The former French & British parts of Cameroon merged in 1961. The country is about the size of California, or slightly smaller than Spain and covers around 474000 sq km bordering with the Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Nigeria.
The climate varies with terrain from tropical along the coast to semi-arid and hot in the north. The countryside is diverse with coastal plain in the south west, dissected plateau in the centre, mountains to the west, and plains in the north. Fako, on Mt Cameroon which is still an active volcano, is 4095 m high, the country's highest point.
The population is around 17,340,000 and consists of 230 or so different ethnic groups speaking 24 major African language groups plus the official languages of French and English. Religious beliefs range from indigenous - 40%, Christian - 40%, and Muslim - 20%.
Cameroon's diversity is often described in the phrase 'Africa in one country.'
Population estimates explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected.
Natural resources include petroleum, bauxite, iron ore, timber, and hydro power.
Cameroon produces coffee, cocoa, cotton, rubber, bananas, oilseed, grains, root starches; livestock; timber and manufacturing includes petroleum production and refining, aluminium production, food processing, light consumer goods, textiles, lumber, and ship repair.
Current environmental issues are prevalent water-borne diseases, deforestation; overgrazing; desertification; poaching; and overfishing.
Cameroon has one of the best-endowed primary commodity economies in sub-Saharan Africa and it has generally enjoyed stability, which has permitted the development of agriculture, roads, and railways, as well as a petroleum industry. At nearly $25 billion, Cameroon's GDP is higher than more recognised regional economic power houses.
Still, it faces many of the serious problems facing other underdeveloped countries, such as a top-heavy civil service and a generally unfavourable climate for business enterprise. Since 1990, the government has embarked on various IMF and World Bank programs designed to spur business investment, increase efficiency in agriculture, improve trade, and recapitalize the nation's banks.
Despite higher per capita GDP than Ghana or Senegal, Cameroon lags behind in sectors like health and education.
In 2000, the government completed an IMF-sponsored, structural adjustment program; however, the IMF is pressing for more reforms, including increased budget transparency, privatization, and poverty reduction programs.
The global slowdown in 2008/9 and the collapse of commodity prices has scaled down infrastructure projects and the Growth forecast for 2009 has consequently been slashed to around 4 percent down from 6 percent. The head of Prescriptor, a Cameroonian financial intelligence firm describes Cameroon as having a diverse economic base with no one thing dominant and.. 'if you put the country put in the hands of people with integrity and transparency, Cameroon would take off.'
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