Saturday, Oct. 25
Kribi, Cameroon

Good data gives us journalists a buzz. A high. A feeling of glee!

So I was on cloud nine this week when I found statistics to go with the story I’m writing about polygamy in Cameroon.

Not just any statistics, but numbers that support the exact point I’m making with the story, data that shows polygamy here is dwindling.

Since, as some of the expats I’ve met here in Kribi say, Africa is 400 years behind the rest of the world, I didn’t expect such data to exist.

The average reader may skim over this line in the story: “Eleven percent of men had at least two wives in 2004, down from 26 percent in the early 1990s.” But to me that phrase elicits a feeling of accomplishment, a fist pump in the air — POW! — because my story, which originated from anecdotal evidence, now is backed by statistics!

I went a bit overboard in the office of Cameroon’s National Institute of Statistics, photocopying everything I could get find on polygamy so I could dissect the French literature on my own time.

Amongst the other data I found interesting:

* More than half of Cameroonian women marry before age 18. Nearly 90 percent marry before age 25. (2004)

* Men are, on average, nearly 12 years older than their wife (or wives). For 29 percent of couples, the husband is at least 15 years older than his spouse. (1991)

* Level of education affects whether a man is polygamous: 28 percent of those with little to no education are polygamous, 11 percent of those who completed primary school are polygamous and 6 percent of those who finished secondary school are polygamous. (2004)

Now I’m cuddling with that data in a beach-resort town called Kribi, no doubt one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

Prices here have been driven up by tourism, but knowing now that everything is negotiable in Africa, I convinced the woman at one hotel reception to let me pay half price (CFA 15,000, or about $32 per night) for a room with a broken air conditioner. A fan is all that’s really necessary this time of year anyhow.

I’ll leave you with the same image I woke up to early this morning, a photo I took while still standing in my room. Kribi. Is. Heaven.

View from my room in Kribi.

View from my room in Kribi.