CAMEROON — The Republic of Cameroon lies on the western coast of Central Africa, with Nigeria, Chad and the Central African Republic as its immediate neighbors. The country, as it is known today, was created in 1961 with the unification of two colonies under the French and British empires. Before that, Cameroon had been colonized since 1520 by the Portuguese and then by the Germans in the late 1800s.
The Current State of Cameroon
Classed as a lower-middle income country, Cameroon has struggled with political corruption and economic stagnation, in part due to centuries of being subjugated to western colonization. In fact, in 1998 Cameroon was deemed the most corrupt country in the world by business monitor Transparency International, and in 2015 the same monitor classed Cameroon has 130th out of 168 countries.
This economic and political instability manifests in an estimate of 24 percent of its 20 million population under the poverty line and a $3,300 GDP per capita.
Although Cameroon has natural resources, such as oil and gas, and minerals to export, its poor governance has hindered its speed in development and its ability to attain international investors. Like many countries, poverty is deeply ingrained in the lack of investments into social safety nets and mismanagement of developing infrastructure to spur on education and a cycle of capital.
The high poverty rate in Cameroon also stems from the population growth, which has outpaced the rate of poverty reduction. In 2017, it was recorded that an estimate of 60 percent of Cameroon’s population is under 25 years of age.
Currently, Cameroon’s northern region has seen an influx of refugees from Nigeria and an estimated 7,500 internally displaced Cameroonians. This population flux is caused by the insurgent group Boko Haram’s low-intensity war on its borders. According to the World Bank, approximately 56 percent of Cameroon’s poor live in the north and far north regions.
Hope Despite the Facts and Figures
Despite facts and figures characterizing Cameroon as a poverty-stricken country with little development, rallying cries existing within the country serve as a ray of light. A network of female elected mayors in Cameroon, REFELA-CAM, recently partook in a workshop to bolster their knowledge and technical skills about implementing and improving renewable energy sources in their districts.
Solar energy panels and other sustainable energy mechanisms can serve to reduce poverty while being a cheap and reliable tool to decrease mortality rates and medical deficiencies. This network also empowers women, who historically have little access to the political realm and economic cycle.
Numerous international organizations and non-profits — such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Heifer Cameroon — seek to reduce the poverty rate in Cameroon as well. Since 1990, the IMF and World Bank have designed programs to reinforce business investments and support agriculture and trade as well as diversify Cameroon’s market.
Moreover, Heifer Cameroon began working in 1974 and has since helped over 30,000 families secure jobs in the dairy industry and other livestock species in 6 out of 10 of Cameroon’s regions.
Due to high costs and slow processes, reducing the poverty rate in Cameroon is no easy feat. Nevertheless, strengthening the domestic government with internal voices and innovation, like the REFELA-CAM and external financial support, leaves Cameroon with optimistic possibilities for the future.
– Sydney Nam