Products and Industry.—Cameroon is rich in natural products, one of the most important being the oil-palm. Cocoa cultivation was introduced by the Germans and proved remarkably successful. Rubber is collected from the Landolphia and various species of Ficus. Palm-oil, palm kernels, cocoa, copal, copra, Calabar beans, kola-nuts and ivory are the principal exports. There are several kinds of finely-grained wood, amongst which a very dark ebony is specially remarkable. Cotton, indigo and various fibres of plants deserve notice. The natives grow several kinds of bananas, yams and batatas, maize, pea-nuts, sugar-cane, sorghum and pepper. Minerals have not been found in paying quantities. Iron is smelted by the natives, who, especially amongst the Hausas, are very clever smiths, and manufacture fine lances and arrow heads, knives and swords, and also hoes. Dikwa is the centre of an important trade of which the chief articles are coffee, sugar, velvet, silk and weapons, as well as gold and silver objects brought by caravans from Tripoli. The natives round the Cameroon estuary are clever carvers of wood, and make highly ornamental figure heads for their canoes, which also sometimes show very fine workmanship. In the interior the people use the wild-growing cotton and fibres of plants to manufacture coarse drapery and plait-work. Plantations founded by German industry are fairly successful. Large reserves are set apart for the natives by government [sic] when marking off the land granted to plantation companies. The best-known of these companies, the Süd-Kamerun, holds a concession over a large tract of country by the Sanga river, exporting its rubber, ivory and other produce via the Congo. The principal imports are cotton goods, spirits, building material, firearms, hardware and salt. The annual value of the external trade in the period 1900–1905 averaged about £800,000. In 1907 the value of the trade had increased to £1,700,000. Some 70% of the import and export trade was with Germany, the remainder being almost entirely with Great Britain. The percentage of the trade with Germany was increasing, that with Britain decreasing.
Communications.—There is regular steamship communication with Europe by German and British boats. On the rivers which run into the Cameroon estuary small steam launches ply. The protectorate belongs to the Postal Union, and is connected by cable with the British telegraph station at Bonny in the Niger delta.
An imperial guarantee of interest was obtained in 1905 for the construction of a railway from Hickory to Bayong, a place 100 m. to the north, the district traversed being fertile and populous. From Victoria a line runs to Soppo (22 m.) near Buea and is continued thence northward. Another line, sanctioned in 1908, runs S.E. from Duala to the upper waters of the Nyong. In the neighborhood of government stations excellent roads have been built. The chief towns in the coast region are connected by telegraph and telephone.
Government Revenue, &c.—The administration is under the direction of a governor appointed by and responsible to the imperial authorities. The governor is assisted by a chancellor and other officials and an advisory council whose members are merchants resident in the protectorate. Decrees having the force of law are issued by the imperial chancellor on the advice of the governor. In Adamawa and German Bornu are various Mahommedan sultanates controlled by residents stationed at Garua and Kusseri. Revenue is raised chiefly by customs dues on spirits and tobacco and a general 10% ad valorem duty on most goods. A poll tax is imposed on the natives. The local revenue (£131,000 in 1905) is supplemented by an imperial grant, the protectorate in the first twenty-one years of its existence never having raised sufficient revenue to meet its expenditure, which in 1905 exceeded £230,000. Order is maintained by a native force officered by Germans.
History.—Cameroon and the neighboring coast were discovered by the Portuguese navigator, Fernando Po, towards the close of the 15th century. They were formerly regarded as within the Oil Rivers district, sometimes spoken of as the Oil Coast. Trading settlements were established by Europeans as early as the 17th century. The trade was confined to the coast, the Dualla and other tribes being recognized intermediaries between the coast “factories” and the tribes in the interior, whither they allowed no strange trader to proceed. They took a quantity of goods on trust, visited the tribes in the forest, and bartered for ivory, rubber and other produce. This method of trade, called the trust system, worked well, but when the country came under the administration of Germany, the system broke down, as inland traders were allowed to visit the coast. Before this happened the “kings” of the chief trading stations—Akwa and Bell—were wealthy merchant princes. From the beginning until near the end of the 19th century they were very largely under British influence. In 1837 the king of Bimbia, a district on the mainland on the north of the estuary, made over a large part of the country round the bay to Great Britain. In 1845, at which time there was a flourishing trade in slaves between Cameroon and America, the Baptist Missionary Society made its first settlement on the mainland of Africa, Alfred Saker (1814–1880) obtaining from the Akwa family the site for a mission station. In 1848 another mission station was established at Bimbia, the king agreeing to abolish human sacrifices at the funerals of his great men. Into the Cameroon country Saker and his colleagues introduced the elements of civilization, and with the help of British men-of-war the oversea slave trade was finally stopped (c. 1875). The struggles between the Bell (Mbeli) and Akwa families were also largely composed. In 1858, on the expulsion of the Baptists from Fernando Po (q.v.), Saker founded at Ambas Bay a colony of the freed negroes who then left the island, the settlement being known as Victoria. Two years after this event the first German factory was established in the estuary by Messrs Woermann of Hamburg. In 1870 the station at Bimbia was given up by the missionaries, but that at Akwa town continued to flourish, the Dualla showing themselves eager to acquire education, while Saker reduced their language to writing. He left Cameroon in 1876, the year before George Grenfell, afterwards famous for his work on the Congo, came to the country, where he remained three years. Like the earlier missionaries he explored the adjacent districts, discovering the Sanaga in its lower course. Although British influence was powerful and the British consul for the Oil Rivers during this period exercised considerable authority over the native chiefs, requests made by them—in particular by the Dualla chiefs in 1882—for annexation by Great Britain, were refused or neglected, with the result that when Germany started on her quest to pick up unappropriated parts of the African coast she was enabled to secure Cameroon. A treaty with King Bell was negotiated by Dr Gustav Nachtigal, the signature of the king and the other chiefs being obtained at midnight on the 15th of July 1884. Five days later Mr E. H. Hewett, British consul, arrived with a mission to annex the country to Great Britain. Though too late to secure King Bell's territory, Mr Hewett concluded treaties with all the neighboring chiefs, but the British government decided to recognize the German claim not only to Bell town, but to the whole Cameroon region. Some of the tribes, disappointed at not being taken over by Great Britain, refused to acknowledge German sovereignty. Their villages were bombarded and they were reduced to submission. The settlement of the English Baptists at Victoria, Ambas Bay, was at first excluded from the German protectorate, but in March 1887 an arrangement was made by which, while the private rights of the missionaries were maintained, the sovereignty of the settlement passed to Germany. The Baptist Society thereafter made over its missions, both at Ambas Bay and in the estuary, to the Basel Society.
- On the 26th of July a French gunboat also entered the estuary on a belated annexation mission.