Cameroon is a bilingual country (French and English) located in Central Africa with an estimated population of 27 million inhabitants in 2020 with an estimated gross domestic product (GDP) of 479 billion FCFA over three years, including 180 billion in 2020.
Over the past 20 years, Cameroon has adopted various laws and actions in the ICT sector. In 2016, the government adopted a strategy document for digital growth called the Cameroon Digital Strategic Plan 2020. The document set 8 strategic axes on which the government must base itself in order to develop Internet coverage in Cameroon so the content is as follows: – develop broadband infrastructure; – increase the production and supply of digital content; – ensure the digital transformation of administration and businesses; – promote digital culture through the widespread use of ICT in society; – strengthen digital confidence; – develop a local digital industry and encourage research and innovation – ensure the development of human capital and digital leadership; – ensure the improvement of governance and institutional support. Several objectives were not achieved for cyclical and structural reasons. In the 2020 finance law in Cameroon, one of the priorities of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications is to increase qualitative and quantitative access and at a lower cost to communications services throughout the national territory. The indicator for this objective is the development of ICTs in Cameroon.
In Cameroon, 3G mobile coverage is estimated at a satisfactory rate of 69% with individual Internet usage of 23% since 2018. Operators provide different network coverage, 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G. 5G coverage, the most popular one, covers less than a million users nationwide. As of January 2020, Cameroon had 7.8 million people connected to the internet, according to a report published by Hootsuite and We Are Social, two organizations with platforms for monitoring flows on social networks and the internet. Cameroon’s internet penetration rate reached 30% in January 2020, with an increase of 7.8%, with the arrival of 570,000 new internet users in Cameroon.
The country has four mobile operators, therefore three in the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), namely MTN, Orange and Nexttel; and Cameroon Telecommunications (Camtel), the public mobile operator and the main intermediary provider of telephone and internet services. MTN and Orange are the market leaders in terms of mobile subscribers, Internet services, mobile transfer service and revenue. According to its latest report, MTN has more than 10 million subscribers in Cameroon, with a turnover of 5.6 billion in 2020. As part of the development of technological infrastructure, Cameroon has two Internet exchange points, called CAMIX. The sale of internet services is carried out by around twenty internet access providers located in Cameroon.
In October 2020, decision of the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications appointed CAMIX, an association therefore the members are operators and Internet Services providers as manager of exchange points in Cameroon, under the supervision of the Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ART) and the National Agency for Information and Communication Technologies (ANTIC), two regulatory bodies for the ICT sector in Cameroon. The internet connection is provided by telephone operators and internet service providers. Cameroon has more than 20 private Internet Service providers spread over the national territory.
Regulatory actors are at the center of digital policy in Cameroon. This is the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications which coordinates all activities in the sector and is the main government institution responsible for ICT in the country. The Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ART) is the regulator of the mobile telephony sector and Internet connections. It has the power to sanction operations in case of violation of regulations. The National Agency for Information and Communication Technologies (NAICT) is also responsible for the promotion of ICT, the management of domain names (.cm) and fighting against cybercrime on the national territory. Digital legislation specific to the sector is described in the 2010 law on electronic communications.
In 2017, Cameroon recorded the longest internet shutdown of 93 days. The 2017 internet shutdowns were requested by the government to quell claims and the spread of hate speech at the start of the crisis in 2016 in the North West and South West, the two English-speaking regions in conflict. Heavy economic and social consequences have been recorded. These closures were the most serious digital rights violations. During this Internet shutdown, Cameroon suffered significant financial losses of several million dollars estimated at 38.8 million dollars.
On January 17, 2020, Cameroon Telecommunications (Camtel), the public telecoms operator in Cameroon responsible for managing optical fiber, issued a press release to announce the disruption of the internet network following an accident on the cable under -marine West Africa Cable System (WACS). Prior to this release, the NetBlocks Internet Observatory had already shown that social media and messaging services had been disrupted.
As part of collective actions to fight the coronavirus pandemic, the opposition political party, Mouvement pour la Renaissance du Cameroun (MRC) has initiated fundraising actions to support the needy during the Coronavirus crisis in Cameroon. On 4 May 2020, the Minister of Territorial Administration had considered this action as illegal by sending letters to the CEOs of MTN and Orange, demanding the closure of the accounts Mobile Money and Orange Money for fundraising.
Also, during the crisis, social media platforms have seen a rise. In April 2020, a letter from the office of the President of the Republic instructed the director of the National Agency for Information and Communication Technologies (NAICT), to monitor all accounts by technological means and users disseminating fake news and fake news on platforms like Facebook.
On June 23, 2020, the Facebook page and the Cameroon election website (ELECAM), the organ for the organization and control of elections in Cameroon, was hacked for a period of 24 hours. This attack targeted the databases of registrants.
September 17, 2020 Facebook announced a VAT of 19.25% will be paid on any advertising in Cameroon from 1 October 2020. The educated tax by the Government of Cameroon is expanding to other platforms like Google and Amazon when shopping online according to the provisions of the 2019-2020 finance law in Cameroon. The 2020 finance law, in its article 127, paragraph 15, stipulates that “the sales of goods and the provision of services carried out on Cameroonian territory or through foreign or local electronic commerce platforms; commissions received by operators of online commerce platforms.
Also on 22 September 2020, the country recorded low internet disruptions. Indeed at the announcement of the elections of regional advisers for December 6, 2020 in Cameroon, the opposition party, MRC invited its activists to demonstrations throughout the territory. Probably, the Internet was disrupted to stifle the mobilizations.
Cameroon has various legal instruments on digital, in particular the law on electronic commerce adopted in 2000, the law on consumer protection, law n ° 2010/012 of 21 December 2010 on cybersecurity and cybercrime is the law. no longer used to regulate cyberspace. In general, this law “governs the security framework of electronic communication networks and information systems, defines and punishes offenses related to the use of information and communication technologies in Cameroon”.
On March 13, 2020, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications signed a joint decision setting out the modalities for the electronic collection of customs duties and taxes on phones, tablets, terminals and software. This widely criticized joint decision on the possibility of digital rights violation was overturned by a letter from the President of the Republic.
In view of the digital rights situation in 2020 in Cameroon, the following recommendations should be made to improve digital rights and digital inclusion in the country for the coming year;
- Audit for Cameroon 2020 digital strategic plan before setting up new strategies plan;
- Adopt a law on the protection of personal data;
- Adopt a law on social media platforms with the definition of government responsibilities;
- Initiate decisions on ICT sector by involving all the key stakeholders in the internet ecosystem;
- Request an annual transparency report for data privacy from all telephone operators and ISPs in Cameroon on digital inclusion and digital rights.
The year 2020 in Cameroon has recorded several news on digital rights. Slight cases of digital rights violations have been recorded. In the context of the Coronavirus crisis, the rights of users have been influenced by the barrier measures to combat the pandemic.
New mechanisms of intimidation and violations have developed in the context of Covid-19. Although the government and sometimes telephone operators and internet providers use these new mechanisms to violate digital rights and restrict freedoms, the role of local and international organizations has remained dynamic in addressing non-compliance through various advocacy actions and campaigns.
 In Cameroon, the government wants to stop a fundraiser against the virus launched by the opponent Kamto, Le Monde, April 30, 2020, https://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2020/04/ 30 / in-cameroon-the-government-wants-to-stop-a-fundraiser-against-the-virus-launched-by-the-opponent-kamto_6038237_3212.html