Battle-weary Bamenda ranked cheapest city to live in!

By Joyce Diana Ngwang, Guest Writer

Despite the raging armed conflict in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon, and the galloping inflation in the country, Bamenda, capital of the North West region has been ranked the cheapest among the ten regional capitals to live in. The classification is contained in a report on the evolution of final household consumption prices by the National Institute of Statistics, (NIS), released on Tuesday, June 25.

According to the report, Cameroon recorded a 6.1% inflation rate in May 2024; a 0.3% increase month-on-month which the Institute says is driven by an “ 8.2% increase in food prices and 15.4% in transport costs ”.

The rise in food prices and transport, NIS said, has been fueled by the revaluation of transport prices due to the readjustment of the prices of super and diesel that went into effect on February 3 this year.

Bamenda is cheapest city

Albeit the drawn-out armed conflict in the North West and South West regions for nearly eight years now, Bamenda has stood out as the city with the lowest cost of living since the 4th quarter of 2023, NIS indicated. The North West regional capital recorded a 4% inflation rate in May 2024; a drop from the 4.4 % the preceding month.

Bamenda City main market entrance | Photo by Bamenda Main Market Online

While critics attribute this to the town’s emptiness and the decrease in property value due to a mass exodus following the lingering conflict, analysts point to a low cost of living as businesses and services adjust to the crisis. They also note the presence of government subsidies or relief programs making it more affordable for residents, reduced demand leading to lower prices for goods and services, and incentives to attract new residents or businesses to help revitalize the town.

Ngaoundere tops classification chart

The NIS report observed that the cost of living is more expensive in five main cities of the country. In these regional capitals, inflation rate represents double the 3% acceptable threshold within the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States (CEMAC).

The report notes in detail that the city of Ngaoundere, capital of the Adamawa Region is the most expensive of the ten since January, taking over the lead from Bertoua in the East Region which remained at the peak of inflation in October and November 2023.

Thus, after an inflation rate of 8.4% in January 2024 and 8% in April, the regional capital of the Adamawa remained at the top with 7.7% in May despite an improvement of -0.3% year-on-year. Maroua, capital of the Far North Region with a 7.6% inflation rate, closely follows it.

 Douala in the Littoral, Ebolowa in the South and Bertoua in the East all recorded inflation rates of 6.6%, 6.3% and 6% respectively. Meanwhile, Yaounde in the Centre, Bafoussam in the West both recorded an inflation rate of 5.6% each as at May this year. The report also notes that inflation rates in Buea in the South West Region and Garoua in the North stood at 5.5% and 5.4% respectively.

BEAC’s optimistic forecast

The Cameroon government aims for a 4% inflation rate by the end of 2024, but the state’s statistician, the NIS, predicts around 7% due to the upward revision of fuel prices and the direct or indirect impact on other prices such as transport, food products, and manufactured goods.

The Bank of Central African States,(BEAC), is also optimistic with a forecast of 3.9%, as it hopes for the evolution of consumer prices within the economies of the six-member CEMAC bloc.

At a recent meeting at the headquarters of the sub-regional financial institution in Yaounde on June 24, 2024, the Monetary Policy Committee, (CPM), forecasted an inflation rate of 3.9% for this year, down from 1.7% in 2023.

According to Economists, Cameroon has an inflation rate above the CEMAC threshold, while Equatorial Guinea is facing a 4.3% recession this year according to the International Monetary Fund, (IMF).

The African Development Bank, (AfDB), outlook for 2024 indicates that Cameroon would have the highest inflation rate (6.3%), followed by Equatorial Guinea (4.7%), the Central African Republic (4.1%), Chad (3.4%), Congo (3.4%), and Gabon with 2.5%.

*Diana Joyce Ngwang is a journalist working with Yaounde-based Vision 4 TV . Her reporting areas of interest include health, politics and the economy.

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