YAOUNDE (Reuters) – Cameroon, a haven of relative stability in
turbulent Central Africa, could face social unrest due to slow growth
and stubbornly high poverty levels, the World Bank warned on Monday.
The Bank is forecasting Cameroon's economy will grow by 2.9 percent
next year after two percent in 2009, anaemic rates by the standards of
a continent with a surging population and some of the lowest income per
capita levels in the world.
"Cameroon's growth achievement is disappointing and the country is
off-track for meeting most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),"
it said in a report on a set of internationally agreed poverty
"Under-employment is extremely high … with risks of social unrest
and instability," said the document, obtained by Reuters in the capital
It attributed the weak growth to factors including the impact of a
decade of fiscal austerity, poor governance and unequal distribution of
public services including healthcare between urban and rural areas and
As an illustration, it noted there was one doctor per 583 people in
President Paul Biya's home South region compared to one doctor per
20,662 in the North.
The percentage of the population classified as living in poverty
stoood at 39.9 percent, barely changed from the 2001 level of 40.2
percent, while around one-third of children were described in the
report as "chronically malnourished".
Surrounded by countries such as Chad and Central African Republic, Cameroon has enjoyed a reputation for stability.
However, that was interrupted in 2008 by anti-government urban riots
over high fuel and food prices and a bid by Biya to extend his then
Human rights groups said more than 100 people were killed as
security forces sought to put down the riots. The government put the
death toll at something over 40.
Last week the World Bank's vice president for Africa told Reuters
she was disappointed by Cameroon's failure to make use of debt relief
and urged deep reforms aimed at securing an annual growth rate of seven
percent a year.
Obigieli Ezekwesili said Cameroon achieved a milestone in 2006 when
it benefited from relief reducing its debt stock from almost 45 percent
of gross domestic product to five percent.
"Following that milestone, Cameroon was supposed to be in a state to
be able to invest the money … in important sectors like health,
education and important economic infrastructure," she said.
"Unfortunately, that is not what has happened. What has happened is
that Cameroon, unlike countries like Ghana which used the opportunity
to generate strong growth of 5-6 percent, has the whole period been
growing at levels of 2-3 percent on the average, which is well below
expectations," she said.