Cameroon - Market OverviewCameroon - Market Overview
Cameroon has experienced steady, but slow growth over the last 20 years. Per IMF statistics, the economy grew 3.5 percent in 2017, 4 percent in 2018, and is expected to grow 4.3 percent in 2019. Inflation has been moderate over the same period, as the local currency, the Central African Franc, is pegged to the Euro. Despite belonging to the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), Cameroon has a negligible trade relationship with Chad, Equitorial Guinea, Gabon, Central African Republic, and Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), other member states. In 2017, Cameroon had a population of roughly 25 million people and a per capita GDP of $1,446, though income and wealth are mostly concentrated in Yaoundé the capital, and Douala, the commercial center of the country.
In 2017, Cameroon exported $4.27 billion and imported $5.88 billion, resulting in a negative trade balance of $1.61 billion, according to Massachussets Institute of Technology statistics. Cameroon’s 2017 top exports were Crude Petroleum ($1.34 billion), Sawn Wood ($616 million), Cocoa Beans ($492 million), Bananas ($306 million), and Rough Wood ($219 million). The top export destinations were France ($559 million), China ($488 million), Italy ($392 million), Belgium-Luxembourg ($359 million), and the Netherlands ($356 million). In 2018, Cameroon exported $219.6 million of goods to the United States.
Cameroon’s top imports are Refined Petroleum ($396 million), Special Purpose Ships ($351 million), Rice ($304 million), Crude Petroleum ($220 million) and Packaged Medicines ($195 million). The top exporters to Cameroon are China ($1.06 billion), France ($548 million), the Republic of the Congo ($441 million), Thailand ($275 million), and Nigeria ($253 million). In 2018, the United States exported $196.7 million of goods to Cameroon.
President Paul Biya has ruled the country since 1982. He was elected for his seventh consecutive term in October 2018 in an election considered to be flawed. Freedom House considers Cameroon to be “Not Free.” As of 2019, the country has seen attacks from Boko Haram in the Far North Region, the continued presence of refugees from the Central African Republic in its East Region, and a violent separatist movement in the Anglophone Northwest and Southwest Regions. These combined security challenges will dampen economic growth over the short and medium term.
Despite these challenges, Cameroon remains one of the most stable countries in the region. It is strategically located between Nigeria, a market of 186 million people, and the oil-rich CEMAC region with 50 million potential consumers. Cameroon has the potential to serve as a hub for major regional energy and transportation infrastructure projects for the region.
In June 2017, Cameroon entered a three-year, $666 million Extended Credit Facility with the IMF due to the twin shock of low oil prices and security issues. The IMF program aims to address Cameroon’s "efforts to restore external and fiscal sustainability and lay the foundations for sustainable, inclusive and private sector-led growth." An early May 2019 IMF review team noted that "structural reforms to increase investment efficiency reduce contingent liabilities of public enterprises and support private sector development will support the growth outlook going forward."