Cameroon is in trouble. The country is economically plagued by a devastatingly high poverty rate, struggling education and health care systems, paralyzing corruption and various internal rifts that threaten national security and any prospects of a vibrant tourism industry. Nevertheless, some bright spots remain that point towards a more prosperous future. With an official goal in place to be labeled as an “emerging market” by 2035, many questions about Cameroon’s precarious future linger. The top 10 facts about living conditions in Cameroon presented below will try to give a better picture of the situation in the country.
Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Cameroon
- A picture of the living conditions in Cameroon is not complete without the all-important measures of GDP and GDP per capita. With the 15th largest economy in Africa, Cameroon’s total nominal GDP of $38 billion places it at 98th place globally. When taking heed of the population, the nation’s GDP per capita of $1,400 places it near the bottom of the pack globally, at 152nd place, and 26th out of 55 countries in Africa.
- Despite the sobering figures above, Cameroon’s economy has made great strides towards becoming a prosperous emerging market in recent years. In the period from 2004 to 2008, while the countries reserves quadrupled to $3 billion, the public debt was reduced from over 60 percent of GDP to around 10 percent. Furthermore, over the last decade, Cameroon’s GDP per capita grew at a steady 4 percent annually, well above the global average of 2.6 percent. In addition, Cameroon’s unemployment rate currently rests at a healthy 4.24 percent.
- Nonetheless, Cameroon still has a ways to go, as 48 percent of the population continues to live under the poverty line. With this in mind, it is important to note that poverty remains a largely rural phenomenon in the country. Despite only accounting for roughly 45 percent of the country’s total population of 24 million, nearly 55 percent of those living in poverty dwell in rural areas where access to steady-paying jobs and adequate infrastructure is sparse.
- With a relatively low score of 0.56, placing the country 151st out of 189 total countries measured, Cameroon currently ranks last in the “Medium Human Development” category of the U.N.’s Human Development Index. Established to emphasize that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone, a country’s HDI takes into account various measures of health, education and per capita wealth.
- As of 2010, the last year on file, the adult literacy rate in Cameroon was estimated at 71.3 percent, well below the world average of 84.6 percent at the time. On a more positive note, Cameroon boasts one of the highest school attendance rates in Africa, with most children having access to relatively inexpensive, state-run schools. In 2013, the enrollment rate for primary schools was 93.5 percent. It is important to note that boys continue to attend school at a significantly higher rate than girls as a result of entrenched cultural norms.
- Cameroon is plagued by crippling corruption on an epic scale. The Corruptions Perceptions Index (CPI) that ranks countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys, places Cameroon 152nd overall out of 180 countries measured. The rippling economic ramifications of prolific corruption at a governmental level can be devastating, with research highlighting a direct correlation between a higher CPI score and positive long-term economic growth. So much so, in fact, that a country can expect GDP growth in the range of 1.7 percent for every “unit increase” in a country’s CPI score.
- One of the biggest factors limiting Cameroon’s education attendance rate is not only the accessibility of schools but also the prevalence of child labor. Unfortunately, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, 56 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 were working, while 53 percent of children aged between 7 and 14 were forced to balance both work and school.
- Cameroon’s health care system is sparse and insufficient, significantly affecting the overall quality of life in the country. This is best represented in the country’s markedly low life expectancy and high infant mortality rate. Cameroon’s life expectancy rests at just 57 years for males and 59 years for females. The infant mortality rate is extremely high, at 84 deaths per 1,000 births. Cameroon’s substandard health care system can be rooted back to the government’s minimal funding. Currently, health care expenditures are equal to just 4.1 percent of the country’s GDP.
- Paul Biya has ruled Cameroon as its authoritarian President since 1982. Over these 37 years, he has quelled democratic hopes and limited any and all civic and civil liberties. Having this in mind, it comes as no surprise that Cameroon was labeled as “not free” by Freedom House. With an overall score of 22 out of 100 (100 being entirely free), Cameroon ranks 174th out of 210 countries measured.
- Bordering Nigeria and Chad, Boko Haram continues to pose a threat to Cameroon, especially in the country’s far north. This represents a huge issue for the safety of the country’s citizens.
Despite being an independent country from 1960, Cameroon still has an autocratic rule that made country one of the poorest in the world. The country has a lot of work to do, especially in the fields of child labor and corruption. The positive developments are present, such as the low unemployment rate and high school attendance rates. These and similar positive examples provide hope for the citizens that a country can be categorized as an “emerging market” by 2035.
– William Lloyd