Economic and Political Overview

flag Cameroon Cameroon: Economic and Political Overview

In this page: Economic Indicators | Foreign Trade in Figures | Sources of General Economic Information | Political Outline | COVID-19 Country Response

 

Economic Indicators

With a strategic location that makes the country a natural gateway into the landlocked region of Central Africa (including Chad, Central African Republic, and northern Congo), Cameroon is undoubtedly an influential country in the economic and monetary community of the region. After the Covid-19 pandemic-led recession in 2020, GDP growth rebounded, supported by the non-oil sector recovery and the general global economic recovery and reached 3.8% in 2022 and 4% in 2023 (IMF). In 2024, economic expansion should be fueled by the increase in liquefied natural gas production and heightened mining output, while the decline in oil production will persist due to the maturation of existing oilfields. The IMF forecasts growth at 4.2% this year and 4.4% in 2025.

The fiscal improvements initiated in 2021 are expected to extend into 2024. The IMF-approved program, including an Extended Credit Facility (ECF) and an Extended Fund Facility (EFF) totaling USD 689.5 million over 3 years, is progressively being implemented by the government. This includes initiatives to broaden the tax base and boost revenue. A disbursement of USD 73.6 million was approved in July 2023, bringing the total disbursed amount to USD 493.6 million. Through measures such as reducing fuel subsidies (from 3.7% of GDP in 2022 to 2.6% in 2023) and other forthcoming actions, the program aims to free up budgetary resources for productive investments and social expenditures. Fitch Ratings estimated a budget deficit of 0.8% of GDP last year, which should remain broadly stable at 0.7% in 2024 and 0.8% in 2025. According to the IMF, the general government debt, inclusive of guarantees, arrears, and SONARA debt (equivalent to 2.6% of GDP), is anticipated to decline to 37.2% in 2025 from its level of 45.5% of GDP at the end of 2022, thanks to robust economic growth and moderate fiscal deficits. Inflationary pressures, primarily driven in 2023 by food prices and the reduction in fuel subsidies, resulting in a 15% increase in pump prices, are expected to slightly ease in 2024 due to the decline in global agricultural prices. However, inflation is projected to remain above the 3% target set by the BCEAC, despite the monetary tightening policy adopted by the latter (at 4.8% in 2024).

Despite the rather satisfying economic performances of the country, poverty affects nearly 40% of the population. The Covid-19 crisis increased the extreme poverty rate, which represents around a quarter of the population (World Bank). Because the poverty reduction rate is lagging behind the population growth rate, the overall number of poor in Cameroon increased, and poverty is increasingly concentrated in the North and Far North (World Bank). In 2022, the unemployment rate in the country stood at 3.8% (World Bank, ILO estimate). Nevertheless, according to a 2023 report from INS, the unemployment rate among young graduates (25 to 35 years) is 5 times higher than that of non-schooled individuals.

 
Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 44.5148.9653.2157.6661.83
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 3.64.04.34.54.5
GDP per Capita (USD) 1,5951,7111,8151,9202,010
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 45.341.939.236.534.6
Inflation Rate (%) 6.37.25.95.54.9
Current Account (billions USD) -1.51-1.39-1.48-1.64-1.71
Current Account (in % of GDP) -3.4-2.8-2.8-2.8-2.8

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

Due to its abundant natural resources, Cameroon stands as a major global producer of goods like cocoa, coffee, bananas, palm products, tobacco, rubber, cotton, maize, and cassava. The primary sector contributes to 17% of the GDP and employs 42% of the active population (World Bank). Before the development of oil trade, agriculture was the country's main economic driver. Coffee and cocoa production, which is concentrated in the English-speaking regions, suffers from political instability in the area. Fishing and forestry are two of the country's additional significant activities. The country has high-value varieties of timber. Crop production in 2023 continued to be affected by conflicts and climate.

The secondary sector accounts for 26.3% of the GDP and employs 15% of the workforce. Key industries include petroleum refining, food processing, textiles, cement production, and logging. The petroleum sector, primarily centered around oil refining, plays a significant role in Cameroon's industrial output. Food processing is another vital component, with companies involved in the production of beverages, dairy products, and processed foods. The textile industry, though facing challenges, remains a notable sector, particularly in the production of cotton fabrics. Additionally, cement production contributes to infrastructure development and construction activities. Logging and timber processing, although facing sustainability concerns and regulatory challenges, are important contributors to the economy, reflecting Cameroon's rich forestry resources. Extractive industries represent around 20% of government revenues, a third of exports, and 4% of GDP (EITI). In addition to oil and gas, Cameroon's resources include bauxite ore and iron. LNG production is expected to offset the gradual decline in crude oil production.

The tertiary sector accounts for half of the GDP and employs 42% of the active population. Key areas include telecommunications, banking and finance, transportation, tourism, and retail. The telecommunications industry has experienced significant growth, with increased mobile and internet penetration rates across the country. Banking and financial services play a crucial role in facilitating commerce and investment, with both local and international institutions operating in the sector. Furthermore, retail, driven by urbanization and increasing consumer demand, contributes to commercial activity and employment opportunities across the country.

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 42.6 15.5 41.9
Value Added (in % of GDP) 17.0 25.5 50.4
Value Added (Annual % Change) 4.2 0.3 5.1

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 

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Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
CFA Franc BEAC (XAF) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 MUR 16.6816.8816.3816.5014.63

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
 

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Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Score:
53,3666666666667/100
World Rank:
144
Regional Rank:
32

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation

 
 

Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.

 

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Foreign Trade in Figures

Cameroon is open to international trade, being a member of the Commonwealth, the CEMAC (Central African Economic and Monetary Community), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and having signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. The ratio of trade to GDP is around 41% (World Bank, latest data available). Its main export commodities are crude oil (43.5% of total exports in 2022), liquefied natural gas (18.1%), and cocoa (9.1%). Mineral products accounted for 26.8% of total import expenditures, of which 21.4% was composed of fuels and lubricants, and 2.8% for clinker. Agricultural products represented 12.4% of imports, followed by machinery and electrical appliances (10.6% - data INS).

During the year 2022, the five main clients of Cameroon accounted for 62% of the country's total exports, according to data released by the National Institute of Statistics (INS). These countries are the Netherlands (26.8%), India (14.2%), France (9.9%), Spain (8.5%), and Italy (6%). As per imports, the main suppliers were China (15.8%), India (10.8%), France (8.2%), the Netherlands (3.6%), and South Korea (3.5%).

Cameroon's trade balance is structurally negative. According to WTO data, in 2022 Cameroon imported USD 7.8 billion worth of goods against USD 5.9 billion for exports. Service exports generated USD 1.8 billion while service imports amounted to USD 2.7 billion. The country’s trade balance was estimated to be in deficit by 2.7% of its GDP in 2022 (World Bank).

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20192020202120222023
Imports of Goods (million USD) 6,5835,5216,9817,8749,000
Exports of Goods (million USD) 4,0843,1324,3175,5844,400
Imports of Services (million USD) 2,8232,1172,4522,5420
Exports of Services (million USD) 2,2051,7091,5821,7170
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 11.4-17.113.8-3.7n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 11.2-14.43.43.0n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 23.518.520.420.5n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 19.915.216.719.4n/a
Trade Balance (million USD) -737-679-524n/an/a
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -1,355-1,088-1,579n/an/a
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 43.433.737.139.9n/a

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank , Latest Available Data

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2021
China 25.9%
Netherlands 12.4%
India 9.7%
Spain 6.1%
Bangladesh 4.0%
See More Countries 41.9%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2021
China 17.0%
France 9.0%
India 7.2%
Russia 6.8%
Belgium 3.8%
See More Countries 56.1%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 

Main Products

4.3 bn USD of products exported in 2021
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 40.6%
Cocoa beans, whole or broken, raw or roastedCocoa beans, whole or broken, raw or roasted 11.2%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 10.6%
Wood sawn or chipped lengthwise, sliced or peeled,...Wood sawn or chipped lengthwise, sliced or peeled, whether or not planed, sanded or end-jointed, of a thickness of > 6 mm 7.2%
Cotton, neither carded nor combedCotton, neither carded nor combed 6.0%
See More Products 24.4%
7.0 bn USD of products imported in 2021
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 15.9%
RiceRice 5.4%
Wheat and meslinWheat and meslin 4.7%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses "incl. those in the form of transdermal administration" or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 4.3%
Frozen fish (excl. fish fillets and other fish...Frozen fish (excl. fish fillets and other fish meat of heading 0304) 3.5%
See More Products 66.3%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 

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Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

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Sources of General Economic Information

Ministries
Website of the Government of Cameroon
Statistical Office
National Institute of Statistics
Central Bank
Bank of the States of Central Africa
Stock Exchange
Central African Stock Exchange (BVMAC)
Search Engines
Dmoz.org
Economic Portals
Portal of the Cameroonian government on the economy
Portal on the economy of Cameroon
Information portal on Cameroon that has an excellent section on the economy

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Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
President: Paul BIYA (since 6 November 1982)
Prime Minister: Joseph Dion NGUTE (since 4 January 2019)
Next Election Dates
Presidential: October 2025
Senate: 2028
National Assembly: 28 February 2025
Main Political Parties
Cameroon has a multi-party system, yet more than two-thirds of parliamentary seats are delegated to the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM) party. The most notable political forces include:

- Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM): right-wing, has the vast majority of seats in the parliament
- Social Democratic Front (SDF): centre-left, main opposition party, promotes social democracy
- National Union for Democracy and Progress (UNDP): anti-communist
- Cameroon Democratic Union (UDC): anti-corruption, decentralization
- Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC): left-wing.
Type of State
Unitary Republic based on parliamentary democracy.
Executive Power
The President is the chief of the state and holds the executive powers. The President is also the head of the armed forces. He is elected by popular vote for a seven-year term. He appoints the Prime Minister (who is the head of the government) and the Cabinet. The President has the power to dissolve the National Assembly and declare by decree a state of emergency which shall confer upon him special powers.
Legislative Power
The legislature is bicameral. The Parliament consists of the National Assembly and the Senate. The 180 members of the Parliament are directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve five-year terms. Among the 100 members of the Senate, 70 are indirectly elected by regional councils and 30 are appointed by the president, and they serve five-year terms. The main responsibility of the National Assembly is to pass laws, but rarely has it changed any laws or blocked the passing of legislation.
 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
135/180
 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Ranking:
Not Free
Political Freedom:
6/7

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

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COVID-19 Country Response

Travel restrictions
Regularly updated travel information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related entry regulations, flight bans, test and vaccines requirements is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
To find information about the current travel regulations, including health requirements, it is also advised to consult Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on a daily basis by IATA.
Import & export restrictions
A general overview of trade restrictions which were adopted by different countries during the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
For the general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) undertaken by the Cameroonian government, please consult the section dedicated to Cameroon in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.

Support plan for businesses
For an evaluation of impact of the Covid pandemic on SMEs and an inventory of country responses to foster SME resilience, refer to the OECD's SME Covid-19 Policy Responses document.
You can also consult the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.

 

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Latest Update: April 2024