Located deep in the Gulf of Guinea, between the 2° and 13° northern parallels and the 9° and 16° eastern meridians, the Central African country of Cameroon has a land mass of 475,650 square kilometres.
Its roughly triangular territory stretches south some 1,200 kilometres from Lake Chad at the triangle’s tip in the north, while the base spans over 800 km from west to east. The southwest portion has 420 kilometres of Atlantic coastline.
It is bordered to the west by Nigeria, to the south by Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, to the east by the Central African Republic, and to the northeast by Chad.
So diversified are Cameroon’s topography and natural resources, it has been dubbed a “microcosm of Africa.”
The south (Centre, East, Littoral, South and Southwest regions) is rich in forest resources and is located in the maritime and equatorial zones. It is characterized by dense vegetation, a vast water network, and a warm, humid climate with abundant precipitation. This makes the region particularly favourable for crops such as cocoa, oil palm, banana, rubber and tobacco, among others. The country’s two largest cities are in the south: Douala, the largest one, chief port and economic capital thanks to its commercial and industrial activites, and Yaoundé, the nation’s capital. The area also includes important urban centres such as Edéa, with its heavy industry and hydroelectric power plant; Limbe, headquarters of the oil industry; and Kribi, the terminal of the Chad–Cameroon pipeline.
The highlands of the west (West and Northwest regions), whose average altitude exceeds 1,100 metres, form an area rich in volcanic soil suitable for agriculture (coffee, vegetables, and so on). The vegetation is not as dense as in the heavily wooded south and the cool climate fosters all kinds of activities. Moreover, the dense population with respect to the national average makes it one of the most attractive destinations for emigration. The chief cities are Bafoussam, Bamenda and the university town of Dschang.
The northern Sudano-Sahelian belt (crossing the country’s Adamawa, North and Far North regions) is characterized by savannas and steppes. With the exception of the Adamawa plateau, whose climate is more temperate, the region is marked by a hot, dry tropical climate, with precipitation tapering off as one approaches Lake Chad. The region is suitable for raising cattle and growing crops such as cotton, onion, millet, potato, white yam and peanuts.
Cameroon boasts central Africa’s most diversified economy, thanks to a mix of many foreign-owned enterprises and just as numerous domestic businesses. This wide variety of activities includes forestry and agriculture (food and cash crops), hydrocarbons, beverages, sugar refining, oils and soaps, milling, aluminum, cement, metallurgy, primary wood processing, and more.
Cameroon is committed to reducing its dependence on oil revenue—the industry accounts for the lion’s share of GDP—in order to further diversify the economy, with the aim of achieving emerging-economy status by 2035.
Because of a sectoral balance of payments, only raw materials processing guarantees a significant influx of foreign currency. This involves the agriculture, forestry, and oil sectors. Economic relations between Cameroon and its bilateral partners lead for the most part to net foreign currency losses, with the exception of members of the Central African Economic and Monetary Union (CAEMU), for which Cameroon is an exporter of food crops. From Western countries, Cameroon imports industrial products.
Balance of trade
The trade balance deficit of 2012 diminished in 2013. The deficit is compensated by an influx of capital. Imports are up 3.6% with respect to their 2011 figure, at 3,325.2 billion francs. Crude oil, frozen ocean fish, transportation equipment, machinery, and electrical and mechanical apparatus all witnessed a drop. As for exports, they rose 2.2% in 2012 from the previous year, to 2,184.4 billion francs, an increase led by sales of coffee, oil (42.9%), fuels and lubricants (12.3%), wood and wood products (10.6%), raw cocoa beans (9.2%), raw cotton (3.2%), crude rubber (2.8%), coffee (2.0%), fresh bananas (1.8%) and crude aluminum (1.2%). Cocoa exports, which had weakened in 2012, were back up in 2013.