Country FilesCentralCountry Profile 2012: CAMEROON


Posted on Monday, 10 September 2012 23:00

Country Profile 2012: CAMEROON

This country profile was published in November 2011 in our annual 'Africa in 2012' issue. The next edition, 'Africa in 2013' will be on sale in November 2012. 








Biya is thinking bigger

Having won the 9 October elections with 78 percent of the vote, Cameroon's long-serving President Paul Biya will have to juggle restless socio-political forces for the next seven years to remain president during what most believe will be his last term. He be 85 years old when his present mandate ends in 2018.

The elections also signalled what is possibly an end to an era in the battle for power between the two most visible political rivals in Cameroon for the past 20 years. John Fru Ndi, leader of the opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF), has fought and lost three elections against Biya. He will be 77 years old when Biya's mandate ends and is unlikely to be the SDF candidate next time round.

President Biya trounced the opposition in October elections, but voters are calling for a new generation of leaders

President Biya, who has ruled Cameroon for the past 29 years, easily beat 22 opponents in the elections, which international observers once again described as "flawed with irregularities" but "acceptable". 

Opposition leaders called for new polls within the next six months but the government has not responded, and Supreme Court president Alexis Dipanda Mouelle dismissed calls to annul the results. Some ruling Rassemblement Démocratique du Peuple Camerounais (RDPC) officials took turns to condemn US ambassador Robert Jackson after he criticised the conduct of the elections. Biya also dispatched foreign minister Henri Eyebe Ayissi to France after French newspapers unanimously condemned the irregularities.

Opposition calls for street protests did not produce anything, but assaults in the Bakassi Peninsula and an armed attack on a bridge over the Wouri in Douala point to underlying discontent. Fringe political actors such as France-based Pierre Mila Assoute have taken up the language of the Arab Spring and are calling for a popular revolution to overthrow the government. The ineffectiveness and co-option of the opposition is closing off opportunities for democratic dialogue.

The opposition was unable to unite around a single candidate for the October polls but had promised greater unity in the days that followed the elections. That unity quickly dissipated, and the possibility of cooperating with an RDPC-dominated government has already led to schisms. The main goal sought across the opposition platform is the same: to change the way elections are organised. It may again flirt with a boycott if the administration does not reform Elections Cameroon before parliamentary and local elections in 2012. The 1996 constitution called for the creation of the Senate and the government now says that its inaugural elections will finally be held. Voter apathy is widespread.

Though no one in the ruling party dares mention the subject of succession publicly, Biya's 80th birthday in 2013 means that the future beckons. Biya's son Franck attended several public outings linked to the election, raising talk that he could be in line to take over. If the ruling party maintains control, it is RDPC secretary general René Sadiwho is best placed to manage a transition. By shuffling the ministerial pack so often, Biya has not allowed anyone to build up any national presence, apart from Sadi, who rallies the troops at meetings around the country. Laurent Esso, the secretary general in the presidency, commands support among a sizeable faction of the RDPC, but lacks the kind of political leverage that would count.

While the government has discouraged talk about ethnicity, future polls will be decided based on that sort of arithmetic. Cameroon has no ethnic majority and groups from the north will want to play a deciding role because the Beti, from the south, have benefited disproportionately under Biya.

New oil and gas projects will boost production in 2012 as the government emphasises the importance of big power projects

The government is devoting less attention these days to its fizzled-out anticorruption campaign and is now focused on supporting the development of large infrastructure projects (see box). It is also spending money in an effort to shield consumers from price rises for food and fuel, which have caused popular protests in the past.

The trade ministry set up a new body in February to import and manage the prices of key staples like sugar and rice. The IMF warns that the government's fuel subsidy programme will end up costing $600m in 2011, representing a large portion of the budget and about 25 percent more than it had planned.

Cameroon produces less oil than Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, so its economy is not as dependent on oil and gas as a source of revenue. Oil production peaked in about 1986 at 185,000 barrels perday (bpd) and now accounts for just 65,000 bpd. Some companies are still investing in the pursuit of new finds, while others are involved in new gas projects. New production in 2012 will turn the country's sagging production levels around. At a meeting in March, the Nigerian and Cameroonian governments agreed to pursue the joint development of oil fields that cross the boundary of the Bakassi Peninsula, which Nigeria handed over to Cameroon in 2008.

In July, Yan Chang Logone Development Holding Company announced the discovery of a hydrocarbons deposit in the Extrême Nord Province at its Zina IX well. The find will lead to more exploration there. China's Sinopec purchased Royal Dutch Shell's shares in oil company Pecten in order to get access to its 12 oil exploration licences in Cameroon. London listed Bowleven has continued its exploration and increased its reserve estimates on the Sapele field after the 2011 exploration programme produced better-than-expected results.

altFrance's GDF-Suez is interested in Cameroon's gas fields. It signed a framework deal with the Société Nationale des Hydrocarbures in July so that negotiations could begin with companies to secure supplies for a proposed liquefied natural gas plant. The plant could cost upwards of $5bn and depends on further lengthy negotiations with government and companies. The UK's Victoria Oil and Gas was due to commence its first sales of gas to local consumers from the 212bn ft 3 of reserves at the Logbaba field before the end of 2011.

Although farmers' groups protested about the poor state of roads and lack of state support, the country is attracting more interest from international companies. In July, US-based Herakles farms launched a $350m programme to develop palm oil plantations on 60,000ha in southwest Cameroon, although no date has been set for production to begin. Singapore's Siva Group followed through with plans for a $1.8bn palmoil project on 200,000ha in late August. Malaysia's Sime Darby was in discussions with the government in late 2011 on its proposed $2.5bn investment in palm plantations and processing capacity. Local environmental groups have begun campaigning against the projects and arguing that they will threaten livelihoods and harm animal species in the forests that they will, in part, replace.

The cocoa board announced in August that cocoa farmers had boosted production by 18 percent in the 2010-2011 season, resulting in a harvest of more than 230,000tn. Farmers in the southwest are struggling to cope with crop illnesses that destroyed thousands of trees in 2011. In late October, the government started work on a sustainable logging project that will cover 25,000ha with up to 10m trees. 


More on Cameroon:

Palm-oil springs in Africa
: Change, but at 
a snail's pace
$14 million cocoa project for four African states
Cameroon: Electricity for all by 2020?
Six African states among top 2011 MDGs performers
Footballer Eto'o launches Africa's fifth MVNO
Africa: Fast internet is coming!


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Top Cameroonian Compaines

Taken from the Top 500 Companies

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Top Cameroonian Banks

Taken from the Top 200 Banks

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