Douala is the largest city in Cameroon and the capital of Cameroon's Littoral Province. With a population of approximately 2 million, the city is home to Cameroon's largest port and its major international airport, Douala Airport. Doula is the commercial capital of the country and handles most of the country's major exports, such as oil, cocoa and coffee, as well as trade to or from Chad. It is also home to the Eko Market, the country's largest market.
The first Europeans to visit the area were the Portuguese in about 1472. By 1650, it had become the site of a town formed by immigrants from the interior who spoke the Douala language and during the eighteenth century it was center of the transatlantic slave trade. Before coming under German rule in 1884, the town was also known as Cameroons Town; thereafter, it became Kamarunstadt ("Camaroon City"), the capital of German Kamerun. It was renamed Douala in 1907 and became part of the French Cameroons in 1919.
In the early 1920s Germans had repurchased some property in British Cameroon and German’s interest groups lobbied for the return of Germany's ex-colonies in 1930s. In 1938 the Jeucafra movement was founded, being vehemently opposed to the return of German rule. German property was confiscated with the outbreak of the Second World War. The capital of French Cameroun was moved back from Yaounde to Douala in 1940; and again to Yaounde in 1946.
The city is built on the banks of the Wouri River. The two sides are linked by Bonaberi Bridge. Doula hosts the Douala Stock Exchange (DSX). The market began in a project sponsored by CEMAC (Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa) to create stock exchanges in Gabon and Cameroon. DSX was created in December 2001.
The city has a mixture of traditional, colonial, and modern architecture. After the Second World War, the city grew rapidly and is the most populous city in the republic.
Doula is one of the major industrial centres of central Africa. It houses breweries, textile factories, and palm-oil, soap, and food-processing plants. The city also produces building materials, metalwork, plastics, glass, paper, bicycles, and timber products. Other activities are boat and ship repairing, railway engineering, and radio assembly.
Douala's deepwater port handles most of the country's overseas trade. It has special installations for handling timber products, bananas, gasoline, and bauxite, as well as fishing facilities.
Douala also hosts a branch (economics) of the University of Yaoundé; a variety of commercial, agricultural, and industrial schools; and research institutes for health, forestry, textile, oilseed derivatives, and meteorology. A museum and a handicraft centre encourage the production and preservation of Cameroonian art.
By Purity Njeru
Ms. Njeru is an African Executive staff writer
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