French Cameroon became independent in 1960 as the Republic of Cameroon. The following year the southern portion of neighboring British Cameroon voted to merge with the new country to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. In 1972, a new constitution replaced the federation with a unitary state, the United Republic of Cameroon. The country has generally enjoyed stability, which has enabled the development of agriculture, roads, and railways, as well as a petroleum industry. Despite slow movement toward democratic reform, political power remains firmly in the hands of President Paul BIYA.
Central Africa, bordering the Bight of Biafra, between Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria
petroleum, bauxite, iron ore, timber, hydropower
Population - distribution
population concentrated in the west and north, with the interior of the country sparsely populated
24 major African language groups, English (official), French (official)
YAOUNDE (capital) 3.066 million; Douala 2.943 million (2015)
- Conventional long form
- Republic of Cameroon
- Conventional short form
- Local long form
- Republique du Cameroun/Republic of Cameroon
- Local short form
- Geographic coordinates
- 3 52 N, 11 31 E
- Time difference
- UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction; non-party state to the ICCt
Cameroon’s market-based, diversified economy features oil and gas, timber, aluminum, agriculture, mining and the service sector. Oil remains Cameroon’s main export commodity, and despite falling global oil prices, still accounts for nearly 40% of exports. Cameroon’s economy suffers from factors that often impact underdeveloped countries, such as stagnant per capita income, a relatively inequitable distribution of income, a top-heavy civil service, endemic corruption, continuing inefficiencies of a large parastatal system in key sectors, and a generally unfavorable climate for business enterprise.
- External debt stocks
- US$ 6,557,798,000
- Total tax rate (% of commercial profits)
- Real Interest Rate
- Manufacturing, value added (% of GDP)
- Current Account Balance
- US$ -1,173,219,339
- Labor Force, Total
- Employment in Agriculture
- Employment in Industry
- Employment in Services
- Unemployment Rate
- Imports of goods and services
- US$ 6,903,001,686
- Exports of goods and services
- US$ 5,531,165,261
- Total Merchandise Trade
- FDI, net inflows
- US$ 694,057,557
- Commercial Service Exports
- US$ 1,441,120,483
coffee, cocoa, cotton, rubber, bananas, oilseed, grains, cassava (manioc, tapioca); livestock; timber
petroleum production and refining, aluminum production, food processing, light consumer goods, textiles, lumber, ship repair
- crude oil and petroleum products, lumber, cocoa beans, aluminum, coffee, cotton
- China 16.6%, India 16%, Spain 6.2%, Belgium 6.1%, France 6.1%, Portugal 5.5%, Netherlands 5%, Italy 4.9% (2015)
- machinery, electrical equipment, transport equipment, fuel, food
- China 27.9%, Nigeria 13.9%, France 10.9%, Belgium 4.1% (2015)
- Country Risk Rating
- A very uncertain political and economic outlook and a business environment with many troublesome weaknesses can have a significant impact on corporate payment behavior. Corporate default probability is high.
- Business Climate Rating
- The business environment is difficult. Corporate financial information is often unavailable and when available often unreliable. Debt collection is unpredictable. The institutional framework has many troublesome weaknesses. Intercompany transactions run major risks in the difficult environments rated C.
- Agricultural, oil and mining resources
- Diversified economy compared with that of other oil exporters
- Ongoing infrastructure modernization
- Debt reduction granted in 2006 as part of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief initiative
- External and public accounts dependent on oil
- Rapid rise in debt due to ambitious public investment program
- Lack of inclusive growth and still difficult business climate
- Insecurity in the far north of the country and uncertainty surrounding the succession to the Head of State
In 2017, growth could be further buoyed by investment in infrastructure projects (commissioning of the Kribi deep water port, construction of three dams and finalization of the second bridge over the Wouri). Moreover, the gas sector could be expanded, due to the progress of the Kribi offshore gas fields. However, this industry may not expand in a uniform way, as shown by the cancellation of another LNG factory project.
The primary sector continues to play an important role (20% of GDP in 2014) and pull in significant earnings from its agricultural exports (wood, cocoa, bananas, cotton, etc.). However, cocoa production could be less significant in 2017 due to the drought, during sowing, in 2016. Therefore, the economy remains highly dependent on climatic events, despite the slow rise in global prices of commodities in 2017.
Due to the discovery of new reserves and the application of new extraction technologies, oil production has been turned around, for a few years at any rate.
In 2017, inflation should increase. This could result from the rise in food products (the drought in 2016 should affect harvests in 2017) and that of energy prices. However, the pegging of the CFA franc to the euro will continue to maintain price stability. This should boost household consumption, one of the drivers of growth.
Fiscal revenues are improving. Oil revenue could rise under the effect of the modest increase in oil prices. Equally, the reestablishment of customs duties at 10% on clinker and the increase in the special tax on oil products should increase customs revenue. At the same time, the main items of expenditure concern capital goods, linked with the implementation of major infrastructure projects and security costs, allocated in large part to the fight against the Boko Haram terrorist group in the far north of the country.
The modest rise in the price of a barrel could result in a slight reduction in the current account deficit in 2017, given that oil products account for more than a third of total exports. Other commodities, such as wood, cocoa, aluminum and cotton will continue to diversify the country's export base. However, the need for imports linked to the implementation of large investment projects will still be important, and this means that the trade balance and that of services are expected to remain in deficit. This is also the case for revenues, as a result of the repatriation of profits by foreign firms. On the other hand, the balance of current transfers should continue to be buoyed by expatriate workers' remittances.
The country benefited from major debt relief in 2006 after reaching the completion point of the HIPC initiative. However, in the space of a few years it has again become seriously indebted. Public debt is rising due to the rapid rise in external debt under increasingly costly terms (in particular with China), combined with the growing recourse to bond issues on the regional market (as recently as October 2016) to finance infrastructure projects. Furthermore, the poor financial performance of public sector companies could create contingent liability risks for the government. In 2015, the external debt risk rose from moderate to high according to the IMF.
The country is run by President Paul Biya (aged 83), who has held power since 1982 and whose sixth term of office runs until 2018. The Head of State has proven able, so far, to maintain a degree of balance between the country's various ethnic and linguistic communities. However, his succession could be a source of uncertainty in the medium term, in that his leaving office or his death could trigger power struggles within the ruling party and endanger this fragile balance. However, the presidential party is likely to hold on to power given the lack of a credible alternative.
Regarding its trade outlook, Cameroon signed a free trade agreement with the European Union in August 2016, thus enabling preferential access to the markets of both parties. However, the main challenge faced by Cameroon is the deterioration in its security situation since 2013 with incursions by the Nigerian Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram in the far north. The military capacity of the terrorists has been reduced following combined operations by Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, which has however not prevented it from carrying out, from July 2015, a campaign of suicide attacks in this part of the country. This deteriorated security climate results in massive displacement of populations, notably from neighboring countries (Chad, Nigeria, and Central African Republic) towards Cameroon. In this context, the business climate should remain difficult, with the country ranked 166 out of 190 in the latest edition of the Doing Business ranking.