Cameroon country profile

  • Published
Map of Cameroon

Cameroon is often known as "Africa in miniature" because of its geographical and cultural diversity.

The Central African country has one of the highest literacy rates on the continent, but its economic progress has been hampered by corruption and decades of authoritarian rule.

Created in 1961 by the unification of a British and a French colony, the modern state of Cameroon has also struggled to find peace and unity.

Internally, there are tensions over the two mainly English-speaking south-western provinces. A secessionist movement emerged in the 1990s, and turned into an insurgency in 2016.

The mainly-Muslim far north has been drawn into the regional Islamist insurgency of the Boko Haram group.


Republic of Cameroon

Capital: Yaounde

  • Population 23.5 million

  • Area 475,442 sq km (183,568 sq miles)

  • Languages French, English, languages of Bantu, Semi-Bantu and Sudanic groups

  • Major religions Christianity, Islam, indigenous beliefs

  • Life expectancy 56 years (men), 59 years (women)

  • Currency CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc

Getty Images


President: Paul Biya

Image source, Getty Images

In power since 1982, Paul Biya is one of Africa's most entrenched leaders.

Parliament passed a controversial amendment in 2008 allowing him to run for office again, and he won new seven-year terms in 2011 and 2018 in votes marred by irregularities.

His party, the Cameroonian People's Democratic Movement (RDPC), has won landslide majorities in every parliamentary election since 1992.

Before becoming president, Mr Biya spent his entire political career in the service of President Ahmadou Ahidjo, becoming prime minister in 1975.

In 1983 he accused Mr Ahidjo of organising a coup against him, forcing the former president to flee the country.


Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Cameroon has extensive timber reserves

State-run CRTV operates alongside dozens of private radio and TV stations.

Journalists reporting on sensitive subjects risk legal action, says Freedom House.

Amid protests in English-speaking regions, internet access in these areas has been disrupted.


Some key dates in Cameroon's history:

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Ahmadou Ahidjo was independent Cameroon's first president. He stepped aside in 1982

1520 - Portuguese set up sugar plantations and begin slave trade, taken over by the Dutch in the 1600s.

1884 - Cameroon becomes the German colony of Kamerun. It expands in 1911 when France cedes territory to Germany.

1916 - British and French troops force Germans to leave Cameroon, which is partitioned between France and Britain at the end of the First World War.

1958 - French Cameroon granted self-government with Ahmadou Ahidjo as prime minister. The country becomes independent two years later, and Mr Ahidjo becomes president.

1961 - Britain's Cameroons colonies divide between Cameroon and Nigeria after a referendum. A large-scale insurrection mars the country's first years of independence until it is put down in 1963 with the help of French forces.

1982 - Prime Minister Paul Biya succeeds Ahidjo, who flees the country the following year after President Biya accuses him of masterminding a coup.

1998 - Cameroon classed as the most corrupt country in the world by business monitor Transparency International.

2014 - Cameroon faces increased attacks from the jihadist group Boko Haram.

2016 - Activists in Anglophone areas step up a campaign for greater autonomy, prompting a fierce response from the government.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Lake Chad is shared by Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger. Some areas of the lake shore are subject to attacks by the Islamist group Boko Haram

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