Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Cameroon are characterised by mutual friendship and cooperation. There has been a rekindling of interest in boosting bilateral relations, in particular in the area of migration.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Cameroon
Key apects of diplomatic relations
Issues linked to migration are an important focus of bilateral cooperation and an area in which the two governments coordinate effectively.
Both are members of the International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF) and benefit from French as a shared language. This cooperation has had a concrete impact in the field of research and education through the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL).
Switzerland and Cameroon have signed agreements on trade, the protection of investments and technical cooperation. However the level of trade between the two countries is lower than it could be.
Cooperation in the area of education and training
There are close ties between Swiss academic institutions and those of Cameroon in Yaoundé. Intensive cooperation has developed between the University of Yaoundé I National Advanced School of Engineering, and the EPFL, in particular through the launch of two massive online open courses (MOOCs) and through CURES, a joint centre for research on renewable energy production.
Scholars and artists from Cameroon can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships from the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).
Until 1996, Cameroon was among the priority countries for Swiss bilateral development cooperation - however Switzerland continues to provide support for specific NGO projects in the areas of water supply, agriculture, decentralisation and the promotion of women’s rights.
Decentralised cooperation - mainly in rural development - has been established in particular by two of the Swiss cantons. Jura and Geneva, which are mainly involved. Church representatives and various Swiss NGOs are also active locally in Cameroon, which demonstrates a sense of solidarity and an active and entrepreneurial attitude in Swiss civil society.
Swiss nationals in Cameroon
In 2017, there were 319 Swiss nationals registered with the Swiss embassy in Cameroon.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland was present in Cameroon from the end of the 19th century through members of the Basel Mission, who were mainly involved in the education sector.
The political stability of this young nation following its independence in 1960 and the development of its commercial activities (in particular linked to cocoa) helped to increase Switzerland’s presence in Cameroon. The Swiss community, which in 1960 amounted to some 250 persons, had exceeded 500 by 1970.
At the beginning of the 1980s, the Federal Council approved two mixed credits which helped to boost trade. Swiss companies subsequently 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 up until the end of the 20th century had a negative impact on trade, and the number of Swiss nationals residing in the country fell.
From 1989, the country's debts were restructured by the Club de Paris. A consulate opened in Douala in 1962 and was upgraded to an embassy in 1967. Two years later the official Swiss representation moved to the capital Yaoundé. A resident ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary was appointed in 1982. After remaining closed from 1996 to 2007, when it was replaced by a consulate general, the embassy in Yaoundé is now functioning under the direction of a resident ambassador, as is the Embassy of Cameroon in Switzerland located in Bern.
Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga, head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police, and the vice president of the Federal Council, made an official visit to Cameroon from 26 to 29 September 2014, during which two agreements were signed on migration matters.