23, September 2019
The challenge of inequality is at crisis levels in many of Africa’s oil producing countries. According the NJ Ayuk, author of Billions at Play, a small but growing number of people are becoming rich in the sub-region, whilst the vast majority are denied the most essential elements of a dignified life, including quality education, healthcare and decent jobs, despite remarkable economic growth driven by extractive industries.
In chapter 16 of the book, Ayuk gave a substantial coverage on “Managing Oil and Gas Revenue”, According to him “Cameroon, for example, also has had a case of “disappearing” oil revenue. Since oil was discovered in Cameroon in 1977, approximately USD20 billion has been paid in oil rents—but only 54 percent of the money appeared in the government budget.
And how has Cameroon’s resource wealth played out for Cameroonians? There has been some good news on the economic front: During the last decade, the country’s gross domestic product per capita has grown by 4 percent annually, above the global average of 2.6 percent.293 Other figures, however, show oil revenue failing to impact the lives of the people who need help most: 48 percent of the population continues to live below the poverty line.
Healthcare is sparse, and Cameroon’s life expectancy only is 57 years for males and 59 years for females. Some might argue that local poverty and disenfranchisement, particularly in the South-West region of Cameroon, have contributed to the Anglophone crisis taking place. Since late 2017, it has resulted in violent clashes, the deaths of scores of people and the displacement of tens of thousands. The crisis has its roots in African Colonialism and the German colony of “Kamerun” being divided between France and England by the League of Nations following Germany’s defeat in World War I.
In 1960, when Cameroon gained its independence, English-speaking residents were given the option of joining the French-speaking portion of Cameroon or becoming citizens of neighboring Nigeria. They voted to stay, but since that time, have described unfair treatment, with education, roads, and healthcare in their western region of the country being neglected—despite the production of tens of thousands of barrels of oil per day in the South West, an English-speaking region.
Some English-speakers want their grievances addressed, while others are calling for a more extreme solution: the creation of an independent state which they refer to as “Ambazonia.” English-speakers have complained about the unbalanced distribution of revenue from natural resources. Their concerns resonate strongly with me: I am from the Manyu division in the South West region.
These grievances are valid. We aren’t producing jobs at the rate we should, and the private sector is suffering from high taxes, corruption, and red tape. Millions of young Cameroonians don’t have healthcare. Children and teenagers are senselessly being killed. I believe the only way out is a conversation that includes all of the people involved, all of the stakeholders. All of the country’s residents should be treated with dignity, justice, and equity”.