Public debt: Cameroon paid $208.7bn in interests and commissions in 9 months, equivalent to 83% of the Lom Pangar dam’s cost

Between January and September 2023, the Cameroonian Treasury settled debts amounting to a total of CFA896.1 billion, according to figures reported by the national sinking fund (CAA). 76.7% of this sum represents the principal (CFA687.3 billion) and the remaining 23.3% covers the interests and various commissions amounting to CFA208.7 billion, averaging at CFA23.2 billion monthly.

These charges alone constitute 83% of the CFA240.9 billion dedicated to the construction of the Lom Pangar dam, a reservoir with a capacity of 6 billion cubic meters, recognized as the most strategically important energy infrastructure in Cameroon.

In detail, CFA642.7 billion was used for the settlement of external debt, with 73% representing the principal. Here, the interests and commissions totaled CFA173.5 billion for the first nine months of 2023, averaging CFA19.2 billion monthly. The CAA noted that “all deadlines for the external debt service were duly met.”

However, the rating agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s downgraded Cameroon’s sovereign rating in July 2023 citing delays in external debt settlements. This downgrade conveyed a negative signal for the country in the international capital markets.

High risk of over indebtedness

Regarding domestic debt, Cameroon made repayments totaling CFA253.4 billion, with “CFA216.3 billion for the principal, while CFA37.1 billion is allocated to interests and commissions”. The major portion of this sum likely went to the public securities market, where Cameroon has become more active since 2019 in terms of fundraising. According to the CAA, the country’s dynamism in this market justifies the 3.1% increase recorded in the central administration’s direct debt by the end of September 2023.

As a reminder, as of September 30, 2023, the outstanding debt of the public sector (central administration and state-owned enterprises) in Cameroon stands at around CFA12,510 billion, according to the CAA. This outstanding debt corresponds to 43.9% of the GDP, significantly below the 70% threshold recognized under the multilateral surveillance criteria set by the CEMAC.

Based on this data, government authorities argue that Cameroon’s debt remains both sustainable and viable, despite the country being classified by the African Development Bank (AfDB) as a country at high risk of over indebtedness. This is supported by CAA data showing that over the 13 years from 2009 to 2022, Cameroon’s public debt surged from CFA1,904 billion to  CFA11,216 billion. This means the debt soared by CFA9,312 billion in 13 years, marking a 489% increase.


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