Economy & Industry

Resource-rich

Cameroon’s oil industry is small compared to many other countries. However, oil exports are crucial for the economy and provide around a quarter of the government’s revenues. Natural gas is also becoming important.

A gas plant and deep sea port are being constructed at Kribi on the coast. A pipeline has also been laid to the port of Kribi to transport oil from landlocked Chad.

Electricity is produced by a number of hydro-electric plants and more are planned. However, many regions of the country are still without a reliable power supply. Three-quarters of the population use wood for cooking fuel.

Village livestock farmers are at the centre of a new project to use manure as a source of cheap bio-gas. Methane is released from decomposing dung. When captured in a purpose-built biodigester, it can be used to run generators, lamps and cooking equipment. Methane capture plants are also being built at waste disposal sites in cities.

Encroaching on the forests

Economic plans

The government’s 'Vision 2035' plan sees the expansion of mining and construction projects as the way forward for economic development and lowering levels of poverty.

As well as diamonds, the country has deposits of aluminium, cobalt, nickel, manganese, iron ore and rutile (a source of titanium). The government wants to encourage investment in mining which will allow for these resources to be exploited further.

However, many of the natural resources are located in areas of rich forest, which are also home to indigenous peoples such as the Baka pygmies – see People & Culture.

Over 5,000 forest dwellers and small farmers have been moved from communities around Kribi, to allow for the clearing of land for the new sea port.

Sustainable use of the land

Tracking the wood

A donor-financed monitoring scheme has been set up in Cameroon to help reduce illegal logging. But though certification schemes on wood are in place, it is difficult to police them.

With its large areas of forest, timber is an important export for Cameroon; it is one of the world’s major suppliers of wood (along with Brazil and Indonesia).

Around 60% of its raw timber is shipped to China and 80% of processed wood goes to European Union countries.

Land for agriculture is also important, although this puts pressure on the forests. Favourable agricultural conditions existing across much of the country allow for the growing of a range of crops - see Climate & Agriculture. Key agricultural exports include coffee, tea, cocoa, bananas, rubber and palm oil.

Because agricultural exports are important to the economy, any dip in world prices for commodities such as coffee and cocoa can cause serious problems to small-scale growers in Cameroon.