Cameroon, or Republic of Cameroon, a country in western Africa. It lies just north of the Equator on the Gulf of Guinea and is bordered by Nigeria, Chad, the Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea. Cameroon covers 183,569 square miles (475, 442 km 2 ). Lake Chad lies at its northern tip.
A coastal plain fringes the Gulf of Guinea. Plateaus, generally 3,000 to 4,500 feet (910 to 1,370 m) above sea level, prevail in southern and central Cameroon. Mountains are the dominant features in the northern and northwestern parts of the country. Mount Cameroon, an active volcano near the coast, reaches an elevation of 13,3533 feet (4,070 m). A lowland borders Lake Chad in the far north. The principal rivers are the Sanaga and Nyong.
The climate is tropical but varied, primarily because of the cooling effect of elevation and the vastly differing amounts of rainfall regionally. Monthly temperatures throughout most of Cameroon average about 75° to 80° F. (24° to 27° C.). Considerably higher averages occur in the far north. Annual rainfall decreases from roughly 160 inches (4,060 mm) along the coast to less than 20 inches (510 mm) near Lake Chad. Mount Cameroon, with more than 400 inches (10,160 mm) annually, is one of the rainiest places in the world.
Tropical rain forests occur in the south and mangrove swamps along the coast. To the northeast are savannas, which gradually give way to steppes near Lake Chad. Cameroon has great variety and abundance of wildlife.
Cameroon has one of West Africa's highest per capita incomes. The economy is based mostly on agriculture, accounting for 75 per cent of the labor force. The production of petroleum as well as bauxite for making aluminum are important resources to Cameroon's economy. Cacao beans, coffee, peanuts, bananas, and cotton are the chief cash crops raised by farmers. The main subsistence crops are cassava, corn, yams, sweet potatoes, and millet. Trees are another important resource in Cameroon, providing rubber, palm oil, and timber. Cameroon's chief manufacturing activities are the processing of petroleum products, aluminum products, shoes, soap, beer, cigarettes, and soft drinks. Exported products include aluminum, cocoa, coffee, cotton, petroleum, and timber. Cameroon's chief imported products are transportation equipment and machinery.
Douala is the largest manufacturing center. Cameroon's larger cities and towns are linked by railroads. The Transcameroon railway runs from Douala's to Ngaoundéré through Yaoundé. Most roads in Cameroon are not paved. Douala's seaport handles most of the nation's foreign trade. There are international airports at Douala, Garoua, and Yaoundé.
Cameroon's basic currency unit is the CFA franc.
Cameroon's largest cities are Douala and Yaoundé, the capital.
Virtually all of the Cameroonians are of black African ancestry. The country has about 200 ethnic groups. The largest in south and central Cameroon are various Bantu-speaking peoples, such as the Bamileke, Doula, Tikar, and Pahouian; in the north, the largest are the Fulani and Matahan. Cameroon has two official languages—French and English—but most persons speak indigenous tongues. The principal religions are Christianity (followed by about 40 per cent of the population), animism (about 40 per cent), and Islam (about 20 per cent).
Primary education begins at age six and lasts for six years (seven years in some areas). Secondary education lasts seven years. Cameroon has one of the highest rates of school attendance in Africa; the literacy rate, about 55 per cent, is also high for Africa. The leading institution of higher learning is the University of Yaoundé (founded in 1962).
Under the constitution of 1972, the country is a republic. The government is headed by a president, who is elected for a seven-year term. The president appoints a prime minister, a cabinet, and other officials to help run the government. Cameroon's legislature is called the National Assembly. Its 180 members are elected by the people to serve five-year terms. The chief political party in Cameroon is the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement. The judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court. Cameroon's president also appoints a governor to head each of the country's 10 provinces.