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

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

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. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed the economy into recession, but GDP growth rebounded to 3.6% in 2021, supported by the non-oil sector recovery and the general global economic recovery (IMF). According to IMF estimates, economic growth will continue to strengthen, with growth rates reaching 4.6% in 2022 and 4.9% in 2023. This performance will be driven by public investments in projects such as the hydroelectric dam of Lom-Pangar and Nachtigal and the port of Kribi. Greater electricity supply, rising liquefied natural gas production and activities related to the African Cup of Nations will support economic growth.

After slowing down in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and security tensions in the region, Cameroon’s economy rebounded in 2021. Restrictive budget policy prior to the pandemic, a modest recovery plan, emergency fund from the IMF and debt payment suspension contributed to the stability of public finances. The authorities aim to avoid premature fiscal tightening and to gradually reduce the budget deficit to 3.1% in 2021, 1.9% in 2022 and then to below 1% in 2024 (IMF). Public debt, which increased to an estimated 45.8% GDP in 2020 and 2021, is expected to reduce to 43.8% GDP in 2022 and 41.8% GDP in 2023 (IMF). Inflation remained moderate at 2.3% in 2021, and is forecast to further decrease to 2.1% in 2022 and 2% in 2023 (IMF). In the context of the IMF’s Extended Credit Facility and Extended Fund Facility arrangements, Cameroonese authorities are focused on strengthening budgetary discipline, addressing fiscal risks from state-owned enterprises, and accelerating the implementation of structural reforms (IMF).

Despite the rather satisfying economic performances of the country, poverty affects nearly 40% of the population, around 8 million people. The crisis Covid-19 increased the extreme poverty rate from 24.5% in 2019 to an estimated 25.3% in 2021 (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). The latter regions are also hit by the attacks of the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram and a secessionist insurgency in the Anglophone regions. More than 500,000 Cameroonians have been internally displaced since December 2017, and the country also hosts more than 440,000 refugees, mainly from the Central African Republic and Nigeria (World Bank, UNHCR). In 2020, the unemployment rate in the country stood at 3.6% (World Bank, ILO estimate)

Main Indicators 20202021202220232024
GDP (billions USD) 40.8645.3944.2146.0249.69
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change)
GDP per Capita (USD) 1,5391,6671,5841,6091,695
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 44.945.546.843.740.5
Inflation Rate (%)
Current Account (billions USD) -1.52-1.81-1.01-1.28-1.63
Current Account (in % of GDP) -3.7-4.0-2.3-2.8-3.3

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 17.4% of the GDP and employs almost 43% of the active population (World Bank). Before the development of oil trade (which alone represents over 8% of the GDP), 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. 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 secondary sector accounts for 23.3% of the GDP and employs 14% of the workforce. The country's main industries are food processing, sawmill, the manufacture of light consumer goods and textiles.

The tertiary sector accounts for 52% of the GDP and employs 42% of the active population. It benefits from the economic activity created around large-scale energy projects. The services sector is booming, driven by the sectors of telecommunications, air traffic and transport.

Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 43.5 14.4 42.1
Value Added (in % of GDP) 16.9 24.5 51.1
Value Added (Annual % Change) 2.9 3.2 4.3

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


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.

World Rank:
Regional Rank:

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. It is a member of the Commonwealth, the CEMAC (Central African Economic and Monetary Community), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and has signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. The ratio of trade to GDP is around 33% (World Bank, 2020).

Its main export commodities are fuel (oil, gas), minerals (coal, aluminium), wood, cocoa, cotton, and rubber. Cameroon mainly imports mineral fuels and oil, food (rice, wheat, fish, etc.), medicines, and manufactured products (vehicles, machinery, electrical and electronic equipment). Cameroon’s main export partners are China, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Spain and India. Its main import suppliers are China, France, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Thailand, the United States and Togo. Cameroon signed a free trade agreement with the European Union in August 2016. For some years now, Eastern Asian countries (especially China, Japan, India, and Thailand) have been reinforcing their trade ties with Cameroon.

Cameroon's trade balance is structurally negative. According to WTO, in 2020, Cameroon recorded a trade deficit of nearly USD 2 billion. The same source stated that the country imported USD 5.4 billion worth of goods against USD 3.4 billion for exports. Service exports generated 1.55 billion USD while service imports amounted to 2.24 billion USD.

Foreign Trade Indicators 20172018201920202021
Imports of Goods (million USD) 5,2475,6565,6465,3646,100
Exports of Goods (million USD) 3,2333,8034,0843,3854,100
Imports of Services (million USD) 2,3802,6412,7722,2410
Exports of Services (million USD) 1,8412,0052,1031,5520
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -1.28.511.4-17.113.8
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 20.821.923.518.520.4
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 18.418.719.915.216.7
Trade Balance (million USD) -227-533-737-679-524
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -723-1,121-1,355-1,088-1,579
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 39.240.643.433.737.1

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


Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
China 24.8%
Italy 13.7%
Netherlands 9.7%
France 7.0%
Spain 5.9%
See More Countries 38.9%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
China 18.5%
France 8.3%
Nigeria 5.6%
Netherlands 4.8%
Thailand 4.2%
See More Countries 58.6%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data


Main Products

3.8 bn USD of products exported in 2018
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 40.8%
Cocoa beans, whole or broken, raw or roastedCocoa beans, whole or broken, raw or roasted 11.1%
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 7.5%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 5.9%
Wood in the rough, whether or not stripped of bark...Wood in the rough, whether or not stripped of bark or sapwood, or roughly squared (excl. rough-cut wood for walking sticks, umbrellas, tool shafts and the like; wood in the form of railway sleepers; wood cut into boards or beams, etc.) 5.7%
See More Products 29.0%
6.1 bn USD of products imported in 2018
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 13.9%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 5.1%
Frozen fish (excl. fish fillets and other fish...Frozen fish (excl. fish fillets and other fish meat of heading 0304) 4.5%
RiceRice 4.2%
Wheat and meslinWheat and meslin 3.4%
See More Products 68.8%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data


To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.


Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

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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: 2023
National Assembly: to be determined
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
- 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)
- Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC): left-wing

Other minor parties exist such as:

-Cameroonian Party of Democrats

-Alliance for Democracy and Development

-Movement for the Defense of the Republic (MDR)

-Republican Party of Cameroon

-African People's Union (UPA)

-Progressive Movement (MP)

-Believe in Cameroon

-Cameroon Renaissance Movement

-Cameroon People's Party (CPP)

-Movement for the Liberation and Development of Cameroon (MLDC)

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. The political rights of the people of Cameroon are very much limited.

Indicator of Freedom of the Press


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:

Indicator of Political Freedom


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.

Not Free
Political Freedom:

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


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COVID-19 Country Response

COVID-19 epidemic evolution
To find out about the latest status of the COVID19 pandemic evolution and the most up-to-date statistics on the COVID19 disease in Cameroon, please visit the Ministry of Health's Epidémie de Coronavirus (COVID - 19) webpage and the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center map.

For the international outlook you can consult the latest situation reports published by the World Health Organisation as well as the global daily statistics on the coronavirus pandemic evolution including data on confirmed cases and deaths by country.
Sanitary measures
To find out about the latest public health situation in Cameroon and the current sanitary measures in vigour, please consult the Prime Minister’s Government Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic (Google Translate version)
Travel restrictions
The COVID-19 situation, including the spread of new variants, evolves rapidly and differs from country to country. All travelers need to pay close attention to the conditions at their destination before traveling. Regularly updated information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related travel restrictions in place including entry regulations, flight bans, test requirements and quarantine is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
It is also highly recommended to consult COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on the daily basis by IATA.
The US government website of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention provides COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination.

The UK Foreign travel advice also provides travelling abroad advice for all countries, including the latest information on coronavirus, safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings.
Import & export restrictions
For  information on all the measures applicable to movement of goods during the period of sanitary emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak (including eventual restrictions on imports and exports, if applicable), refer to Measures to Facilitate Foreign Trade Operations following the COVID health crisis - 19  (French only)

For a general overview of trade restrictions due to COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section dedicated to Cameroon on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.

Economic recovery plan

There is no economic recovery scheme annouced on the Cameroonian government websites to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy. For future possible up-to-date information please visit the website of the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development. The African Delveopment Bank has proposed a $10 billion Response Facility to curb COVID-19 in Africa. KPMG Afrique Centrale outlines most Cameroonian government actions in the document KPMG AC - COVID-19 News (French only). 

For the general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 outbreak (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) taken by the Cameroonian government to limit the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section deted to Cameroon in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.

Support plan for businesses
There are no specific support plans for businesses in Cameroon so far. For future possible up-to-date information please visit the website of the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development.

For a general overview of international SME support policy responses to the COVID-19 outbreak refer to the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.
Support plan for exporters
There are no specific support plans for exporters in Cameroon so far. For future possible up-to-date information please visit the website of the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development.

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Latest Update: March 2023