The African continent is comprised of 54 nations, each with their own independent governments and sovereignty, GNP, culture, natural resources, language(s), military, and religion. The treasure trove of mineral and raw material wealth has scarcely been touched, and the continent's largely untapped fertile lands could feed the world. Herewith is Jewel of Africa, an interactive adventure in the cradle of mankind, an exploration of nations from A-Z in alphabetical order.
Cameroon: Cities, rivers, lakes, jungle, lowland gorilla
The Republic of Cameroon is a country in west-central Africa, bordered by Nigeria to the west and north; Chad to the northeast; the Central African Republic to the east; and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of the Congo to the south. Its coastline encompasses part of the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean. The country is sometimes identified as West African and other times as Central African, due to its strategic position at the crossroads between West and Central Africa. Its nearly 25 million people speak 250 native languages.
The country was renamed the United Republic of Cameroon in 1972 and the Republic of Cameroon in 1984. Cameroon is governed as a unitary presidential republic. The official lang- uages are French and English, the official languages of former French Cameroons and British Cameroons. Its religious population is predominantly Christian, with a significant minority practicing Islam, and others following traditional faiths.
Large numbers of Cameroonians live as subsistence farmers. The country is often referred to as "Africa in miniature" for its geological, linguistic, and cultural diversity. Its natural features include beaches, deserts, mountains, rainforests, and savannas. Its highest point is Mount Cameroon in the Southwest region at 13,500 feet. Cameroon’s most populace city is Douala, the economic capital and main seaport. Yaoundé is its political capital. Cameroon is well known for its native music styles, particularly Makossa and Bikutsi, and for its successful national football team. It is a member state of the African Union, the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Originally, Cameroon was the exonym given by the Portuguese to the Wouri river, which they called Rio dos Camarões—"river of shrimps" or "shrimp river," referring to the abundance of Cameroon ghost shrimp, at the time. Today the country's name in Portuguese remains, Camarões.
Independence, politics and government
Cameroun gained independence from France on Jan. 1, 1960 and 22 months later on Oct. 1, 1961, gained independence from British Southern Cameroons by vote of the UN General Assembly and joined with French Cameroon to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon, a date which is now observed as Unification Day, a public holiday.
The president of Cameroon is elected by vote to a seven-year term. He creates policy, administers government agencies, commands the armed forces, negotiates and ratifies treaties. The president appoints government officials at all levels, from the prime minister (considered the official head of government), to the provincial governors and divisional officers. There have been only been two presidents since Cameroon’s independence.
The National Assembly creates legislation. The body consists of 180 members who are elected for five-year terms and meet three times per year. Laws are passed on a majority vote. The 1996 constitution establishes a second house of parliament, the 100-seat Senate. The government recognizes the authority of traditional chiefs or fons, and lamibe to govern at the local level and to resolve disputes as long as such rulings do not conflict with national law.
The constitution divides Cameroon into 10 semi-autonomous regions, each under the admin- istration of an elected Regional Council. Each region is headed by a presidentially appointed governor. These leaders are charged with implementing the will of the president, reporting on the general mood and conditions of the regions, administering the civil service, keeping the peace, and overseeing the heads of the smaller administrative units.
Governors have broad powers. All local government officials are employees of the central gov- ernment's Ministry of Territorial Administration, from which local governments also get most of their budgets. The regions are subdivided into 58 divisions headed by divisional officers appointed by the president. The divisions are further split into sub-divisions headed by assistant divisional officers. The districts, administered by district heads (chefs de district), are the smallest administrative units.
Africa contradicts the perception of many around the world. The notion of teeming urban centers escapes many. Cameroon is a show- case. The port city of Douala (top), is the economic center of the nation and largest city boasting a population of 2.7 million. Yaoundé (below), is the nation's capital and seat of government with a population of 2.6 million. It is the largest port in Central Africa.
Cameroon is a mix of urban and verdant wild. The nation is alive exhaling tropical splen- dor with wild rivers, cascading waterfalls, and dense jungle. Cameroon is a haven for agriculture, the main pillar of its economy, growing crops like plantains, cocoa beans, taro, coffee beans, bananas, corn, groundnuts, vegetables and cotton. Cattle, rubber, and palm oil are also integral to Cameroon's Gross Domestic Product.
Cameroon's legal system is a mixture of civil law, common law, and customary law. Although nominally independent, the judiciary falls under the authority of the executive's Ministry of Justice. The president appoints judges at all levels. The nation’s judiciary is officially divided into tribunals — the court of appeal, and the supreme court. The National Assembly elects the members of a nine-member High Court of Justice.
Foreign relations, armed forces
Cameroon is a member of both the Commonwealth of Nations and La Francophonie. Its foreign policy closely follows that of its main ally, France. To this day, the nation relies heavily on France for its defense, although military spending in Cameroon is high compared to other sectors of government. The Cameroon Armed Forces is comprised of the army (Armée de Terre), navy (Marine Nationale de la République, which includes a naval infantry; the Cameroonian Air Force (Armée de l'Air du Cameroun, AAC), and the Gendarmerie. Males and females 18-23 years of age and have grad- uated high school are eligible for military service. Those who join are obliged to complete four years of service. There is no conscription in Cameroon, but the government makes periodic calls for volunteers.
Geography and geology
Cameroon is a large country geographically, totaling 183,569 square miles. The country is located in Central and West Africa, known as the hinge of Africa, part of the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean. Tourist literature describes Cameroon as "Africa in miniature" because it exhibits all major climates and vegetation of the continent — coast, desert, mountains, rainforest, and savanna. The nation is divided into five major geographic zones distinguished by dominant physical, climatic, and vegetative features. The coastal plain extends 9-93 miles inland from the Gulf of Guinea, and has an average elevation of 295 feet). Cameroon is hot and humid with a short dry season, and is densely forested. The geography includes the Cross-Sanaga-Bioko coastal forests, some of the wettest locales on earth.
The South Cameroon Plateau rises from the coastal plain to an average elevation of 2,133 feet. Equatorial rainforest dominates the region. Its alternate wet and dry seasons makes it less humid than the coast. This area is part of the Atlantic Equatorial coastal forests eco-region. An irregular chain of mountains, hills, and plateaus known as the Cameroon range extends from Mount Cameroon on the coast to Lake Chad at Cameroon's northern border. Mount Cameroon, a dormant volcano is the country’s highest point at 13,435 feet. This region has a mild climate, particularly on the Western High Plateau, although it rains often. Cameroon’s most fertile soils are located here at the foot of Mt. Cameroon.
Volcanism here has created crater lakes. In August 1986, one of these crater lakes—Lake Nyos, belched carbon dioxide killing between 1,700 and 2,000 people. This area has been delineated by the World Wildlife Fund as the Cameroonian Highlands forests eco-region. The southern plateau rises northward to the grassy, rugged Adamawa Plateau. This feature stretches from the western mountain area and forms a barrier between the country's north and south. The average elevation is 3,609 feet. and average temperature ranges from 70-77 degrees Fahrenheit. The region experiences rainfall between April and October peaking in July and August. The northern lowland region extends from the edge of the Adamawa to Lake Chad with an average elevation of 984 to 1,148 feet. The area is arid comprised of savanna scrub and grasses and experiences high median temperatures Rainfall here is sparse.
Cameroon has four patterns of drainage. In the south, the principal rivers are the Ntem, Nyong, Sanaga, and Wouri. These flow southwest or westward directly into the Gulf of Guinea. The Dja and Kadéï drain southeast into the Congo River. In northern Cameroon, the Bénoué River runs north and west and empties into the Niger, and the Logone River flows northward into Lake Chad.
Health and education
In 2013, the total adult literacy rate of Cameroon was estimated to be 71 percent. Among youth age 15-24 the literacy rate was 85.4 percent for males and 76.4 percent for females. Most children have access to state-run schools that are less expensive than private and religious institutions. The educational system is a mixture of British and French precedents with most instruction in English or French. Cameroon has one of the highest school attendance rates in Africa. Females attend school less regularly than males because of cultural attitudes, domestic duties, marriage, pregnancy, and sexual harassment. Although attendance rates are higher in the south, a disproportionate number of teachers are stationed there, leaving northern schools chronically understaffed. In 2013, the primary school enrollment rate was 93.5 percent.
School attendance in Cameroon is also affected by child labor. Indeed, the US Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor reported that 56 percent of children 5-14 were working and that almost 53 percent aged 7-14 combined work and school. In December 2014, a List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor issued by the Bureau of International Labor Affairs mentioned Cameroon among the countries that resorted to child labor in the production of cocoa.
The quality of health care is generally low. Life expectancy at birth was estimated in 2012 to be 56 years, with 48 healthy years expected. According to the World Health Organization, the fertility rate was 4.8 in 2013 with a population growth rate of 2.56 percent. Cameroon had an average of 4.8 births per woman and 19.7 years as average for mothers. In Cameroon, there is only one doctor for every 5,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. In 2014, just 4.1 percent of total GDP expenditure was allocated to healthcare. Due to financial cuts in the health care system, there are few professionals. Doctors and nurses who were trained in Cameroon, often emigrate due to low pay and long hours. Outside major cities, healthcare facilities are often dirty and poorly equipped.
Economy and infrastructure
Cameroon's per capita GDP was estimated as $3,700US in 2017. Major export markets include the Netherlands, France, China, Belgium, Italy, Algeria, and Malaysia. Cameroon has had a strong economic performance with GDP growing an average of 4 percent per year. During the 2004-2008 period, public debt was reduced from over 60 percent of GDP to 10 percent and official reserves quadrupled to more than $3 billion.
Cameroon is part of the Bank of Central African States—for which it is the dominant economy), the Customs and Economic Union of Central Africa (UDEAC), and the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa. Its currency is the CFA franc. Unemployment was estimated at 3.38 percent in 2019 and 23.8 percent of the population was living below the international poverty threshold of $1.90 US a day in 2014. Since the late 1980s, Cameroon has been following programs advocated by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reduce poverty, privatize industries, and increase economic growth. The government has taken measures to encourage tourism in the country.
Culture is alive and well in Cam- eroon. Beauty, and style grace the stage and the runway, from national and international beauty queens to gorgeous models showcasing the latest Cameroon clothing styles created by international fashion designer Imane Ayissi (below).
An estimated 70 percent of the population engages in subsistence agriculture, which comprised an estimated 16.7 percent of the GDP in 2017. Most farmers using simple tools, sell their surplus produce, and some maintain separate fields for commercial use. Urban centers are particularly reliant on peasant agriculture for their foodstuffs.
Soils and climate on the coast encourage extensive commercial cultivation of bananas, cocoa, palm oil, rubber, and tea. Inland on the South Cameroon Plateau, cash crops include coffee, sugar, and tobacco. Coffee is a major cash crop in the western highlands and in the north, where natural conditions favor crops such as cotton, groundnuts, and rice. Cotton farming was initiated in Cameroon in 2004.
Environment, fauna, and flora
Livestock are raised throughout the country. Fishing employs 5,000 people and provides over 100,000 tons of seafood each year. Bush meat, long a staple food for rural Cameroonians, is a delicacy in the nation’s urban centers. The commercial bush meat trade has now surpassed deforestation as the main threat to wildlife in Cameroon. The southern rainforest has vast timber reserves, estimated to cover 37 percent of Cameroon's total land area. However, large areas of the forest are difficult to reach. Logging, largely handled by foreign-owned firms, provides the government $60 million a year in taxes, as of 1998, and laws mandate the safe and sustainable exploitation of timber.
Rapids and waterfalls obstruct the southern rivers, but these sites offer opportunities for hydroelectric development and supply most of Cameroon's energy. The Sanaga River powers the largest hydroelectric station, located at Edéa. The rest of Cameroon's energy comes from oil-powered thermal engines. Much of the country remains without reliable power supplies.
Factory-based industry accounted for an estimated 26.5 percent of GDP in 2017. More than 75 percent of Cameroon's industrial strength is located in Douala and Bonabéri. Despite being a mineral rich country, Cameroon has only recently begun to investigate mining on an industrial scale. Strong metal and industrial mineral prices since 2003 have encouraged companies to develop mines here. The terrain mainly consists of granite-rich ground with areas of ultramafic rocks that are sources of cobalt and nickel. There are also deposits of bauxite, gold, iron ore, nepheline syenite, and rutile. Alluvial gold is mainly mined by artisanal miners.
The Nkamouna enriched cobalt-nickel-manganese-iron laterite deposits and several other nickeliferous laterite deposits in southeast Cameroon were first discovered and investigated by the (UNDP) during 1981-1986, in a cooperative project with the Cameroon Ministry of Mines, Water and Energy to evaluate mineral potential in southeastern Cameroon. Due to the remote location and the low nickel prices at the time, the discovery did not draw much attention. No further exploration took place on the property until geologist William Buckovic became aware of the nickel discovery in 1988. Petroleum exploitation has fallen since 1986, but is still a substantial sector such that dips in prices and has a strong effect on the economy.
Surface travel is often difficult in Cameroon. Only 6.6 percent of the roadways are tarred. Roadblocks often serve little other purpose than to allow police and gendarmes to collect bribes from travelers. Road banditry has long hampered transport along the eastern and western borders, and since 2005, the problem has intensified in the east as the Central African Republic has further destabilized.
Intercity bus services run by multiple private companies connect all major cities. They are the most viable means of transportation followed by the rail service by Camrail, which runs from Kumba in the west to Bélabo in the east and north to Ngaoundéré. International airports are located in Douala and Yaoundé. Douala is the country's principal seaport. In the north, the Bénoué River is seasonally navigable from Garoua across into Nigeria.
The population in Cameroon as of 2018 was 25,2 million. Women slightly outnumber men 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent. More than 60 percent of the population is under age 25. People over 65 years of age account for only 3.11 percent of the total population. Cameroon's population is almost evenly divided between urban and rural dwellers. Population density is highest in the large urban centers, the western highlands, and the northeastern plain. Douala, Yaoundé, and Garoua are the largest cities. In contrast, the Adamawa Plateau, southeastern Bénoué depression, and most of the South Cameroon Plateau are sparsely populated.
People from the overpopulated western highlands and the underdeveloped north are moving to the coastal plantation zone and urban centers for employment. Smaller movements are occurring as workers seek employment in lumber mills and plantations in the south and east. Although the national sex ratio is relatively even, out-migrants are primarily males which leads to unbalanced ratios in some regions.
Both monogamous and polygamous marriage are practiced, and the average Cameroonian family is large and extended. In the north, women tend to the home, and men herd cattle or work as farmers. In the south, women grow the family's food, and men provide meat and farm cash crops. Cameroonian society is male-dominated. Violence and discrimination against women is common. The number of distinct ethnic and linguistic groups in Cameroon is estimated to be between 230 and 282. The Adamawa Plateau broadly bisects these into northern and southern divisions. The northern peoples are Sudanese groups, that live in the central highlands and the northern lowlands; and the Fulani, who are spread throughout northern Cameroon. A small number of Shuwa Arabs live near Lake Chad.
Southern Cameroon is inhabited by speakers of Bantu and Semi-Bantu languages. Bantu-speaking groups inhabit the coastal and equatorial zones, while speakers of Semi-Bantu languages live in the Western grasslands. Some 5,000 Gyele and Baka Pygmy peoples roam the southeastern and coastal rainforests or live in small, roadside settlements and Nigerians make up the largest group of foreign nationals. Both English and French are official languages, although French is by far the most understood language (more than 80 percent. German, the language of the original colonizers, has long since been displaced by French and English. Cameroonian Pidgin English is the lingua franca in the formerly British-administered territories.
A mixture of English, French, and Pidgin called Camfranglais has been gaining popularity in urban centers since the mid-1970s. The government encourages bilingualism in English and French, and as such, official government documents, new legislation, ballots, among others, are written and provided in both languages. As part of the initiative to encourage bilingualism in Cameroon, six of the eight universities in the country are entirely bilingual.
In addition to the colonial languages, there are approximately 250 other languages spoken by nearly 20 million Cameroonians. It is because of this that Cameroon is considered one of the most linguistically diverse nations in the world.
In the northern regions of the Far North, the North, and Adamawa, the Fulani language Fulfulde is the lingua franca with French merely serving as an administrative language. However, Chadian Arabic in the Far North region's department of Logone-et-Chari acts as the lingua franca irrespective of ethnic groups. In 2017 there were language protests by the Anglophone population against perceived oppression by francophone speakers. The military was deployed against the protesters and people were killed, hundreds imprisoned, and thousands fled the country. This culminated in the declaration of an independent Republic of Ambazonia, which has since evolved into the Anglo- phone Crisis. It is estimated that by June 2020, 740,000 people had been internally displaced.
Cameroonians enjoy a high level of religious freedom and diversity. The predominant faith is Christianity, practiced by about two-thirds of the population, while Islam, a significant minority faith, is embraced by a quarter of the population. In addition, traditional faiths are practiced by many. Muslims are most concentrated in the north, while Christians are located primarily in the southern and western regions, but practitioners of both faiths can be found throughout the country. Large cities have significant populations of both groups. Muslims in Cameroon are divided into Sufis, Salafis, Shias, and non-denominational Muslims.
The interior of Cameroon is both luxurious and harsh from mountainous regions to the rivers and streams of the lowlands. The environment is virtually untouched for the riches it has to offers. Diamonds, gold, gemstones, and oil and gas are only some of the treasure that awaits discovery, dormant in the ground of Cameroon.
Environmental studies conducted thus far, mapping a maximum of 50 percent of the Cameroonian soil, have shown the existence of some 50 different types of minerals ranging from gold, diamonds, bauxite and cobalt. The estimated bauxite reserves (the main source of aluminium) are more than one billion tons, and the iron ore resources well in excess of seven billion tons. However, the country’s resources remain largely untapped and the mining sector is in its infancy due particularly to a lack of transport infrastructure.
The great apes abound in the hallowed sanctity of Cameroon, from the largest primate, the lowland gorilla; to chimpanzees and bonobos, to
People from the North-West and South-West provinces, which used to be a part of British Cameroons, have the highest proportion of Protestants. The French-speaking regions of the southern and western regions are largely Catholic. Southern ethnic groups predominantly follow Christian or traditional African animist beliefs, or a syncretic combination of the two. People widely believe in witchcraft, though the government outlaws such practices. Suspected witches are often subject to mob violence. The Islamist jihadist group Ansar al-Islam has been reported as operating in North Cameroon.
In the northern regions, the locally dominant Fulani ethnic group is mostly Muslim, but the overall population is fairly evenly divided among Muslims, Christians, and followers of indigenous religious beliefs (called Kirdi or pagan by the Fulani). The Bamum ethnic group of the West Region is largely Muslim. Native traditional religions are practiced in rural areas throughout the country but rarely publicly in cities.
Music and dance are integral parts of Cameroonian ceremonies, festivals, social gatherings, and storytelling. Traditional dances are highly choreographed and separate men and women or forbid participation by one sex altogether. The dances' purposes range from pure entertainment to religious worship. Traditionally, music is transmitted orally. In a typical performance, a chorus of singers echoes a soloist. Musical accompaniment may be as simple as clapping hands and stamping feet, but traditional instruments include bells worn by dancers, clappers, drums and talking drums, flutes, horns, rattles, scrapers, stringed instruments, whistles, and xylophones. Comb- inations of these vary by ethnic group and region. Some performers sing complete songs alone, accompanied by a harp-like instrument.
Popular music styles include ambasse bey of the coast, assiko of the Bassa, mangambeu of the Bangangte, and tsamassi of the Bamileke. Nigerian music has influenced Anglophone Cameroonian performers, and Prince Nico Mbarga's highlife hit "Sweet Mother" is the top-selling African record in history. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v =3mecNrIaWOA
The two most popular music styles are makossa and bikutsi. Makossa developed in Douala and mixes folk music, highlife, soul, and Congo music. Performers such as Manu Dibango, Francis Bebey, Moni Bilé, and Petit-Pays popularized the style worldwide in the 1970s and 1980s. Bikutsi originated as war music among the Ewondo. Artists such as Anne-Marie Nzié developed it into a popular dance music beginning in the 1940s, and performers such as Mama Ohandja and Les Têtes Brulées popularized it internationally during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
Holiday traditions and cuisine
The most notable holiday associated with patriotism in Cameroon is National Day, also called Unity Day. Among the most notable religious holidays are Assumption Day, and Ascension Day, which is typically 39 days after Easter. In the Northwest and Southwest provinces, collectively called Ambazonia, Oct. 1 is considered a national holiday, a date Ambazonians consider the day of their independence from Cameroon.
Cuisine varies by region, but a large, one-course, evening meal is common throughout the country. A typical dish is based on cocoyams, maize, cassava, millet, plantains, potatoes, rice, or yams often pounded into dough-like fufu. This is served with a sauce, soup or stew made from various greens, groundnuts, palm oil or other ingredients. Meat and fish are popular but expensive additions, with chicken often reserved for special occasions. Cameroonian dishes are often quite spicy, with salt, red pepper sauce, and Maggi.
Cutlery is common, but food is traditionally manipulated with the right hand. Breakfast consists of leftover bread and fruit with coffee or tea. Generally breakfast is made from wheat flour in various different foods such as puff-puff (doughnuts), accra banana (made from bananas and flour), and bean cakes. Snacks are popular, especially in larger towns where they may be bought from street vendors.
Water, palm wine, and millet beer are the traditional mealtime drinks, although beer, soda, and wine have gained popularity. A popular brewed beverage is 33 Export beer, the official drink of the national soccer team and one of the most popular brands, joining Castel, Amstel Brewery, and Guinness.
Fashion, arts and crafts
Cameroon's relatively large and diverse population is also diverse in its contemporary fashion. Climate, religious, ethnic and cultural beliefs. Influences from colonialism, imperialism, and globalization are all reflected in modern Cameroonian dress. Notable articles of clothing include: Pagnes and sarongs worn by Cameroon women, Chechia, a traditional hat; kwa, a male handbag; and Gandura, male custom attire. Wrappers and loincloths are used extensively by both women and men but their use varies by region, with influences from Fulani styles more present in the north and Igbo, and Yoruba styles more prevalent in the south and west. Imane Ayissi is one of Cameroon's top fashion designers and has received international recognition.
Traditional arts and crafts are practiced throughout the country for commercial, decorative, and religious purposes. Woodcarvings and sculptures are especially common. The high-quality clay of the western highlands is used for pottery and ceramics. Other crafts include basket weaving, bead-work, brass and bronze-work, calabash carving and painting, embroidery, and leather working. Traditional housing styles use local materials and vary from temporary wood-and-leaf shelters of nomadic Mbororo to the rectangular mud-and-thatch homes of southern peoples. Dwellings of materials such as cement and tin are increasingly common. Contemporary art is mainly promoted by independent cultural organizations.
National policy strongly advocates sport in all forms. Traditional sports include canoe racing and wrestling, and several hundred runners participate in the marathon. Mount Cameroon Race of Hope each year. Cameroon is one of the few tropical countries to have competed in the Winter Olympics. Sport in Cameroon is dominated by soccer. Amateur soccer clubs abound, organized along ethnic lines or under corporate sponsors. The national team has been one of the most successful in Africa since its strong showing in the 1982 and 1990 FIFA World Cups.
For women, Cameroon was the host country of the Women Africa Cup of Nations in November and December of 2016. and the 2020 African Nations Championship. The women's football team is known as the "Indomitable Lionesses."