Cameroon’s economy suffers from factors that often impact underdeveloped countries, such as stagnant per capita income, a relatively inequitable distribution of income, a top-heavy civil service, endemic corruption, continuing inefficiencies of a large parastatal system in key sectors, and a generally unfavorable 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.
The Internet penetration rate was 20% in 2017. The ICT sector in Cameroon contributes only about 3.5% of GDP, which is low for the region. Mobile broadband based on LTE was established at the end of 2015 and this has been the catalyst for a fast-developing mobile broadband sector. The national infrastructure includes cable, microwave radio relay, and tropospheric scatter.
Cameroon was for many years one of the few countries in Africa with only two competing mobile operators, MTN Cameroon and Orange Cameroon. After some delays, Nextell Cameroon majority-owned by Viettel) launched a third network in late 2014, including the country’s first 3G mobile service. The operator has grown swiftly, signing up more than three million subscribers and claiming a 16% market share. Competition in 3G followed in early 2015 when both MTN and Orange launched services. The investment programs among operators over the next few years will considerably boost mobile broadband services in rural areas of the country, many of which are underserved by fixed-line infrastructure. Fixed-line penetration in the country is extremely low, and the privatisation of Camtel’s fixed-line business has failed several times. Given these condition, fixed-line services are relatively insignificant in terms of internet connectivity. The telecom regulator in Cameroon is Agence de Régulation des Télécommunications.
Cameroon’s market-based, diversified economy features oil and gas, timber, aluminum, agriculture, mining and the service sector. Oil remains Cameroon’s main export commodity, and despite falling global oil prices, still accounts for nearly 40% of exports.
The IMF continues to press for economic reforms, including increased budget transparency, privatization, and poverty reduction programs. The Government of Cameroon provides subsidies for electricity, food, and fuel that have strained the federal budget and diverted funds from education, healthcare, and infrastructure projects, as low oil prices have led to lower revenues.
Cameroon devotes significant resources to several large infrastructure projects currently under construction, including a deep seaport in Kribi and the Lom Pangar Hydropower Project. Cameroon’s energy sector continues to diversify, recently opening a natural gas-powered electricity generating plant. Cameroon continues to seek foreign investment to improve its inadequate infrastructure, create jobs, and improve its economic footprint, but its unfavorable business environment remains a significant deterrent to foreign.
Camtel is the leading national telecommunications and Internet service provider in Cameroon. The company is busy building its network, including access to a CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) network; digitization of the country’s telephone exchanges; and optical fiber along the highway between Douala and Yaoundé, and between Kribi and Lolodorf.