Cameroon and Poverty: An Upward Trajectory

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YAOUNDE, Cameroon — One of the most prosperous countries in Africa and one with quite a peculiar history, Cameroon, with its natural wealth and great soccer team, seems to be moving on an upward trajectory. A bilingual country in English and French, which started off as a German colony, then later became a union of former British and French colonies, Cameroon has been largely able to elude the violent post-colonial instability experienced by many sub-Saharan nations.

With many languages and three major faiths- Catholicism, Protestantism and Sunni Islam, respectively, the republic has been more or less successful in managing its diversity despite some problems in the country’s far north. Furthermore, the government also has a moderate yet ambitious goal to turn the West African republic into an emerging economy by 2035.

Currently, the poverty rates hover at around 40 percent. With the set goal, the government aims to bring this down to below 20 percent by the stated year.

However, the way to attain this aspiration will—at least partially—be done through natural resources and commodities. Thus, the question now is whether or not this method of development is sustainable and whether or not it will benefit every sector of the Cameroonian society.

As an example, the country is experiencing severe desertification and land degradation against which it has been engaged in a long and trying battle. These alterations to nature have caused water shortages, especially in the more arid part of the country, where the water tables have dropped by almost 50 percent in some areas.

These disastrous phenomena are results of deforestation.

In addition, to the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula, which borders Nigeria, had been the cause of a dispute that saw military confrontations between Cameroon and Nigeria. In 2010, a petroleum pipeline linking Chad and Cameroon broke, releasing oil into the ocean. The leaked content later floated into the coastal areas of the country.

Despite the fact that the effect of this leakage was not gravely detrimental to the environment, the plan to propel the country’s development through commodity industries should raise concerns regarding its sustainability as well as its human and environmental repercussions.

Moreover, Cameroon has a very high rate of corruption in its politics.

Many Cameroonians believe that political and governmental sectors such as the political parties, the parliament and the military sectors are highly corrupt. Unless the political culture changes, the harnessing of the country’s vast natural wealth might instead be to the detriment of democracy. The country’s aim to become an emerging market within the next two decades then might be hampered by the creation of a rentier state wherein only oligarchs truly benefit and high gross domestic product growths are unrepresentative of the reality.

– Peewara Sapsuwan

Sources: Allvoices, Pipeline Dreams, BBC, AllAfrica, Our Africa, Transparency, United Nations, University of Central Arkansas
Photo: The Good Collector

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