TACOMA, Washington — Africa is a continent rich in natural abundance. This abundance ranges from resources to people, environments and wildlife as well as thought and ideology. People have historically taken advantage of these various abundances through varyingly nefarious means. For each nation on this continent, regaining control of their nations and regions has been as much economic as socio-political. A nation like Cameroon, located on the western coast of sub-Saharan Africa, is absolutely perfect to demonstrate this struggle across modern times.
Cameroon: A Brief Economic Summary Since Independence
After achieving independence from the French in 1960, Cameroon quickly rose in its relative economic power. As a nation rich with valuable natural resources such as high-value species of timber, gold, magnesium and iron and oil, the country demonstrated growth and prosperity for two decades. Yet, by the early and mid-1980s, as current President Paul Biya was getting comfortable as the leader of the nation, conditions regarding commodity prices swung out of favor with the general production of the nation’s agricultural and industrial sectors. These various conditions chiefly affected coffee, cocoa, petrol and oil prices from which the Cameroonian people derived their own livelihoods. As a result. economic opportunities eroded around the country. The recession hit the nation quite brutishly for more than a decade.
As the oil and petrol production and prices dropped alongside the aforementioned agricultural contributions, the infrastructure in Cameroon suffered and then deteriorated as Cameroon’s gross domestic product drastically declined between 1986 and 1988. It didn’t show improvement until 1994. This seismic shift in the well-being of the nation’s economy affected Cameroonians as well. These economic circumstances did not begin to change until 2010 when economic growth occurred consecutively until 2015.
Infrastructure in Cameroon Today
More recently, however, certain things were looking better once again in Cameroon. Before the COVID-19 pandemic engulfed the world, the country’s population of 27 million people was making strides toward increasing the gross domestic product since 2017.
This was enough, along with tax and investment incentives, to grow the national economic facade while shrinking Cameroon’s deficit. Nevertheless, it was not enough to make any real difference in the nation’s poverty levels. National poverty has been increasing just longer than a decade at the time of this piece. Before COVID-19, around 37.5% of people lived in poverty across the nation, mostly in the more contentious northern sections of the country bordering Chad and Nigeria.
While international trade took a hit everywhere, Cameroon also suffered from a lack of tourism. It struggled with a marked decrease in domestic consumerism. Estimates show that pandemic-related poverty incidences might have increased in the nation by as much as 25.3% in 2020. This would create a potential increase of 400,000 additional people trying to survive on less than $1.90 a day.
Invest in Infrastructure in Cameroon
Infrastructure has many meanings, including the mechanisms of a national economy, yet it also means how the people economically and socially function, like roads and railways. At the very heart of all of these things, however, are people; people are infrastructure as well as those resources that people require to survive. People, and all that that entails, require investments just as one would invest in agriculture, industry, transportation or tourism.
While poverty is most prevalent in the northern regions of Cameroon where refugees spillover from violence spread by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, Chad and the Chad River Basin, it is also known more abundantly in the south-western section of the nation bordering south-western Nigeria. Cities have become less maintained over the decades. As a result, poverty is no longer only a rural phenomenon. The renovation of these centers of cosmopolitan culture and economic progress remains crucial.
With Cameroon remaining so agriculturally active, it will be important to tend to those approximately 43% of individuals living in rural areas of the nation. This means that towns need investments, with schools and roads, supplies and resources. The government must help to further agricultural efficiency and workforce diversity.
The Efforts of Outside Groups & The Necessity of Internal Action
Groups like the International Rescue Committee have been working to provide on-the-ground resources and care since 2016. However, their efforts have only allowed for the people to tread water during this difficult time. The IRC understands, as does CARE, which “has worked in Cameroon since 1978″ and has championed efforts toward improved health, education and working conditions in the country, that greater fundamental change is necessary for progress to truly be seen. The IRC has reached nearly 400,000 people, and CARE has reached more than 191,000 with aid.
In Cameroon, the conditions are difficult both internally and domestically as well as externally regarding its neighboring nations; as a premier member of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community, it holds a weighty responsibility. The United States Agency for International Development meanwhile, remains the single largest contributor toward the infrastructure in Cameroon, and will hopefully continue working toward the goal of positively influencing Cameroon moving forward.
– Trent R Nelson