YAOUNDÉ — Cameroon is a Central African country of 24 million people. Despite its lush landscape and diverse culture, Cameroon is heavily stricken by poverty. Nearly half of Cameroonians live under the poverty line, and a third are unemployed. Poverty has stretched throughout the country, and infrastructure in Cameroon has not been spared. The following is a reflection of Cameroon’s most basic infrastructure systems.
Cameroon’s roads are poorly managed. Much is unpaved and little money goes to maintain the ones that are. Just 56 percent of Cameroon’s most important corridors are considered to be in good condition. However, a lack of funds and resources to maintain them is not the only inhibition to adequate roadways in Cameroon. Road safety laws are rarely enforced, and speed limit and hazard signs are scarce. While more money can make a difference to the infrastructure regarding Cameroon’s road system, it is of equal importance to regulate them appropriately.
Like its roadways, Cameroon poorly manages its water system. Despite plentiful freshwater sources, only 47 percent of the citizenry in rural areas can access potable water. While potable water is far more available to urban areas — 88 percent — rural Cameroonians are forced to walk to fill up water buckets, sometimes many miles per day.
Likewise, Cameroon’s wastewater system is barely regulated. Poverty and government indifference have resulted in lack of proper sanitation. Only 42 percent of rural Cameroonians have access to safe sanitation; the number in urban areas is scarcely better at 58 percent. Because there are essentially no sewers in Cameroon, open defecation is common, creating a breeding ground for disease.
While Cameroon has made strides to increase access to potable water in urban areas, little has been done to help the abundance of citizens living in rural villages. Infrastructure in Cameroon can be greatly improved if the country invests the time, money and management needed to provide such crucial resources.
In 2014, only six percent of Cameroon could access to the internet. Due to the low number of submarine cables used (only one) and the lack of internet service and mobile providers, low speeds and astronomical prices prevented Cameroon from going online. Since then, a push to create more submarine internet cables coupled with higher levels of competition in the mobile sector created some growth.
In 2017, roughly 20 percent of Cameroon used the internet, mostly through smartphones or in internet cafes. Despite this growth, lack of regulation and maintenance is still a recurring detriment to Cameroon’s infrastructure.
Infrastructure in Cameroon is hindered as much by poor government regulation as it is by poverty. In addition to ensuring more money and resources go to the country to improve transportation, water and telecommunications, the U.S. and other global leaders must also monitor that Cameroon regulates and maintains the infrastructure in place.
– Eric Paulsen