French Cameroon became independent in 1960 as the Republic of Cameroon. The following year the southern portion of neighboring British Cameroon voted to merge with the new country to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. In 1972, a new constitution replaced the federation with a unitary state, the United Republic of Cameroon. The country has generally enjoyed stability, which has permitted the development of agriculture, roads, and railways, as well as a petroleum industry. Despite slow movement toward democratic reform, political power remains firmly in the hands of President Paul Biya. Because of its modest oil resources and favorable agricultural conditions, Cameroon has one of the best-endowed primary commodity economies in sub-Saharan Africa. Still, it faces many of the serious problems confronting other underdeveloped countries, such as stagnant per capita income, a relatively inequitable distribution of income, a top-heavy civil service, endemic corruption, and a generally unfavorable climate for business enterprise. Since 1990, the government has embarked on various IMF and World Bank programs designed to spur business investment, increase efficiency in agriculture, improve trade, and recapitalize the nation's banks.
Microfinance in its traditional form (tontine) dates back more than a century in Cameroon. It started in the formal form in 1963 with the creation of the first savings and credit cooperative ("credit union" or caisse populaire) in Anglophone Cameroon area under the leadership of Dutch missionaries. These credit unions are now consolidated within the Cameroon Cooperative Credit Union League (CamCCUL). Established in 1968, it is the largest network of microfinance institutions in Cameroon. The banking crisis of the late 80s and restructuring that followed led to the liquidation of several banks, the closure of almost all branches of banks in rural areas and small towns, and the dismissal of many executives banks. The latter will, in favor of Act of 1990 on freedom of association, and the 1992 law on cooperative societies and common initiative groups, revert creating many savings and credit cooperatives (Coopec) functioning as quasi-banks. The 90s will experience many innovations and diversifications in the microfinance sector.
Nearly 90% of licensed MFIs in Cameroon are declared or registered under the association or savings and credit cooperative, and are thus governed by the laws No. 90/053 of 19 December 1990 on freedom of association and No. 92/006 of 14 August 1992 relating to cooperative societies and common initiative groups. With the entry into force of the Act Uniform OHADA Law cooperative societies December 15, 2010, cooperative savings and credit are going to adjust their statutes to comply with this Act. Other EMF are either limited companies or projects or foundations. To carry on business as microfinance, MFIs after choosing their legal form, must seek approval from the Monetary Authority (Ministry of Finance), which delivers the assent of the Central African Banking Commission (COBAC), organ of the Central Bank in charge of setting rules, monitoring and supervision of the sector.
In the Strategic Document for Growth and Employment (ECSD), the Cameroonian government has, inter alia, a focus on microfinance as a tool for financing the economy. To consolidate and extend basic financial services, and improve the quality of services provided by the EMF, the Cameroonian government has the following objectives:
to intensify the training of promoters, managers and employees of EMF;
establish a first level of supervision and control by the National EMF monetary authority, consistent with COBAC regulation;
further enhance the monetization of the economy, including the expansion of automation systems payment to EMF.
Already in April 2001, the government issued a national policy statement of microfinance to facilitate access to underprivileged populations appropriate financial services. Since 2012, the monetary authority is committed to a new strategy for the development of the microfinance sector that focuses on the approach of inclusive finance. In this sense, a diagnosis of inclusive finance in the country was made in early 2013. The strategy document is expected in 2013.