Case Examples

Country Assessments: Africa

Burkina Faso | Cameroon | Cote D’Ivoire | Ghana | Mali | Namibia | Senegal | Swaziland | Tanzania | Zambia
Information Source: Cameroon: Country Assessment Report.
The World Bank, AFTU 1 & 2. January 2002.
Cameroon Map Location Photo - Cameroon

Context Summary

Cameroon had an estimated population of 15 million in 2000 and annual population growth of 2.7 percent between 1995-2000. From 1978 to 1982, oil represented about 63 percent of total exports, and replaced cocoa and coffee as the leading export. According to the Human Development Index (HDI), Cameroon is ranked 134th out of 174 countries listed by UNDP in 2000.

After independence, Cameroon experienced steady economic growth, social stability, and gradual national unification of the different provinces.

Cameroon’s urban population is approximately 49 percent (7.4 million). There are two major cities: the main port and commercial center, Douala (population 1.4 million); and the administrative and political capital, Yaoundé (population 1.1 million). There is a high rate of urban growth in Yaoundé (6 percent) and Douala (4.9 percent), despite the fact that people are leaving for the main provincial towns because of the present economic situation. In 1988, urban poverty reached a level of 60 percent and about 70 percent of the population was living in unplanned settlements.

The first main urban upgrading project in Cameroon and in sub-Sahara Africa was a multi-sectoral project started in 1984 in the Nylon zone in Douala. In this area, only 6 percent of the houses were built with permanent materials, an estimated 65 percent of residents are not connected to pipe-borne water, and 80 percent are not connected to sanitation facilities. Leakage and overflow from pit latrines and septic tanks has polluted the water table, which supplies water to wells and streams. This zone is vulnerable to flooding and occupied by a population living in precarious houses without formal property deeds. During the project design phase and the first years of its implementation, Cameroon was enjoying a period of considerable prosperity.

In 1986 a serious recession set in. Growth stopped, oil prices dropped, exports of farm produce declined, urban unemployment increased very rapidly, public finance ran out, and domestic and external debt rose steeply. The government could no longer afford project commitments. The WB decided not to extend the implementation period of the project and it was closed in 1994, by which time 62 percent of the available funding had been consumed.

Today projects are integrated into the decentralization framework and are focused on urban development through the implementation of micro-projects (infrastructure, services, facilities, and economic development). Projects no longer require land regulation and legalization as prerequisites. The FOURMI I project and its extension, FOURMI II, are examples of current urban upgrading efforts.


Lessons from Projects - Summary

The Nylon Upgrading Project

It should be noted that the project was not just complex but also a long-term undertaking, designed and initiated at a time of powerful economic growth, continued during the recession, and completed at a time of economic, social, and political crises. It demonstrated the difficulty involved in adopting a broad policy approach with ambitious policy and institutional objectives and a large scope of project activities.

Achievements were mixed:

  • Area significantly upgraded, but high infrastructure standards led to the resettlement of more than 30 percent of the population, mostly lower-income families.
  • Originally designed as a modest effort to provide basic water and sanitation to be sustained through local financing, the project became a major urban intervention that involved the construction of primary infrastructure (a central market stall and primary transit roads) and required ongoing external funding.
  • The WB considered the project largely unsatisfactory and the loan was canceled.

The project succeeded in:

  • proper implementation of community facilities and the proper integration of schools and health centers into the respective sectorial ministries;
  • secondary effects helped to integrate the neighborhood and created a dynamic for progress.

The project experienced partial success in:

  • efforts to promote contractors and small companies which had been severely jeopardized by the economic downturn.

The project failed in:

  • construction of infrastructures; mistaken standards, roads never connected to the rest of the network and not maintained;
  • resettlement and housing improvement, almost all completely abandoned for lack of resources after 1988;
  • improvement of the institutional structures: the organization responsible for implementing the project (ARAN) had almost no contacts with Douala's legally appointed authorities.
  • regularization of land failed because land titles were not given to the population.

Conclusions to be considered in subsequent projects:

  • Urban projects are very sensitive to economic, social, and political conditions. Urban projects must be designed in a more flexible way, defining social objectives, deciding on a financial envelope, and setting up a steering organization that can periodically assess the situation and decide accordingly what it is most sensible to do with available resources.
  • Allowances must be made for the uncertainty of all forecasts.
  • Funding should be restricted to actions that will remain useful in the event that economic conditions evolve more slowly than planned.
  • It is absolutely essential to impose only minimal standards. If improved to a higher quality than other neighborhoods, it will be impossible to avoid land speculation.
  • Major land speculation will occur, with land changing hands, encouraging rising incomes but quite incompatible with the poorest people staying in the area.

Limits of micro-projects - FOURMI Projects

  • Micro projects are too often designed as infrastructure building programs, and the physical aspects of micro-projects can take greater importance than the objective of developing the decision-making powers and management capabilities of the project beneficiaries;
  • Project focus on one partner at the local level and cannot reach the most disadvantaged groups;
  • Projects can only help reinforce local authorities that are well structured. In a great many cases, participation from beneficiaries ends up being limited to some kind of “contribution,” with insufficient attention given to decision-making and managing the projects;
  • Intermediate non-governmental operators are often used, without any clearly defined policy. These operators are often considered to be subcontractors, whereas in fact they are and will most likely become full-fledged partners;
  • The viability of micro-projects is rarely guaranteed, because of the lack of coherence with national and local planning.

For more information:
Click on:
Foreword and Overview
1. Problems and Context
2. Current Situation
3. Policy Context and Institutional Framework
4. Upgrading Projects and Programs
5. Case Study
6. Lessons Learned
7. Challenges and Proposed Next Steps
Annex A: Country and City Profiles
Annex B: Bibliography
Annex C: Contact Information
Annex D: Photographs

Download for Printing:
Download Report (Acrobat PDF file, 17 k)

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