YAOUNDE Jan 28 Cameroon's economy grew by around five percent last year, up from the 4.1 percent growth it showed in 2011, but under-investment in social safety nets contributed to worsening poverty, the World Bank said on Monday.
An oil producer and the world's fifth-largest cocoa grower, Cameroon's economy, though Central Africa's largest, is also one of its slowest growing. It had initially targeted growth of 5.5 percent in 2012 after increasing budget spending.
While agriculture, construction and a rise in oil production propelled growth, the Bank said there was little evidence indicating an improvement in the lives of the country's population.
"Poverty in Cameroon has not declined, and instead has increased in the poorest areas. Food security is also a problem in these areas," the Bank said in an update released by its country office in Cameroon.
The Bank said social safety nets, including cash transfer, school feeding, and public works programmes, were poorly designed and under-funded.
"The most recent data show that Cameroon allocates 0.2 percent of its GDP to social safety nets - one of the lowest percentages in Africa," said Raju Jan Singh, World Bank's Lead Economist for Central Africa.
Cameroon is one of Africa's oldest oil exporters. But despite last year's increase in output, production has slipped steadily since the mid-1980s as offshore fields fall into decline, putting at risk one of its main revenue generators.
Exploitation of rich mineral reserves have also been held back by a power deficit.
Cameroon's GDP growth is expected to reach 4.7 percent in 2013, according to a Reuters poll published in October. (Reporting by Joe Bavier; Editing by Jon Hemming)