The name Cameroon is derived from the Portuguese word, Camaroes, meaning shrimps. A Portuguese sailor Ferdanando Poo in 1472 arrived at the River Wouri in Douala and discovered so many shrimps in the river that he decided to call it Rio Dos Camaroes (River of shrimps, in Portuguese)… It was from this word that the territory derived is name which is now spelt in various forms: Spanish spelt it Cameroes; Germans, Kamerun; English, Cameroon; and French, Cameroun.
The territory was colonized by the Germans in1884 and after the end of the 1914-1918 war, Cameroon was mandated by the Ligue of Nations to the French and British governments. France took the greater sector, formally known as East Cameroon, while Britain took responsibility over former West Cameroon known then as “Cameroon under British Administration”.
On january 01st 1960 the French Sector became independent under the new name of Cameroon Republic. Following agitation for independence by the Southern Cameroons – before the name was changed to West Cameroon – a plebiscite was held in that sector of Cameroon on February 11th 1961 under the United Nations supervision. The result of the plebiscite which was overwhelming for reunification (233,571 against 97,741) gave Southern Cameroons automatic independence and unification, which was achieved on October 01st 1961. Thus after the reunification of both sectors, the Federal Republic of Cameroon was born.
After a May 20, 1972 referendum, Cameroon became a United Republic and by a Presidential Decree of 1984 it became the Republic of Cameroon.
Location and Geography
The Republic of Cameroon lies midway between west and Central Africa. It stretches from the gulf of guinea in the South West to Lake Chad in the north and lies approximately between 11 degree of latitude (01 80´-13 00N) and Longitude (08 25´-16 20´E)´.
Triangular in shape, Cameroon has a surface area of 475,650KM2 with a 450-KM coastline. It is bounded to the
- South- west and West by the gulf of Guinea (the Atlantic Ocean) and the federal Republic of Nigeria respectively,
- North by Lake Chad,
- North –East and East by the Republics of Chad and Central Africa respectively,
- South by Republic of Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
Cameroon has a unique geographical situation in Africa. It is located in a zone of contact of the different African Geographical regions, that is
- The humid monsoon of West Africa,
- The equatorial dense rain forest of central Africa,
- The wet Savannah of western Sudan, and
- The dry Savannah(Steppe) of North Africa
Each of which brings diverse climatic influences to the Country
The Country also has diversified physical features such as:
- Coastal mangrove plains,
- Central and southern forest Plateau
- Western and mid-Northern Volcanic highlands and plateau,
- Eastern and Northern wet Savannah plains,
- Far-Northern dry savannah (steppe) plains.
While the tropical and sub- tropical and sub tropical wet and dense forest covers an estimated surface area of more than twenty-five (25) million hectares and stretches over five (5) of the countries ten (10) provinces, the rest of the country is covered by wet and dry savannah.
Basic Country Data
The population of Cameroon is young ( 60%) less than 20 years old and only 3.26% above 65 years of age), dynamic and mostly rural ( 70% of the population live in the rural areas). With more than one hundred and forty (140) ethnic groups, the population of Cameroon is estimated at 18 million (2004). Women constitute more than 51% of the population. The countries` annual population growth is estimated at 2.87%, with an average population density estimated at 32.81 persons per kilometer square.
Cameroon is a melting pot of diverse people customs and languages. Though bilingual, with English and French as the official languages, there exist more than 120 local languages resulting from the Country’s ethnic diversity.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL SYSTEM
After a period of one-party system from 1966 to 1990, Cameroon, in the early nineties, reinstituted a multiparty democracy, complete freedom of speech, worship and association. About 25% of the population are Muslims, 35% Christians and 40% animists.. This cultural, linguistic and religious diversity creates harmony in diversity.
The president of the Republic is the head of state. He is elected by direct and secret Universal suffrage for a mandate of seven (7) years renewable once even though the president has of recent proposed a bill for this clause to be amended. As head of state and head of the Executive, he guarantees national independence and territorial integrity and defines national policy. The prime Minister, appointed by the president, is the head of government. Legislative power is in the hands of a parliament which comprise two (2): the 100 members (10 per region) house of senate (still to be created) and the national assembly with 180 members elected for a term of office of five (5) years renewable. Judicial power is vested in the supreme, Appeal and magistrate courts.
Source: Doing business in Cameroon. 2005 Investors guide.