Doula so the successful elements of the model could be replicated throughout the country.

In their 1998 project-appraisal report reviewing the conditions in Cameroon that inspired this Higher Education Technical Training Project, World Bank analysts noted key problems in Cameroon's higher-education system which a public-private model of training might be able to address. According to the analysts:

The higher education system in Cameroon has its roots in the traditional francophone African model, with almost all students in full degree courses, few links to the labor market, no involvement of the private sector in program selection and curriculum content, and virtually all financing (apart from small student fees introduced in 1993) provided and controlled by the Ministère de l'enseignement Supérieur (MINESUP) and the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MINEFI). This model, initially designed to produce personnel for the civil service, no longer conforms to the economy's needs in the era of shrinking public services, nor to international best practices. (World Bank HDN II)

Moreover, the analysts noted that the high number of Cameroonian students already enrolled in highereducation programs in 1998 precluded the Government's being able to find sufficient funds on its own to support more traditional university training. The Bank analysts spotted curious contradictions in the financial costs of traditional higher education in Cameroon, with potentially deadly, unanticipated, negative consequences:

Few graduates from the ordinary universities find employment within a year of their graduation and the overall unemployment rate of university graduates is around 30 percent (unemployment rates rise with qualificationsonly 6.5 percent of unschooled young people are unemployed, compared with 30 percent of university graduates). Such figures put in question the validity of the 24 years of schooling bestowed upon graduates. Furthermore, the defeated expectations of many of the youth introduce a dangerous element of instability into society. (Ibid.)

The Government of Cameroon and the Bank thus attempted to collaborate to introduce new forms of higher education where students could enter the job market directly after graduation with valuable, marketable skills attuned to the needs of the labor market and Cameroonian society. The differences between regular higher education programs in the late 1990s and the type of training programs the Bank intended to support were that institutes following the IUT Doula model would provide diploma-level courses instead of degree-oriented academic training, the institutes would limit course and program enrollments to the number of students the institutes could effectively teach, they would use private-sector internships to give students in training specific job skills directly transferable to paid employment after graduation, and the institutes themselves would generate income through courses offered on a part-time and "à la carte" basis where students could more easily pay for their own training. By April 2001 the National Assembly had passed a new law concerning higher education which reflected some of the same principles and understandings as the Higher Education Technological Training Project, including the key principle that private enterprise and public organs should be encouraged to work together to provide coordinated training opportunities for students beyond the secondary level of education.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

The Ministry of National Education has primary responsibility for overseeing the implementation of educational laws, decrees, and policy in Cameroon's primary and secondary schools and for developing administrative regulations pertaining to basic education. The Ministry of Higher Education is responsible for developing and monitoring training and educational program offerings past the secondary level. Besides the government actors and entities charged with planning, implementing, and evaluating educational policy in Cameroon, local, national, and international nongovernmental organizations and private schools increasingly have provided education to students in Cameroon. In particular, small technical-training institutes seemed to prosper and become more and more popular as public demand grew for training directly relevant to the job market. The government increasingly attempted to regulate private schools in the country in the 1990s so that private educational offerings would better coordinate with Cameroon's public education system, with financial audits ideally encouraging better performance as the number of private initiatives increased.

Nonformal Education

Cameroon lacked a well-developed system of adult education in the late 1990s. Nonetheless, at that time recommendations were being made to develop new educational opportunities for adults seeking to upgrade their skills, learn a new trade, or change jobs. Because computer training was seen as absolutely necessary to increase the marketability of graduates of training and education programs by the late 1990s, the government sought new ways to encourage the inclusion of distance learning and high technology in education initiatives. The opening address at the government conference on vocational and technical education in Cameroon held in April 1999 specifically referenced the need to better train students in the use of technology, to prepare them for the types of jobs that would increasingly support the growth of the Cameroonian economy. As Prime Minister Musonge observed, "The prerequisite for the development of a country, the source of employment and prosperity, depends on the mastery of science and technology by its inhabitants, especially the youth." However, access to the Internet and to computers continued to be extremely limited in Cameroon at the start of the new millennium. Distance education arguably still was more readily accomplished through the media of television and radio in the late 1990s, as in 1997 there were 450 thousand televisions and 2.27 million radios in Cameroon. In 1998 only one government-sponsored television broadcasting station was operating while eleven AM radio stations, eight FM radio stations, and three short-wave radio stations transmitted broadcasts around the country. A law passed in 1990 which allowed for the privatization of radio was finally formally enacted in April 2000, leading to the multiplication of private and regional radio stations in the country.


The people of the Republic of Cameroon have experienced a very erratic course of educational development in the last two decades of the twentieth century. Whereas school enrollments had reached admirable levels in comparison to many other sub-Saharan African countries by the early 1980s, economic crises in Cameroon in the middle of that decade spoiled the country's promising educational performance and led to severe disruptions in the provision of education and the training of teachers. Deliberate government efforts were made during the 1990s to turn the educational situation around and to correct many of the problems endemic in Cameroon's basic education and higher education systems. In tandem with educational specialists, administrators, nongovernmental organizations, and international donors, the Government of Cameroon held several conferences and promoted new legislation and decrees to correct systemic problems, with a certain measure of success by the turn of the new millennium. Plans were drawn to better coordinate public and private educational offerings and to gather support from the private sector to improve secondary and tertiary education so as to make education more responsive to labor-market needs. Continuing improvements in the educational system seemed to depend most heavily on the decentralization of government authority and the devolution of power in the educational sector, as well as the coupling of private industry with public education to better prepare secondary and tertiary students for employment. By once again making access to primary schooling free of charge in the 2000-2001 fiscal year, the Government of the Republic of Cameroon signified its intentions to support basic education and to help all Cameroonian children enter a future where their social and economic well being could be better assured.


Amin, Martin E. Trends in the Demand for Primary Education in Cameroon. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc. 1999.

British Council. "Cameroon." 2000. Available from

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices2000. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State, February 2001. Available from

International Association of Universities/UNESCO International Centre on Higher Education. World Higher Education Database 2000. Available from

Kom, Ambroise. Éducation et démocratie en Afrique: Le temps des illusions (Education and Democracy in Africa: Time of Illusions). Yaoundé: CRAC and Paris: Éditions L'Harmattan, 1996. Ministry of Higher Education, Government of the Republic of Cameroon. "Loi No. 005 du 16 Avril 2001 Portant Orientation de l'Enseignement Superieur" ("Law No. 005 of 16 April 2001 Regarding Direction of Higher Education"), 16 April 2001. Available from

. "Page du Ministre" ("Minister's Page" ); "Le Ministère" ("The Ministry" ), February 2001. Available from

Musonge, Peter Mafany. Official Web Site of PM's Office (including news, speeches, and information about the Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Cameroon). Available from

. "Opening of the National Forum on Technical and Vocational Secondary Education in Cameroon from 7 to 9 April 1999." Available at

. "Programme économique, financier, social et culturel du Gouvernement pour l'exercice 2001-2002, Présenté à l'Assemblée Nationale par le Premier Ministre, Chef du Gouvernement" (Government's Economic, Financial, Social and Cultural Program for fiscal 2001-2002, Presented at the National Assembly by the Prime Minister, Head of the Government" ). 15 June 2001. Available from

"Government's Economic, Financial, Social and Cultural Programme for fiscal 2000-2001, Presented at the National Assembly by the Prime Minister, Head of the Government." 14 June 2000. Available from

. "Government's Economic, Financial, Social and Cultural Programme for fiscal 1999-2000, Presented at the National Assembly by the Prime Minister, Head of the Government." 1999. Available from

Sikounno, Hilaire. Jeunesse et Éducation en Afrique Noire ("Youth and Education in Black Africa" ). Preface by Pierre Erny. Paris: É;ditions L'Harmattan, 1995.

Task Force on Higher Education and Society, The. Higher Education in Developing Countries: Peril and Promise. Washington, DC: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank, 2000.

U.S. Department of State. "CameroonConsular Information Sheet." 6 June 2001. Available from

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. "CameroonHigher Education Technical Training Project" (Abstract and Profile). 4 June 1998. Available from

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. "Cameroon at a Glance." August 2000. Available from

. "Cameroon Data Profile." Source: World Development Indicators database, July 2000. Available from

. "Country Brief: Cameroon." 1999 Available from

World Bank, Human Development Network. Education Sector Strategy. Washington, DC: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank, 1999.

World Bank, Human Development Network II, Africa Region. "Project Appraisal Document on a Proposed Credit in an Amount of US$ 4.8 Million Equivalent to the Republic of Cameroon for a Higher Education Technical Training Project." Report No. 17375-CM. 4 June 1998. Available from

Barbara Lakeberg Dridi

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Safou a la Sauce Tomate (Prunes in Tomato Sauce)..... 54
Easy Fufu..................................................................... 55
Traditional Fufu........................................................... 56
Ndole (Bitterleaf Soup)................................................ 56
Banana and Pineapple Salad........................................ 58
Boiled Cassava ............................................................ 59


Situated in West Africa, Cameroon, shaped like an elongated triangle, contains an area of 475,440 square kilometers (183,568 square miles). Comparatively, the area occupied by Cameroon is slightly larger than the state of California.

There are four geographical regions: the western lowlands, which extend along the Gulf of Guinea coast; the northwestern highlands, which consist of forested volcanic mountains, including Mount Cameroon, the nation's only active volcano and the highest peak in West Africa; the central region, which extends eastward to the border with the Central African Republic; and the northern region, which is essentially a vast tropical plain that slopes down to the Chad Basin.

The southern and northern regions of the country are two distinct climatic areas. In the south there are two dry seasons, December to February, and July to September. The northern part of the country has a more comfortable climate.


Many staples of the Cameroonian diet came from the explorers of the New World (the Americas). The Portuguese arrived in Cameroon in 1472 and brought with them such foods as hot peppers, maize (corn), cassava (a root vegetable), and tomatoes.

Other Europeans settled on the Came-roon coast in the mid 1800s, with the British arriving first, followed by the French and Germans. The French influence is reflected in the presence of some foods, such as omelets and French bread, as well as in the preparation of some dishes; however, for the most part, Cameroonians continue to prepare their own traditional foods.

Foreign restaurants can be found in the larger towns and cities of Cameroon. In 2001, the city of Doula boasted a number of Parisian-style cafes, Greek, Lebanese, and Chinese restaurants, as well as places offering pizza and hamburgers. Restaurants in the capital city, Yaounde, also offered a variety of cuisines, including Chinese, French, Italian, Russian, and traditional Cameroonian food. In the smaller cities, street vendors and restaurants serve more traditional favorites than foreign dishes.

Safou a la Sauce Tomate (Prunes in Tomato Sauce)


  • 12 prunes
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 cups cooked rice


  1. Rinse the prunes, cut them in half, and remove the pits.
  2. In a saucepan, simmer the prunes with water until soft, about 4 minutes. Drain.
  3. In a frying pan, heat the peanut oil over medium heat and fry the prunes, about 2 minutes.
  4. Measure the tomato sauce into a medium saucepan, and add the fried prunes.
  5. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Serve over rice.

Serves 4 to 6.


The staple foods eaten by the people of Cameroon vary from region to region, depending on climate, and what is grown locally. In general, the Cameroonian diet is characterized by bland, starchy foods that are eaten with spicy (often very hot) sauces. Meat on skewers, fried and roasted fish, curries and peppery soups are common dishes.

Staple foods eaten in the north are corn, millet, and peanuts. In the south, people eat more root vegetables, such as yams and cassava, as well as plantains (similar to bananas). In both north and south regions, the starchy foods are cooked, then pounded with a pestle (a hand-held tool, usually wooden) until they form a sticky mass called fufu (or foofoo), which is then formed into balls and dipped into tasty sauces. The sauces are made of ingredients such as cassava leaves, okra, and tomatoes. The food most typical in the southern region of Cameroon is ndole, which is made of boiled, shredded bitterleaf (a type of green), peanuts, and melon seeds. It is seasoned with spices and hot oil, and can be cooked with fish or meat. Bobolo, made of fermented cassava shaped in a loaf, is popular in both the south and central regions.

Fresh fruit is plentiful in Cameroon. The native mangoes are especially enjoyed. Other fruits grown locally and sold in village marketplaces include oranges, papayas, bananas, pineapples, coconuts, grapefruit, and limes.

Easy Fufu

This is a good recipe to make with a friend, so you can share the job of stirring the stiff mixture and holding the pot steady. Neither the ingredients nor the process is authentic, but the results are similar in texture to the fufu prepared in Cameroon from cassava.


  • 2½ cups instant flour mix (such as Jiffy Mix or Bisquick)
  • 2½ cups instant mashed potato flakes
  • 1 cup tapioca (made from cassava)
  • 6 cups water


  1. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot.
  2. Mix the instant flour mix, instant potato flakes, and tapioca together. Add the mixture to the boiling water, about 2 cups at a time. The mixture should be thicker and stiffer than mashed potatoes.
  3. Stir constantly for 10 to 15 minutes while the mixture continues to boil. (The mixture will become very thick and difficult to stir, but it is important that it be stirred continuously.)
  4. Let the mixture cool. Form the fufu into balls.
  5. Serve with a spicy stew or soup.

Serves 8 to 10.

Traditional Fufu


  • 2 to 4 pounds (4 to 8 large) white or yellow yams (not sweet potatoes)


  1. Scrub the yams. Place them in a large pot and cover them with water.
  2. Bring the water to a boil and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until the yams are soft. (The skins will be easy to cut through with a fork or knife.)
  3. Drain yams into a colander, and run cold water over them to cool them.
  4. Remove peels from yams and return them to the pot.
  5. Using a potato masher or wooden spoon, mash and beat the yams for 10 to 15 minutes until completely smooth. (A helper can hold the pot steady while the yams are being beaten.)
  6. Shape the fufu into balls and serve with stew, sauce, or gravy.

Serves 8 to 10.

Ndole (Bitterleaf Soup)


  • 2 cups dried bitterleaf (can substitute spinach, kale, collards, or turnip greens)
  • ½ pound cooked shrimp (or one cup dried shrimp, if available)
  • 1 cup natural-style peanut butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 6 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. (If using any greens other than bitterleaf, skip this step.) Soak the bitterleaf overnight; drain in the morning and press out the excess water.
  2. If using kale, collards, or turnip greens, wash the greens, chop them, and cook them in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes.
  3. If using spinach, wash the leaves and chop the spinach.
  4. Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a large pot and add the onions, garlic, and ginger. Sauté for 3 minutes.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes, reduce heat, and simmer for about 3 minutes.
  6. Add the greens and simmer, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the peanut butter. Stir to combine well, cover the pot, and continue simmering until greens are tender (about 15 minutes). If mixture seems too dry, add water, ½ cup at a time.
  8. Cut shrimp into small pieces.
  9. Cook for 10 more minutes, then add the spinach.
  10. Serve with rice or boiled plantains and fufu.

Serves 6 to 8.


During the month long observance of the holiday of Ramadan, Cameroon's Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. This means they are forbidden to eat or drink during this time. The evening meal during Ramadan may include a rich soup. In most areas, a fete des mouton festival is celebrated two months after Ramadan to remember the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice a sheep from his flock. This celebration lasts for several days, during which it is customary for people to slaughter a sheep and then visit their friends and neighbors, giving them gifts of meat.

Most Cameroonians celebrate Christmas, even those who are not Christian. It is a time for visiting friends and family, and exchanging gifts. Holidays and events, such as coronations; saying goodbye to someone going abroad; weddings, and even funerals, are marked by feasts and meals at which friends and neighbors gather to eat local favorite dishes. It is traditional to slaughter and cook a sheep or goat at important occasions. Chicken dishes are also popular holiday fare.

Banana and Pineapple Salad


  • 2 firm ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
  • 2 firm ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 small pineapple, peeled and sliced
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 1 can coconut milk


  1. Boil the coconut milk until it thickens.
  2. Set it aside to cool.
  3. Pile the bananas, tomatoes, pineapple, and avocado alternately in layers in individual glass dishes.
  4. Top with chopped peanuts and the thickened coconut milk.
  5. Serve cold.

Serves 4 to 6.


At mealtime, damp towels may be passed out to diners (before and after the meal), to wash their hands; Cameroonians eat out of communal bowls. Using their right hands, they dip three fingers into the starchy foodoften fufu or a millet dishand then into the stews or sauces of the meal. It is customary for the men to serve themselves first, while the women wait patiently and the children eat what is left after the adults have finished.

People of Cameroon eat three meals a day. A variety of foods, including fruit, porridge, and boiled plantains, may be eaten for breakfast. Eggs and boiled cassava are also popular choices. Lunch and dinner are likely to feature a starchy dish such as fufu, boiled cassava, rice or millet, generally served with a vegetable soup or a hearty stew.

Meal preparation is very time consuming. Preparation of fufu, for example, can take days. The cassava or yams must be boiled and pounded into a pulpy mass. The preparation of fufu from powdered starch or rice is less complicated, but still requires much stirring. Cooking in the villages generally takes place over wood or charcoal fires, with iron pots and wooden spoons. In towns, canisters of propane may be used to power gas stoves. Even at the beginning of the twenty-first century electricity is seldom available for cooking use except in the largest cities.

Boiled Cassava


  • 2 cassava
  • Water
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Wash the cassava, then peel off the thin white and brown skins.
  2. Cut the cassava into 3- to 4-inch long pieces.
  3. Cut each piece in two and remove the midrib.
  4. Place the cassava into a pot with enough water to cover the cassava half way. Add salt.
  5. Boil until the cassava is soft, but not falling apart.
  6. Drain and serve hot with fish or meat stew.

Serves 2 to 4.


The government has tried for years to improve nutrition and health care, but there is a shortage of doctors and medical supplies, so the life expectancy is just about fifty years. Less than half the children receive immunization against common diseases such as tuberculosis, polio, and measles.

Families spend about one-third of their income on foodmostly on plantains, cassava, corn, millet, and small amounts of meat. Peanuts, called groundnuts, are an important source of protein.



Cusick, Heidi Haughy. Soul and Spice. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1995.

Hudgens, Jim and Richard Trillo. The Rough Guide to West Africa. London: Rough Guides, Ltd., 1999.

Iodowu, K. E. Auntie Kate's Cookery Book. Cameroon: published privately, 1976.

Web Sites

California Academy of Sciences, Traditional Arts Program. [Online] Available (accessed April 11, 2001).

CARE. [Online] Available (accessed April 11, 2001).

U.S. Peace Corps. [Online] Available (accessed April 11, 2001).

University of California, Berkeley, Searchable Online Archive of Recipes. [Online] Available http://soar.Berkeley.EDU/recipes/ethnic/africa/indexall.html (accessed April 11, 2001).

Welcome to Cameroon. [Online] Available (accessed April 11, 2001).

Weekend Special, Le Magazine de Afric'Netpress. [Online] Available (accessed April 16, 2001).

Sources for Special Ingredients

African Food Club [Online] Available (accessed April 19, 2001).

Cassava, plantain, and other ingredients can be found in the produce section of larger grocery stores, as well as in Asian and African specialty stores in many areas of the United States.

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Cameroon (country)

Cameroon (kăm´ərōōn´), Fr. Cameroun, officially Republic of Cameroon, republic (2005 est. pop. 16,380,000), 183,568 sq mi (475,442 sq km), W central Africa. It is bordered on the southwest by the Gulf of Guinea, on the northwest by Nigeria, on the northeast by Chad, on the southeast by the Central African Republic, and on the south by Congo (Brazzaville), Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea. Yaoundé is the capital, and Douala is the largest city and main port.

Land and People

Cameroon is triangular in shape. A coastal strip 10 to 50 mi (16–80 km) wide in the southwest is covered with swamps and dense tropical rain forests; it has one of the wettest climates in the world, with an average annual rainfall of 152 in. (386 cm) on the coast. Near the coast are volcanic peaks, dominated by Mt. Cameroon (13,354 ft/4,070 m), the highest point in the country. Beyond the coastal marshes and plains, the land rises to a densely forested plateau c.1,000 ft (300 m) above sea level. The interior of the country is a plateau c.2,500 to 4,000 ft (760–1,220 m) high, where forests give way to savanna. This plateau forms a barrier between the agricultural south and the pastoral north. The extreme northern regions, near Lake Chad, are dry thornbush lands. Among the many rivers that drain Cameroon are the Bénoué, the Wuori, the Sanaga, and the Nyong.

The country consists of the former French Cameroons and the southern portion of the former British Cameroons. The French, or eastern, section constitutes four fifths of the country and supports the bulk of the population. With more than 200 ethnic groups, Cameroon has one of the most diverse populations in Africa. Bantu-speaking peoples, such as the Douala, predominate along the southern coast and in the forested areas. In the highlands are the Bamiléké. Important northern groups include the Fulani and the Kirdi. French and English are the official languages, but there are also 24 major African language groups in the country. About 40% of the people follow traditional beliefs, while another 40% are Christian and about 20% are Muslim; Islam is the dominant religion of the northern regions.


Offshore oil deposits exploited since the early 1970s have made Cameroon one of the most prosperous nations in tropical Africa. Oil refining and the production of crude oil products lead the nation's industries. Before the advent of the petroleum business, agriculture was the country's economic mainstay, and it still contributes about 45% of the country's gross domestic product and employs about 70% of the people. The north, where cattle raising is the chief occupation, is the least economically developed part of Cameroon, whose regional disparities pose a major problem for the government.

Cameroon is one of the world's leading cocoa producers; coffee, rubber, bananas, palm products, and tobacco, all grown mainly on plantations, are also commercially important. The principal subsistence crops are bananas, cassava, yams, plantains, peanuts, millet, and sorghum.In spite of this diverse agricultural production, only a small percentage of the country's land is cultivated, but food production in Cameroon meets domestic demand despite the occurrence of periodic droughts.

Fishing and forestry follow oil and agriculture as leading occupations. Cameroon's mineral resources include bauxite and iron ore. The Edéa Dam on the Sanaga River provides the bulk of the country's electricity and powers a large aluminum smelter; finished aluminum is exported. Food processing, sawmilling, and the manufacture of light consumer goods and textiles are important industries.

Cameroon's exports include crude oil and petroleum products, lumber, cocoa beans, aluminum, coffee, and cotton. France, Spain, Italy, and Nigeria are the major trading partners. The country is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.


Cameroon is governed under the constitution of 1972 as amended. The president, who is head of state, is popularly elected for a seven-year term; there are no term limits. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the president. The bicameral legislature consists of the 180-seat National Assembly and 100-seat Senate; members of both serve five-year terms. The Assembly is elected by popular vote. Seven senators are elected from each region by the region's municipal councilors, and the rest are appointed by the president. Administratively, the country is divided into 10 regions.


Early History to Independence

Throughout history the region witnessed numerous invasions and migrations by various ethnic groups, especially by the Fulani, Hausa, Fang, and Kanuri. Contact with Europeans began in 1472, when the Portuguese reached the Wuori River estuary, and a large-scale slave trade ensued, carried on by the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French, and English. In the 19th cent., palm oil and ivory became the main items of commerce. The British established commercial hegemony over the coast in the early 19th cent., and British trading and missionary outposts appeared in the 1850s; but the English were supplanted by the Germans, who in 1884 signed a treaty with the Douala people along the Wuori estuary and proclaimed the area a protectorate.

The Germans began constructing the port of Douala and then advanced into the interior, where they developed plantations and built roads and bridges. An additional area was acquired from France in 1911 as compensation for the surrender of German rights in Morocco. Two years later, German control over the Muslim north was consolidated. French and British troops occupied the region during World War I.

After the war the area ceded in 1911 was rejoined to French Equatorial Africa, and in 1919 the remainder of Cameroon was divided into French and British zones, which became League of Nations mandates. Little social or political progress was made in either area, and French labor practices were severely criticized. Both mandates, however, remained loyal to the Allies in World War II. In 1946 they became UN trust territories. In the 1950s, guerrilla warfare raged in the French Cameroons, instigated by the nationalist Union of the Peoples of the Cameroons, which demanded immediate independence and union with the British Cameroons. France granted self-government to the French Cameroons in 1957 and internal autonomy in 1959.

Independence to the Present

On Jan. 1, 1960, the French Cameroons became independent, with Ahmadou Ahidjo as its first president. The British-administered territory was divided into two zones, both administratively linked with Nigeria. In a UN-sponsored plebiscite in early 1961, the northern zone voted for union with Nigeria, and the southern for incorporation into Cameroon, which was subsequently reconstituted as a federal republic with two prime ministers and legislatures but a single president. Ahidjo became president of the republic.

National integration proceeded gradually. In 1966 the dominant political parties in the east and west merged into the Cameroon National Union (CNU). In 1972 the population voted to adopt a new constitution setting up a unitary state to replace the federation. A presidential form of government was retained, but Cameroon was a one-party state, with the CNU in control. Ahidjo resigned from the presidency in 1982 and named Paul Biya as his successor.

Biya established an authoritarian rule and implemented conservative fiscal policies. Opposition to his regime endured after a failed coup attempt in 1984, and his critics called for more substantive democratic reform. An increase in oil revenues resulted in greater investment in agriculture and education, but the collapse of world oil prices in 1986 prompted a variety of austerity measures. In 1985 the CNU changed its name to the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM). Following a prolonged nationwide strike in 1990, Biya ended one-party rule and initiated a multiparty system. In the nation's first democratic elections, held in 1992, Biya again won the presidency, but the result was tainted by widespread charges of fraud, and violent protests followed.

Various IMF and World Bank programs initiated in the 1990s to spur the economy met with mixed results, and privatization of state industry lagged. Critics accused the government of mismanagement and corruption, and corruption remained a significant problem into the 21st cent. In recent years the English-speaking inhabitants of the former British provinces have sought autonomy or a return to federal government. In the 1990s, tensions increased between Cameroon and Nigeria over competing claims to the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula in the Gulf of Guinea, and clashes occurred in 1994 and 1996. Biya was reelected in 1997; however, his refusal to allow an independent board to organize the vote prompted the country's three main opposition parties to boycott the elections.

In 2002 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) awarded the Bakassi peninsula and certain areas in the Lake Chad region to Cameroon; another area in the latter region was awarded to Nigeria. The areas near Lake Chad were swapped late in 2003, and a new border established. The more politically sensitive Bakassi decision was slow to be implemented, but after a 2006 agreement transfer of the region to Cameroon was initiated in Aug., 2006; Nigerian administration of the peninsula ended in Aug., 2008.

Biya was returned to office in 2004 with 75% of the vote. Many foreign observers called the election democratic, but journalists said the turnout appeared low despite the government claim that it was 79%. Opposition politicians and other Cameroonians accused the government of vote-rigging. Elections in 2007 gave the governing party a landslide majority in the National Assembly, but the government was again accused of electoral fraud.

In Feb., 2008, anger over fuel price increases and over Biya's suggestion that he might seek to change the constitution so that he could be reelected again led to a transport strike and violent demonstrations in Yaoundé, Douala, and some other urban areas. In April, the National Assembly lifted presidential term limits. Biya again won reelection in Oct., 2011, against a divided opposition and, again, amid opposition accusations of fraud. In Apr., 2013, elections for the Senate were held for the first time since the constitution was amended (1996) to establish the upper house; Biya's party secured an overwhelming majority of the seats. The September elections for the National Assembly, which had been scheduled for July, 2012, but were postponed several times, resulted in a similar outcome. Political instability in neighboring Central African Republic led to border tensions and incursions into Cameroon beginning in the latter part of 2013. There also have been recruitment and incursions into areas of Cameroon bordering NE Nigeria by members of Boko Haram, and second half of 2014 saw significant fighting between Cameroon's military and Boko Haram in N Cameroon. In 2015 Cameroon and Benin, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria formed an African Union–authorized regional military force to combat Boko Haram.


See V. T. LeVine, The Cameroon Federal Republic (1971); N. N. Rubin, Cameroun (1972); A. F. Calvert, The Cameroons (1976); M. W. Delancey, Cameroon (1988) and with H. M. Mokeba, Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Cameroon (2d ed. 1991).

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Official name : Republic of Cameroon

Area: 475,440 square kilometers (183,568 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Cameroon (4,095 meters/13,435 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 1 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 1,206 kilometers (749 miles) from north to south; 717 kilometers (446 miles) from east to west

Land boundaries: 4,591 kilometers (2,853 miles) total boundary length; Central African Republic, 797 kilometers (495 miles); Chad, 1,094 kilometers (680 miles); Republic of the Congo, 523 kilometers (325 miles); Equatorial Guinea, 189 kilometers (117 miles); Gabon, 298 kilometers (185 miles); Nigeria, 1,690 kilometers (1050 miles)

Coastline: 402 kilometers (250 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 91 kilometers ( 50 nautical miles)


Cameroon is a triangle-shaped country located between West Africa and Central Africa. It has a western border on the waters of the Bight of Biafra in the Gulf of Guinea, between Equatorial Guinea (south) and Nigeria (north). It also shares borders with the countries of Gabon and Republic of the Congo to the south, and Central African Republic and Chad to the east. With a total area of 475,440 square kilometers (183,568 square miles), Cameroon is slightly larger than the state of California. The country is divided into ten provinces.


Cameroon claims no territories or dependencies.


Cameroon has a climate that varies from tropical along the coast to semiarid (little annual rainfall) and hot in the north. The average temperature range in Yaoundé is from 18 to 29°C (64 to 84°F). The north part of Cameroon has a wet season between April and September with an average annual precipitation between 100 and 175 centimeters (39 and 69 inches). The south alternates between wet and dry seasons. The two wet seasons are from March to June and again from August to November. Annual precipitation in the south reaches 403 centimeters (159 inches).


The terrain (surface of the land area) of Cameroon is diverse. The country has four basic geographic regions. The southwestern lowlands are located along the coast. The northwestern highlands run from the northern coast along the border with Nigeria.

The central region covers a majority of the country and includes the Adamawa Plateau. The northern plains run through the northern arm of the country that reaches up through Chad. This area is a part of the Sahel, the semi-arid region that borders the Sahara Desert.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

Along its west coast, Cameroon borders the Bight of Biafra, an eastern bay of the Gulf of Guinea.

Coastal Features

The Bakassi Peninsula is a 1,554-square-kilo-meter (600-square-mile) region that includes the northern edge of the Cameroon coast and a series of islands that are believed to contain rich oil reserves. The area is mostly a mangrove forest swampland. Currently, the governments of Cameroon and Nigeria both claim ownership of the Bakassi, as each hopes to profit from these potential oil reserves. As of 2002, both countries had filed suits with the International Court of Justice of the United Nations, but the dispute is not expected to be resolved quickly.

Most of the coastal zone is a flat area of sedimentary soils that stretch along the Gulf of Guinea for about 257 kilometers (160 miles). In the south, the coastal plain is covered by equatorial rain forests, with swamp-lands along its edges. The beaches near Limbe, at the base of Mount Cameroon, are known for their black volcanic sand.


The largest lake in Cameroon is Lake Chad, which is shared by the neighboring country of Chad. The size of the lake varies from season to season, depending on rainfall, with a total area of 10,360 to 25,900 square kilometers (4,000 to 10,000 square miles). It is divided into north and south basins, reaching depths of only about 7.6 meters (25 feet). The lake has no outlets. Its chief tributary is the Chari River, which extends into Chad. Lake Chad is the largest inland body of water on the Sahel.

Freshwater Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun, in the northwestern highlands, formed in volcanic craters. Both lakes contain toxic levels of carbon dioxide gas. In 1986, a buildup of this gas erupted from Lake Nyos, spewing 80 meters (260 feet) into the air. It created a heavy poisonous cloud that eventually swept over an area of about 25 kilometers (16 miles), suffocating seventeen hundred villagers living in the valley below. In 1984, a similar eruption from Lake Monoun killed thirty-seven people. In 2001, scientists began a project to construct a pipeline ventilation system in the lakes. Through this system, the contaminated waters from the bottom of the lakes are pumped slowly and regularly to the surface in a gas-water fountain. This allows for the carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere at a slower, more controlled rate.

Other crater lakes include Barombi Mbo, Bermin, Dissoni (Soden), Benakouma, Kotto, and Mboandong.


The longest river in Cameroon is the Sanaga at 515 kilometers (325 miles). It is formed by headstreams from the center of the country and flows southwest to the Gulf of Guinea. Three other major rivers are the Djérem, Bénuoé, and Nyong.


The northern plains between Maroua and Lake Chad are part of the region known as the Sahel. Sahel is an Arabic word meaning "shore." It refers to the 5,000-kilometer (3,125-mile) stretch of savannah that is the shore or edge of the Sahara Desert. The Sahel spreads from Mauritania and Senegal in the west to Somalia in the east.


Vast stretches of grassland are typical within the highlands near the city of Bamenda, while thorn trees and scrub cover the semi-arid northern plains. A few wooded savannah areas dot the east-central part of the country. Only 4 percent of the land in Cameroon is considered permanent pasture, and only 13 percent of the land is arable.

The Mandara Mountains of northern Cameroon extend northward from the town of Garoua and along the Nigerian border. They have a fairly low elevation, with most peaks under about 1,400 meters (4,593 feet)much lower than the mountains of the northwestern highlands. The Mandara range is known for the ethnic diversity of its residents; more than fifty ethnic groups live there. Most of the mountain dwellers survive as farmers or cattle breeders.


The highest mountain range in the country is the Cameroon Mountains, located in the northwest bulge of the country along the border with Nigeria. Elevations in this range are generally between 1,676 meters (5,500 feet) and 2,438 meters (8,000 feet).

These mountains were formed through the volcanic activity of the Cameroon Rift, but currently the only active volcano is Mount Cameroon, with its most recent eruption in May 2000.


Cameroon's exotic native wildlife is attractive to tourists. The government has created game reserves where animals can be observed first-hand, such as elephants, lions, giant eland (a large antelope), bongos (white-striped antelope), chimpanzees, crocodiles, and dozens of species of birds. Game reserves are located in the far north and in the southeast, which is home to a small population of lowland gorillas.

The volcano is called Mount Faka in Cameroon. With an altitude of 4,095 meters (13,435 feet), it is the highest peak in West and Central Africa.


There are no significant caves or canyons in Cameroon.


The Adamawa (Adamaoua) Plateau extends from the eastern to the western border of Cameroon and Nigeria at average elevations of about 1,371 meters (4,500 feet). Surface features in the central parts of this high plateau include small hills or mounds capped by granite or gneiss (a type of rock).

Along the western and eastern borders, old eruptions from fissures and volcanoes have covered the granite surface with lava rock. The Adamawa Plateau forms a barrier between the agricultural south and the pastoral north.


Cameroon relies on a system of river dams for hydropower and water reserves. The Edéa Dam on the Sanaga River provides the bulk of the country's electricity. A dam on the Bénoué River, built in 1986, formed Lake Lagdo, a large reservoir near Garoua. Other large reservoirs exist near Tibati and Bafoussam.



Africa South of the Sahara 2002: Cameroon. London: Europa Publications Ltd., 2002.

DeLancy, Mark W., and Mark Dike DeLancey. Historical Dictionary of Cameroon. African Historical Dictionaries, No. 81. Lanham, MD and London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2000.

Europa World Yearbook 2000: Cameroon. London: Europa Publications, Ltd., 2000.

Web Sites

"Savage Planet: Volcanic Killers-Degassing Lake Nyos." PBS. http://www.pbs.wnet/savageplanet/01volcano (accessed June 23, 2003).

Wo Yaa! Cameroon. (accessed June 23, 2003).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Cameroon
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 15,421,937
Language(s): African language groups, English, French
Literacy rate: 63.4%

Background & General Characteristics

Officially independent since January 1, 1960, the Republic of Cameroon was constituted from the merging of the former French and British Cameroons in 1961. It borders Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, and Gabon. With 402 km of coastline and 4,591 km of borders, Cameroon's area is about 475,440 square kilometers. Its capital is Yaounde. The climate varies from tropical to semiarid. With a 2001 estimated population of 15,803,220 growing at the rate of 2.41 percent, Cameroon had an estimated literacy rate of 63.4 percent in 1995.

The Press

The national press developed considerably in the 1990s, and at the beginning of the twenty-first century there were several daily newspapers, including Mutations and Ciel d'Afrique (African Sky), born in 2000. Africa New Destiny is a daily international general information magazine. Published from Monday to Friday, the bilingual Cameroon Tribune was started in January 2000. In two years it went from 7,000 to 25,000 copies and from 25 to 32 pages.

The main weeklies are Le Patriote (The Patriot) and Le Messager (The Messenger), which started in 1979. Other weeklies include L'analyste (The Analyst), Le Temps (The Times), Le Triomphe (The Triumph), Voix d'Afrique (African Voices), Les Nouvelles d'Afrique (African News), the French-English Catholic publication L'effort Camerounais, centered in Douala, and L'informe (The Informer). Bi-weeklies include L'aurore (The Dawn) and Dikalo. Tri-weeklies include La Détente (Relaxation), Le Jeune Detective (The Young Detective), and La Nouvelle Expression (The New Expression), published since 1992. There is also the Herald, published in English.

There are several monthly publications such as Mensuel Panafricain d'Analyses Politiques (The Political Analytical Panafrican Monthly), L'anecdote (The Anecdote), the Dschang News, dedicated to the Dschang urban community, and Mefoe Ya Nlam, which distributes information in French to the Southern province. Other topical publications include Patrimoine (Patrimony), about culture and debates, and La Plume sur le Rocher (The Feather on the Rock), a Catholic publication.

In 2002, Le Francophone, a bimonthly, was started by l'Alliance Panafricaine pour Promotion de la Fran-cophonie. (The Panafrican Alliance for French Language Promotion). Two other bimonthlies are Le Gri-gri International (The International Amulet), a panafrican satirical publication, and Le Serment (The Oath).

Outside publications that are read in Cameroon include Le rendez-vous de l'Afrique (African Rendez-Vous), Toute l'actualité de l'Afrique (Current African Events) and Governance Alert on Cameroon Human Rights. There is also a French quarterly Impact Tribune. Other important publications include Polemedia, Le Journal de l'Agence Intergouvernementale de la Fran-cophonie, L'écluse (The Lock) and L'action (Action).

News Agencies

Cameroonian news agencies in 2002 included the YFIA Francophone News Agency, the Agence de Presse, and the IEPF (L'Institut de l'Energie Périodique Franco-phone). Also active were AJIC (l'Association des Journalistes Indépendants du Cameroun), and the CJSC (Club des Journalistes Solidaires du Cameroun), founded in 2000. Every year on May third, Cameroonians celebrate World Press Freedom Day in an effort led by UNESCO to promote freedom and independence of the press.

Broadcast Media

In 1998, there were eleven AM radio stations, eight FM stations, three short wave radio stations and one television station. Four years later, under Cameroon Radio Television alone there are ten regional radio stations and one national, three FM urban commercial channels, and one television station with thirty-two diffusion centers. There are also some international stations such as Radio Africa No. 1, Afro Caribbean Music, and Radio France Internationale. In 1997, there were 2.27 million radio sets and 450,000 TV sets in Cameroon.

Electronic News Media

In 2000, there was only one Internet provider and 20,000 users. However, as of 2002 there were 11 cyber-papers and many magazines online. Some of these include Le Patriote, Afrik'Netpress, a bilingual daily, La Nouvelle Expression, for investigation and analysis, Tam Tam, and The Cameroon Tribune a French-English paper. Sujet Tabou (Taboo Subject), an evangelistic journal, and L'action, a democratic site on politics, economics and sports give topical information. The Internet is growing in popularity as a source of international media. International sites such as the BBC, L'é, CNN, and Le Monde have the largest Cameroonian readership.


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). World Factbook 2001. Directorate of Intelligence, 2002. Available from

CameroonInfo.Net News. Available from

Ciel d'Afrique. Available from

Danielle Raquidel

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475,440sq km (183,567sq mi)



capital (population):

Yaoundé (1,122,500)


Multiparty republic

ethnic groups:

Fang 20%, Bamileke and Bamum 19%, Douala, Luanda and Basa 15%, Fulani 10%


French and English (both official)


Christianity (Roman Catholic 35%, Protestant 18%), traditional beliefs 25%, Islam 22%


CFA franc = 100 centimes

Republic in w Africa. Cameroon gets its name from the early Portuguese explorers, who fished for camarões (prawns) along its coast.

Behind narrow coastal plains on the Gulf of Guinea, the land rises in a series of plateaux, home of the capital, Yaoundé. In the n, the land slopes down towards the Lake Chad basin. The mountainous sw region rises to the active volcano, Mount Cameroon at 4070m (13,354ft).


Cameroon has one of the wettest climates on Earth. Rainfall is heaviest in the hot and humid sw between July and September. The inland plateaux are cooler. Rainfall decreases as you move n and the far n has a hot, dry climate.


Rainforests flourish in the s. Inland, the forests give way to savanna. Here national parks (such as the Waza, n of Maroua) contain protected animal species. The far n is semi-desert.

History and Politics

Cameroon is a diverse nation, with more than 160 ethnic groups. Bantu-speakers predominate in coastal areas, such as Douala. Islam is the dominant force in the n, where major tribal groupings include the Fulani. In 1472, Portuguese explorers (seeking a sea route to Asia) reached the Cameroon coast. From the 17th century, s Cameroon was a centre of the slave trade. In the early nineteenth century slavery was abolished and replaced by the ivory trade, led by Britain.

In 1884, Cameroon became a German protectorate and the Germans developed the port facilities in Douala. In 1916 the country was captured by Allied troops. After World War I Cameroon was divided into two zones, ruled by Britain and France. In 1960, following civil unrest, French Cameroon became an independent republic. In 1961, n British Cameroon voted to join the Cameroon Republic (forming the Federal Republic of Cameroon), while s British Cameroon joined Nigeria.

In 1966 a one-party state was created, and in 1972 the federation became a unitary state. From 1960 to 1982 Ahmadou Ahidjo was the country's president. His successor, Paul Biya, purged the party of Ahidjo's supporters. In 1984 a failed coup led to many executions, and Biya made Cameroon a republic. Biya was re-elected in 1992, amidst charges of electoral malpractice. His autocratic rule was regularly accused of torture and the creation of a police state. In 1995, partly to satisfy its English-speaking community, it became the 52nd member of the Commonwealth of Nations.


Cameroon is one of West Africa's most successful economies (2000 GDP per capita, US$1700). Its wealth, however, is extremely unevenly distributed. Northern Cameroon is impoverished, and heavily dependent on cattle-raising.

Agriculture dominates the economy, employing 79% of the workforce. Cameroon is self-sufficient in foodstuffs. Major crops include cassava, maize, millet and yams. It is the world's 7th largest producer of cocoa. Other commercial plantations grow coffee, bananas, groundnuts and tobacco. Fishing and forestry are other important activities.

Despite shrinking production, oil accounts for nearly 50% of Cameroon's exports. Other mineral resources include gold and bauxite.

Political map

Physical map

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CAMEROON. A country of West Africa and member of the COMMONWEALTH. Languages: English, French (both official, but to be legally binding a document must be in French), KAMTOK or Cameroonian Pidgin, and indigenous languages. The first Europeans in the area were the Portuguese in the 15c, who established a trade in slaves that in the early 17c passed to the Dutch. The British declared this trade illegal in 1807 and policed the waters until it ended in the 1840s. Although the British established settlements, the territory became the German protectorate of Kamerun in 1884, which ceased to exist during the First World War. In 1919, the region was divided into French and British zones, which became League of Nations mandates in 1922 and United Nations trusteeships in 1946. French Cameroon became an independent republic in 1960. The southern part of British Cameroon voted to join it in 1961, while the remainder joined Nigeria.

The English of Cameroon is distinguished by its coexistence with French (for administration, commerce, and education) and with Cameroonian Pidgin or Kamtok, and English-based pidgin of relatively high prestige in many communities, but no official recognition. In anglophone Cameroon (former West Cameroon, under British administration 1919–60), English is the first language of local government and education. All Cameroonian post-primary students receive a bilingual education in French and English. The speech of educated Cameroonians is distinguished by local vocabulary for foods and cultural items and by phonological peculiarities shared with Kamtok. In the metropolitan varieties of English, BrE and AmE usages and informal local usages are melded into a variety that becomes more and more affected by Pidgin as situations become less formal and speakers are further from the highest social levels. Cameroonian English is part of a national network of linguistic repertoires, including at its maximum several indigenous languages, possibly pidginized varieties of such languages, Pidgin English, and a Cameroonian French that has the same relation to French elsewhere as Cameroonian English has to English elsewhere. See WEST AFRICAN ENGLISH, WEST AFRICAN PIDGIN ENGLISH.

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Culture Name



Identification. The name of the country derives from the term used for the Wouri River by Portuguese explorers. Reaching the Cameroon coast near the modern port city of Douala around 1472, those explorers named the river Rio dos Camaroes ("River of Prawns") after the variety of crayfish they found there. This name later was applied to the coastal area between Mount Cameroon and Rio Muni.

Cameroon has distinct regional cultural, religious, and political traditions as well as ethnic variety. The division of the country into British- and French-ruled League of Nations mandates after World War I created Anglophone and Francophone regions. The English-speaking region consists of the Southwest and Northwest provinces, where Pidgin English (Wes Cos) is the lingua franca and English is taught in school. The educational system and legal practices derive from those of England. The French-speaking region consists of the remaining eight provinces, where French is the lingua franca, the French school system is used, and the legal system is based on the statutory law of continental Europe. This region is dominant in numbers and power. Tension between the two regions increased after the introduction of a multiparty political system in the 1990s.

The English-speaking region is divided into two cultural regions. The Grassfields peoples of the Northwest Province consist of nearly one hundred chiefdoms each ruled by a divine king (fon). Most of these chiefdoms have patrilineal or dual descent kinship systems, although some groups, such as the Kom, are matrilineal. Polygyny and fertility are important cultural values, although this varies by wealth and education. The social organization and culture of the Grassfielders are closely related to those of the French-speaking Bamiléké peoples of the Western province. Like the Bamiléké, Grassfielders often are in opposition to the central government.

The peoples of the Southwest province had less hierarchical systems of governance and social organization. The British appointed warrant chiefs to aid their colonial rule, and in many instances the population rallied behind those chiefs in the postcolonial period. The peoples of the Southwest province include the Bakweri, who live along the slopes of Mount Cameroon. The Bakweri practice rites of healing and initiation in associations of spirit mediums that distinguish between male and female roles and between village and bush.

In the French-speaking area, the largely Muslim north is culturally distinct from the largely Christian and animist south. The northern area includes three provinces: Adamoua, North, and Extreme North. Since the jihad led by an Islamic cleric in 1804, the northern region has been culturally dominated by the Fulani. Urban Fulani are renowned as clerics in the Sunni branch of Islam. Most Fulani are cattle herders. An important subgroup are the Bororo'en, noted for the size of their cattle herds. With their Hausa colleagues, they engage in long-distance trade involving cattle. Other northern ethnic groups include the Mandara, Kokoto, and Arab Choa. Major crops include cotton and millet.

Most of the southern peoples are Christian or engage in traditional, animist religious practices. The Center, South, and East provinces are characterized by dense tropical rain forest. The Center and South are culturally dominated by the Beti peoples, which include the Ewondo, Eton, and Bulu, and are linguistically and culturally related to the Fang of Gabon. They are patrilineal, grow root crops and peanuts for their own consumption, and grow cocoa as a cash crop. The Ewondo were early converts to Catholicism. The current president is Bulu, and many prominent authors are Beti. Peoples in the East include the Maka and Gbaya, both with relatively egalitarian forms of social organization in which reciprocity is a key value. Forestry and tobacco farming are important sources of income. The East province is also home to the Baka, a tropical forest forager (pygmy) group of about thirty thousand to forty thousand living in small camps that exchange forest products with nearby farmers. The Littoral province is in the coastal rain forest region in the southwest. It includes the largest city, the port of Douala, and the industrial, hydroelectric, and bauxite mining area near Edea. The major ethnic groups are the Duala and Bassa.

The southern part of the French-speaking area includes the high plateau region of the West province, which includes the Bamiléké and Bamoun peoples. Both are culturally similar to the Grassfielders. The Bamiléké constitute roughly 25 percent of the population. In rich volcanic soils they grow food crops and coffee. The population is dense, and the Bamiléké served as a labor reserve population in the twentieth century, resulting in large, entrepreneurial urban émigré population. The large urban population is prominent in commerce and higher education. Since the conversion of Sultan Njoya to Islam early in the twentieth century, the Bamoun have been a largely Muslim people. Sultan Njoya, a man of unusual intellect, developed an original alphabet and wrote a history of his people and dynasty.

A sense of a common national culture has been created through shared history, schooling, national holidays and symbols, and enthusiasm for soccer. However, ethnic distinctiveness remains, and ethnic identity became an increasingly important source of social capital during the 1990s.

Location and Geography. Cameroon is situated by the Gulf of Guinea on the west coast of Africa. Its area is 179,527 square miles (465,000 square kilometers). Nigeria lies to the west, Chad and the Central African Republic to the east, and the People's Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon to the south. The climate is hot and humid in the forested south and west, cooler in the highland Grassfields region of the West and Northwest provinces, and hotter and drier in the savanna and sahel of the north. The capital, Yaoundé, is in the Center province. It has experienced rapid growth and increasing strife between immigrant groups (particularly the Bamiléké) and the native Beti.

Demography. The population in 1987 was 10,498,655; it was estimated to be nearly 14 million in 1997. In 1987, 46 percent of the population was under fifteen years old. The population is growing at an average annual rate of almost 3 percent, with declining mortality and high fertility. Thirty-eight percent of the population lives in urban centers.

There are no reliable population figures for the major cultural groups. The Bamiléké account for approximately 25 percent of the total population, and northerners, including the Fulani, approximately 20 percent. These two groups also have the highest fertility rates.

Linguistic Affiliation. French and English are the official languages. The approximately two hundred fifty local languages include Ewondo and Bulu, Duala, the Bamiléké languages, and Fulfulde. Among the less educated, the Wes Cos dialect of Pidgin English functions as a lingua franca in the English-speaking area and in many neighborhoods in Douala. Both French and English are taught in school, but only those with a secondary education are fluent in both. Most people speak at least one local language and one official language, and many people are multilingual.

Symbolism. The flag has three equal vertical stripes of green, red, and yellow, with a five-pointed gold star in the center of the red stripe. The stripes represent the three major geographic areas: green for the rain forest, red for the laterite soils of the savanna, and yellow for the sands of the sahel. The national anthem begins with the words O Cameroun, berceau de nos ancetres ("Oh, Cameroon, cradle of our ancestors"), reflecting the importance of ancestors and kinship and the desire to forge an imagined community with a common ancestry. The feeling of national unity is strongest among schoolchildren and has been stressed since the end of the cold war.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Before colonization, Cameroon was a territory of diverse climatic zones populated by a variety of peoples and polities. The Muslim states in the north traded with trans-Saharan merchants and Arabic peoples. The coastal peoples in the south traded with Portuguese and Dutch seafarers beginning in the late fifteenth century. In 1884, Cameroon became a German protectorate (Kamerun). The Germans were defeated by British and French forces in 1916, and the territory was divided between those nations in 1916. In 1922, the French and British zones became League of Nations mandates, with the French controlling over 80 percent of the national territory. Those zones were transformed into United Nations Trusteeships in 1946. The frontier between the French and British zones cut through the territories of several ethnic groups, particularly the Bamiléké and Grassfields peoples of the western highlands. This later served as an impetus for the reunification of those zones at the time of independence. French Cameroon (Cameroun) became independent in 1960, and after a plebiscite in 1961, British Cameroon gained independence. The southern part of the British territory joined the Federal Republic of Cameroon, while the northern part, ethnically united with the Hausa-city states, joined Nigeria. In 1965, Cameroon came under single-party rule. It was renamed the United Republic of Cameroon in 1972 and the Republic of Cameroon in 1984.

National Identity. A national culture was first formed by external powers through colonization. Even regional cultural differences emerged originally during the periods of mandate and trusteeship. A sentiment of common national identity is particularly strong in major institutions of socialization such as schools and during international soccer matches, visits by foreign dignitaries, and times of international dispute. Ahmadou Ahidjo, a Muslim from the northern city of Guider, who was president from independence until 1982, attempted to foster national integration by posting civil servants to areas outside their ethnic homelands. His successor, Paul Biya, is a Catholic of the Bulu (Beti) people of the South province. In 1983 and 1984, alleged coup attempts by those loyal to Ahidjo led to martial law and ethnic tensions between groups in the northern and southern regions. Since the legalization of multiparty politics in 1992, political parties have been increasingly associated with specific ethnic groups or regions.

Ethnic Relations. In addition to regional and ethnic distinctions, coalitions and tensions exist on a local level. People from the northern areas are collectively referred to as "northerners" by their southern compatriots and share some cultural attributes related to their Islamic religion. Anglophone and Francophone peoples of the Grassfields (Grassfielders, Bamiléké, and Bamoun) share common attributes and have practiced their own interchiefdom diplomacy for several centuries. In February 1992, violence between the Arab Choa and Kokoto ethnic groups during voter registration led to the death of more than one hundred people. Violence reemerged two years later, leading over one thousand people to seek refuge in Chad. In the Grassfields of the Northwest and Western provinces, interdependence and conflict between farmers and grazers coincide with ethnicity. The ethnicization of party politics and the increasing importance of ethnicity in relation to economic claims have led to conflicts between "autochthonous" (indigenous) and migrant populations.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The major cities include Douala (the shipping and industrial center), Yaoundé (the capital), Nkongsamba (the end point of the railroad through the southern plantations of the colonial period), Maroua and Garoua, Bafoussam and Bamenda (the provincial capitals of the West and Northwest provinces), Kumba, and Limbe. Yaoundé has several monuments to national unity.

Most villages and small towns in rural areas have a marketplace in a central location that may house a weekly, biweekly, or daily market, depending on their size. Most markets have separate areas for women's products (produce and palm oil), and men's products (livestock and bush meat). Official buildings are often located near these markets or along the central axis leading through smaller towns.

Architecture varies by region. In the rain forest and the Grassfields, poto-poto (earthen plaster on a wooden frame) and mud brick rectangular buildings roofed in palm thatch or corrugated iron are common. Traditional Grassfields architecture was constructed of "bamboo" (the spines of raffia palm fronds); square or rectangular buildings with sliding doors were topped by conical thatched roofs. The doorposts of royalty had elaborate carvings. Traditional architecture in the north includes round mud buildings crowned in thatch. Walled compounds usually include a separate granary. Throughout the nation, structures built of concrete bricks, corrugated iron roofs, and iron grillwork have replaced other forms of housing.

Much of daily life occurs in public areas such as the courtyards of polygynous compounds. Privacy is often suspect, especially among peoples with a strong belief in malevolent and occult powers.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The sharing of cooked food is one of the major ways to cement social relationships and express the high value placed on human company. Sharing food and drink demonstrates hospitality and trust. Social support networks among kin and friends, particularly between country folk and their urban relatives, are held together symbolically with gifts of cooked and uncooked food. Sacks of beans, maize, or peanuts "from home" can be seen on the roofs of bush taxis traveling between the countryside and urban centers.

Meals consist of a cooked cereal or root staple accompanied by a sauce or stew. In the southern areas, the major staples are root crops such as cassava and cocoyams, and plantains; in the moist savanna and Grassfields, maize and plantains; and in the arid north, sorghum and millet. Rice and pasta have become popular. Staples may be boiled, pounded, or fried; most commonly they are made into a thick porridge shaped into oblong balls. Sauces usually have a base of palm oil and ground peanuts. Vegetables such as greens, okra, and squashes are common. Hot peppers, onions, ginger, and tomatoes are popular condiments. Dried or fresh fish or meat may be included in the sauce. Uncooked fruits such as bananas, mangoes, papayas, oranges, and avocados are popular snacks and desserts; they are not considered part of meals.

In many regions, men and guests eat before women and children. Hand washing is part of the etiquette of meals. Whether from a separate dish or a common pot, a small ball of porridge is formed by three fingers of the right hand and then dipped in sauce. Westernization has led families to eat together around a common table, using separate place settings and cutlery.

Food taboos vary by ethnic group. The Bassa of the Littoral province serve a gourmet dish of viper steaks in black sauce, but only the oldest males among the Ewondo (Beti) of the Center province may eat viper. Totems of specific clans, healers, or royal dynasties are taboo to certain members of some ethnic groups.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. At the visit of an honored guest, a wedding, or a funeral, a chicken, goat, sheep, or steer is served to guests. Special drinks, such as palm wine and millet beer as well as bottled carbonated drinks, beer, and wine are served at these occasions. Among the Bamiléké, as part of coronation festivities, the newly installed paramount chief ceremoniously serves each subject a handful of beans mixed with palm oil to symbolize the chief's ability to ensure food and fertility in his realm.

Basic Economy. The country is basically self-sufficient in food, although the distribution of food is variable. Seasonal famines occur in the arid north. Per capita gross national product (GNP) was $610 in 1996. From 1990 to 1996, the GNP declined and it has shown slight increases since that time. Cameroon has a trade surplus but is burdened by debt. Agriculture, including the production of food and cash crops such as coffee, cocoa, and cotton, employs almost two-thirds of the labor force. Many people produce mainly for themselves, selling the "surplus" at local markets.

Land Tenure and Property. Among the Fulani, land is inherited patrilineally. In the Grassfields, land is held by fons, with use rights devolving to specific patrilineages and matrilineages. Throughout the country, the privatization of land tenure is increasing. Access to private land titles depends on money, understanding of the bureaucracy, and connections. Women, the main producers of food crops, are often at a disadvantage when land is privatized.

Commercial Activities. In the towns, there are grocery and dry goods stores. Restaurants and bars, taxis, and domestic labor involve an increasing proportion of the labor force.

Major Industries. Major industries include mining and aluminum processing, forestry, and the manufacture of beverages. Petroleum is a significant source of national income.

Trade. Wood, coffee, cocoa, cotton, and palm oil are the principal exports. The trading partners are France, Nigeria, the United States, and Germany. Principle imports include consumption goods; semifinished goods; minerals; industrial and transportation equipment; and food, beverages, and tobacco.

Division of Labor. The division of labor is determined largely by formal education (for civil servants) and gender. There is some specialization by ethnic group such as herding by Fulani, the butchering and meat trade by Hausa, and transportation by Bamiléké.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. There is a high degree of social inequality. Among the Fulani, Grassfielders, Bamiléké, and Bamoun the traditional social organization included hierarchical relations between members of groups with different status (royalty, nobility, commoners, and slaves). Other ethnic groups have a more egalitarian social organization in which age and gender are the major factors in social stratification. New forms of social inequality based on access to political power and level of formal education coexist with indigenous forms of stratification. Although a cosmopolitan lifestyle has developed among the wealthy and the intelligentsia, markers of cultural distinctiveness and obligation to kin and ethnic compatriots remain. Regional differences in wealth also exist: the far northern and eastern areas have less access to wealth and infrastructure.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Housing styles differ by class, in both urban and rural areas. The wealthiest people have concrete houses painted in bright colors and surrounded by high walls. Those houses have flower gardens and interior furnishings such as upholstered furniture and armoires. The poorest people live in mud houses with thatched or corrugated iron roofs, sparsely furnished with beds and stools made of local materials. Styles of dress also vary by class; the wealthiest can afford Italian leather shoes to accompany the latest European and African wardrobes, while poorer people wear cloth wrappers and secondhand European-style clothing. The wealthiest tend to speak French or English even at home, while the poorest speak local languages and Pidgin English.

Political Life

Government. Since the 1992 amendment of the constitution, Cameroon has been a multiparty state. Executive power is held by the president, who serves for seven years and, since 1992, for a maximum of two terms.

Leadership and Political Officials. The twenty-seven-year period of single party rule left a legacy of an authoritarian political culture. At the national level, government leadership resides in the president and his cabinet. On the local level, the prefet (district officer) and sous-prefet are the most powerful administrative officials. Positions in government are determined through a combination of know-how, party loyalty, and ethnic and regional background. In many areas, local and national forms of leadership coexist. For example, the chiefdoms of the Northwest and West provinces form states within a state, with fons sharing power with government officials. Some chiefs served as rallying points for opposition groups during the political crises of the 1990s.

Social Problems and Control. There are several police forces, including internal security police, gendarmes, and military police. The legal system combines the case law system of the British with the statutory law system of the French. Theft is a common crime, and the U.S. State Department issues regular warnings about bandits in the tourist regions of the northern provinces. Local chiefs serve as justices of the peace and receive a small salary. Officially, criminal law is no longer in their jurisdiction, although they often settle disputes regarding theft, trespass, and personal injury or assault via witchcraft.

Customary law combined forms of dispute resolution ranging from rituals of reconciliation to banning and capital punishment. A combination of discussion and the use of oracles still is used in most cultures. Since the colonial era, the jurisdiction of local chiefs and councils has eroded. Informal social control mechanisms include gossip, ostracism, and fear of occult, ancestral, or divine retribution for wrongdoings.

Military Activity. Cameroon has a bilateral defense agreement with France. In the 1980s and 1990s, the military was involved in border disputes with Nigeria regarding the Bakassi peninsula.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The government sponsors many social welfare programs, largely through the community development and extension services of the Ministry of Agriculture. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have become increasingly involved in social welfare and the development of civil society. Their importance has increased as government functions have been cut back during a period of economic and political crisis.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Most NGOs fall into one of two types: those with a focus on social problems such as AIDS awareness, condom distribution, and street children; and ethnic development associations that link urban migrants with their home villages, build hospitals, schools, and bridges "back home," and organize urban ethnic festivals. Ethnic associations often are organized as rotating credit associations, building on a long tradition of mutual aid in both rural and urban areas. They reflect the increasing importance of ethnicity in national and local politics.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. In most areas, women are responsible for feeding their families. They grow staple food crops, while men clear the land and provide meat, oil, and salt. Men grow the cash crops. Among the pastoral populations, men herd the livestock and women process dairy products.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. In general, men have higher social status than women. They have more rights with regard to marriage, divorce, and land tenure within most local systems of social organization and more access to government bureaucracy and the courts. However, women may have informal power within households, enforced through their control of subsistence activities and their role as conduits to female ancestors. Many women are prominent in higher education and government ministries.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Among many ethnic groups, first marriages historically were arranged with varying degrees of veto power by the potential bride and groom, but individual choice stressing companionship is becoming more common. Most southern groups prefer exogamous marriage, while the Fulani tend to be endogamous. Polygyny is a goal within many groups but is not always financially attainable. Some women prefer small-scale polygyny for the company and mutual aid a co-wife might provide.

Domestic Unit. Domestic organization varies widely throughout Cameroon. Rural polygynous compounds are composed of a male head of a household surrounded by his wives and their children. Wives and children usually sleep in separate dwellings within the compound. In both urban and rural areas, child-rearing by a close relative (a kind of foster arrangement) is common.

Inheritance. The organization of kinship varies widely, as do local rules of inheritance. The inheritance of land is often separated from that of movable property. The inheritance of wives may serve as a form of old-age insurance for women without grown children, since marriage provides access to land. Among many groups, traditional titles and honors may be inherited.

Kin Groups. Most northern groups, such as the Fulani, are patrilineal. The kinship organization of most Grassfielders, Bamiléké, and Bamoun is variously described as patrilineal or dual descent. The Kom of the Grassfields are a notable matrilineal exception. Most forest peoples are patrilineal.


Infant Care. Child bearing is highly valued, and infants are given a great deal of daily and ritual attention. Generally, infants are kept close to the mother and breast fed on demand. Once they can hold the head upright, they are carried by siblings. Infants generally sleep with their mothers. The arrival of a baby is the occasion for visits during which the newborn is cuddled, bounced, bathed, and spoken to.

Child Rearing and Education. Beliefs and practices concerning child rearing vary by ethnic group. Commonalities include the importance of learning by example and through play and imitation of the tasks of adults. Children are taught to observe astutely but remain reserved and prudent in what they report. Remembering one's ancestors, elders, and origins is an increasing concern of parents whose children spend long hours in public schools and often leave their homelands to find work in urban centers and on industrial plantations.

Since independence, the country has achieved a high level of school attendance. Primary enrollment in 1994 included 88 percent of children. Secondary education is much less common (27 percent), with boys attending secondary school more frequently than girls. Instruction is in French and English, although the second national language usually is introduced only in secondary school. Primary education lasts for six years in Francophone areas and seven years in Anglophone areas. Secondary education lasts for an additional seven years. School attendance is highest in the cities, especially Yaoundé and Douala, and lowest in rural areas. Despite the relatively high level of school attendance, 21 percent of men and 35 percent of women had no formal education in 1998.

Higher Education. While less than 3 percent of men and 1 percent of women attend institutions of higher learning, advanced study is widely regarded as a route to upward mobility. Originally, the University of Yaoundé was the only comprehensive university, while regional universities specialized in particular subject areas. Yaoundé also housed the University Centre for Health Sciences, a medical school servicing several African countries. In the 1990s, the University of Yaoundé was broken up into several campuses, each devoted to a different field of study. The regional universities became more comprehensive, leading to some decentralization in higher education. Many people pursue a doctoral degree overseas.


Greetings, use of proper names, and use of praise names are important parts of daily etiquette in many regions of Cameroon. At meetings, each person should be greeted by name or with a handshake. Serving and graciously receiving food is an important symbol of hospitality and trust throughout the country. Respect is accorded to elders throughout Cameroon. Protocol regarding speaking and seating during an audience with a chief is highly developed in regions with hierarchically organized cultures (Fulani, Bamiléké, Banoun, and Grassfields).


Religious Beliefs. Cameroonians have a variety of religious beliefs, and many individuals combine beliefs and practices of world religions with those of their own culture groups. Approximately 53 percent of the population are members of Christian denominations, about 25 percent practice mainly "traditional" religions, and approximately 22 percent are Muslim. Most Christians live in the southern areas, and most Muslims in the north. Christian missions constituted an informal second layer of colonialism.

Traditional religions are systems of practices and beliefs that adapt to changing social conditions. Most involve the veneration of ancestors and the belief that people, animals, and natural objects are invested with spiritual power.

Religious Practitioners. In addition to Christian and Muslim clerics, religious practitioners include the ritual specialists of cultural groups. These specialists may be political leaders, spirit mediums, or healers. Their spiritual power may be inherited, learned, or acquired through their own affliction and healing. Generally, they combine their religious activities with other forms of livelihood.

Rituals and Holy Places. For Muslims, a pilgrimage to Mecca is a source of honor. Among animists, holy places often include sacred trees or groves, unusual rock formations, and the burial places of ancestors. These places are often sites of propitiatory offerings to ancestors or spirits. Offerings include special foods, palm oil, libations of palm wine, and chickens. Among the monarchies of the Grassfields, sacred places include sites of former palaces where rituals that promote fertility and good fortune for the chiefdom are performed.

Death and the Afterlife. Several cultures, including the Bamiléké in the west and the Maka in the east, practice divination and/or perform public autopsies to determine the cause of death. These peoples are particularly concerned with death caused by witchcraft. In many cultures, a death is announced through public wailing by women. Grassfields peoples bury their dead quickly but observe a week of public mourning called cry-die. Close relatives shave their heads. Approximately a year later, lavish death celebrations honor the deceased, who has become an ancestor. Death provides the occasion for the most important ceremonies of the forest forager groups (Baka, Kola, and Medzan). The forest spirit is believed to participate in death ceremonies by dancing under a raffia mask. The honoring and veneration of ancestors are common to nearly all groups. Ancestors may be remembered in oral literature (the Fulani), buried in elaborate tombs in the family courtyard (Catholic Ewondo), or reburied and provided offerings of prayer, food, and shelter (the Bamiléké). The Fulani, like other Muslims, believe in an afterlife of material rewards for those who obey Allah's laws.

Medicine and Health Care

Health care consists of biomedical treatment, traditional practices (often closely bound to traditional religion), and Islamic medicine in various combinations that depend on belief, cost, proximity, and the advice of kin and neighbors.

Biomedical health care facilities are provided through the national government and Christian missions as well as by private physicians. There are health centers, maternal child health centers (offering prenatal, childbirth, well-baby, and under-five care), and private, general, and central hospitals. In rural health centers, nurses often play a direct role in diagnosis and treatment, and perform surgical operations. Pharmacists are an important source of biomedical advice. Vendors of prescription medicines also give advice to patients and their families, although their understanding of disease may differ from that of physicians and pharmacists.

Traditional practitioners include herbalists, bone setters, diviners, and ritual specialists who may supplicate spirits or ancestors. These practitioners adapt to changing conditions by incorporating new ideas and medicines into their practices. There has been a tendency toward the predominance of herbalists and individual treatment and away from the use of ritual specialists and community-wide treatments. Many practitioners specialize in the treatment of particular afflictions. Patients readily consult practitioners from different cultural groups.

The Islamic medical system is derived from Arabic and Greco-Roman sources. These medical practitioners not only are important sources of treatment for northern Muslims but also are popular among other peoples. Many non-Muslims seek protection from evil by displaying symbols of Islamic blessings in their houses.

Secular Celebrations

Secular celebrations such as New Year (1 January), Youth Day (11 February), Labor Day (1 May), and National Day (20 May) include public parades involving public officials, party loyalists dressed in commemorative cloth with party insignia, and schoolchildren as well as dance troupes.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Artists are mostly self-supporting, although 7 percent of the national budget was devoted to recreational and cultural activities in 1996 and 1997.

Literature. The Fulani are known for their oral literature, including poetry, history, stories, legends, proverbs, magic formulas, and riddles. Since the colonial period, written literature has had a strong history in the southern areas. Ewondo and Douala authors have contributed classics to modern African literature.

Graphic Arts. Many groups produce pottery, textiles, and sculptures that are used as everyday household objects. Grassfielders (including the Bamiléké and Bamoun) are noted for blue and white royal display cloth, elaborately beaded calabashes, and sculptures that include royal reliquaries. The Bamoun are known for lost-wax bronze sculptures. The graphic arts of pastoral groups such as Fulani and Hausa are largely related to cattle herding.

Performance Arts. Music and dance styles are essential to the celebration of funerals, weddings, and succession to high office.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

In addition to the university system, there are a number of institutions of applied and basic research in the physical and social sciences. Many are run and funded in coordination with the research institutions of donor countries, the United Nations, or NGOs. Social sciences are popular among university students. Because of insufficient library resources, students have formed their own organizations to create subject-specific libraries that are completely student-run.


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Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg

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Cameroon is an independent republic on the west coast of Africa with a population of 13 million. It attracted Portuguese, Dutch, and British interest but from 1884 until 1916 was under German rule. After the First World War, France administered east Cameroon under a League of Nations mandate and Britain south Cameroon. They became independent in 1960 and a plebiscite supported their union. The capital is Yaoundé and the chief exports are cocoa, coffee, bananas, and cotton.

J. A. Cannon

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Cameroon has an extremely heterogeneous (mixed) population, consisting of approximately 200 ethnic groups. The principal groups are Bantus, mostly in the south, and the Fulani, in the north. For more information on the Fulani, see the chapter on Guinea in Volume 4

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Cameroonafternoon, attune, autoimmune, baboon, balloon, bassoon, bestrewn, boon, Boone, bridoon, buffoon, Cameroon, Cancún, cardoon, cartoon, Changchun, cocoon, commune, croon, doubloon, dragoon, dune, festoon, galloon, goon, harpoon, hoon, immune, importune, impugn, Irgun, jejune, June, Kowloon, lagoon, lampoon, loon, macaroon, maroon, monsoon, moon, Muldoon, noon, oppugn, picayune, platoon, poltroon, pontoon, poon, prune, puccoon, raccoon, Rangoon, ratoon, rigadoon, rune, saloon, Saskatoon, Sassoon, Scone, soon, spittoon, spoon, swoon, Troon, tune, tycoon, typhoon, Walloon •fortune, misfortune •vodun • veldskoen • honeymoon •forenoon • tablespoon • teaspoon •soupspoon • dessertspoon • Neptune •tribune • triune • opportune

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