Cameroon is the largest economy in the six-nation Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC). With a population of over 19.1 million people its GDP (at purchasing power parity) for 2010 is estimated at $41.9 billion by the Heritage Foundation. It is projected to grow 3.0 % in 2011. Cameroon boasts one of the highest per capita incomes (by purchasing power parity) in sub-Saharan Africa, at $2,300 (2010). The official unemployment rate stands at 4.5% although other sources put it as high as 75%. Inflation rate for 2010 stood at 3.0. FDI flows stood at $260 million.
Cameroon has a wealth of natural resources, including rich potential in the agricultural, forestry, and mining sectors, an ample labor force, and an enviable location between large markets in Nigeria to the west and Central Africa to the south and east. Cameroon is often described as “Africa in Miniature” because of its unparalleled ethnic, linguistic, and geographic diversity.
The Bank of Central African States (BEAC) sets monetary policy for Cameroon and other CEMAC members. The country’s currency, the Franc Communauté Financiere Africaine (FCFA), is managed by BEAC and conversion is guaranteed at a flat exchange rate of 655.957 FCFA to the Euro by the Treasury of the Government of France.
Cameroon’s major exports are oil, timber and cash crops such as cocoa, coffee, rubber, cotton, and bananas. Cameroon imports mainly semi-processed products, industrial inputs, machinery, and food products. The European Union is Cameroon’s main trading partner with about 60 percent of the total share of trade. France is by far Cameroon’s major supplier of imported goods and services. United States trade with Cameroon has increased with the advent of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), but many of the potential benefits of AGOA remain under-realized. U.S. imports from Cameroon recorded a slight increase from $249.7 million in 2009 to $ 291.3 million in 2010 while exports dropped from $153.5 million in 2009 to $113.4 million in 2010, according to the U.S. census bureau.
A committee commissioned by the Government of Cameroon in May 2007 ranked the United States as the largest single foreign investor in Cameroon, in large part due to the substantial American equity in the Chad-Cameroon pipeline and the power sector. There are several large American investment projects underway in mining and energy..
Yaounde is the nation’s political capital, but Douala, the largest city, serves as the economic capital of Cameroon and the Central African region. Almost all cargo shipped to Chad, and the Central African Republic transit through Douala’s port, located slightly inland from the Gulf of Guinea, on the banks of the Wouri River. Cameroon is well-served by mobile service providers and access to the Internet, including broadband, is available in the major cities, although problems with capacity often hamper services.
Cameroon is a republic, with a strong central government headed by President Paul Biya, who has been in office since 1982. The ten Regions (formerly “Provinces”) are governed by appointed Governors, and the larger cities are supervised by appointed Government Delegates subordinated by elected Mayors. Although the Constitution provides for a National Assembly (Parliament), a Senate, and a constitutional court, these constitutional provisions have not yet been implemented. The government’s judiciary arm suffers from overwhelming executive influence.
Industry Sector Analysis
- Oil & Gas
- Information and Communication
- Natural Resources Mining
- Financial Services
Cameroon continues to be one of the most challenging business environments in the world, ranking among the lower quarter (171out of 181) of the countries surveyed in the World Bank’s “Doing Business” evaluation. Difficulty in resolving commercial disputes, particularly the enforcement of contractual rights, remains one of the serious obstacles in promoting investment in Cameroon. American claimants are often frustrated with the slow pace of the Cameroon legal system. However, the Cameroon Council of Business Managers and Professional Associations (GICAM, French acronym) has created an arbitration center that helps expedite the process, provided both parties clearly agreed in their investment convention that in the case of litigation GICAM’s arbitration center is competent.
Economic policy mismanagement and a poor business climate have restrained investment and hindered economic diversification. The private sector continues to identify a predatory tax environment, insufficient and unreliable power provision, and inadequate infrastructure as impediments to greater economic growth.
Although Cameroon is officially a bilingual (French and English) country, most Cameroonians are not bilingual; French is the common language of business, political and social interaction.
Cameroon’s agricultural sector: Cameroon’s agriculture sector is already the mainstay of the national economy and the country’s main employer, but many believe there is room for further growth and, especially, modernization of the sector and agro-industry.
Cameroon’s oil and gas sector: Although Cameroon’s oil reserves are largely perceived to have passed their zenith, there remain a number of promising prospects for appropriately sized investors. Cameroon is the 7th largest oil producer in Africa and the 5th in Central Africa. This sector represents 40% of the nation’s exports. Production decreased by 2% in 2007 despite seven new wells drilled and brought into production that year. Cameroon oil sold at $69.99 per barrel at a discount from the world price because Cameroon’s petroleum is so “heavy”. Cameroon’s investor-friendly oil and gas code of 1999 aims to encourage new exploration and further exploitation of maturing fields, especially for onshore blocks, which have not received the attention of Cameroon’s offshore assets.
Cameroon’s mining sector: Cameroon is richly endowed with mining assets including bauxite, cobalt, uranium, iron ore, rutile, and gold, but mining currently accounts for less than 1% of GDP. In 2001, the Government passed a new law to promote terrestrial mining and President Biya has made the mining sector a priority for national development.
Cameroon’s industrial sector: Opportunities exist in the light-manufacturing sector where Cameroon assembles and exports imported components for local and regional consumption. This sector represents 28% of GDP and employs 15% of the active population. Planned investment in transportation, communications, and power infrastructure should encourage this sector in the medium-term by facilitating trade links with neighboring countries. AES-SONEL, the national power provider, has inaugurated its fifth power production facility in December 2009. The 86 MW energy supplement from the new facility would help narrow the deficit that is estimated at 40 MW.
Trade Promotion and Advertising
Newspaper and magazine advertising may be placed at reasonable rates with the Government-owned daily Cameroon Tribune or with more than 20 private print media. Major newspapers include:
- Cameroon Tribune (government-owned, bilingual daily): B.P. 1218, Yaounde, Cameroon; Tel.: (237) 22-30-41-47 or 22-30-36-89; Fax: (237) 22-30-43-62. http://www.cameroon-tribune.cm
- Mutations (privately-owned, French-language daily): B.P. 12348, Yaounde, Cameroon; Tel.: (237) 22-30-66-80; Fax (237) 22-30-66-75. http://quotidienmutations.cm/
- The Herald (privately-owned, English-language tri-weekly): B.P. 3659, Yaounde, Cameroon; Tel./Fax: (237) 22-31-84-97. Douala: Tel/Fax: (237) 33-42-08-74
- Le Messager (privately owned, French-language daily): B.P. 5925, Douala, Cameroon; Tel.: (237) 33-42-04-39; Fax: (237) 33-42-53-74.
- La Nouvelle Expression (privately-owned, French-language daily): B.P. 15333, Douala, Cameroon; Tel.: (237) 33-43-22-27; Fax: (237) 33-43 26 69. http://www.lanouvelleexpression.info
Cameroon Public-Expansion (CPE), a government-owned publicity agency, no longer has a monopoly over billboards and sign advertising. Private advertising firms may be contacted for publicity assistance. A monthly information guide for Douala (Night & Day), published by Synergie, is distributed free. Advertising can also be carried out on CRTV, the Government radio/TV network, and other private radio and TV stations at reasonable rates in English and/or French.
PROMOTE, Cameroon’s most prestigious international trade show, ended its third edition at the Yaounde Conference Center in December 2008 and the next event is scheduled for December 2011. Other regularly scheduled trade fairs in Cameroon include the Bafoussam fair each February and PROMO, a general trade fair organized at the end of each year in Yaounde by the Cameroon Chamber of Commerce. Individual companies sometimes organize exhibitions in Douala and Yaounde
Cameroonian businesses and consumers are extremely price-sensitive and suffer from lack of readily-available local credit. American-made goods are perceived to be of superior quality and thus may fetch a premium over lesser-quality goods.
There are no price controls on commodities except on “strategic” goods and services such as electricity, water, public transportation/roads, telecommunications, cooking gas, pharmaceuticals, basic consumer commodities like rice, sugar, cooking oil, salt, fish and poultry products, etc. and portside activities (such as stevedoring). The Government beginning January 2011 created a consumer commodity Regulatory Board that would serve as a central procurement of basic consumer commodities to ward against speculation and shortage in the market.
U.S. exporters can price their product in Euros, especially for deliveries over a 6-12 month period, as the currency (CFA) is pegged at a fixed exchange rate to the Euro (1 Euro = 656.957 CFA). Costs should be computed on a cost, insurance, and freight (CIF) basis.
Treaties & Agreements