Girls' Education in CameroonQuality education is the cornerstone of a prosperous nation. But in Cameroon — an ethnically diverse country in south-central Africa — only 53 percent of children attend secondary school. Also, the state of girls’ education in Cameroon is troubling since they do not have access to quality education and many of them are not even enrolled in schools. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 70 percent of Cameroonian girls are illiterate.

Facts about Girls’ Education in Cameroon

A variety of factors influence the lack of education among girls in Cameroon. Traditional values stifle chances of prolonged schooling or any schooling for girls. Poverty often forces women to leave school and to work and earn an income for their families. In addition, high rates of youth pregnancy and child marriage impede continued education for many girls. Although Cameroon ratified the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which sets the minimum age of marriage at the start of adulthood, yhe legal age of marriage in the country is still 15 with parental permission. In 2014, the UNICEF found that over 31 percent of teenage girls in Cameroon were married before age 18.

Patriarchal norms drive down girls’ education in Cameroon as well. Patience Fielding from the University of California, Berkeley found that women’s educational pursuits are further restricted in higher educational institutions as well, especially in the fields of math, science and technology. Even as girls struggle to enroll in schools, obstacles meet them in the classroom. Girls face a disproportionate amount of discrimination, sexual harassment and violence.

What’s Happening

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

International organizations are supporting Cameroonian girls and increasing female enrollment in schools. UNICEF works to advocate early childhood education as well as supply resources and classroom materials to students and teachers.

Cameroonian women are also spearheading efforts to make social change and promote girls’ education in Cameroon. In a 2016 Times article, Leila Kigha talks about her grandmother’s efforts to inspire other Cameroonian women and the ripple effect a single woman’s hope for the future can have on others. She refused to accept the status quo and sent her children to school against all odds. Her descendants went on to establish the Shine A Light Africa initiative — a nonprofit that works to allow women to sell farm products in groups.

This work has been monumental in ensuring that change happens. Research shows the positive externalities resulting from girls having access to better and continued education consequently leading to a higher standard of living. In addition, improving girls’ education can reduce maternal death and infant mortality rates substantially.

Conclusion

The Republic of Cameroon’s constitution outlines that the State shall guarantee a child’s right to education. However, equal and prolonged access to education is often not a reality for Cameroonian girls. Thus, it requires international attention from political leaders and focused agendas to help reduce the gender gap in education to greatly influence individual lives in such nations.

– Isabel Bysiewicz
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in Cameroon
Despite relative peace and political stability in Cameroon, it remains a country plagued by food shortages and malnutrition.

The Problem

Cameroon is home to 23.7 million people, 40 percent of whom live below the poverty line. Poverty is concentrated in four regions —  the Far North, the North, Adamaoua and the East. These same regions are those most severely impacted by food insecurity. In fact, OCHA (the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) reported a 189 percent increase in food insecurity between 2013 and 2016 and stated that 2.6 million people in Cameroon were food insecure in 2017.

In April 2018, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported that that number has risen to 3.9 million, 2.5 million of whom are living in one of the four aforementioned regions. In other words, 36.7 percent of the population in these four regions is food insecure.

Cameroon’s harsh climate makes growing crops extremely challenging. In the North, between 25 and 30 percent of the land is completely barren and unsuitable for cultivation. Furthermore, the dry season is long, during which severe water shortages are widespread and, when rain does come, ruinous floods become common.

Refugees and IDPs in Cameroon

The relative peace and stability of Cameroon make it attractive to refugees fleeing danger and violence in neighboring countries. Namely, refugees emanate from Chad (to the North/Northeast of Cameroon), Nigeria (to the North/Northwest) and the Central African Republic or C.A.R. (to the East).

At the end of 2017, the UNHCR (the U.N.’s Refugee Agency) reported that over 85,000 Nigerian refugees lived in the Far North region of Cameroon and about 231,000 refugees from C.A.R lived in the North, Adamaoua and East regions. Such dramatic population influxes take a severe toll on the already limited food supply of Cameroon.

In addition, Boko Haram — the major cause of most Nigerian refugees fleeing for Cameroon — has been active along the Nigerian-Cameroonian border; so, along with forcing Nigerians to flee violence and resettle in the Far North of Cameroon, Boko Haram violence also forces local Cameroonians from the Far North to flee south into the North and Adamaoua regions.

These internal Cameroonian refugees are officially referred to as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Between 2014 and 2015, over 70 percent of farmers in the Far North region, fleeing Boko Haram violence or over-crowding caused by the influx of refugees, deserted their land to move elsewhere to a less crowded area.

However, rather than lessen the pressure placed on the already scarce food resources of the Far North, IDPs abandoning their farms only increases it, for much viable land is now not being farmed. As a result, the production of cereal crops, the main staple food of the region, was down over 50 percent between 2014 and 2015.

Efforts to Help & Reasons for Hope

The WFP is committed to helping achieve the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) goal number two and to helping end hunger and malnutrition in Cameroon. To accomplish this, the organization chose to target the four above-named regions most impacted by food shortages and malnutrition in Cameroon.

Regional violence — such as that caused by Boko Haram — makes delivering food especially difficult, but the WFP has remained committed to helping in Cameroon nonetheless. The organization continues to raise money and increase the amount of food and nutritional supplies being sent to refugee camps. Furthermore, the WFP runs a supplementary feeding program that specifically targets childhood nutrition, as an estimated 31 percent of all children in Cameroon between the ages of six months and five years are chronically malnourished.

Despite continued challenges, the impact of WFP shows reasons for hope. In April of this year alone, the WFP helped over 292,000 people in Cameroon. Almost 75,000 CAR refugees living in East, Adamaoua and North regions, 47,500 Nigerian refugees and almost 17,000 Cameroonian IDPs in the Far North region received food rations or cash transfers from WFP.

– Abigail Dunn
Photo: Flickr

Ongoing challenges in Lake Chad
Countries surrounding Lake Chad in Central Africa are facing staggering levels of poverty. In addition to ecological challenges, violence stirred up by the terrorist organization Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria has begun to affect other nations in the region — notably Chad, Cameroon and Niger — causing detrimental consequences on food and livelihood security.

How the Region’s Citizens Are Being Affected

Due to ongoing challenges in Lake Chad, the United Nations has found that 10.7 million people are in need of assistance, seven million are food insecure and 515,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. According to the Operational Inter-Sector Working Group, the upcoming June-to-August rainy season in the Lake Chad region will leave 536,000 people vulnerable in Northeast Nigeria.

Areas of Concern for Ongoing Challenges in Lake Chad

  1. Once the third-largest source of freshwater in Africa, satellite images show that the lake has vanished to roughly 10 percent of its original size, putting millions from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria at risk of losing their main source of water. In the 1960s, populations surrounding Lake Chad, which was then home to over 130 species of fish, enjoyed a level of food security.But decreasing water levels from the overuse of water, prolonged drought and global warming are forcing local populations to switch from fishing to agricultural production. “This is not only a humanitarian crisis, but it is also an ecological one,” Food and Agriculture Organization Director -General Graziano da Silva said at a media briefing in Rome in early 2017.
  2. Currently, armed fighting is a staple of the region. In Northeast Nigeria, the ongoing conflict with Boko Haram, a jihadist militant organization, will severely hurt cultivation in peak seasons in 2018. According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, there was a 25 percent increase in the number of fatal conflict events in 2017 compared to the years 2013–2016 in this region. Households are highly dependent on emergency assistance from humanitarian aid agencies and deteriorating living conditions have led to population displacement.In addition, some areas are facing additional conflicts. There were 323 protection incidents reported on 84 sites in the Chad Lake region between January and April 2018, including violations of the right to property, violations of the right to life and physical integrity and sexual violence, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
  3. Food prices are well above average and are much higher than what is sustainable for those making low wages. Concern is higher in the summer “lean season,” when income is lowest and food prices are highest before harvest begins.Although humanitarian aid organizations are providing supplies, USAID reports that more needs to be done to eradicate acute food insecurity. USAID estimates that in the Adamawa State region in Nigeria, response needs are likely much higher than the organization is able to reach.

How Challenges Are Being Addressed

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is working heavily to mitigate ongoing challenges in Lake Chad, creating a response action plan for 2017–2019 which targets Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad. To assist nearly three million people, the Food and Agriculture Organization is in the process of implementing programs include providing livestock emergency support (restocking vaccinations and animal feed), supporting food production and rehabilitating infrastructure to bolster production.

Next, there seems to be mutual understanding among countries in the region of the urgency of action. In February 2018 in Abuja, the Lake Chad Basin region commission along with the Nigerian government and UNESCO held a conference called, “Saving Lake Chad to restore its basin’s ecosystem for sustainable development, security and livelihoods.”

Finally, USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network seeks to meet the needs of the most vulnerable. In April 2018, 2.25 million people in the northeast area of Nigeria received food assistance from the organization.

Ongoing challenges in Lake Chad, including the disappearance of Lake Chad, civil conflict driven by Boko Haram and limited access to foodstuff, have pushed thousands into poverty. Keeping these issues in mind, humanitarian aid organizations are working to mitigate and reverse the impacts of decades of damage.

– Isabel Bysiewicz
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to CameroonCameroon is a country in Central Africa known for its cultural and geographic diversity. The United States and Cameroon established economic relations in 1960 and have shared a somewhat positive relationship since. U.S.-Cameroon relations have hit turbulence in recent years due to concerns over human rights violations and a lack of change to political and economic conditions.

Regardless of the speed of progress, both countries share a desire to reduce threats to the region, improve the living conditions of the people and promote economic conditions. This work means that there are many ways the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Cameroon.

Despite Cameroon’s economic growth, health standards have not seen the expected growth rates that generally rise with economic conditions. Life expectancy, child mortality and maternal mortality are below the regional average. The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Cameroon is roughly 4.3 percent, which is among the highest in Western and Central Africa. Of the people that live in Cameroon, close to 40 percent live below the poverty line.

In order to combat this problem, the U.S. Agency for International Development provides a multitude of programs benefitting Cameroon, managed mainly through its regional office in Ghana. As well as USAID, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides U.S. aid to Cameroon in order to prevent and fight the spread of HIV/AIDS. The U.S. State Department, in conjunction with USAID, also provide funds for refugees, civic engagement in elections, democratization, counter-extremism and education.

USAID also supports the promotion of human rights and the democratization process through the Cameroon Peace Promotion Project which utilizes radio programming to increase awareness of violence in the region and increase community unity towards a safer Cameroon. The program supports local moderate voices promoting tolerance and opportunities for dialogue on the events happening in Cameroon.

In order to support humanitarian intervention in the conflicts of Cameroon, the U.S. funnels aid to Cameroon through the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the Food for Peace Program. This office, as well as this program, assist those harmed or displaced by regional conflicts. This U.S. aid to Cameroon goes to help feed those affected by malnutrition, provide healthcare to those in need and provide cash for work opportunities which help put food on the table and train local citizens better practices.

As well as providing material assistance, these programs provide safe spaces for women and children affected by violence and knowledge on how to resist and mitigate future violence in the region. These efforts are also attempting to promote more independence in the region and provide knowledge to citizens in order to increase self-sufficiency.

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Cameroon by promoting health standards in Cameroon which in turn prevents the spread of disease to the U.S. The United States, as the leading investor in the region, also supports the development of trade with Cameroon for good and services.

Cameroon exports goods such as petroleum, rubber, timber and coffee to the United States, while Cameroon imports goods such as machinery, aircraft, vehicles and plastics from the United States. The open trade made possible by U.S. foreign aid dollars facilitates a mutually beneficial relationship and allows for Cameroon to develop products to trade not only with the U.S. but with many other countries around the world as well.

In conclusion, Cameroon is a region in which economic development has not been as successful in efforts to end poverty. With the help of the United States Agency for International Development and programs such as Food for Peace, Cameroon is on track to begin down the road to poverty eradication. The people of Cameroon are gaining the skills and materials needed to become a more self-sufficient and democratic country, and the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Cameroon as well.

– Dalton Westfall
Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in Cameroon
In 2008, Cameroon was the scene of hunger-related protests and protesters asking for cuts in fuel and food prices. In April 2010, a new initiative launched and was set to last for seven years; this act was known as the Agricultural Competitiveness Improvement Project (PACA), which led to major improvements for Cameroon’s food market and food security.

Financed by the government of Cameroon and an $82 million loan from the World Bank’s International Development Association, PACA was created to encourage young people to become farmers through the development of rural infrastructure facilities and the investment in value chains such as rice and maize cultivation, and pork and poultry.

 

Sustainable Agriculture and the Fruits of PACA Labor

By 2016, the project had already increased crop yields by 16 percent for rice, 98 percent for maize and 220 percent for plantain. Regarding the production of broiler meat, numbers doubled with a 122 percent increase for the average annual pig live weight, 257 percent for the average annual poultry live weight and 141 percent for the average annual egg production.

In fact, sustainable agriculture in Cameroon represents more than half of the country’s non-oil export revenues, and constitutes a field of high employment, with 60 percent of the country’s working population having a job in the sector. The project not only helps address the challenge of agricultural competitiveness, but it also brings food security, income generation and job creation in rural Cameroon.

 

Sustainable Agriculture and Women

Sustainable agriculture in Cameroon also proved to be a way for women in certain villages to improve their livelihoods. Joshua Kankonko is one of the founders of those eco-villages — in Bafut (a village in Cameroon), he implemented “permaculture,” an innovative system of sustainable agriculture and design principles that replenishes the soil and maximizes yields on small plots.

 

Systemic Improvements in Sustainable Agriculture

This system achieves better management of soil and environmental resources through natural and mechanical erosion control; one can use plans to hold soil and moisture together and the other uses natural materials such as bamboo to create barriers. From improving family incomes to restoring the natural environment, this project is successful at benefiting the overall well-being of Bafut’s community.

From large projects such as PACA, to smaller and locally-sourced projects like the one in Bafut, there has been a number of efforts to make sustainable agriculture in Cameroon a tool for higher productivity, higher incomes and better job opportunities.

– Sarah Soutoul

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

humanitarian aid to cameroonCameroon faces many issues that include poverty, disease and violent extremism. Governments and organizations from around the globe have stepped up to provide humanitarian aid to Cameroon and help the country face these challenges.

Despite needing further humanitarian aid, Cameroon has seen progress in many areas. The poverty rate has dropped from 53 percent in 1996 to 37.5 percent in 2014. With the extensive network of organizations providing humanitarian aid to Cameroon, there is hope that the lives of the country’s citizens will continue to improve.

The U.S. government first established a diplomatic relationship with Cameroon in 1960. Current diplomatic efforts are focused on strengthening democratic institutions and thwarting destabilizing threats, such as the threat posed by the extremist group Boko Haram.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) runs several programs in Cameroon. The Cameroon Peace Promotion Project utilizes radio broadcasts to promote moderate voices in the region and prevent the spread of violent extremism.

A second project, called the Central African Regional Program on the Environment, works to conserve the tropical forests in Cameroon and neighboring countries. The Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and Food for Peace program assists refugees and those affected by conflict. Lastly, USAID also promotes economic development in Cameroon through the West Africa Trade and Investment Hub.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) works in Cameroon to provide refugees with the care and resources they need. The UNHCR found that there are over 320,000 refugees currently residing in Cameroon. UNHCR partners with the World Bank and the African Development Bank to empower and support these refugees.

The European Union has allocated €80.7 million in humanitarian aid to Cameroon since 2013. These funds go toward providing food, water and shelter for Cameroon’s refugee population and other vulnerable communities.

Other groups are providing humanitarian aid to Cameroon to combat HIV/AIDS in the country. In 2016, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) reported that there were 560,000 people in Cameroon living with HIV. UNAIDS is partnering with other organizations like the World Health Organization to accelerate the HIV treatment response in the area. The Centers for Disease Control is also working to eradicate the disease in Cameroon.

Despite the many crises Cameroon faces, there has been progress in addressing these challenges with the contribution of aid from the global community. The success of humanitarian aid to Cameroon shows what can be accomplished with the unified response of organizations across the world.

– Aaron Childree

Photo: Flickr

Development Projects in Cameroon
Cameroon, or “miniature Africa” is filled with immense diversity in anthropology, history, and climate geography.  Captivating in its beauty, Cameroon is striking for its undiscovered natural resources and government’s stability. Nevertheless, there are few development projects that have been “left dormant while awaiting investments in the different sectors of agro-industry, road, port and airport infrastructure, energy, real estate and urban planning, in the mining industries and new technologies.”

The April 2013 Act granted various tax and customs exemptions over a five to ten-year period.  Although this act is an incentive for the private sector, the installation phases of new investors were facilitated and their production safeguarded.

With a goal to boost the economic growth rate and tap into a potential 300 million consumer market here are five development projects in Cameroon that aim to be completed by 2035.

  1. National Roadway: The first version of this FCfa 14, 976.5 billion national railroad plan was presented on April 28, 2011 in Yaoundé. This project would expand the current infrastructure, interconnecting the country to adjacent states, “while opening up the main agricultural and mining production areas.”  Currently CAMRAIL, Cameroon’s earliest authorized rail company, is a favorable route compared to travel by bus, especially in rainy seasons. Nevertheless, this project’s progression has been sluggish, with its completion date estimated for 2020 due to a lack of funding.
  2. Agriculture: The Inter-Professional Council for Cocoa and Coffee (CICC) has shared their concerns with the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD) regarding climate change challenges faced by farmer. A project in the works, IRAD is formulating a cocoa and coffee variety that will be more resilient to current extreme climate changes as part of the development projects in Cameroon. Dedicated to restarting their cocoa and coffee industry, production will hopefully be increased from 60,000 tons to 185,000 tons by 2020.
  3. Inclusive and Resilient Cities Development Project: Launched on August 22, 2017, this project will focus on improving access to infrastructure in poor urban communities and urban management itself. With a projected cost of $160 million, this project has four major components: strengthening capacity for inclusive and resilient urban management, improving connectivity and living environments in beneficiary cities, the Contingent Emergency Response, and Project Management, Coordination, Monitoring, and Evaluation. The closing date for this project is March 31, 2024. 
  4. Telecommunication: Chinese company, ZTE, opened up in December 2015 with capital of FCfa 480 million. Named “ZTE Cameroun Sarl” the company covers a telecoms infrastructure, training on their networks, as well as repair and maintenance. Using this grant, ZTE can directly promote their equipment to the Cameroon market.
  5. Solar Energy: Seeing the sun as wealth, Vincent Bolloré, president of the Bolloré group, strives for decentralized systems to bring electricity to villages where electricity access is costly. In 2016, the group completed the Canal Olympia cinema, a project located at Yaoundé I University that is entirely operated by solar power.

These five development projects in Cameroon not only promote the welfare of the locals, but also create incentives for international interest.  The year 2035 is a big one for Cameroon, and hopefully, funding will receive a big push so these projects can both thrive but maintain longevity.

– Tara Jackson

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in CameroonCameroon, like many countries around the world, has dealt with women’s inequality. There are several laws in Cameroon that are severely discriminatory towards women, and even after observations and suggestions made by the CEDAW Committee to the government of Cameroon in 2000 and 2009, there have been no legal reforms to improve the protection of women’s empowerment in Cameroon. To make matters worse, customary law is applied next to statutory law, which brings about many contradictions and inconsistencies.

There are many customs and traditions that impede the implementation of statutory laws. Many marriages are forced, especially in rural areas, where some girls as young as 12 are married. There is also the practice of levirate, where widows are forced to marry the brother of their deceased husband, a very common practice since widows are considered property. Furthermore, according to tradition, only male children can inherit property.

Domestic violence is prevalent and happens often while remaining socially acceptable. Unlike many other countries, marital rape is not considered a criminal offense. The government has not established shelters or legal aid clinics, and victims usually have to suffer in a culture of silence and impunity.

When it comes to education, the literacy rate for the 15-26 age group is 72 percent for males and 59 percent for females. This is due in part to families being more in favor of boys getting an education if they are unable to send all their children. Even though there are still fewer females than males in secondary school, there is slight progress. There have been some efforts made by the government to promote girls’ access to education. However, only so many girls have been able to benefit from the scholarship policy after already being affected by the lack of infrastructure, educational materials and a shortage of qualified teachers.

There are labor laws in place to honor gender equality and provide equal access to employment and equal wages for equal work, but women are still being employed in informal sectors like agriculture and household services. Sexual harassment in the workplace is common and is not punishable by law.

There are calls for the authorities of Cameroon to reform or repeal all discriminatory measures in statutory law; specifically, the provisions of the Family Code concerning the age of marriage, consent, polygamy, marital power and property. They need to take all necessary measures to improve women’s access to public and political life when it comes to decision-making positions, which include adopting special temporary measures such as a quota system and passing legislation criminalizing sexual harassment. Furthermore, there is an urgent need to improve women’s access to health care; in particular, developing healthcare infrastructure and intensifying the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The country has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women but has not ratified the protocol of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. These changes would further encourage women’s empowerment in Cameroon.

The government of Cameroon must act and vigorously combat these issues so they can become things of the past. If the government does not make these changes and bring about equality, it will be seen as inadequate and paying lip service to the noble goal of gender equality. Women’s empowerment in Cameroon is the goal and it is up to the government to instill these laws and hold people accountable.

Chavez Spicer

Photo: Flickr

Why Is Cameroon PoorThe statistics say it all: with 40 percent of its 23.7 million individuals living below the poverty line, it is apparent that Cameroon suffers from financial difficulties. Since a range of factors can cause poverty, one might wonder: why is Cameroon poor? A lot of it has to do with Boko Haram, the militant Islamic group that originated in Nigeria.

Like most radical groups, Boko Haram thrives on insecurity. The militant Islamic group has been attacking Cameroon’s Far North Region. The Far North has some of the highest poverty rates in the country, as 56 percent of its poor live there. The people of the Far North are more vulnerable to Boko Haram due to the fact that they already live in poverty. In the past three years, the group has conducted 50 suicide attacks in the nation. While most people are fighting against Boko Haram, some Cameroonians have actually joined them.

There are other ways in which Boko Haram has negatively impacted Cameroon. As a result of the violence the group has committed in Nigeria, approximately 85,000 refugees have come to Cameroon for safety. Because of that, Cameroon is struggling even more economically, since there are more people in need of aid. There have even been accusations that Cameroon has forced refugees back into Nigeria, though Cameroonian Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma denied the allegation. In addition, Prime Minister Philemon Yang reported that there has been a drop in oil prices. The country’s financial situation has become such a serious issue that Yang has asked for international support.

Boko Haram has also contributed to the nation’s food insecurity. The Islamic militant group has forced farmers to abandon their farms and has stolen livestock. There is also increased food insecurity because of the large amount of refugees. 2.6 million Cameroonians are currently food insecure. United Nations officials believe that people in the Far North Region are at risk of famine.

Fortunately, the people of Cameroon are progressing in the fight against Boko Haram. Earlier this year, the country reported that it has been freeing a significant number of hostages. Cameroon also gets some assistance from the World Food Programme, which plans to provide 560,000 people with food this year. The organization mostly focuses on the people of the Far North Region, since food insecurity is most prevalent there.

“Why is Cameroon poor?” may be a broad question, but it can be explained by understanding the situation the country is currently in. Cameroon may be in a difficult position now, but is on the path to change and development.

Raven Rentas

Causes of Poverty in Cameroon
As poverty rates across the globe continue to fall, urban centers continue to grow and people increasingly have access to education, Cameroon seems to be slipping in the wrong direction. Rural poverty, inadequate infrastructure and a struggling school system continue to hinder the lives of people across Cameroon, contributing to a rising poverty rate in the last 10 years.

Cameroon is a country of more than 23 million people. Out of the entire population, 24 percent of people live in poverty, and 55 percent of those in poverty live in rural communities.

Two causes of poverty in Cameroon and reasons for the gap between rural and urban poverty are a lack of infrastructure and an education system that fails to develop alongside shifting labor needs.

As the IMF noted in a 2014 survey, “the country’s infrastructure indicators trail those of regional peers. In spite of a slight improvement in the overall quality of infrastructure in 2013, indicators are low by sub-Saharan African standards, especially for roads, air transportation and electricity.”

This lack of infrastructure, which limits transportation, cuts off  those who live in rural areas. Rural citizens do not have access to fundamental resources and are marooned from diversified labor opportunities.

Furthermore, the education system has failed to develop alongside market demands. As the World Bank found, “the country’s tertiary education continues to focus on traditional academic disciplines and is not positioned to respond to economic transformation.”

In Cameroon, 43 percent of the population has little or no formal and primary education. What’s more, 67 percent of the population that is of working-age has received no further training in developing job sectors, leading to a significantly higher level of unemployment among youth–especially those living in rural areas.

This double-edged sword hits residents in the countryside. They have higher odds of living in poverty because of struggling infrastructure and inadequate educational opportunities. The country must address these issues to combat the causes of poverty and increasing poverty rates.

Indeed, steps are being taken. People are across the country are calling for performance-based financing for educational institutions to drive up competitiveness and quality of studies. Also, many organizations, including Heifer International, an organization that works to end global hunger and poverty, are working to increase jobs in rural areas. Regarding infrastructure, Cameroon recently launched a 10-year development plan focused on massive public investment in infrastructure, including roads.

By understanding the roles of infrastructure and education in the causes of poverty in Cameroon, the country may be able to improve living conditions for its impoverished people.

Joseph Dover

Photo: Flickr