Cameroon's estimated 250 ethnic groups form five large regional-cultural groups: western highlanders (or grassfielders), including the Bamileke, Bamoun, and many smaller entities in the Northwest (est. 38% of population); coastal tropical forest peoples, including the Bassa, Douala, and many smaller entities in the Southwest (12%); southern tropical forest peoples, including the Beti, Bulu (subgroup of Beti), Fang (subgroup of Beti), and Pygmies (officially called Bakas) (18%); predominantly Islamic peoples of the northern semi-arid regions (the Sahel) and central highlands, including the Fulani, also known as Peuhl in French (14%); and the "Kirdi", non-Islamic or recently Islamic peoples of the northern desert and central highlands (18%).
The people concentrated in the southwest and northwest provinces--around Buea and Bamenda--use standard English and "pidgin," as well as their local languages. In the three northern provinces--Adamaoua, Garoua, and Maroua--either French or Fulfulde, the language of the Fulani, is widely spoken. Elsewhere, French is the principal second language, although pidgin and some local languages such as Ewondo, the dialect of a Beti clan from the Yaounde area, also are widely spoken.
Although Yaounde is Cameroon's capital, Douala is the largest city, main seaport, and main industrial and commercial center.
The western highlands are the most fertile in Cameroon and have a relatively healthy environment in higher altitudes. This region is densely populated and has intensive agriculture, commerce, cohesive communities, and historical emigration pressures. From here, Bantu migrations into eastern, southern, and central Africa are believed to have originated about 2,000 years ago. Bamileke people from this area have in recent years migrated to towns elsewhere in Cameroon, such as the coastal provinces, where they form much of the business community. About 14,000 non-Africans, including more than 6,000 French and 1,000 U. S. citizens, reside in Cameroon.
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2000 est.)
0-14 years: 43% (male 3,326,334; female 3,251,402)
15-64 years: 54% (male 4,181,038; female 4,153,680)
65 years and over: 3% (male 235,741; female 273,742) (2000 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.47% (2000 est.)
Birth rate: 36.6 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)
Death rate: 11.89 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)
Net migration rate: NA migrant(s)/1,000 population
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2000 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 70.87 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 54.82 years
male: 54.01 years
female: 55.64 years (2000 est.)
Total fertility rate: 4.88 children born/woman (2000 est.)
Ethnic groups: Cameroon Highlanders 31%, Equatorial Bantu 19%, Kirdi 11%, Fulani 10%, Northwestern Bantu 8%, Eastern Nigritic 7%, other African 13%, non-African less than 1%
Religions: indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 40%, Muslim 20%
Languages: 24 major African language groups, English (official), French (official)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 63.4%
female: 52.1% (1995 est.)