Fast Facts

Population:
16,380,000
Capital:
Yaoundé 1,616,000
Area:
475,442 square kilometers (183,569 square miles)
Language:
French, English, 24 major African language groups
Religion:
Indigenous beliefs, Christian, Muslim
Currency:
CFA franc
Life Expectancy:
48
GDP per Capita:
U.S. $1,700
Literacy Percent:
79
Flag: Cameroon
Map: Cameroon

Cameroon, in West Africa, is a mixture of desert plains in the north, mountains in the central regions, and tropical rain forest in the south. Along its western border with Nigeria are mountains, which include the volcanic Cameroon Mountain—the highest point in West Africa at 4,100 meters (13,451 feet). Some 250 ethnic groups speaking about 270 languages and dialects make it a remarkably diverse country. The Republic of Cameroon is a union of two former United Nations trust territories—French Cameroun, which became independent in 1960, and southern British Cameroons, which joined it after a 1961 UN-sponsored referendum. English and French are both official languages, but there is growing tension between the country's five million English speakers and the government.

While oil earnings have helped fund industrial expansion, fluctuations in prices of export commodities have forced austerity. After the legalization of opposition parties in 1990, the government adopted IMF and World Bank programs to increase business investment and to foster efficiency in agriculture and trade. Recent elections have been marred by irregularities. In 1994 and 1996 Cameroon fought border wars with Nigeria over a disputed oil-rich coastal area. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on the disputed territory in 2002—largely in Cameroon's favor. The UN is working with both Cameroon and Nigeria to implement the ICJ ruling. The Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline, completed in 2003, brings new business to Cameroon's port of Kribi.

ECONOMY

  • Industry: Petroleum production and refining, food processing, light consumer goods, textiles
  • Agriculture: Coffee, cacao, cotton, rubber; livestock; timber
  • Exports: Crude oil and petroleum products, lumber, cacao, aluminum

—Text From National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition

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