Economy

Basic Economy. The country is basically self-sufficient in food, although the distribution of food is variable. Seasonal famines occur in the arid north. Per capita gross national product (GNP) was $610 in 1996. From 1990 to 1996, the GNP declined and it has shown slight increases since that time. Cameroon has a trade surplus but is burdened by debt. Agriculture, including the production of food and cash crops such as coffee, cocoa, and cotton, employs almost two-thirds of the labor force. Many people produce mainly for themselves, selling the “surplus” at local markets.

Land Tenure and Property. Among the Fulani, land is inherited patrilineally. In the Grassfields, land is held by fons, with use rights devolving to specific patrilineages and matrilineages. Throughout the country, the privatization of land tenure is increasing. Access to private land titles depends on money, understanding of the bureaucracy, and connections. Women, the main producers of food crops, are often at a disadvantage when land is privatized.

Commercial Activities. In the towns, there are grocery and dry goods stores. Restaurants and bars, taxis, and domestic labor involve an increasing proportion of the labor force.

Major Industries. Major industries include mining and aluminum processing, forestry, and the manufacture of beverages. Petroleum is a significant source of national income.

Trade. Wood, coffee, cocoa, cotton, and palm oil are the principal exports. The trading partners are France, Nigeria, the United States, and Germany. Principle imports include consumption goods; semifinished goods; minerals; industrial and transportation equipment; and food, beverages, and tobacco.

Division of Labor. The division of labor is determined largely by formal education (for civil servants) and gender. There is some specialization by ethnic group such as herding by Fulani, the butchering and meat trade by Hausa, and transportation by Bamiléké.