Republic of Cameroon

The Republic of Cameroon located in West Africa, is often called “Africa in miniature”. Every natural feature found across the continent, including beaches, deserts, mountains, rainforests, and savannas, can be found on Cameroonian soil.  In fact, the highest point in West Africa is Mount Cameroon, an active volcano located near the town of Buea in the Southwest Region. While the official languages are English and French, Cameroon contains hundreds of different ethnic groups.  Just like Africa as a whole, Cameroon is extremely diverse.

Early inhabitants of the territory included the Sao civilisation around Lake Chad and the Baka hunter-gatherers in the southeastern rainforest. Portuguese explorers who first reached the coast in the 15th century named the area “Rio dos Camarões” or “River of Shrimp”, which provided the linguistic root for the region’s modern name.

While originally a German colony founded in 1884, Cameroon was split into two League of Nations mandates, one English and one French, following World War I and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.  The French-administered region gained independence in 1960 as the Republic of Cameroun under its first president, Ahmadou Ahidjo. Its British counterpart to the south followed suit in 1961 as the two territories merged to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. The newly formed country was became the United Republic of Cameroon in 1972 before changing names again in 1984 and becoming the Republic of Cameroon we know today.

Compared to other African countries, Cameroon enjoys relatively high political and social stability. This has permitted the development of agriculture, roads, railways, and large petroleum and timber industries. Nevertheless, large numbers of Cameroonians live in poverty as subsistence farmers.  Furthermore, the complexity of conducting business remains a significant problem.  The World Bank’s statistics gauging the ease of doing business around the world ranks Cameroon 168th out of 183 economies globally, just behind Afghanistan (166) and Iraq (167).

Health care in Cameroon is problematic.  While well-equipped treatment centers in major cities like Douala and the capital Yaoundé do exist, resources in the countryside are limited at best.  Malaria is a constant threat to those without window screens or bed nets.  UNICEF’s estimated HIV/AIDS prevalence rate for people 15-49 years old is 5.3%.  As in many places though, a fear of social judgment and lack of access to the necessary facilities prevents many from being tested and keeps the measurable numbers deceptively low.

The Indominatable Lions, Cameroon’s national football squad, maintains a massive fan following.  While both the government and the culture condone all sports, football is by far the most popular.  The Lions are one of the most successful clubs across the continent, with four Africa cup titles and an Olympic gold metal to their name.  Star players, especially striker Samuel Eto’o, are revered as some of the biggest celebrities in the nation.  Striving to emulate their heroes, local children and adults alike challenge each other in friendly matches anywhere there’s an open area and a ball.