Cameroon: Time for the Lion to Wake up?


This page in:

Cameroon’s GDP growth in 2010 is estimated to have reached 3 percent on the back of stronger non-oil activities, which expanded by about 4 percent (particularly food crops, forestry, construction, transport, and telecoms).  This growth, however, remains too slow to reduce poverty in a sustainable manner. On its current trajectory, Cameroon is not likely to meet most Millennium Development Goals.

Yet, Cameroon is endowed with oil, high value timber, and agricultural products (coffee, cotton, cocoa). Untapped resources include natural gas, bauxite, diamonds, gold, iron, and cobalt. Why isn’t it growing faster?

As explained in the latest Cameroon Economic Update, the answer is that poor infrastructure, an unfavorable business environment, and weak governance hamper economic activity in Cameroon. Central Africa’s infrastructure (including Cameroon’s) is the poorest in all of Africa. Despite major hydropower resources, Central Africa has the least developed power sector on the continent.  Its paved road density is a fraction of already low levels in West Africa. By global standards and when compared with other parts of Africa, Central African consumers also pay exceptionally high rates for infrastructure services. The monthly internet basket in Cameroon, for instance, is four times higher than that in other developing countries.

Simulations suggest that if Cameroon’s infrastructure could be upgraded to the level of the best performing country in Africa (Mauritius), the impact on real per capita economic growth would be in the order of 4½ percentage points of GDP per year. In other words, the average Cameroonian would see her annual income grow more than five times faster than today.

To help finance key infrastructure projects, the country issued its first government bond in December 2010. Time may finally have come for the lion to wake up.



Raju Jan Singh

World Bank Lead Economist & Program Leader for Haiti

Join the Conversation

March 02, 2011

Thanks for your post, Raju. It's very true that the lion has slept quite the grasse matinee, comme on dit. Your third paragraph touches well on some of the main culprits, although I might even suggest that it is the weak governance that contributes to an unfavorable business environment, which results in neglected infrastructure.

Cameroon is a wonderfully diverse country, rich with natural resources and a well educated human resource base relative to some of its neighbors. But we've observed the country slide down on all the big indicators: GDP, or MDG. Last year I was hopeful that the approach of 2011's presidential elections might wake Cameroonians up to demand more from their nation. This was despite the fact that the year started off on a precarious foot: at Biya's presidential address on January 1, 2010, he finished his discourse on live television with a hearty "Bonne Annee Deux Mille Neuf!" But it is clear that in terms of governance, a sagging status quo seems to suffice for most.

In a country of 250 different languages and groups, is the state of one's nation an afterthought? What is it about the current governance system that is so discouraging? What can be done about it? I would place urgency on allowing fresh faces in high level political positions. Otherwise the lion will wake up as the sun is already setting on Cameroon's opportunities to lead Central Africa.

February 27, 2012

Despite the overwhelming potential Cameroon has to offer,both in terms of natural resources and man-power, the country is bound to suffer under-performance as long as politics stays the key concern of the regime,who's members are much concerned securing office terms rather than discharging their duties. while the country swings in an unbroken spiral of poverty and hopelessness, the regime covers eye on embezzlement and promote unfriendly business, social & and economic environment where the rich get richer and the poor ... (complete the sentence);the subsequent effects has been two steps backward for every step forward. mounting more pressure on government by funds providers to demand transparency in governance, could already be a solution, however, the starting point should primarily be our mentality; Why not instituting a rigorous culture of rewards/punishment?