OIM CamerounCameroon : Migration profile


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Number of pages : 128
Format : Softcover
ISBN: 978-92-9068-563-0
Language of Publication: French
Year of Publication: 2009

In Cameroon, current migration flows take the form of a general movement from the countryside to the cities, on the one hand, and a tendency to emigrate to Europe, particularly France, on the other.

The country also serves as a destination for migrants, because of its relative political stability and socio-economic potential, even though it is losing its attractiveness. Migration therefore seems to be rather balanced in Cameroon, given that, according to the United Nations Population Division, the net migration rate (per 1,000 persons) was zero during the 1995-2000 period, – 0.1 during the 2000-2005 period, – 0.2 for the 2005-2010 period and – 0.1 for 2010-2015 (UNPD, 2008).

Immigration into Cameroon

Immigration into Cameroon, which registered an upward trend in the 1970–1980 period (143,611 immigrants in 1976 and 257,689 in 1987), has been on a constant decline since then, with the number of immigrants estimated at 228,383 in 2000, 211,880 in 2005 and 196,570 in 2010 (UNPD, 2009). It would therefore appear that Cameroon’s attractiveness has progressively declined.

In 2007, immigrants came essentially from neighbouring countries: the Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria (DRC, 2007).

It is difficult to obtain further information about the types of immigrants concerned because of the lack of detailed information in this regard. The scope of the informal economy makes it difficult to efficiently manage migrant workers and thus obtain proper knowledge of their numbers and characteristics. The lack of data is all the more significant since the household surveys (ECAM I and II), conducted in 1996 and 2001, did not deal with the migration issue. The results of the last census (2004), which was intended to provide specific indications, are still not available.

However, information on the presence of refugees and asylum-seekers in Cameroon is available. By virtue of its geographical position (bordering almost all countries of the subregion) and its political stability, Cameroon seems to be the preferred destination for many people fleeing from wars in their countries of origin or residence. In 2007 and 2006, refugees in Cameroon essentially came from Chad (40,500), the Central African Republic (24,000) and Nigeria (3,000). The total number of refugees and asylum-seekers was estimated at 71,200 in 2007 compared with 58,800 in 2006 (USCRI, 2008; Ndione and Pabanel, 2007). Moreover, data from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2008 indicated the existence of 81,037 refugees and 2,231 asylumseekers (UNHCR, 2009). This significant variation between the two periods is due to the conflict situation prevailing in the Central African Republic and Chad.

Cameroonian emigration

Cameroonian emigrants were estimated at 170,363 in 2007. France – with 38,530 migrants – is the preferred destination of Cameroonians, followed by Gabon (30,216), Nigeria (16,980) and the United States (12,835) (DRC, 2007).

According to the partial data compiled by the African Affairs Directorate of the Ministry of External Relations of Cameroon, between 250,000 and 300,000 Cameroonians lived in the Gulf of Guinea States between 2000 and 2004, essentially because they belong to the same ethnic groups and geographical area (Chouala, 2004).

The majority are long-term migrants given that 40 per cent reside in their country of emigration for over ten years, and 16 per cent for a period of five to ten years (OECD, 2008).

Compared with other countries of the Central African subregion experiencing unrest (Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo), Cameroon does not have many refugees. They were estimated at 11,833 in 2007. Concerning asylum-seekers, after reaching a peak of 6,289 in 2003, their number progressively declined during the following years to around 2,933 in 2008, mainly in Europe (Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland) (UNHCR, 2009).

Cameroon has a significant number of highly skilled emigrants. In 2000, 17 per cent of the Cameroonian population with a higher education emigrated (Docquier and Marfouk, 2005). During the 1995–2005 period, 46 per cent of Cameroonian doctors and 19 per cent of nurses emigrated to selected countries (Clemens and Pettersson, 2007). According to the Cameroon Medical Association, 4,200 Cameroonian doctors, mostly specialists, are working abroad. Only 800, that is 1 for 10,000 to 20,000 inhabitants, are left in the cities, with 1 for 40,000 to 50,000 in the distressed areas. It is believed that 20,000 African nurses and doctors emigrate to countries of the north every year (Pigeaud, 2007).

Factors leading to migration

Migration in Cameroon can be explained by several factors that deter potential immigrants and reduce migration flows into Cameroon, and cause the departure of Cameroonians. Indeed, like most developing countries, Cameroon has been experiencing development difficulties since the 1980s due to poverty, economic crisis, soaring population growth, external debt burden, the poorly controlled urbanization of cities and adjustment policies that are often not suited to the national situation. The analysis of poverty indicators shows a 55 per cent incidence of poverty among the population in 2007, which is far from the objective of 25 per cent that the State is expected to achieve by 2015 (INS, ECAM III, 2007).

Cameroon has average human development, with a human development index ranging between 0.500 and 0.779 (UNDP, 2004 and 2006).

These various reasons explain the new migration trends of the rural populations towards the cities, from the cities to countries of the subregion and finally to other continents, mainly Europe, with the key objective of migrants being to improve their living conditions.

The consequences of migration on Cameroonian society

Migration in Cameroon has an impact on the national economy. Indeed, the transfer of funds by Cameroonian emigrants helps fight poverty.

According to the World Bank, the amount of remittances from Cameroonian migrants was estimated at USD 103 million in 2005, that is 2.5 per cent of official development aid. The amount of funds transferred is constantly increasing. Estimated at USD 11 million in 2000, it rose to USD 103 million in 2004 and USD 167 million in 2008. This amount represents 0.8 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (World Bank, 2009).

Remittances are personalized and used for medical care, school fees, rent payments or the purchase of consumer goods.

These transfers stimulate the country’s economic activity by replacing credit and other financing methods and facilitating the initiation of projects and other income-generating activities. Remittances significantly reduce the foreign exchange losses caused by deficits in the balance of payments.

Cameroonian migration also has an impact on the labour market. The increase in the transfer of funds led to the expansion of the banking system and the multiplication of banks and money transfer companies, thus generating thousands of jobs. For example, since its creation about ten years ago, Express Union, a local financial company, has opened more than 200 agencies around the country and in the subregion. It generates close to 5,020 jobs (interview with an Express Union employer, 2008).

The darker side of emigration is that it leads to brain drain. According to statistics provided by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in 2005 Cameroonian migrants in European countries numbered 57,050. Some 42.3 per cent of these are thought to be highly qualified. This phenomenon specifically concerns doctors and academics.

The policy framework and migration management challenges

A review of the migration management policy framework in Cameroon has been under way since 2008, with respect to security policy, the transfer of migrant funds, issues concerning diaspora (transfer of skills), return policies, brain drain and the irregular migration phenomenon.

The most recent law within this framework which essentially relates to the regulation of migration flows is Act No. 97/012 of 10 January 1997. It sets the conditions of entry, stay and return of foreigners in Cameroon (Sindjoun, 2004).

The priority, for both the new national migration policy and the programmes being drafted, is support for co-development. Cameroon therefore relies on diaspora and its human and financial investment capacity for the country’s development by creating incentives, even though Cameroon is at the initial stages of programmes aimed at mobilizing diaspora.

To date, the effective implementation of decisions taken within the framework of the regulation of migration flows by Cameroon is hindered by a certain number of shortcomings and inconsistencies. These elements contribute to weakening the authorities’ policy framework and encourage the development of individual strategies that enable migrants to move more easily within the national territory delimited by borders that are poorly demarcated and porous (Mbogning, 2004).

These elements are as follows:

- A policy that overly focuses on security aspects: Other types of problems concerning employment, development and health are increasingly evident and require solutions. In its new approach, the migration policy provides that, in addition to security problems, aspects related to development, diaspora, the transfer of funds, the youth employment policy, brain drain and co-development should be taken into consideration.

- The administrative individualism that characterizes the Cameroonian public service and the absence of rigorous coordination: It is worth noting, however, that Cameroon has an inter-ministerial working group on migration and development issues. Since the migration issue is cross-cutting, this committee brings together various Cameroonian ministries. Each ministry is responsible for identifying themes relating to migration and sending its contribution to the Ministry of External Relations, which is responsible for formulating the new Cameroonian migration policy framework. However, the Cameroonian system suffers from the fact that ministerial meetings and inter-ministerial sessions are rarely convened, and from the lack of permanent inter-ministerial committees on the regulation of migration flows (Mbogning, 2004).

- The insufficiency of mobilized resources: Indeed, the country does not have enough means for the close supervision of borders.

Data gaps

It was difficult to collect data for the preparation of this profile because much information did not exist, or was out of date, lacked precision and was not broken down. The difference in the definition and calculation method from one study to another revealed that the statistics provided by different sources, on the same information, do not correspond.The confidentiality of some information and its availability also created problems.

There is a need to undertake further studies in order to generate more information, to computerize data collection and to systematize data processing.

These problems will be dealt with and solutions found with the advent of greater understanding and political will to facilitate this work.