Settlements had already existed in present-day Douala prior to the arrival of the Portuguese, British, and Germans; however, it was during the German colonization that the city began to develop rapidly as a commercial and political hub of the German colonial administration. During World War I a bitter battle was fought for control of Douala. The city surrendered to British and French forces on September 27, 1914. A joint Anglo-French condominium governed the city until a comprehensive agreement ceded it (and much of Cameroon) to the French. After the independence of Cameroon, Douala grew rapidly. Local industries, trade, and other opportunities have attracted an unprecedented influx of migrants, especially from the western region of Cameroon. People from other countries in the region have also permanently settled in the city; they include Nigerians, Chadians, and Malians. In recent times city authorities have been overwhelmed by rapidly increasing population; services are stretched and there is an urgent need to enhance the city's ability to cope with the rapid growth.
Douala is the first city in tropical Africa to have a piped natural gas supply (presently serving only industrial customers). It was ranked in 2015 as the most expensive city in Africa. It has had the highest standard of living among all African cities for the majority of the last 40 years. A very high number of European and American expatriates live in the city due to its highly developed infrastructure and peaceful environment for successful business and good life.
The first Europeans to visit the area were the Portuguese in about 1472. At the time the estuary of the Wouri River was known as the Rio dos Camarões. By 1650, it had become the site of a town formed by immigrants, said to have arrived from Congo, who spoke the Douala language. During the 18th century it was the center of the transatlantic slave trade.
In 1826 Douala appeared to be made of four different villages located in four specific locations: the village of Deido (Dido), of Akwa, of Njo and Hickory-town (today Bonaberi, located on the other side of the Wouri river).
Between 1884 and 1895 the city was a German protectorate. The colonial politics focused on commerce and some exploration of the unoccupied territories. In 1885, Alfred Saker organized the first mission of the British Baptist Church. In the same year the city known as Kamerun was renamed Douala and became the capital of the territory until 1902, when the capital was moved to Buéa.
In 1907 the Ministry of Colonies was established and Douala had 23,000 citizens.
After World War I, in 1919, the German colonial territories became French and British protectorates. France received a mandate to administer Douala. A treaty was signed with the local chiefs.
From 1940 to 1946, it was the capital of Cameroon. In 1955 the city had over 100,000 inhabitants.
In 1960 Cameroon became independent and it became a federal republic, with its capital in Yaoundé. Douala became the major economic city. In 1972 the federal republic became a unified state. Douala then had a population of around 500,000.
In the 1980s, in Cameroon the struggle for liberalization and multi-partitism grew. Between May and December 1991, Douala was at the center of the civil disobedience campaign called the ghost town operation (ville morte) during which economic activities shut down to make the country ungovernable and to force the government to allow multi-partitiesm and freedom of expression.
With the arrival of the Portuguese in the 15th century, the area was known as Rio dos Camarões. Before coming under German rule in 1884, the town was also known as Cameroons Town; thereafter it became Kamerunstadt ("Camaroon City"), the capital of German Kamerun. It was renamed Douala in 1907 after the name of the natives known as Dua ala Ijaws (Njos), and became part of the French Cameroons in 1919. Many of the Ijaw (Njo) natives migrated to the Niger Delta in Nigeria during the Portuguese era.
The city is located on the banks of the Wouri River, the two sides linked by Bonaberi Bridge. In 2013, the president Paul Biya made a decree that a new bridge would be built over the Wouri River to accommodate the growing population of the citizens in Douala. The bridge is still under construction.
The city of Douala is divided into seven districts (Akwa, Bassa, Bonabéri, Bonapriso, Bonanjo, Deïdo and New Bell) and it has more than 120 neighborhoods. Akwa is Douala's business district and Bonanjo its administrative district. Plateau Joss is the name used historically for the current district of Akwa. The name of the districts refer to the Douala lineage, as well as the neighborhoods. For example, Akwa was historically divided between Bell and Deido into Bonadibong, Bonamilengue, Boneleke, Bonalembe, Bonejang, Bonamuti, Bonabekombo, Bonaboijan, and Bonakuamuang; the prefix "bona" means "descendant of".
According to Jacques Soulillou, historical images of Douala document the areas of Akwa (Plateau Joss) and the port between 1860 and 1960, while the districts of Bonaberi, Deido and New Bell have almost no images. The archives which provide documentation about the city are based in Paris, Basel, Hamburg, Potsdam, Douala and Yaoundé.
The Native Baptist Church was built in 1849. In 1896 a first urban plan of the city was developed during the German colonial period. The plan included a hospital, the governor residency, the palace of justice, the police station, administrative buildings and buildings for the port and customs (among those the Old Woermann Linie Bachelors House). The Bonakouamouang Chimney also dates back to this period. In 1904 construction of the Villa Mandessi Bell was begun. In 1905 the palace of the King Manga Ndumbe Bell (also called la Pagode) was built, and in 1906 the general plan of Gross Douala was established. In 1914 the large population living in Bonanjo was moved to the new estate of Neue Bell (New Bell).
Between 1925 and 1930, during the French colonial period, the chamber of commerce, the new palace of justice, the new railway station, the vault of the Kings Bell and the catholic cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul were built. Constructions were intensified between 1930 and 1955 and in 1955 the bridge on the Wouri River was built. In 1935 the Mausoleum of the Kings Akwa was constructed. In 1947 the Temple of the Centenary was built. In 1959 a new city plan was designed (Plan Dorian); according to Danièle Diwouta-Kotto, this plan is still influencing Douala's urban development. After the independence of 1960 a new development and urban plan were established. In 1998 a research prepared the diagnostic for the 2015 horizon. In 2005 a new development and urban plan was designed and routes and public canalizations were reestablished and created. In the same year the Project Sawa-Beach was launched. Since 1888, terracotta bricks have been produced in Douala.
The publication Suites architecturales focuses on heritage and reappropriation in the architecture of Douala, and it presents some of the characteristics of the buildings and architecture of Douala after its independence. Among those buildings are the casino, the show-room La Meublerie, the exhibition hall Cami-Toyota, Union Bank of Cameroon, Immeuble Hollando, the Baptist church, Immeuble Victoria, headquarters of CA-SCB, espace doual'art, and Orange Flagship. The Palace Dika Akwa Mukanda was built in 1990.
Douala features a tropical monsoon climate (Köppen climate classification Am), with relatively consistent temperatures throughout the course of the year, though the city experiences somewhat cooler temperatures in July and August. Douala typically features warm and humid conditions with an average annual temperature of 27.0 °C (80.6 °F) and an average humidity of 83%. Douala sees plentiful rainfall during the course of the year, experiencing on average roughly 3,600 millimetres (140 in) of precipitation per year. Its driest month is December, when on average 28 millimetres (1.1 in) of precipitation falls, while its wettest month is August, when on average nearly 700 millimetres (28 in) of rain falls.
Along the city's main thoroughfare lie some of Cameroon's best restaurants, coffee houses and French-style patisseries; along the waterfront, many bars and bistros may be found, commanding views of the Gulf of Guinea and nearby mangrove swamps. Many of these are frequented by the city's large expatriate population, mainly French or Lebanese, most of whom work in the petroleum industry.Hotel Akwa Palace
Place du Gouvernement
Joseph-Francis Sumegné, La Nouvelle Liberté, 1996
Dika Akwa Palace
Marché des Fleurs
As in most large cities in Cameroon there are several nursery, primary, secondary and high schools in the city. In recent years there has been a surge in the number of private schools. In is interesting to note that there is also a large informal educational sector that caters for a huge part of the population, mostly to individuals with primary school certificate or those with no education at all. This form of education is common in sectors like cloth manufacture, bread making, construction, security, and car repair. Individuals from these informal sectors are by far the most visible in deprived neighborhoods such as Ndokoti, Bepanda, Village, Logbaba.
The city of Douala is home to a number of higher education institutions, including the University of Douala. There are also a number of professional schools, the most prominent being the Douala Maritime institute. Douala has an aviation school called CAE Oxford Aviation Academy Douala. The city of Douala is, however, mostly a commercial city, hence education is not emphasized as in other cities like Bamenda.
Douala is linked by rail to Yaoundé, Ngaoundéré, Kumba and Nkongsamba. Douala has a fairly developed road network compared to other cities in Cameroon. However many of the city's roads have decayed due to years of neglect and corruption. Efforts have recently been made to renovate the city's roads, especially in the most deprived neighborhoods. In spite of the numerous domestic and international investments, the roads remain in deplorable state largely due to embezzlement and corruption.
The Douala International Airport is located in the eastern part of the city. There are direct flights to several European cities, including Paris, Brussels, and Istanbul. Regional and continental destinations include Abidjan, Brazzaville, Dakar, Johannesburg, Kinshasa, Lagos, Malabo, and Nairobi. The airport is the busiest in the CEMAC area and is the hub for Cameroon's national carrier, Camairco. The airport is in dire need of renovations due to poor circulation and old infrastructure.
The seaport has 8.5 metres (28 feet) of draft.
Douala has modest oil resource in the world and very good agricultural condition so that it has one of best economies in Africa. However, it also faces some problems like other underdeveloped countries such as heavy civil service and bad climate (flood, tornado, storm) to business.
l GDP :
$42.2 billion (2006 est.):
l GDP growth rate:
4.1% (2006 est.)
l Exports-partners :
Spain 17.3%, Italy 13.8%, France 9.5%, South Korea 8.1%, UK 8.1%, Netherlands 7.9%, Belgium 4.9%, US 4.3% (2005)
l Imports - partners:
France 21%, Nigeria 15%, Belgium 6.3%, China 5.6%, US 5.1%, Thailand 4.5%, Germany 4.2% (2005)
Even though Douala is the economic center of Cameroon, a large percentage of its inhabitants live below the poverty line. Recent data shows that about thirty percent of the population lives in poverty (Avameg, Inc). While the aforementioned percentage is doubled for rural regions, poverty is a growing problem for Douala due to its steadily increasing population. Unlike the rural populations of Cameroon that can grow their own foods to lessen their expenses, Douala locals are disadvantaged by living in the port city where there are not many opportunities for monetary gain.
While no terrorist attacks have happened in Douala, the city is located in a part of Cameroon that is on high alert. The U.S. State Department warns that terrorist and military operations are present in Cameroon’s neighboring countries of Chad, Nigeria, and the Central African Republic. Military operations oftentimes do not respect borders and conflict could easily cross the Cameroonian border. Visitors should avoid visiting cities that are located along the country’s borders
Combination of such factors as large influx of wealthy foreigners looking to settle in the city, increasing tourism, and lack of financial resources makes Douala one of the most dangerous cities in Cameroon. According to the U.S. State Department website, tourists who plan to visit Douala must be extremely cautious since banditry, murders, and kidnappings are real problems for foreigners. Violent crimes committed against tourists are a common issue that local authorities do not have the resources to stop. When visiting the city, tourists need to be highly aware of their surroundings and the locals around them. Visitors should also refrain from showing any obvious signs of wealth and keep their funds as close to their bodies as possible.
Doula is twinned with the following places: