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Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Cameroon
Although not particularly intense, bilateral relations between Switzerland and Cameroon are nonetheless characterised by friendship and cooperation.
The two countries have enjoyed diplomatic relations since Cameroon achieved its independence on 1 January 1960 and its reunification on 1 October 1961. In 1962, Switzerland opened a consulate in Douala, which became an embassy in 1965. Four years later it was relocated to the capital, Yaoundé. For reasons of budgetary restraint, the Swiss embassy in Yaoundé was temporarily closed between 1996 and 2007.
Switzerland and Cameroon have agreements on trade, the protection of investments and technical cooperation. Commercial exchanges, however, remain modest.
The Federal Department for Foreign Affairs (FDFA) collaborates with the International Relations Institute of Cameroon (IRIC) as well as various local bodies for the organisation of seminars and workshops (crisis management and peacebuilding in Central Africa; combating of the proliferation of small arms).
Between 1961 and 1996, Cameroon was among the priority countries for Swiss bilateral development cooperation. Subsequently, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) reduced its commitment. It does however continue to provide support for the projects of NGOs in the areas of water supply, agriculture, decentralisation and the promotion of women’s rights.
Furthermore, “decentralised” cooperation has been active since 1999, notably involving the cantons of Jura and Geneva, as well as various NGOs.
As of 1 January 2012, there were 233 Swiss citizens registered with the Swiss Embassy in Cameroon. Most of these work for relief organisations, international organisations and/or on development projects. The number of mixed couples is on the increase.
Over the years, close ties have developed between Swiss academic institutions (universities, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration (IDHEAP), HUG) and those of Cameroon (notably the IRIC, the University of Yaoundé II, and the University Hospital of Yaoundé (CHUY)). Swiss churches still have representatives in Cameroon, mainly active in rural development projects.
Switzerland has been present in Cameroon since the end of the 19th century through members of the Basel Mission, mainly involved in the educational sector. The political stability of this young nation and the development of its commercial activities (in particular cacao) helped to increase Switzerland’s presence in Cameroon. The Swiss colony, which in 1960 amounted to some 250 persons, by 1970 had increased to about 500.
At the beginning of the 1980s, the Federal Council approved two mixed credits, and commercial exchanges increased. Swiss companies further developed their activities, notably in the areas of chemicals, food, construction and machines. The Confederation’s winding down of technical cooperation with Cameroon, and a series of economic crises, had a negative impact on exchanges and reduced the number of Swiss present in the country.
Beginning in 1989, Cameroon’s debts were rescheduled in the framework of the Paris Club. Cooperation and friendship between the two countries was renewed with the reopening of the Swiss Embassy in Yaoundé in 2007.