Cameroon Travel Information

Photo The former French Cameroon and part of British Cameroon merged in 1961 to form the present country. Cameroon has generally enjoyed stability, which has permitted the development of agriculture, roads, and railways, as well as a petroleum industry. Despite movement toward democratic reform, political power remains firmly in the hands of an ethnic oligarchy.

Cameroon's estimated 250 ethnic groups form five large regional -- cultural groups: western highlanders (or grassfielders), including the Bamileke, Bamoun, and many smaller entities in the northwest (est. 38% of population); coastal tropical forest peoples, including the Bassa, Douala, and many smaller entities in the Southwest (12%); southern tropical forest peoples, including the Ewondo, Bulu, and Fang (all Beti subgroups), Maka and Pygmies (officially called Bakas) (18%); predominantly Islamic peoples of the northern semi-arid regions (the Sahel) and central highlands, including the Fulani, also known as Peuhl in French (14%); and the "Kirdi", non-Islamic or recently Islamic peoples of the northern desert and central highlands (18%).

The earliest inhabitants of Cameroon were probably the Bakas (Pygmies). They still inhabit the forests of the south and east provinces. Bantu speakers originating in the Cameroonian highlands were among the first groups to move out before other invaders. During the late 1770s and early 1800s, the Fulani, a pastoral Islamic people of the western Sahel, conquered most of what is now northern Cameroon, subjugating or displacing its largely non-Muslim inhabitants.

For a quarter century following independence, Cameroon was one of the most prosperous countries in Africa. The drop in commodity prices for its principal exports -- oil, cocoa, coffee, and cotton -- in the mid-1980s, combined with an overvalued currency and economic mismanagement, led to a decade-long recession. Real per capita GDP fell by more than 60% from 1986 to 1994. The current account and fiscal deficits widened, and foreign debt grew.

U.S.-Cameroonian relations are close, although from time to time they have been affected by concerns over human rights abuses and the pace of political and economic liberalization. The bilateral USAID program in Cameroon closed for budgetary reasons in 1994. However, approximately 140 Peace Corps volunteers continue to work successfully in agroforestry, community development, education, and health. The Public Affairs section of the U.S. embassy in Yaounde organizes and funds diverse cultural, educational, and information exchanges.

Important: Travel to Cameroon may require a travel visa. Whether a visa is required for travel depends on citizenship and purpose of journey. Please be sure to review Travisa's Cameroon visa instructions for details. Visa instructions for other countries are available on our do I need a visa page.

Country Statistics

Full country name: Republic of Cameroon
Capital city: Yaounde
Area: 475,440 sq km
Population: 20,129,878
Ethnic groups: Cameroon Highlanders 31%, Equatorial Bantu 19%, Kirdi 11%, Fulani 10%, Northwestern Bantu 8%, Eastern Nigritic 7%, other African 13%, non-African less than 1%
Languages: 24 major African language groups, English
Religions: indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 40%, Muslim 20%
Government: republic
Chief of State: President Paul BIYA
Head of Government: Prime Minister Philemon YANG
GDP: 47.3 billion
GDP per captia: 2,300
Annual growth rate: 4.2%
Inflation: 2.9%
Agriculture: coffee, cocoa, cotton, rubber, bananas, oilseed, grains, cassava
Major industries: petroleum production and refining, aluminum production, food processing, light consumer goods, textiles, lumber, ship repair
Natural resources: petroleum, bauxite, iron ore, timber, hydropower
Location: Central Africa, bordering the Bight of Biafra, between Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria
Trade Partners - exports: Spain 13.4%, China 11.4%, Netherlands 9.8%, Italy 8.9%, France 6.4%, US 5.9%, India 5.7%, Germany 4.8%, Belgium 4.1%
Trade Partners - imports: China 16.8%, France 16.6%, Nigeria 12.3%, Belgium 5.3%, Italy 4.3%, US 4.2%