Country FilesCentralCountry Profile 2014: CAMEROON


Posted on Friday, 07 February 2014 12:18

Country Profile 2014: CAMEROON

alt Still a country for old men

Going into 2014, not much had changed to weaken President Paul Biya’s hold over Cameroon’s politics. The government created a senate based on the 1996 constitution and held legislative elections that the ruling Rassemblement Démocratique du Peuple Camerounais (RDPC) won easily. The government has pinned its hopes on new infrastructure, mining and oil projects to boost the economy and create jobs, but rights campaigners worry about its treatment of homosexuals and the press.





theafricareport-cameroon-72dpiStill a country for old men

The RDPC’s grip on the presidency and governing bodies is not loosening

The economy is growing but not fast enough to improve livelihoods

Going into 2014, not much had changed to weaken President Paul Biya’s hold over Cameroon’s politics. The government created a senate based on the 1996 constitution and held legislative elections that the ruling Rassemblement Démocratique du Peuple Camerounais (RDPC) won easily. The government has pinned its hopes on new infrastructure, mining and oil projects to boost the economy and create jobs, but rights campaigners worry about its treatment of homosexuals and the press.

The RDPC lost five seats, dropping from 153 to 148, in the 30 September legislative elections. Six parties share the remaining 32 places. The leading opposition party, John Fru Ndi’s Social Democratic Front (SDF), took 18 seats, up three from the last elections in 2007. Gender parity exponents were upbeat because women now hold 56 seats, up from 25 in the previous legislature. The government had delayed the polls three times since 2012 in order to introduce some biometric electoral registration.


The senate came in to being 17 years after its establishment by the 1996 constitution. The population elected 70 senators on 14 April, while Biya– who has been in power since 1982 – named the remaining 30 in May via a presidential decree. Biya’s RDPC won 56 of the 70 senatorial seats, far ahead of the lone runner-up, the SDF, with 14 seats won in two regions.

Marcel Niat Njifenji, a member of the economically powerful Bamiléké ethnic group and a former deputy prime minister, is the president of the senate. Members of Bamiléké interest groups have complained about their side lining from the country’s policy-making institutions. Niat, 79, is now first in line in the constitutional succession to replace Biya, who is 80. Critics in the opposition say that the senate is a waste of money and it has no real power to hold the other branches of government to account.

The Conseil Constitutionnel is another body that exists in the 1996 constitution but has not yet been created. After the senate elections , Biya said that he would next focus on setting up the court in time for presidential elections in 2018, when he will be 86. RDPC cadres are already calling for him to run again.

There have been more rumblings in the SDF for a change in leadership because Fru Ndi is now 72 and has not been able to challenge the RDPC seriously in these last elections. In 2013, politicians from northern Cameroon hinted at the possibility that they could split from the RDPC and form their own political party. They complained that the government targeted many northern officials in its long-running Opération Epervier anti-corruption drive.


Conflict in the region causes security concerns. Northern Cameroon recorded an influx of refugees from Nigeria due to the Boko Haram insurgency and the Seleka rebellion in the Central African Republic in 2013. Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea continues to be a threat for oil companies and cargo ships.

The government’s relationship with the media continues to be problematic. In the run-up to the September polls, the Conseil National de la Communication shut down 11 media organs that were widely considered to be hostile to the ruling party. And as civil society groups, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, criticised the regime for gagging the press, the government launched a nationwide crackdown targeting some 500 Pentecostal churches operating with out licences.

The rights of homosexuals are equally uncertain heading into 2014. The 15 July murder of rights activist Eric Ohena Lembembe and the conviction of at least six people for participating in same-sex relations brought the issue to the fore in 2013. Human Rights Watch ranked Cameroon among the world’s most homophobic countries and has been urging donors to revoke their aid packages.

The government has appeared indifferent to the criticism, focusing its attention on major infrastructure projects launched since 2012 that are designed to enhance the country’s industrialisation potential and lead Cameroon to become an emerging economy by 2035 (see box). Other key infrastructure developments are the Yaoundé-Douala high way and the second bridge over the Wouri River in Douala, which has been delayed since 2011.

The economy’s performance depends on sustained progress in the oil and services sectors as well as the spending spree on infrastructure. Reports from the World Bank say that despite Cameroon’s sound economic growth, it is too slow to deliver tangible improvements in living conditions for average Cameroonians.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) reiterated their recommendation for the government to end subsidies on fuel. Government officials fear that removing the subsidies will spark generalised price hikes and instability. An IMF report from 2013 said the subsidy cost 944bn CFA francs ($2bn) or 7.3% of gross domestic product from 2009 to 2012, more than three times what the government had budgeted.

theafricareport-cameroon-72dpi-2CHAD PAYS THE PRICE

The government will now earn more money from the Chad-Cameroon pipeline. The Société National des Hydrocarbures (SNH) announced in October that it had agreed with the pipeline users to increase the fee it receives for each barrel of oil transported,which should lead to a tripling of revenue. Between 2003 and 2011, the government earned $168m from Chad’s oil exports. Niger also plans to use the same pipeline infrastructure.

The SNH also reports that oil production may rise in the near future thanks to increasing exploration activity. It said that production averaged nearly 79,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2013. Industry analysts predict it will stay at around 64,000bpd before rising to 100,000bpd by 2020. Talks between the government and France’s EDF-Suez to set up a liquefied natural gas plant at Kribi are underway.

Mining projects are progressing, but slowly. Australia’s Sundance Resources continued exploration for iron ore at Mbalam – after takeover talks with a Chinese company collapsed. Canada’s Mega Uranium has continued exploration at the Kitongo, Lolodorf and Teubang deposits. In July 2013, Toronto-listed Geovic Mining agreed to sell its 60.5% stake in the Nkamouna nickel, cobalt and manganese mine to Jiangxi Rare Metals Tungsten Holdings.

The country’s poor agricultural yields, despite the favourable climate, strong rains and vast belts of arable land,mean that it imports many basic food items. The government has promised to create a ‘second-generation’ agricultural programme, but it has yet to be set up. Farmers still await the promised creation of an agricultural bank to improve access to capital. Other elements of previous agricultural plans not yet fully realised include the paving of farm-to-market roads and the provision of tractors, improved seeds and subsidised pesticides. Partnering with the World Bank, the government plans to spend 50bn CFA francs to improve maize, sorghum and cassava production. There are similar plans to raise plantain, tubers and poultry yields.

A partnership with Brazil and a clampdown on bad practices in the cocoa sector are expected to boost the harvest to 253,000tn by 2016, up from 220,000tn in 2013. The troubles at the Herakles Farms palmoil venture in 2013 point to the difficulties faced by investors in large-scale agricultural projects.


INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS have faced many delays, but some are reaching completion. The country’s first gas-fired power generation plant went online in mid-2013 in Kribi, providing an additional 216MW to the country’s installed capacity of 933MW. The Kribi Power Development Company, a subsidiary of the American company AES Corporation, set up the project, which cost 173bn CFA francs ($356m). AES owns 56% of the country’s monopoly power producer AES-SONEL and announced the imminent sale of its stake to private equity firm Actis in late 2013.

With demand for electricity growing at 8% per year, the government is pushing for the Lom Pangar dam to become operational in July 2014 to produce 30MW. Lom Pangar should help to boost production at the dams at Song Loulou and Edéa by between 105MW and 216MW. Aluminium smelter Alucam vowed to triple output when Lom Pangar goes online. Hydropower projects at Memve’ele (201MW) and Mekin (15MW) are slated for completion by 2016 and May 2014, respectively. The first large cargo ships are expected to dock at the deep-sea port at Kribi in 2014. The new port under construction by China Harbour Engineering Corporation at a cost of 287bn CFA francs is intended to decongest the port at Douala.



Rank 2012Rank 2011CompanySectorCountryTurnover (Thds $)Turnover changeNet profits



Rank 2012Rank 2011Bank nameCountryTotal assetsNet interest incomeLoansDeposits
78-AFRILAND FIRST GROUP*CAMEROON2,301,785157,7121,540,1981,728,782
130131SOC. GN. DE BANQUES AU CAMEROUNCAMEROON1,167,94976,268757,104931,694
131120BANQUE INT. POUR LPARGNE ET LE CRDITCAMEROON1,163,15985,341614,151937,519
137127AFRILAND FIRST BANKCAMEROON1,041,62370,393449,480710,867
196182ECOBANK CAMEROUN*CAMEROON507,99633,071224,082423,185

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