21,700,000 (2012); 53 per cent of people live in urban areas and 20 per cent in urban agglomerations of more than one million people; growth 2.7 per cent p.a. 1990–2012; birth rate 38 per 1,000 people (45 in 1970); life expectancy 55 years (44 in 1970).
The population is ethnically diverse. In the north, the people are mostly Hausa, Fulbé (Fulani), Sudanese and Choa Arab. In the west, the Bamiléké are the biggest ethnic group, followed by Tiker and Bamoun. South of the River Sanaga, there are Bantu groups: Fang, Ewondo, Boulou, Eton, Bassa, Bakoko, Douala. Some pygmies (including Baka) live in the south-eastern forested country.
French and English are both official languages; French is spoken by about 80 per cent of the population, English by about 20 per cent. There are about 240 indigenous languages including 24 major language groups.
Christians about 69 per cent, Muslims 21 per cent and six per cent Animists, while other religious groups including Jews and Baha’is make up less than five per cent of the population (2005 census).
Public spending on health was two per cent of GDP in 2012. There are three referral hospitals, 70 general hospitals, 50 private hospitals, plus a wide network of public and private health centres – some of which are for the treatment of leprosy. Some 74 per cent of the population uses an improved drinking water source and 45 per cent have access to adequate sanitation facilities (2012). Infant mortality was 61 per 1,000 live births in 2013 (151 in 1960). In 2013, 4.3 per cent of people aged 15–49 were HIV positive.
Public spending on education was 3.1 per cent of GDP in 2012. There are six years of compulsory education starting at the age of six. Primary school comprises six years and secondary seven, with a first cycle of four years. School attendance is lower in the Far North Region, where the population is partly nomadic. Some 57 per cent of pupils complete primary school (2010). The school year starts in September. Many secondary schools are bilingual, with instruction in both French and English. Faith schools play an important role in the education system and are partly subsidised by the government.
The public universities are the University of Yaoundé (founded in 1962); University of Douala (1977, Coastal Region); University of Ngaoundéré (1982, Adamaoua Region); University of Buea (1992, South-West Region, English medium); University of Dschang (1993, West Region); and the University of Maroua (2008, Far North Region). The most prominent is the University of Yaoundé, which now comprises two separate universities on several campuses (University of Yaoundé I and University of Yaoundé II). The École Normale Supérieure of University of Yaoundé I is the leading school for teacher education. The many private institutions offering tertiary education include the Catholic University of Central Africa (1989, Yaoundé); Bamenda University of Science and Technology (1995, North-West Region); and Université des Montagnes (2000, Bangangté, West Region). The female–male ratio for gross enrolment in tertiary education is 0.70:1 (2011). Literacy among people aged 15–24 is 83 per cent (2007).
Cameroon Tribune (daily in French and English editions) is the official newspaper. Le Messager is the leading independent daily in French, published in Douala since 1979. Other independent papers include The Herald, Mutations, La Nouvelle Expression and The Post.
CRTV operates the national radio and TV networks. After broadcasting was liberalised in 2000, dozens of private radio stations and several private TV channels were launched.
Some 31 per cent of households have TV sets (2007). There are 11 personal computers per 1,000 people (2005).
Country code 237; internet domain ‘.cm’. There are telephone booths in all towns. Mobile phone coverage is patchy but more extensive in the south.
For every 1,000 people there are 36 landlines, 704 mobile phone subscriptions and 64 internet users (2013).
New Year’s Day, Youth Day (11 February), Labour Day (1 May), National Day (20 May), Sheep Festival (21 May), Assumption (15 August), Unification Day (1 October) and Christmas Day.
Religious festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Prophet’s Birthday, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Ascension Day, Ascension of the Prophet, Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan), Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) and Islamic New Year.