15 Facts about Cameroon (plus a little extra)

2 August 2017
[:en]This is Mercy Ships first ever field service in Cameroon and we couldn’t be more excited to meet the Cameroonian people, learn about their culture and help bring free healthcare to those most in need. Cameroon is located in Central Africa, the countries neighbours are Nigeria and the Atlantic Ocean to the west; Chad to the northeast; the Central African Republic to the east; and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of the Congo to the south.

How much do you know about Cameroon? Here are 15 facts plus a little extra about everyday interactions.

  1. Both English and French are official languages.
  2. Cameroon is called Cameroun in French, Kamerun in German, Camarões in Portuguese, and Cameroon in English. The country’s name derives from camarões, meaning ‘shrimps’, so called by the 15th-century Portuguese explorer Fernando Po who named the River Wouri Rio dos Camarões (‘shrimp river’), after the many shrimps.
  3. Population: 24.36 million.
  4. Cameroon is the world’s 53rd-largest country. It is slightly larger than the nation of Sweden and comparable in size to Papua New Guinea.
  5. There are 2 surgical specialists (surgeons, anesthesiologists, and obstetrics) per 100,000 persons (2013)
  6. There are 3 hospital beds per 1,000 persons (2010).
  7. There are 8 physicians per 10,000 persons (2013).
  8. Cameroon has one of the lowest life expectancy in Sub-Saharan Africa at 58.5 years (50 of which are healthy life years according to the WHO). Furthermore, its under-five mortality and maternal mortality rates are some of the highest in the world (122 deaths per 1,000 live births and 596 deaths per 100,000 live births).
  9. Maternal mortality is one of the highest in the world, 596 deaths per 100,000 live births[ii] only 7% of births are attended by skilled health staff.
  10. With over 200 different linguistic groups across 10 regions, all with varying climates from northern deserts to tropics along southern coastlines, this 475,442 sq. km East African nation is located southeast of Nigeria. Situated along the coast is Douala, the main port city and further inland is its capital city, Yaoundé.
  11. Cameroon’s Chief of State is its president, Paul Biya, who was elected president and has since served and consecutively been reelected to this position since November 1982. The Head of Government is Prime Minister Philemon Yang who was appointed by the president in 2009. Cameroon next presidential election is scheduled for October 2018. Beginning in 1996, Cameroon’s presidents serve a seven-year term.
  12. Oil remains Cameroon’s main export commodity. These oil resources and favorable agricultural conditions provide Cameroon with one of the best-endowed primary commodity economies in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  13. Popular sports of Cameroon include Football (Soccer) tennis. boxing. basketball. cycling. netball. handball. swimming.
  14. Meaning of the flag: The centre stripe is thought to stand for unity. Red is the colour of unity, and the star is referred to as “the star of unity.” The yellow stands for the sun, and also the savannas in the northern part of the country, while the green is for the forests in the southern part of Cameroon.
  15. Animals of Cameroon: Cross River gorilla, black colobus, mustached monkey, black rhinoceros, Rumpi mouse shrew, humpback whale, forest warbler, African elephant, cheetah, West African manatee.

Meeting and Greeting in Cameroon

  • Cameroonian greetings vary between the Francophone and Anglophone areas.

  • In both areas, men shake hands with each other.

  • In the Francophone south, close friends may embrace while brushing cheeks and kissing the air along with a handshake.

  • In the Anglophone north, close friends have a unique handshake in which, as they pull their hands back they snap the other person’s middle finger with their thumb.

  • As a sign of respect men often lower their head and avert their eyes when greeting someone superior to them in age or position.

  • Some Muslims will not shake hands across genders.

  • Since this is a hierarchical society, elders are greeted first.

  • Women tend not to look the other person in the eye even if it is another woman.

  • Greetings should never be rushed.

  • It is important to take time to inquire about the person’s family and other matters of general interest during the greeting process.