Bamenda, also known as Abakwa, sprawling over the north-western plateau of Cameroon, is the capital city of the North West Region. The third-ranked city of Cameroon, Bamenda is situated 366 km north-west of the administrative capital of Cameroon, Yaounde, and about 450 km of Cameroon’s economic capital, Douala. Known for its cool climate and scenic hilly location, Bamenda is all about a city and a people whose commitment to self-reliance sets the pace in individual and collective development. Because of a common and shared history, hospitality is a legendary asset of the people of Bamenda, principally constituted today of the seven villages of Bamendankwe, Chomba, Mankon, Mbatu, Njah, Nkwen and Nsongwa – a veritable socio-cultural melting pot. Many of the city's inhabitants are English-speaking, and Cameroonian Pidgin English is the lingua franca in the shops and on the streets.
The mainstay of the economy is small businesses and agricultural produce. Industrial presence is very minor, but human endeavour and ingenuity are enormous. In the past, Bamenda town served as a major market and avenue for the processing and channelling of coffee to other main cities such as Douala and Yaounde for direct sales or for export. The Bamenda city, therefore, boasted of the North West Cooperative Association and the Cameroon Produce Marketing Board. But the general economic slump that hit the Cameroonian economy in the 80s did not leave Bamenda untouched. In fact, if anything, Bamenda is one of the major cities in Cameroon that have been very seriously affected by this crisis.
Financial institutions, notably banks and micro finance institutions, have a prominent place in the city’s economy. New banks are gradually making headway into Bamenda. Meanwhile, existing competitors keep reinforcing their existence, and in some cases, are considering expansion possibilities. A case in point is the Cameroon Credit Union League, spread all over Cameroon, with headquarters in Bamenda. It is worth noting that the Azire Credit Union, which is so far the biggest micro finance institution in the whole of West Africa, has its headquarters in Bamenda.
Bamenda has road links to Yaounde and Douala and an airport that of recent has been transformed into a military base. To the north of the city is the Bamenda Ring Road, a 367 km (228 mi) circular route through some of Cameroon's most spectacular mountains. Along this road is Mount Oku (3,000 m/9,800 ft), the Kimbi Game Reserve, the Menchum River Waterfall, a huge chief's palace at Bafut, and a pyramidal thatched shrine at Akum (also known as Bagangu).
Bamenda’s land, forest and social resources (cultural and educational) make it a continuous attraction for investment. This is heightened by the rich presence of numerous cultural groupings and the hospitality of the people. Bamenda hosts and harbours some of the most prestigious Secondary and High School establishments in Cameroon, to which an increasing heavy influx of students, especially students from French-speaking Cameroon, is continuously on the rise.
Meanwhile, Bamenda’s environmental/natural resources, notably water and land resources, require urgent attention in order to safeguard and maximise their usefulness both in the short and long run. The general tendency had been for most institutions to focus their attention on the rural areas, thereby leaving the city to itself in terms of efforts required to access land and water resources
(catchments areas, existing forests, etc).