Celebrated writers originating from Cameroon include Ferdinand Oyono, who was born in Ebolowa, South Region, in 1929 and died in 2010; and Mongo Beti, born in Akométan, Centre Region, in 1932 and died in 2001.
The many Cameroon nationals who have excelled in international football include Samuel Eto’o, African Footballer of the Year in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2010; Patrick Mboma, 2000; Thomas Nkono, 1979 and 1982; and Roger Milla, 1976 and 1990.
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. Cameroon in central Africa is bounded clockwise (from the west) by the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
The country comprises ten regions: Adamaoua, Centre, Coastal, East, Far North, North, North-West, South, South-West and West.
Yaoundé (capital, in Centre Region, pop. 1.81m in 2010), Douala (principal port, in Coastal Region, 2.13m), Garoua (North Region, 573,700), Bamenda (North-West, 546,400), Maroua (Far North, 436,700), Bafoussam (West, 383,200), Ngaoundéré (Adamaoua, 314,100), Bertoua (East, 297,200), Loum (Coastal, 249,100), Kumbo (North-West, 222,600), Edéa (Coastal, 209,600), Mbouda (West, 188,200), Kumba (South-West, 180,000), Foumban (West, 171,600), Dschang (West, 149,300), Nkongsamba (Coastal, 131,100), Ebolowa (South, 129,600), Kousséri (contiguous with Ndjamena in Chad, Far North, 95,100) and Buea (South-West, 59,700).
There are 51,350 km of roads, eight per cent paved. The rail network runs 977 km north–south from Ngaoundéré to Yaoundé, with connections between Douala and Yaoundé, and from Douala to Nkongsamba and Kumba.
Douala is the principal port, Kribi handles mainly wood exports, Garoua on the Benue river is navigable only during the wet season and Limbo-Tiko is a minor port, severely silted up.
International airports are at Douala (10 km south-east of the city), Yaoundé (25 km from city) and Garoua.
Cameroon is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, United Nations and World Trade Organization.
The physical geography is varied, with forests, mountains, large waterfalls and deserts, falling into four regions. At the border of the northern Sahel region lies Lake Chad and the Chad basin; further south the land forms a sloping plain, rising to the Mandara Mountains. The central region extends from the Benue (Bénoué) river to the Sanaga river, with a plateau in the north. This region includes the Adamaoua plateau which separates the agricultural south from the pastoral north. In the west, the land is mountainous, with a double chain of volcanic peaks, rising to a height of 4,095 metres at Mt Cameroon. This is the highest and wettest peak in western Africa. The fourth region, to the south, extends from the Sanaga river to the southern border, comprising a coastal plain and forested plateau. There is a complicated system of drainage. Several rivers flow westwards: the Benue river which rises in the Mandara Mountains and later joins the River Niger, and the Sanaga and Nyong rivers which flow into the Gulf of Guinea. The Dja and Sangha drain into the Congo Basin. The Logone and Chari rivers flow north into Lake Chad.
In the northern Sahel region, there is a long dry season from October to April, with temperatures varying from cool to very hot. Further south, on the Adamaoua plateau, there are sharp drops in temperature at night. In the south the climate is hot and humid, with two rainy seasons, in September/October and from March to June.
The most significant issues are overgrazing, desertification, deforestation, poaching, and overfishing.
There is tropical rainforest (including ebony and mahogany) in the hot humid south, with mangroves along the coast and river mouths. The southern coastal plain and south-east plateau also contain the cocoa and banana farms and the rubber and oil palm plantations. The central region has mixed deciduous and evergreen forest. Above the forest zone are drier woodlands, with taller grasses and mountain bamboos. High in the interior and on Mt Cameroon the grasses are shorter. Further north there is savannah bushland, with trees becoming sparse towards the Chad basin. Forest covers 42 per cent of the land area, having declined at 1.0 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. Arable land comprises 13 per cent and permanent cropland three per cent of the total land area.
The Waza National Park in the north, originally created for the protection of giraffe and antelope, also abounds in monkeys – screaming red and green monkeys and mandrills – and lions and leopards. There are gorillas in the great tracts of hardwood rainforest in the south and east. Some 38 mammal species and 24 bird species are thought to be endangered (2012).