Cameroon is a lower middle income country with a population of 23.3 million people. Situated in Central Africa, it shares a border with Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic (CAR), Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. Two regions are Anglophone (the northwest and southwest regions that border Nigeria) while the rest of the country is Francophone. It is endowed with significant natural resources, including oil and gas, high value timber species, minerals, and agricultural products such as coffee, cotton, cocoa, maize, and cassava.
Cameroon’s ruling party, the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM), has long dominated the country’s political landscape and currently occupies 148 out of the 180 seats in the National Assembly and 81 out of the 100 seats in the Senate, which was created in 2013. Presidential elections are scheduled for 2018. While Cameroon has enjoyed peace for many decades in spite of its highly diverse population, it now faces and increasingly challenging situation in its northern regions, where Boko Haram’s war, has shifted to suicide attacks since October/November 2015 with regular attacks. An estimated 93,000 Cameroonians have been displaced internally and Cameroon is also host to an estimated 65,000 Nigerian refugees in the north and 250,000 refugees from CAR in the east.
Despite more than a decade of economic growth, poverty in Cameroon has remained almost unchanged since 2001. Poverty decreased from 40% in 2001 to 37.5% in 2014. Urban poverty declined from 18% in 2001 to an estimated 9% in 2014. However in rural areas, the percentage of poor increased from 52% in 2001 to 56.8% in 2014.
Changes in poverty between 2001 and 2014 show an unambiguous regional pattern, with northern Cameroon becoming poorer and southern Cameroon becoming wealthier. In 2014, 56% of all poor in Cameroon lived in the two northern regions, North and Far North. In the northern region, per capita consumption declined since 2001 (by about 15%), it increased in the south by approximately 50%. The commensurate decline in poverty in the southern part of the country can be attributed to favorable world market prices for export crops, artisanal gold mining, and an urbanization process that creates positive spillovers to rural areas through increased demand for produce, transfers and opportunities for work.
The increase in poverty in northern Cameroon is of great concern. The number of poor people in the North and Far North regions more than doubled from 2.1 million in 2001 to 4.5 million in 2014. Moreover this was measured prior to the security crisis created by Boko Haram. More up to date poverty estimates do not exist, but one would expect a significant increase in poverty in the northern regions as a consequence of the influx of refugees, and the disruption of business due to increased levels of insecurity.
Over the last decade economic growth has averaged 4% and was still too low to make a serious dent in poverty reduction. Growth is estimated to have increased by 6.2% in 2015 compared to 5.9% in 2014, mainly due to expanding oil production which increased by 28%, following the reactivation and use of enhanced recovery techniques to optimize production from mature fields. Several non-oil sectors also continued to benefit from progress in the implementation of the “Vision 2035” program which aims to make the country an upper-middle income economy by 2035.
Although Cameroon is less dependent on oil than other African oil exporting countries, oil revenue accounts for about 20% of total revenue and about 45% of total exports. Therefore, the oil price decline has had an impact on Cameroon’s economic outlook. The insecurity caused by the presence of Boko Haram in the Far North region has also affected the economy. External financing mobilized to fund major infrastructure projects has increased the stock of public debt to 26.7% of GDP at the end of 2015 from 22.9% in 2014. The 2015 joint International Monetary Fund-World Bank Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA) revealed that Cameroon’s risk of external debt distress moved from moderate risk in 2014 to high risk in 2015.
In recent years, the tertiary sector has been the main driver of economic growth, with telecommunications, transport, and financial services being particularly dynamic. This growth would have been higher in the absence of the drastic downfall of international oil prices and the insecurity in northernmost regions of the country which seriously affected agro-pastoral activities, trade between Cameroon and its neighbors (Nigeria, Chad, and the Central Africa Republic), and the tourism sector.
Cameroon suffers from weak governance, which affects the country’s development and ability to attract investments. Cameroon ranks 130th out of 168 countries in the 2015 Transparency International corruption perceptions index. Cameroon ranks 172th out of 189 economies in the 2016 Doing Business report.
Last Updated: Apr 08, 2016