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Republic of Cameroon, Africa Profile

Cameroon is one of the richest countries in sub-Sahara Africa with a strong agricultural base and modest energy production. The country is located along the Atlantic coast between the Sahara Desert and the Congo Basin. It is a nation of approximately 16 million, mainly with French and English speaking sectors.

Cameroon is one of the most favored countries in sub-Saharan Africa due to democratic reforms, conservative economic policies, recent introduction into the Commonwealth of Nations and a nation full of industrious people. The Country is instituting new reforms and improvements to their economy through privatization, diversification and the attraction of foreign investment through progressive and transparent development policies. Gradual change has seen Cameroon pass from a centralized government to a more proactive democratic republic.

Cameroon has the largest and most diversified economy of the six-nation Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC). Recently Cameroon privatized rubber production and sold 56% of its power utility to AES, a large US utility company.

Exxon-Mobil built a $3.5 billion oil pipeline from Chad to the Cameroon port of Kribi. This project could produce $500 million revenue source for the government over the next 28-year period. Texaco, Shell, Petrofina and Total have all significantly expanded the retail petroleum sector in recent years. Oil production comes from the offshore eastern margin of the Niger delta. Though significant in the past, thus oil production is now in decline. Cameroon has abundant offshore natural gas resources and considerable additional hydropower potential that remains to be developed. Other resource production includes timber processing and rubber, bananas, palm oil, cocoa and coffee production. Cameroon textile producers have experienced a five-fold increase in revenues due to easing of import duties by a number of countries, including the United States.

The country has developed one of the best educational systems in sub-Sahara Africa with a majority of the nations’ children in public schools. The country has attained a 79% literacy rate with 80% speaking French and 20% English. The Government has directly sought US private investments and is actively seeking new natural resource development as evidenced by the recently enacted Mining Code.

The northwest of Cameroon is considered the food-basket of Central Africa. Agricultural products are exported to adjoining African countries, Europe and North America. Other businesses such as tourism are in the early stage of development.

A significant natural resource export is forest products. Since 1999 more than three-fourths of the country’s logs are processed before export. Most lumber is currently exported to China and Europe. New regulations and improved oversight are uplifting forest management practices and increasing forest tax revenues. Cameroon is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

The Republic of Cameroon’s relations with the United States of America are strong. Since 2000 Cameroon has been courting U.S. investment and the expansion of trade. The U.S. “African Growth and Opportunity Act” is being extended to promote free trade with Cameroon and expand competitive reforms in Cameroon.

Meetings between President George Bush and President Paul Biya in 2003 were highly significant, both diplomatically and commercially, as this was the first time Presidents of the two countries ever met. The US State Department, with its embassy located in Yaounde, continues to be a strong advocate of Cameroon and U.S. investment therein.

General Cameroon Data*

Area: 475,440 sq km (183,520 sq mi)
Population: 17,341 million people
Main Cities
Douala 1.7 million (National Directorate of Statistics 2005)
Yaounde 1.4 million (National Directorate of Statistics 2005)

Climate: Varies with terrain, from tropical along coast to semiarid and hot in north
Measures: Metric
Time: 1-hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time
Holidays: Jan. 1, Feb. 11, May 1, 20, Oct. 1, Dec. 10, Dec. 25
Average Age: 18.9 years
Life Expectancy: Males: 50.98 Females: 51.34
Language: 24 major African language groups, French (Official), English (Official)
Ethnic Groups: Cameroon Highlanders 31%, Equatorial Bantu 19%, Kirdi 11%, Fulani 10%, Northwestern Bantu 8%, Eastern Nigritic 7%, other African 13%, non-African less than 1%

Literacy: 79% (highest in sub-Saharan Africa)
Religions: 40% Christians, 40% indigenous beliefs, 20% Muslim & Islamic
Poverty: 48% (2000 Est.) of population below poverty level
Unemployment: 30% (2001 Est.)
GDP: $39.75 billion (2005 Est.)
GDP Growth: 2.4% per year (2005 Est.)
Foreign Debt: $9.168 billion (2005 Est.)

Aver. Income: $1,800 (2003 Est.)
Currency (code): CFA franc (Communaute Financiere Africaine franc): (XAF)

Exchange Rates: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc per US Dollar – 527.47 (2005),528.29 (2004), 581.2 (2003), 696.99 (2002), 733.04 (2001)

Exports: $3.236 billion f.o.b. (2005 Est.); oil (46%), timber (29%), agriculture(13%)

  • Oil Exxon-Mobil/World Bank pipeline (225,000 bbl/day); approx. 55,000 bbl/day (2003 Est.)

  • Timber $500 million, 3.5 million cubic meters (2000) or 29% of exports (2003 Est.)

  • Agriculture Coffee (robusta and arabica, 100,000 tonnes), cocoa (135,000 tonnes), Cotton (200,000 tonnes), bananas, palm oil and rubber (2003 Est.)

  • Livestock Cattle (5.1 million), sheep and goats (5.2 million), pigs (1.2 million) and poultry (37.7 million) (2003 Est.)

  • Industry Textiles and garments, beverages, tobacco, lumber, agro- products

*CIA – THE WORLD FACTBOOK; National Directorate of Statistics, Cameroon

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