Cameroon (also spelt Cameroun) is an independent republic with a democratic government which lies on the Gulf of Guinea and forms part of the West Central African Region.

The capital city is Yaounde. Other major cities are Douala and Nkongsamba and the port of Limbe.

The official languages are French and English although the majority of the population lives in the francophone areas. The local currency is the CFA-franc. (US$ / CFA Franc – current exchange rate).

About 60% of the population are employed in the agriculture sector, although fuel and related products constitute more than 50% of exports. Timber is also a major export. The main commercial crops are cocoa, coffee, tobacco, cotton, and bananas. Other commercially grown crops are rubber, palm products, and sugarcane. Subsistence crops include cassava, corn, plantains, sweet potatoes and millet.

Telephones are available only to business and government. Domestic access to telephones is available only through cable, microwave radio relay, and tropospheric scatter. South African cellular service provider, MTN, has indicated that it intends installing Informix-based cellular systems in Cameroon.

The international time zone for Cameroon is Greenwich – 1 and the international dialling code is +237. There are a number of international airlines, which fly to Cameroon. The international airport is at Douala and there are regular connections to Yaounde. As at September 1995 all nationals except visitors from Germany require visas in order to visit Cameroon.

The Cameroon oil industry is one of the key elements in the economy of the country. In particular the upstream oil industry is a major source of foreign exchange accounting for 40% of the country’s exports. The downstream oil industry is also well-developed with 6 international oil companies involved in the marketing and distribution of petroleum products. Refined products are procured from the country’s Sonara oil refinery.

Electricity is provided by the parastatal utility Societe Nationale d’Electricite (SONEL).

In 1989 economic reforms were imposed by the IMF and World Bank. The reforms which included privatisation, structured adjustment and decreases in public expenditure proved ineffectual and unpopular.

In August 1997 the IMF signed a loan to Cameroon for $219 million. The loan was in aid of an enhanced structures adjustment facility (ESAF) with the intention of promoting privatisation and parastatal entities in Cameroon. In 1998 a $180 million loan was secured from the World Bank to promote reforms in the transport, finance, public utilities and forestry sectors.

Malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, hepatitis A, meningitis, typhoid fever, yellow fever, schistosomiasis and dengue fever may be contracted while travelling in Cameroon. Travellers should be aware that advance payment for medical services may be required. Prescription medicines should be carried in their original containers together with the prescription. Vaccinations should be obtained before entering Cameroon and a yellow fever vaccination certificate issued within the last ten years is required by all visitors.

Shaun Bakamoso

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