Douala: the vocation of a regional center

Porto de Douala

Douala is the largest city in Cameroun — previously known as Cameroon –and the main economic and commercial center of the country. It is a port city and nowadays, there are over 3 million inhabitants, due to its dynamism it attracts enterprisers and businessmen, traders from all over the African continent, Europe and Asia. It became the favorite place for setting up national and foreign companies. The excitement of the commerce and the popular markets, as products are sold from all over Central Africa, it has also ended up attracting artists and restorers, making Douala reunite the best of Senegalese, French, and Asiatic cuisine in Cameroun, as well as musicians who become known as Cameroon instrumentalists and become Afrojazz musicians, singers, and Cameroon bass players of international fame.

The Port of Douala has consolidated its vocation as the commercial center of the region and, besides all the in-transit interchange; the city hosts the largest popular marketplace in Central Africa. Buyers from Gabon, Chad, Nigeria, Congo-Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic, and the merchants from Benin, Ghana, and Guinea flock to the streets to buy from the street market tents supplying their countries with agricultural foodstuffs produced in Cameroun or imported goods. The Port of Douala is thus, the first point of sales for the route of merchandise distributed to all neighboring countries, spreading the goods from the port city to the Central African hinterlands.

Douala is responsible for about 60% of the GNP of Cameroun, the Regional capital of the seacoast, exhibiting the statute of the largest commercial center known as the “CEMAC Zone” — a group of countries in the Central African region which has adopted a single currency, the CFA Franc, under the coordination of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). The surrounding region of Douala also welcomes the newly created Cameroun agroindustry startups: vegetable oils, tropical fruit juices, dairy products, and diverse manufacturers, such as: laminated products and tiles, building materials, cement, and basic metallurgic plants.

The outskirts of the city reflects the effervescence of the commerce and flux of people, buyers and sellers, popular transport vehicles, shops, and street vender stands, composing the raw material — colors, movements, sounds, looks, bodies, fabrics, and multicolor African clothing, including shouting and local languages (over 250 different languages throughout the country!) — inspiring the eyes of painters and photographers who seek to capture the rich pulse of the African continent.

Douala hosts touristic spots portraying not only the presence of diverse cultures (the “pagoda” of King Ndumbe and the star of King Akwa), for example, the departure of the colonizers (ranging from the Departure Monument to General Leclerc). In the first week of December, the city celebrates “Ngondo”, the traditional festival and ritual of the Sawa people, on the riverbanks of the Wouri River, where the canoe race occurred with the young Sawas competing, proclaiming their strength and entrance to maturity. The festival is a visual spectacle of colors and painted designs on traditional men’s garments and especially the women’s Kabas.

Douala will host, if the ongoing negotiations are successful, the BRT implementation project that will be designed and planned and thereafter built by a group of Brazilian construction companies.