Cameroon - Country Commercial Guide
Market Overview

Discusses key economic indicators and trade statistics, which countries are dominant in the market, and other issues that affect trade.

Last published date: 2021-10-27

Cameroon has experienced steady, but slow growth over the last 20 years.  Per IMF statistics, Cameroon’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrank - 2.8 percent in 2020 largely due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, but is expected to rebound with 3.4 percent growth projected in 2021.  Inflation has been moderate over the same period, as the local currency, the Central African Franc, is pegged to the Euro.  Despite belonging to the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), Cameroon has a negligible trade relationship with Chad, Equitorial Guinea, Gabon, Central African Republic, and Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), other member states. 

In 2021, Cameroon had a population of roughly 27 million people and a per capita GDP of $1,650, though income and wealth are mostly concentrated in Yaoundé, the capital, and Douala, the commercial center of the country.

In 2019, Cameroon exported $5.21 billion of goods and services and imported $6.07 billion, resulting in a negative trade balance of $86 million, according to Massachussets Institute of Technology statistics.  Cameroon’s top exports were crude petroleum ($1.89 billion), cocoa beans ($647 million), sawn wood ($518 million), gold ($454 million), petroleum gas ($404 million), bananas ($266 million), and rough wood ($251 million).  The top export destinations were China ($906 million), the Netherlands ($702 million), Italy ($476 million), United Arab Emirates ($397 million), and India ($381 million).  In 2019, Cameroon exported $302 million of goods to the United States.

In 2019, Cameroon’s top imports were crude petroleum ($346 million), scrap vessels ($332 million), rice ($323 million), special purpose ships ($216 million) and packaged medicines ($169 million).  The top exporters to Cameroon are China ($1.68 billion), Nigeria ($889 million), France ($567 million), Belgium ($334 million), and Thailand ($237 million).  In 2019, the United States exported $191 million of goods and services to Cameroon.

President Paul Biya has ruled the country since 1982.  He was elected for his seventh consecutive term in October 2018 in an election considered to be flawed.  Freedom House considers Cameroon to be “Not Free.”  As of 2021, the country has seen attacks from Boko Haram in the Far North Region, the continued presence of refugees from the Central African Republic in its East Region, and a violent separatist movement in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.  These combined security challenges will dampen economic growth over the short and medium term. 

Despite these challenges, Cameroon remains one of the most stable countries in the Central Africa sub-region.  It is strategically located between Nigeria, a market of 186 million people, and the oil-rich CEMAC region with 50 million potential consumers.  Cameroon has the potential to serve as a hub for major regional energy and transportation infrastructure projects for all of Central Africa

In July 2021, the IMF approved a three-year, $689.5 million hybrid Extended Credit Facility and Extended Fund Facility to respond principally to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and institute macroeconomic structural reforms.  This program follows the completion of a three-year, $666 million Extended Credit Facility the IMF approved in 2017 to address the twin shocks of low oil prices and security issues.