Cameroon - Infrastructure, power, and communications

Cameroon's infrastructure is partially developed, but inadequate investments have allowed some resources to deteriorate and lack of adequate infrastructure has impeded economic development in certain areas. Cameroon has developed a network of hydroelectric power stations that provide most of its electricity, while the telecommunications sector, previously stifled by government

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Cameroon 7 163 32 N/A 0 N/A N/A 0.00 20
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Nigeria 24 223 66 N/A 0 N/A 5.7 0.00 100
Gabon 29 183 55 N/A 8 0.4 8.6 0.02 3
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE : World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

monopoly , has recently seen a surge in investment. Privatization of the state electric, water, and phone companies is expected to stimulate further investment in infrastructure.

Cameroon's road system is partially developed, but many rural roads are heavily eroded and poorly maintained. The road network covers 34,300 kilometers (21,266 miles), only 4,300 kilometers (2,666 miles) of which are paved. Most provincial capitals are accessible through decent roads, but many rural areas are more difficult to reach, while mountainous terrain and annual torrential rains seriously degrade the road system in many areas. During 2000-2005, several major projects are expected to pave over 800 kilometers (500 miles) of roads and improve transportation links with Chad and the C.A.R. During 1999-2000, the European Union and France allocated over CFA Fr35 billion to road construction and maintenance projects. In the long term, the government has prepared a 15-year investment plan to pave 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) of roads.

A railroad links the port facilities in Douala to the capital city of Yaoundé and continues to the northern city of Ngaoundéré. In addition to serving Cameroon's capital city, this railway transports goods between Douala and Chad and the C.A.R. Under public management, investments were limited and the railroad experienced frequent breakdowns until 1999, when the government railroad, Fercam, was renamed Camrail and sold to 2 foreign companies, Groupe Bollore of France and Comazar of South Africa. These 2 companies planned to invest nearly US$50 million in infrastructure improvements. With increased traffic in materials for the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, Camrail hoped to raise its annual cargo from 2 million to 2.5 million metric tons.

Douala is one of Africa's largest ports, with annual traffic exceeding 5 million metric tons. In addition to serving Cameroon's interior regions, Douala also serves as a principal port for Chad, Congo, and the C.A.R. Douala has long been plagued by problems of slow, costly services and widespread corruption but, under pressure from the World Bank and the IMF, the government has begun drafting plans to reform Douala's port services. These reforms had not yet been clearly defined by 2000, but it is expected that management of certain port services will be privatized. In the longer term, Cameroon is planning to develop other port facilities in Limbe, Kribi, and Garoua. The port in Douala is not deep enough for the larger ships that are expected to carry an increasing share of sea cargo, but Kribi is more suitable for such traffic.

Cameroon has 3 international airports, in Douala, Yaoundé and Garoua, as well as 8 smaller airports with paved runways. The national airline, Cameroon Airlines, provides services between Cameroon and several neighboring countries, while Douala and Yaoundé are also served by several international airlines with connections to Paris and several cities throughout Africa.

Cameroon consumes approximately 3 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year, most of which is provided by hydroelectric power. The country's electricity grid is mainly confined to urban areas and industry consumes over half of the power supply. The state electricity company, Sonel, has not invested in any infrastructure improvements for over a decade, but when Sonel is privatized its managers are expected to improve infrastructure and develop a wider customer base over coming years.

Telecommunications are quite limited, but are expected to develop more quickly as the sector is liberalized . In 1999, Cameroon had less than 90,000 telephone lines, giving a telephone density of less than 6 phones per 1000 people, but licenses have now been granted to several cellular telephone companies and Internet service providers. The number of cellular and Internet users is still small, but is growing rapidly. Two cellular companies, 1 French and 1 South African, have invested in cellular networks and are competing aggressively to sign up clients.

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