Cameroon has always been considered as a microcosm of Africa and rightly so. Therefore she continues to attract the interests of investors, opinion leaders, decision makers and researchers all over the world. A traveler, a tourist or even a hard-to please businessman will find everything he would like to see in Africa just in a single country (Cameroon).
History: Cameroon, christened by the Portuguese in 1472, owes its name to the vast numbers of shrimp (camaroes) which was found in the River Wouri around Cameroon’s coast.
Cameroon is very diverse in terms of population and geography. Its almost 18 million people represent between and 200 ethnic groups speaking some 250 languages, and its landscape ranges from sub-Saharan in the north to thick rainforest in the south-parts of which receive more than 200 inches of rain each year.
The Capital Yaoundé is located in a hilly part of the country rising up to 700metres high in some parts, thus having a cooler climate than might be expected for a city only five degrees north of the equator. Cameroon is located on the West coast of Africa, surrounded or bordered by Nigeria, Gabon, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo and Equatorial Guinea. It has a 400km coastline to the Atlantic Ocean.
Climate: The climate ranges from tropical rainforest to open savannah, with high mountain ranges on the North West border with Nigeria. Cameroon is also the host of the highest volcanic mountain in west and central Africa, Mount Cameroon which is located in the rocky town of Buea near the seaport and oil Refinery city of Limbe fondly referred to as the OPEC. Mount Cameroon is 4,100 meters high and is an active volcano. From the main commercial port city of Douala, also the Commercial capital of Cameroon, the land rises to 700 metres at Yaounde, the national capital. The mountain range bordering Nigeria climbs to over 2,000 metres. Throughout Cameroon there are areas of thermal springs, and indications of current or prior volcanic activity.
Population: The population is about 18 million inhabitants comprising of over 200 tribal groups. Although Christians form the majority in religion and the Muslims forming the minority with just 22 percent, no tribe or religion has dominance. Cameroon has been typically peaceful throughout its history.
The Land area is 475,440 square kilometres, or 183,638 square miles.
French Cameroon was granted independence from France in 1960. The Southern part of British Cameroon joined the Republic of Cameroon in 1961, to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. In 1984 the name was officially changed to The Republic of Cameroon. In 1992, the first multiparty elections were held.
The system of government is the French model, with a powerful office of President (elected for seven year terms), a Prime Minister and Ministers appointed by the President, and the Chamber of Deputies elected by popular vote every four years.
His Excellency, Paul Biya has been President since 1982.
International Memberships: Apart from the UNO, African Union and the non-aligned movement, Cameroon became a full member of the Commonwealth of Nations in 1996, and now actively participates in that organisation. Membership became possible due to part of the republic made up of the South West and North West regions (formerly referred to as provinces) being the former British Cameroon. Cameroon is also a member of the Francophonie (An association of mainly French speaking nations) as well as the Organization of the Islamic Conference due to its 22 percent Muslim population.
Languages: The official languages are French and English, although French is dominant. English is most strongly represented in the former British Cameroon region. Bilingual schools are common throughout the country, and increasing numbers of people realise the importance of learning English in the new global economy.
Currency: The currency is the CFA Franc. The CFA is linked to the Euro through a guarantee by France that parity to the old French Franc will be maintained. The currency thus fluctuates against the world currencies in line with the Euro.
Main cities are: Douala, the principal seaport and commercial capital, with a population of over 2,500,000; Yaounde, the capital with 1.2 million, and other major cities or provincial capitals at Garoua, Maroua, Ngounderie, Bamenda, Bafoussam, Foumban, and Kumba. A large proportion of the population (47%) lives in non urban areas. The Camerounians are very good farmers, and produce a surplus of diverse crops.
Export crops: Major crops for export and local use include: rubber, palm oil, cotton, cacao, coffee, tea, bananas, pineapples, haricot beans, sugar, potatoes of various varieties, and a variety of fruit and vegetables.
Seaport and river ports: Ports other than Douala are Kribi, a developing port, and holiday resort. This is also the shipping port for the new Chad to Cameroon oil pipeline, currently being built at a cost of four billion dollars. Limbe Seaport is also an important port and one of the deepest in Cameroon. This seaport is currently mainly used as an export point for locally produced oil. Limbe is the location of the Cameroon’s oil refinery (The National Refinery Corporation with the French acronym SONARA).This refinery has a production level of 100,000 barrels per day. Unrefined oil is the country’s prime export. There are several river ports on the severel rivers that flow across the country like the rivers Wouri, Sanaga, Manyu, Logone, Benoue, Aïna, Campo, Chari, Dja River, Kadéï , Lélé, Mayo Kébbi, Noun, Ntem, Nyong, Sangha etc etc
Natural Resources: The country has an extraordinary range of resources, both mineral, and forestry, most of which have yet to be exploited, although timber production is a major industry. Apart from oil, two other mineral based enterprises in operation are; A large cement plant at Douala, and a 39 year old aluminium smelter at Edea (between Douala, and Yaoundé). Despite known bauxite deposits in the billions of tonnes, most of the supplies for the smelter are shipped in from Guinea for now.
Educational system: Government schools in Cameroon are structured on the Western curriculum, with primary and secondary schools. Whilst French is the dominant language, parents can now specify that their children attend an English speaking school.
There are also a wide range of church or mission schools, colleges and Universities throughout the country.
The Yaoundé University has over 60.000 students, attending six campuses. They are located at:
University of Yaoundé 1 University of Yaoundé 2 University of Douala University of Dschang University of Buea University of Ngaoundere
There are other numerous private and mission universities and polytechnics throughout the country.
Electricity: Over 90% of Cameroon’s power is generated by hydroelectric plants, and there are other identified power station sites for future development e.g the several waterfalls in Cameroon like the Menchum Fall in the North West Region etc.
Time Zone: GMT +1 Hour
Stability: Cameroon enjoys relative political and social stability, which has in turn permitted the development of agriculture, roads, and railways, as well as an extensive petroleum industry.