Cameroon is at the junction between Central and West Africa . Partly located within the Congo Basin, the country includes ecosystems representative of the African continent, thus earning it the name of "Africa in miniature" , . With an area of about 475,650 km², Cameroon is bordered to the northwest by Nigeria, to the north by Chad, to the east by the Central African Republic, and to the south by Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. To the west, it has an opening of 364 km of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean . Cameroon is located in the tropical zone with two main climate types, namely: the equatorial and tropical climates, influenced by altitude and the monsoon winds .
Cameroon is a decentralized unitary state, governed by Law No. 96/06 of January 18, 1996, revising the Constitution of June 2, 1972, which enshrines the separation of the three powers, namely the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. The country is divided into 10 administrative regions and sub-divided into 58 divisions (départements). The divisions are further subdivided into 374 Decentralized Territorial Collectivities at the local level organized around 315 municipalities, 45 urban districts and 14 urban communities . The capital of Cameroon is Yaoundé, which is located in the southern part of the country.
Cameroon has an estimated total population of 25.48 million as of July 2021, 50.6% of whom are women and nearly 54% of the population is made up of young people under 20. Young people under 15 represent 42.5% of the entire population, while those over 65 represent just 3.6%. The country has more than 230 ethnic groups belonging to the major Sudanese, Hamite, Semite, Bantu, semi-Bantu, and Pygmy groups. French and English are the official languages, with an additional nearly 257 local languages .
The population of Cameroon is very unevenly distributed over the national territory . Its average density in 2021 was estimated at 56 inhabitants/km², but this varies from 7 to 200 inhabitants/km² depending on the region. This disparate density is a major determinant of the degradation of arable land and forest landscapes in the country, strongly marked in the northern part and the western highlands. Further, Cameroon is experiencing rapid population growth, estimated at an annual population growth rate of 2.5%, which reaches about 4.3% in the country’s cities .
Anarchic urbanization in Cameroon is one of the most remarkable phenomena of recent years. The rate of urbanization went from 52% in 2010 to 57% in 2019 . As a result of this anarchic urbanization, slums are an ongoing and dominant feature of Cameroon's urban centres. More than half of Cameroonians now live in towns and cities, and an estimated 60% of those are living in informal settlements and slums . By 2050, 70% of the population will live in urban areas, including two thirds in slums, if current trends are not reversed. According to projections, Yaoundé and Douala with about 3 million inhabitants each, could reach 8 million inhabitants by 2050 .
Cameroon is a lower-middle-income country, endowed with rich natural resources, including oil and gas, mineral ores, and high-value species of timber, and agricultural products, such as coffee, cotton, cocoa, maize, and cassava . Cameroon’s economy is one of the most diversified in Africa. Although the secondary (22% of GDP) and tertiary (45%) sectors are well developed, the economy nevertheless relies mainly on production sectors: agriculture, livestock, fishing and aquaculture, forestry, and silviculture. According to the country’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), agriculture employs nearly 60% of the population and remains the predominant sector of the national economy both in its contribution to GDP (23%) and for its knock-on effects on other sectors of activity. The main cash crops in Cameroon are cocoa, coffee, tobacco, cotton, bananas and pepper .
Unemployment is a low-level phenomenon in Cameroon, though its level in 2021 (5.3%) has increased compared to 2010 (3.8%). It is higher among women (6.2%) than men (4.5%) and is more severe in urban areas (10.5%) than in rural areas (1.7%). On the other hand, underemployment remains significant across the country, although it has fallen slightly in recent years. The overall underemployment rate fell by four percentage points from 69% in 2010 to 65% in 2021 . If education and employment opportunities were more equally distributed and accessible in the country, Cameroon’s young population could become an economic asset .
Over the past decade, Cameroon's growth and development trajectory has shown an upward trend , though real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth has not exceeded 4.5%. The country experienced an economic slowdown during the COVID-19 pandemic  (0.5% in 2020) , which affected poor and vulnerable populations disproportionately, as they tend to work in agriculture and informal sectors . However, Cameroon proved resilient to the COVID-19 shock . In 2021, GDP growth picked up to 3.5%, driven by the revival of non-oil activity and continued investment . Though, since November 2021, Cameroon has been experiencing high inflation, driven mainly by shortage and increase of the price of staple goods (bread, wheat and related products, vegetable oil, and meat), which can be explained by the disruption of the global value chain due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war. The war in Ukraine has impeded Cameroon's economic recovery, heightening inflation pressures and domestic structural vulnerabilities . Additionally, prolonged shortages and high prices of fertilizers have raised food security challenges in the country. However, despite the uncertain global environment, real GDP growth in Cameroon is estimated at 3.4% in 2022 and is projected to reach 4.3% in 2023 .
While Cameroon experienced consistent economic growth averaging 4.5% from 2010 to 2019, poverty levels have remained high , . Available studies on poverty in Cameroon indicate that the incidence of poverty fell by 2.4% between 2007 and 2014, to stand at 37.5% in 2014. In other words, nearly 8.1 million Cameroonians were living below the poverty line in 2014, including 8.9% in urban areas and 56.8% in rural areas . These figures reflect the unequal distribution of wealth and growth across the country, with the majority of poor households living in rural areas . This is the case of the Far North, North and North West regions, which are affected in particular by security problems and the influx of internally displaced persons . Between 2014 and 2018, poverty slightly declined by 1.9 percentage points, with 35.6% of the population still living below the national poverty line in 2018 .
In recent years, Cameroon has made great progress in technological development and innovation. For example, the subscription rate to broadband access services per 100 inhabitants increased significantly in 2020 to 2.72 subscribers per 100 inhabitants, from an average of 1.5 subscribers over the period 2016-2019, attributable to the significant use of digital technology during the COVID-19 period. Additionally, the proportion of the population using the internet has increased sharply, rising from 18.3% to 37.8% users between 2015 and 2020. To further facilitate access to the internet, the institutional environment has also been strengthened with the establishment of 2 main entities in charge of regulating the telecommunications and ICT sector, namely the Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ART) and the National Agency for Information and Communication Technologies (ANTIC). Furthermore, in terms of infrastructure, Cameroon has strengthened the main backbone of its fiber optic network (national backbone) with a linear 12,000 kilometers covering all 10 administrative regions of the country, with ramps to neighbouring countries including Chad, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, CAR and Nigeria, and with the support of partners including the World Bank, UNDP, AfDB and Brazil .
By implementing Cameroon’s National Development Strategy 2020-2030, the country intends to further promote technological catch-up and development, to accelerate the structural transformation of the economy and bring inclusive development . Further, with technical support from the PSF (Policy Support Facility) service, the Ministry of Scientific Research and Innovation (MINRESI) is developing a first national Research and Innovation strategy to develop an inclusive, knowledge-based economy. The PSF service will contribute to, among others: creating a bridge between research and the business world by strengthening public-private partnerships; promoting open science; addressing societal challenges, related to food sovereignty, population health, climate change, and endogenous industrialisation; boosting international cooperation in the field of research; valuing indigenous knowledge; reducing the gender gap in STEM; and making research a lever for the employability of young graduates .
Since 2013, Cameroon has been facing major security crises: (i) the crisis in the Far North Region due to attacks by the terrorist group Boko Haram affiliated with the Islamic State in West Africa; (ii) the socio-political crisis in the North-West and South-West regions, which has deprived approximately 700,000 children of the right to education; and (iii) the Central African refugee crisis due to post-conflict political instability in the Central African Republic . As of 2022, an estimated 3.9 million people in Cameroon are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection .
Cameroon has a plethora of laws that seek to protect the environment. The Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon asserts in its Preamble that “every person shall have a right to a healthy environment. The protection of the environment shall be the duty of every citizen. The State shall ensure the protection and improvement of the environment” .
In 1996, Cameroon adopted the first main legislation in the country based mainly on environmental protection. Law No. 96/12 of 5 August 1996, on the Framework Law on the Environmental Management, is Cameroon’s main environmental document establishing environmental policy and provides for an elaboration of the right to a healthy environment, provided for in the Constitution. It guarantees the right of everyone to a sound environment and recognises the need for environmental laws and regulations to ‘ensure a harmonious balance within ecosystems’. To ensure sustainability, the law envisages inter alia the preservation and management of endangered plant and animal species. Further, the 1994 Forest and Wildlife Law and its implementation Decrees, amongst other things, seeks to lay a framework for the integrated and sustainable use of forest, wildlife, and fisheries resources . These laws and Acts consider the general principles of international environmental law: precaution, prevention, polluters pay, sustainable development, public participation, and cooperation .
Cameroon initiated its main environmental policy framework at the close of the 1992 Rio Summit, the National Environmental Management Plan. This policy incorporates goals, strategies, priorities, and objectives on biodiversity conservation, the sustainable use of its components, public participation, benefits sharing and sustainable development . The country is also a party to several multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs).
The country’s National Development Strategy 2020-2030 (Stratégie Nationale de Développement, SND 30), aims to (i) establish conditions favourable to economic growth and accumulation of national wealth and ensure that the structural changes indispensable for the industrialization of the country are achieved; (ii) improve on the living conditions of the population and their access to basic social services by ensuring a significant reduction in poverty and underemployment; (iii) strengthen climate change adaptation and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure environmental management that assures sustainable and inclusive economic growth and social development; and (iv) improve on governance to enhance policy performance towards achieving development goals . The European Union (EU) intends to promote the further greening of Cameroon’s SND 30, in line with the EU Green Deal .
The EU can play an important role in Cameroon in terms of governance, whether in the democratic, security, economic or environmental fields, in order to contribute to the country's stability and encourage a more sustainable and inclusive growth model. In this context, the following priority areas of EU action in Cameroon have been proposed for the period 2021-2027: (1) Governance, democratization, peace and stabilization; (2) Inclusive growth, sustainable jobs and the private sector; and (3) Green Deal: sustainable development and climate action .
The priority area "sustainable development and climate action" proposes to put climate and environmental issues at the heart of the relationship between the EU and Cameroon, and aims to accelerate Cameroon’s green transition by prioritizing the following 3 sub-sectors: (i) Sustainable cities, mobility and connectivity; (ii) Rural development and sustainable agriculture, and conservation of biodiversity and management of natural resources, in particular forests; and (iii) Energy transition, without losing sight – in this transition – of displaced populations. This priority area is consistent with SND 30, in particular with its third objective: ‘strengthen climate change adaptation and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure environmental management that assures sustainable and inclusive economic growth and social development’ .
In 2022, the European Union agreed to provide €123 million to support upgrading of the 330km Belabo – Ngaoundere railway line in Cameroon. The €106 million European Investment Bank loan and €17.1 million European Union grant were confirmed in Yaoundé at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Joseph Ngute. The EIB loan represents the largest ever for a project in Cameroon and the largest support for sustainable transport in sub-Saharan Africa. The new EIB loan, EU investment grant and technical assistance will finance and support the €243 million project to enable faster and more reliable freight and passenger rail transport between central and northern Cameroon, enhance connections between the port of Douala, Chad and the Central African Republic, and provide a sustainable alternative to road transport .
Climate change is already a threat to Cameroon’s development . The agricultural sector, which is the primary source of employment and income for more than 60% of the population , , is particularly vulnerable to climate change, due to its high sensitivity to the availability of water, erosion, and flooding . Currently, about two million people (9% of Cameroon’s population) live in drought affected areas, and about 8% of the country’s GDP is vulnerable. Tropical forests cover almost 40% of the country and provide an estimated eight million rural people with traditional staples including food, medicines, fuel, and construction material. But changes in temperature, rain and droughts are putting these people at greater risk of increased poverty. Furthermore, populations living in certain regions are more vulnerable to climate hazards, especially in the Far North where debilitating droughts have contributed to alarming rates of food insecurity and loss of livelihoods . By 2050, if urgent climate adaptation measures are not taken, the country’s economy could lose up to 10% of GDP, according to the World Bank .
Cameroon is endowed with a rich heritage of biodiversity and biological resources . The country’s representativeness, abundance and diversity of ecosystems and species is exceptional , ranking fourth in floral diversity and fifth in faunal diversity within the African continent , . Additionally, Cameroon’s biodiversity underpins its economy, significantly contributing to the wellbeing of its people and particularly the rural population . Its importance is more apparent in certain sectors of activity in Cameroon, such as agriculture, forestry and fishing, which represent about 15% of GDP (in 2017) and employ more than 50% of the workforce . According to the country’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan Version II (NBSAP II: 2012), about 80% of the rural population are engaged in biodiversity-driven activities on which their livelihoods depend . Further, over 22 million Cameroonians depend on the country’s rich ecosystems and their provision of goods and services including clean air, freshwater, energy, food, inspiration, and medicine . However, Cameroon’s biodiversity is rapidly deteriorating , which will have significant consequences for the well-being of people and the country’s economy .
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