History Of Douala And Yaounde Cultural Studies Essay

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Douala city is found at the coastal region of Cameroon precisely Littoral Province of Cameroon. Douala was discovered in about 1472 by the Portuguese and it has become a site of a city formed by strangers or immigrants from the interior of Cameroon and other neighboring countries. This city was known as the Cameroon town before it became under the German rule in 1884.It was also the capital of German Cameroon by (Purity Njeru 2007). The city of Douala is lies along the banks of the river wouri, the either sides are located by the two important places the Douala Bridge, "The Wouri Bridge", and the main stock exchange market of the country. This city posed some of colonial, traditional, and modern architecture making the city a complex one. The city growth rate of the city became very rapid in terms of demography after the Second World War. The demographic rate was estimated to be 2.5 million people who were termed the fastest growing rate of urbanization. (Chebo K. Asangwe 20004.)

Douala city is the largest city in the country and it is also the economic and commercial capital of Cameroon. It is the country's import and export and export town thus it serves the country's source of revenue. It is the country's industrial centre. Couple with training schools industrial, research institutes for health and the country's commercial university.


Yaoundé is the country's second largest city of the country and has an estimated population of 1,433,000 in 2006. It is the capital city of Cameroon and lies in the centre of the country at about 750 meters above sea level. (Purity Njeru 2007) Yaoundé is situated on the hill and forest plateau of Nyong and Nsanaga Rivers. It maintain a population of over 300,000, including representatives from most of Cameroon's 180 ethnic groups and about 10,000 foreigners (Jane I. Guyer1987) It also has few of the country's industries next to Douala. Yaounde city was founded in 1888 by the German traders as a base for the ivory trade and n agricultural research station (Purity Njeru 2007). This city is the best in the country in terms of modern infrastructure and town planning especially around the central town and with Governments Ministerial buildings

These cities are the most populated in the country because of their attractive businesses and other social amenities and employment opportunities. Rural urban migration seems to be so rampart in these cities and thus making the cities to have an ugly side growth. Therefore this paper will seek to look at the in flock of people to these cities and the government measures to redress the degenerating state of the cities.

The Characteristics that make Yaounde and Douala a City

Job Opportunities;

These cities offer the highest level of employment chances to the Cameroonian citizens; Douala has an estimated population of 2.5 million city dwellers, fastest growing rate of urbanization. (Chebo k Asangwe 2006). The availability of the only sea port of the country which is the sole entering port of goods through and from the country creates income earning opportunities for most Cameroonians. Job opportunities, and high wages as compared to other cities in the country attracted many job seekers thus causing urbanization... Draw especially young people unemployed in their rural and traditional areas to these cities like Yaounde and Douala. The youths in the rural areas who work in family plot without wages prefer to move to cities in search for a "better life". Thus looking for a better life is a means to make ends meet, to get better housing and to increase their living standard, this makes the rural in flock to these cities very rampant. Urban growth (ie, the rate of urbanization) has been extremely rapid since the Second World War as over urbanization. (Josef Gugler, William G.Flanngan 1978). Douala and Yaounde offer job opportunities to all categories of people, the educated and the uneducated, jobs that need skill labor and unskilled labor. The educated are those employed in the modern sectors like banking, accouters, secretaries, managers, manufacturers, just to name a few. While the uneducated are involved in clearing jobs around public buildings, markers, roads, transportation of finished goods to the markets for sale.

Modern Infrastructure

Douala and Yaounde own most of the sophisticated and magnificent buildings in the country well structured and planned towns with accessible roads to each corner of the cities. The government administrative buildings are the most modern architecture in the country with about fifty to eighty flours. This attract most people in the rural areas to move to the cities in order to move to cities, "just the historical grand tour of Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, people with the means and inclination to do so have been drawn to towns and cities just to visit and experience a multiplicity of things to see and do pilgrims in the cities like Canterbury". (Karski 1990:15.). Douala and Yaounde have both become cities of attraction for other towns of Cameroon thus people visit these cities just for sight seeing and to have fun with friends and families.

Social Amenities

Douala and Yaounde offer most of the country's social amenities; they have one of the best hospitals in the country. All these hospitals serve as reference hospitals to the most complicated cases around the country. Educationally, these two cities have the country's best educational training and professional schools from primary to University levels, vocation, technical and general education. Social places for relaxation like football stadium, Douala and Yaounde had the largest stadiums in the country. During international and national competition people from rural areas flock in to these cities to watch games. With all these social facilities this has made Douala and Yaounde cities.

Factors that caused Rural Urban Migration

The reasons why people move from rural areas to urban areas varied. Rural urban migration depends on an individual it is a notion that can only be defined by the individual concerned. Most people in the rural areas migrate to urban areas because they believe life in the village seemed stagnant to them. They "demanded more stimuli and yearned for modern life with bigger crowds access to novelties such as walkman, radios and music tapes, fancy cloths and money in their pockets" Johnathan Baker and Paul Ove Pedersen (2000) .The jobs in the rural areas are poorly paid thus they are attracted to the heavy paid income in urban areas..

Family reunion: most of the rural urban migrants move to cities because they want to meet their spouses. "Migrant women appear to be housewives who accompany their husbands to the cities; these women are not economically active and may even employ "mother's helpers" usually teenage girls from their own villages to help them with house work and child care.( James T Fawcett, Siew- Ean Khoo, Peter C. Smith 1984,137)


Congestion and over Crowding.

This is a major factor that gives the other side of Douala and Yaounde cities ugly. The fact that the cities offer jobs to all genres of people, educated and uneducated, skilled and unskilled labor make the cities very congested and over crowded. With the high demographic growth the space is limited to contain the mass number of immigrants flocking in every day. With the hardship of these cities there is shortage of housing since the infrastructure cannot contain all the city dwellers. Most people from the same rural areas are bound to have mutual reinforcement where they can inhabit the same locality and where they can own housing.( Aidan Southals 1973). Especially the urban poor who rely heavily on their own personal networks based on kinship, caste, village and religion of origin. Hence group that share a common identity tend to cluster together in residence. (James T Fawcett Siew-Ean Khov, Peter C. Smith 1984). This is very typical of the Bamileke immigrants who have occupied the area of Douala city known as "New Bell" where under a roof with poor sanitary condition two to five families live. Thus the living condition of its inhabitant's present a strong contrast to great wealth created in the industrial zone. For example in relation to housing problem there is an average of 6 person per dwelling 20 percent the house lack drainage (Nanneke Bedclift and Enzomingione 1985). Therefore you may find a house with thirty persons living in a two bed room house. This gives a very ugly and dead picture of what is termed a city.

The fact that Yaounde and Douala cities serve as a ground where one can survive in so far as you can fight the hardship of a city life, giving the fact that communication net work is very poor and slow, bad roads and limited public transport, the fastest and cheapest means of communication the use of "Bensi Skin" the use of Motor bikes. This job is mostly done by school dropped outs and unemployed University graduates. The streets of Douala and Yaounde are crowded with Ben Skins which caused circulation very slow usually called "Amboutiage". The worst story about this means of communication is that they registered the highest level of accidents per year. The problem of congestion and overcrowding in these two cities has made the cities a horrible and ugly place to move around.

High Criminal Rate-Insecurity

Despite numerous police stations in the cities of Yaounde and Douala, there still exist high criminal rate and insecurity. The City dwellers who can not afford to have a job ands lacks money to set up a small business to fend for their lives end up engaging themselves in social ills like prostitution, theft, and forged identities. Thus life in cities is very insecure because heartless and jobless who make life stealing and killing.

During the economic crisis of the 1980s in Cameroon, the vulnerability of this process of wage labor, formation was exposed and its instability as a base for urbanization was demonstrated. The insecurity of workers in important dependent industries was exposed when the bottom fell out of the oil boom, there was a mass redundancy and real wages fell so much that an extra job on the side. (Johnathan Baker and Poul Ove Pedersen 2002) like prostitution, and banditry. This make the cities of Douala and Yaounde a living but a death place, people living in total fear because of social insecurity and high spread of diseases like AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases since many female laid out of work could only sell their bodies to fend for themselves and their families.

Lax of Government Policies

The fact that the cities of Douala and Yaounde have "a laissez faire" government altitude where people are allowed to build wherever they want without following or respecting the government's town and city planning map. People even build on public spaces, houses are even constructed and abandoned uncompleted in the heart of the cities making the cities look like a ruined area of war. For example in urban Cameroon, in the administrative centre of Yaounde stands unfinished building which have remained for years gathering soot and grimes after its construction was brought to a halt by the staggering economic crisis of the mid-80s and 90s. For well over decade, it serves a refuge for thieves and the homeless. (Dominique Malaquais's Article Course Reader 2009). This building is right at the middle of the city of Yaoundé and it has an inscription on it "Immeuble de la Mort" the house of the death which creates a fear for the city dwellers as a place of danger and death giving the city of Yaounde a ugly and frightful picture.

Social Disorder

Yaounde and Douala cities are marked by social disorder and chaos, city dwellers do carry on their activities irrespective of cultural law. Law to them is a thing far fetch. Just like in other African cities Douala and Yaounde have limited space for its dwellers thus they find no option than to abandon their religion and cultural values to survive. They use the public cemetery for many uses for example those who have got no homes use the cemetery for their homes at night. These cemeteries are also used as a place for money making by the unemployed like the case of the cemetery in Kinshasa in Professor (Filip De Boek Invisible Kinshasa 2009) course Reader where young well as the old see it as a business place where money can be made. There exist mysterious killing in the cities of Yaounde and Douala "mysterious killing in the cities suggest that some of these may have been kidnapped and murdered for ritual purpose. Murder for money (Jane I Guyer, LaRay Denzer Adigun Agbaje 2002 ) these cities have been come a dreadful place, people live in total fear a contrast of what is meant to be a city.

Waste Disposal and Pollution

These are the fundamental factors that give an ugly view to the cities of Douala and Yaounde. In Africa especially in Cameroon traditionally villages grow into town and cities, the authorities simply pick up the rubbish and dump it on the road side at the edge of he built up area. (Richard E. Stren and Rodney R. White 1989). In Douala and Yaounde part of the road sides are covered with waste from kitchen and even dead animals, this waste is not been covered and at times it caused traffic jam since it is a continuous dumping of waste which have formed small mountains at the road side. This gives an ugly picture of the city space. Also these cities are characterized with all types of pollution, sound pollution and environmental pollution etc. A city like Douala is constructed on a level sandy ground this makes the drainage system very poor, because of its marshy nature water can no be easily absorb into the ground thus waste water from toilets, kitchens and industries are seen flowing in sallow gutters along the road sides. This is a very big problem to the dwellers because they are often attacked by air and water born diseases like cholera, malaria and other diseases.


As Africa's urban areas grow in population and land areas at historically unprecedented rates, governments face increasing pressures to provide efficient services and effective infrastructure, and to coordinate and manage a wide range of public and private sector activities at the local level. The pressure are becoming even more compelling in the (1980s Richard E. Stren 1989). The Ministry of Urban and Town planning and her policy of urban and cities reconstruction is trying to improve in national housing systems, urban management. Marshy areas in the cities are reclaimed and government structures are set up to reduced congestion and to improve the living condition of citizens' by creating accommodation. Marshy land has been reclaimed at Messa in Yaounde and thousands of Cities dwellers are occupying these houses at very cheap and affordable prices. thus reducing the rate of unemployment.

Still under government policy people who were occupying areas owned by the government or shanty houses built at the heart of the cities and incomplete houses in the cities are destroyed by the Ministry of Urban and town planning and new modern buildings are reconstructed. Giving the cities a neat and beautiful scene, special structure and modern infrastructure are built with same color painting making the buildings to have a unique and uniform color. Before an individual builds a house in the city of Yaounde, he has to obtain permission form the Ministry of Urban and town planning in order to respect the government plan of the town. Also in accordance with the government policy each Municipality in each city like Yaounde and Douala urban Delegates are doing their best to give their cities what they deserve. In seeking to secure urban environment conducive to efficient enterprise and good governance, they have tried to institute politico administrative systems for urban management and regulate urban land use (Halfani 1996, Rakodi 2002: 46, 67, 68, va 2002 Course Reader 2009/2010). This government policy has helped to map the cities roads and roads are constructed in all parts the city so that there is easy accessibility to all part of the cities reducing traffic jams in the cities. Pedestrian paths are constructed no more mix up of people and cars on the same path. Houses built 2 meters from the main roads are demolished making the streets airy and spacious. Houses built along the street should be modern and neat, no more shades along the roads sides, no more small set up businesses along the street, new markets are constructed where all the traders along the streets can sell their goods. This has given the cities of Yaounde and Douala a free, secured and a beautiful place. No more congestion in many parts of the streets except for commercial areas.

The Ministry of Urban and Town planning couple with couple with the Ministry of transport are doing a great job in communication net work in the cities of Douala and Yaounde. The construction of impressive transport and communication networks, the new technology is admired and fetishes, promoting the myth of progress and modernizations an automatic means of producing a better society.( Course Reader 2009/2010). Major roads in the cities are renovated port holes are filled, drainage systems are constructed so that water can not longer stand on the road causing port holes. Inter quarter roads are also constructed linking one part of the city to another.

The Ministry of Public Health together with the Municipalities of the cities of Douala and Yaounde called "Communes" are working Hand in glove to keep the cities neat and health for its city dwellers. They are essentially involved in three areas public cleaning and urban planning, social services such as public health, education and sport. The "Communes" have exclusive powers to collect and treat household refuse. (Richard E. Stren and Rodney R. White 1989).They have set up a company called HYSACAM responsible in clearing all the rubbish on the road sides, cleaning of public spaces like the markets hospital and schools. Trash cans are kept at all corners of the roads where pedestrians often used. Individuals are also supplied with trash cans that are collect twice a week. This rubbish is recycled for agricultural use like manure; the cities of Yaounde and Douala do not no longer carry a flirty face since the areas where garbage was deposited has been transformed to flower gardens given the cities a beautiful and enjoyable place to live. Public toilet are constructed all over the cities where people can answered their nature call unlike before where people do it just at the road sides polluting the whole area. Abandonment of bad cars are removed from the road side for recycling, public parking spaces are provided with very minimum rate for the average Cameroonian.

Government sport complex are built all round the cities for relaxation and to fight stress, good Counties are also set up around the busy areas of the cities where one can have a snack and a cold drink at any time of the day with clean and modern services.

Trees are planted along the road sides giving comfort to pedestrians during hot weather, small shades are also constructed by the Communes along the high ways were people can sit and wait for their taxis, Police checked points have also increased in the cities to check and track down criminals thus, there is much more security moving in these cities for the past three years.

The Impact of the City Dwellers

In Cameroon the informal sector of the economy is handled by the city dweller. "Call Box" a new form of self employment .Call Boxes have sprang up around the cities of Yaounde and Douala where people are involved in telephone businesses. This an informal sector of the economy where people are self employed with their little capital just to earn a living. They set an umbrella at the corner of each main commercial area where people move in and out. Call made is just 75 franc CFA this business is mostly done by women and young girls. This existence of Urban informal economic opportunities have given other predisposing conditions to a considerable increase in the volume of female migration resulting in shifting sex ratios in the cities and migration pattern( Carynnk- Sinclair 1974.)

Giving the fact that communication net work is very poor and slow, bad roads and limited public transport, the fastest and cheapest means of communication is the use of "Bensi Skin" the use of Motor bikes. This job is mostly done by school dropped outs and unemployed University graduates. The streets of Douala and Yaounde are crowded with Ben Skins which is the fast means of circulation since the roads are very bad. They are very helpful in these cities because the poorest Cameroonian can afford this means of transportation.

Because of employment, most of the city dwellers involved themselves in informal activities which imply low direct income and the absence of indirect income health housing, and social security benefits. Informality is also identified with illegality like banditry, prostitution; and even cultic practices to earn a living.(Nanneke Redclift and Enzo Mingione 1985). In Douala especially cultic practice have taken the orders of the day many city dwellers who can not find a job and need to make ends meet prefer to have quick money. National newspaper carried a cover story titled "Murder for Money" describing how ritual killers were spreading agony in the country. The Murders seem to coincide with a phenomenal emergence of nouveax riches amid the country's ongoing economic hardship (Jane I Guyer, Laaray Denzer, Adigun Agbaje 2002)


Cities in Africa presented an odd picture to those who were accustomed to the character of urban areas in Europe and America. (Josef Gugler and William G. Flanagan1978) .The fact most government of most African countries do apply regional balance development most people move from rural areas to cities to enjoy the facilities that are not in the village. Thus causing congestion and over crowding giving the cities an ugly picture. People prefer the villages which is more calm and safe free from pollution of all sorts. The government of Cameroon and its strategy of making the cities have its true definition have improved the face of the cities, by improving on the communication network, sanitary, and housing problem