Posted on Tuesday, 06 December 2016 14:11

Cameroon: Should President Biya stay or go?

President Paul Biya addresses the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in September 2016. Richard Drew/AP/SIPA

Julius A. Agbor, Research fellow at the Stellenbosch University in South Africa, responds to Reinnier Kazé's article on Cameroon: Staying Power (TAR 81 June 2016).

Since independence, Cameroon has enjoyed relative stability.

The country has not experienced civil war, genocide or any large scale natural catastrophe that would have destroyed a significant portion of the country’s stock of human and physical capital.

On the contrary, there is evidence that the country has augmented its stock of natural capital since 1960 through important new discoveries of oil and diverse mineral resources.

On the basis of the foregoing, there are two logical expectations about the Cameroon of 2015 in comparison to that of 1960.

The first logical expectation is that Cameroonians should be better off in 2015 than they were in 1960. 

The second logical expectation is that the Cameroon of 2015 should measure comparably well with respect to other countries that had similar initial conditions as Cameroon in 1960.

However, even a cursory look at the data suggests the opposite. For instance, Cameroon’s per capita income in 1960 was $1,416; twice higher than that of India ($720) and Indonesia ($665) and one and a half times higher than Thailand’s ($954).

Yet in 2010 (50 years later), Cameroon’s per capita income ($1,748) is half that of India ($3,477) and Indonesia ($3,966) and nearly five times lower than that of Thailand ($8,064).

The infant mortality rate in 2015 is more than five times higher in Cameroon than in Thailand.

In addition, Cameroon is reputed as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Clearly, Cameroonians are today poorer, more diseased and more corrupt.

How could one possibly analyze these catastrophic economic and social outcomes and not see a leadership problem in Cameroon?

If Biya has been conspicuously inept in handling the everyday challenges of Cameroonians, why should right thinking citizens trust his leadership in dealing with the more complex multifaceted phenomenon of cross-border terrorism?

Julius A. Agbor (Ph.D), Research fellow, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

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