Poverty is a common, complex, and invasive world phenomenon. Generally, it refers to a socio-economic condition of a person or country facing lack of adequate access to basic survival needs. Wherever there is poverty, one observes negative effects on the physical and mental living conditions of people. From every angle, those who suffer from poverty cannot afford easy access to basic needs of life and services such as food, shelter, clothing, potable water, healthcare, electricity, education, decent jobs, and sanitation. Today, many people around the globe are compelled to sleep hungry, live under bridges or in precarious settlements, dress wretchedly, die of curable diseases, and drink untreated water from rivers or wells, light households with bush lamps, and drop out of school before completing primary education.
Some striking features of poverty comprise low dietary intakes, low levels of education, low spending on public goods, low life expectancy at birth, high marginal propensity to consume, and high rates of infant mortality. In urban centers, poverty accounts for about 55% of the population, lower degree of urban poverty compared to rural poverty stems from the relatively high access of city residents to social amenities such as education, healthcare, potable water, electricity, shelter, and sanitation. On the average 65% of the population in Africa lives in poverty, thus making the phenomenon a big challenge to the continent.
The Republic of Cameroon is located in Central Africa, and share borders with Nigeria, Chad and the Central African Republic, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea. Classed as a lower-middle income country, Cameroon has struggled with political corruption and economic stagnation, in part due to centuries of being subjugated to western colonization. In fact, in 1998 Cameroon was deemed the most corrupt country in the world by business monitor Transparency International, and in 2015 the same monitor classed Cameroon has 130th out of 168 countries. Although Cameroon has natural resources, such as oil and gas, and minerals to export, its poor governance has hindered its speed in development and its ability to attain international investors.
The economic situation and recent political instability manifests in an estimate of 24 percent of its 20 million population under the poverty line and a $3,300 GDP per capita. The high poverty rate in Cameroon also stems from the population growth, which has outpaced the rate of poverty reduction. In 2017, it was recorded that an estimate of 60 percent of Cameroon’s population is under 25 years of age. Currently, Cameroon’s northern region has seen an influx of refugees from Nigeria and an estimated 7,500 internally displaced Cameroonians. This population flux is caused by the insurgent group Boko Haram’s low-intensity war on its borders. According to the World Bank, approximately 56 percent of Cameroon’s poor live in the north and far north regions. The four regions of Adamawa, East, Nord and Far-North Regions are the least developed regions of Cameroon and have the worst indicators in terms of access to safe drinking water, stunting and wasting, health and education. The Far North of Cameroon is the poorest region with three-quarters of the population living on less than 1.5$ a day; i.e. under the poverty threshold.
Causes of Poverty in Cameroon
The factors holding Cameroon back are complex. Budget austerity and general governmental inefficiency are at the heart of many of the country’s development headaches. Cameroon suffers from weak governance, hindering its development and ability to attract investments. Cameroon ranks 130th out of 168 countries in the 2015 Transparency International corruption perceptions index and ranks 172nd out of 189 economies in the 2016 Doing Business Report. These confounding factors have a crippling effect on the improvement and expansion of modern, secure infrastructure and established a business climate unfriendly to major investors. Thus, a country with impressive natural resources, including high value-added agricultural products like coffee, cotton, and cocoa, is struggling to effectively harness its economic potential.
The varied and fertile landscape of Cameroon enables 70% of the population to earn its living from agriculture and farming. The country is the world’s fifth-largest cocoa producer and has seen sectors outside of its long-established oil industry become the driving forces in the growth of its economy. While modest gains in the agricultural and tertiary sectors have pushed the economy, rich mineral reserves remain untapped, partially due to an infrastructure power deficit.
Poverty Statistic of Cameroon
Poverty rate at $1.9 a day 24%
Poverty rate at $3.2 a day 45%
Rural poverty rate 56.8%
Urban poverty rate 8.9%
GINI index 46.5 points
Income share held by lowest 10% 1.7 %
Income share held by highest 10% 35 %
Rural and Urban Poverty
Rural poverty and urban poverty differ on many levels, with distinctive, environment-based issues that characterize quality of life. The IMF reports that 63 percent of Cameroon’s population impoverished live in rural areas education, health care and sanitation are all lacking in rural environments. This causes many of the rural poor to move to cities, which often leads to a rise in urban poverty.
Cameroon as in most other developing countries indicate that poverty is most prevalent in rural areas. Studies have indicated that, in 1999, 20-30 percent of the population in Yaoundé and Douala lived in poverty compared to over 60 percent in rural areas. Nearly 80 percent of rural households lacked access to electricity compared to 20 percent of urban households. Rural households are also far less likely to have access to potable water and adequate health services, and children are less likely to continue their studies through secondary school. Nevertheless, rural families enjoy many advantages insofar as they grow their own food and build their own housing, and thus have less need for monetary income.
The rural poor are divided into further subsets based on profession: typically, cultivators who own land and noncultivators who do not. Cultivators are slightly better off, as they are able to make some money operating farms and charging tenants for using their land. Noncultivators, however, are extremely poor, working as seasonal laborers on farms. Their pay is both low and erratic, as it is based on the schedules of farm owners and the other few employers available. The rural poor often suffer more than the urban poor because public services and charities are not available to them.
Several factors tend to perpetuate rural poverty. For example, political instability and corruption, customs of discrimination, unregulated landlord/tenant arrangements and outdated economic policies often make it impossible for the rural poor to rise above poverty lines.
While generally considered less severe, urban poverty provides the poor with a host of separate issues. The World Bank found that urban populations in developing countries are growing rapidly, at a rate of 70 million new city-dwellers per year. Former residents of rural areas are typically drawn to the city for the perceived wealth of economic opportunities, but often, those dreams fall short.
Different classes of varying income levels inhabit the urban areas. A large civil servant class is primarily stationed in Yaoundé, Douala, and provincial capitals. Civil service salaries have fallen from the levels enjoyed prior to Cameroon’s recession, but they are still higher than the average Cameroonian income. Many urban dwellers make a living from informal sector activities such as shop keeping, street vending, construction, etc. Basic foods are easily available and generally inexpensive, so famine is rarer than in neighboring countries. City dwellers usually live in cooked-brick, cement-block, or adobe housing and most have access to electricity. Cameroon’s cities house the upper-class officials from both public and private enterprises, whose lifestyles are comparable to those in developed countries.
While generally considered less severe, urban poverty provides the poor with a host of separate issues. The World Bank found that urban populations in developing countries are growing rapidly, at a rate of 70 million new city-dwellers per year. Former residents of rural areas are typically drawn to the city for the perceived wealth of economic opportunities, but often, those dreams fall short
The feminization of poverty is a concept that is applicable in both urban and rural settings. Women in both rural and urban areas face a higher risk of poverty and more limited economic opportunities than their male counterparts. In Cameroon, the number of rural women living in extreme poverty rose by about 50 percent over the past twenty years. Women in rural poverty live under the same harsh conditions as their male counterparts, but experience additional cultural and policy biases which undervalue their work in both the informal, and formal economic sectors.
The 2009, World Survey states that “women play an active role in agriculture and rural livelihoods as unpaid family labour, independent farmers and wage labour, often without access to land, credit and other productive assets.” Women’s contribution to the rural economy is generally underestimated, as women perform a disproportionate amount of care work, work that often goes unrecognized because it is not seen as economically productive. Though in some nations, cultural and societal norms prevent women from working outside the home, in other countries, especially in rural communities in Africa, women work as major food producers, improving household food and income security.
Poverty: Gender Disparity; Here we picture the disparity that exists between income, occupation, level of education and gender in order to know whether they influence poverty.
Table 1: Gender and Occupation
Impact of poverty on the population
Poverty brings about a myriad of complications. The effects usually depend on the kind of poverty in question.
Absolute poverty results in extreme hunger, starvation and malnutrition. People become vulnerable to preventable diseases such as cholera, dysentery and tuberculosis, with no access to health services and medications. Death rates rise. Relative poverty on the other hand, forces people to engage in behaviors that expose them to diseases such as HIV Aids. Whiles they may not starve to death, they may be living on unhealthy foods, which ultimately weaken their immunity and expose them to diseases.
Relative poverty may cause people to indulge in social vices such as drugs, prostitution and petty crimes as a means to meet their immediate needs. In many developing countries, political leaders and rebel leaders take advantage and recruit young people, (especially those in relative poverty) to fight for their interests, in return for food and basic needs. These young folks feel vulnerable if they do not comply, as they have no other way out of their situation.
People in absolute poverty simply cannot afford food, water and shelter. They are not healthy enough to undertake any economic activity. They cannot send their young to school and the youth cannot get any skills. This results in economic breakdown of the community, which directly affects the larger region where they are. Further to that, those in relative poverty, who have a bit of training or education, are forced to move out (migrate) in search of better lives in the cities. This deprives the rural areas of the man-power and makes their situation worse. As they migrate into the cities, the end up in slums, increase populations and put pressure on amenities in the cities.
Other plagues associated with poverty:
Alcohol & substance abuse, this is a very common self-destructing habit often taken as a way to cope with huge amounts of stress and despair;
Crippling accidents due to unsafe working environments (machinery in factories or agriculture) as well as other work hazards such as lead poisoning, pesticide poisoning, bites from wild animals due to lack of proper protection;
Effects on society as a whole
In the end, poverty is a major cause of social tensions and threatens to divide a nation because of the issue of inequalities, in particular income inequality. This happens when wealth in a country is poorly distributed among its citizens. In other words, when a tiny minority has all the money.
Impact on children
• Poverty is also associated with a higher risk of both illness and premature death.
• Children born in the poorest areas of Cameroon weigh, on average, 200 grams less at birth than those born in the richest areas.
• Children from low income families are more likely to die at birth or in infancy than children born into richer families.
• They are more likely to suffer chronic illness during childhood or to have a disability.
• Poorer health over the course of a lifetime has an impact on life expectancy: professionals live, on average, 8 years longer than unskilled workers.
Consequences for the environment
If there is any common association of poverty with bad environment, it’s probably because of those pictures of children running around in Douala and Yaoundé in waste dumps. Those toxic places prove very harmful to the poor, who actually tend to reuse, recycle or resell whatever they can find in there, thus getting us rid of that dangerous garbage.
Good governance and good management of resources remains the best way to tackle both problems of environment and poverty. It’s in fact quite ironic that thanks to poverty and the very low levels of consumption it implies, the extent of the damage done to the environment and the depletion of natural resources have been relatively limited. It’s only with the rise of China, India and other BRICs that rich countries have started worrying about limited resources for everyone and problems of over-consumption and energy efficiency.
Fighting Poverty in Cameroon
To be quite specific, the most important instrument to fight poverty in Cameroon is through good governance and good management of resources which is the best way to tackle endemic poverty.
Furthermore, the World Bank believes further economic expansion and sustainable poverty reduction in the country can best be achieved through a commitment to targeted programs and efforts aimed at improving governance at the central and sectoral levels. The strategy seeks to bring increased coordination and transparency on governance-related issues and to foster competitiveness and service delivery across the country.
Cameroon has successfully implemented programs that have increased the primary education completion rate to 71% and has pushed gender equality, notably through the school enrollment rate for girls. These successes demonstrate the potential positive impact of effectively implemented development programs. Through cooperation with and commitment to World Bank strategies and other development efforts, the country of Cameroon should, in the not too distant future, experience real success in the fight against poverty and economic underachievement.
Boosting Electricity Production
The World Bank is helping the Government boost access to electricity. Electricity generation capacity has increased through the Kribi Gas Power Project. This has resulted in an expansion of generation capacity by 216 MW. The planned second phase is expected to increase the generation capacity to 330 MW by 2016. IDA is supporting the development of the Lom Pangar Hydropower project. This project will contribute to the unlocking of the hydropotential of the Sanaga River (up to an estimated 6,000 MW). The IBRD Electricity Transmission and Reform Project is under preparation and will aim to improve the capacity, efficiency and reliability of Cameroon’s national electricity transmission network.
Enhancing Regional Trade and Integration
The CEMAC Transport and Transit Facilitation Project is a regional IDA project totaling $680 million, of which $409 million (62 percent) has been earmarked for Cameroon and focuses on two main transit corridors: Douala-N’Djamena and Douala-Bangui. The project has reduced the average transit time for imports from exit at the port of Douala to N’Djamena and dwell times at the port of Douala.
Improving Agricultural Competitiveness
The current World Bank engagement in the agricultural sector consists of two IDA-financed lending operations: (i) the Agriculture Investment and Market Development Project ($100 million in IDA funds and $25 million in IFC funds) to help transform low-productivity, subsistence-oriented cassava, maize, and sorghum subsectors into commercially-oriented and competitive value chains in four agro-ecological zones; and (ii) the Livestock Development Project ($100 million from IDA) aims to improve productivity, market access, and the livelihoods of small livestock farmers in target agro-ecological zones, including pastoralists in the Far North.
Developing Rural Areas and Improving Social Services
The multi-donor, IDA-funded Community Development Program Support Project is an important instrument used in the implementation of the Government’s rural development strategy. The project assists the Government of Cameroon in setting up and implementing a decentralized financing mechanism to ensure participatory community development in rural areas and improve access to basic social services. The program has generated strong local support from the towns and communities involved. The project has accomplished the following: helped improve school infrastructure around the country, provided 270,000 people with access to potable water, and improved the access of 20,000 households to roads and basic social services.
Better Access and Quality of Health Services
The ongoing Health Sector Support Investment Project targets district-level activities, providing financial resources and a performance-based incentive system to boost outcomes in health facilities across 26 districts covering a total population of 2.5 million. The management tools used within the PBF framework engendered behavioral change among health staff and thereby assisted health facilities in improving governance and efficiencies in their use of financial resources generated through service delivery. An impact evaluation of the PBF pilot was completed in 2016, showing significant improvements in the utilization and quality of essential health services (for example, the percentage of children fully vaccinated increased from 47 percent to 88 percent in PBF facility catchment areas).
Improving the Quality and Efficiency of the Education System
The implementation of the Education Development Capacity Building and Education for All Fast Track Initiative (EFA-FTI) grant on education supported a number of activities to improve equity and quality of learning in the sector.
The Equity and Quality for Improved Learning Project is supporting the transition from teachers financed by parents in public schools to Government contract teachers, providing trainings to the existing and contract teachers and providing learning materials.
To help Cameroon achieve zero hunger, WFP will work with the Government to establish long-term interventions to improve the resilience of vulnerable communities in Far North, North, Adamaoua and East regions. Community resilience-building will involve mutually reinforcing livelihood interventions to stabilize community productivity and nutrition, reduce post-harvest losses, improve gender and social inclusion and promote market opportunities for smallholders. These interventions will be reinforced by an emergency response capacity using social safety nets to support displaced people and refugees and protect host communities’ long-term investments in resilience. After a crisis, WFP will return to supporting long-term resilience. Following an emergency in a stable locality, it will transition to early recovery.
WFP will extend its partnership with the Government to establish data monitoring and accountability systems for emergency preparedness and response, and will partner United Nations agencies, especially the Rome-based agencies, and other non-State actors.
This country strategic plan supports achievement of the following strategic outcomes:
Populations affected by disasters, including refugees, internally displaced persons and host populations in Far North, North, Adamaoua and Eastern regions, have safe access to adequate and nutritious food during and after crises.
Vulnerable households in protracted displacement and communities at risk in chronically food-insecure areas have safe year-round access to adequate and nutritious food, and increase their resilience to shocks.
Children aged 6–59 months and vulnerable women and men in food-insecure prioritized districts have reduced malnutrition rates in line with national standards by 2020.
Food-insecure smallholders, especially women, in priority districts of Far North, North, Adamaoua and Eastern regions have sustainably increased incomes to enhance their self-reliance and livelihoods and improve their productivity by 2020.