Landlocked in the heart of Africa, the Central African Republic is a sparsely populated country with an area of 623,000 km2. It is one of the poorest and most fragile countries in the world despite its abundant natural resources (470 mineral occurrences, with oil, gold and diamonds having the greatest potential). For over two decades now, the Central African Republic has been mired in crises, the most serious of which was the seizure of power by Seleka in 2013. The latest crisis was triggered by a coalition of rebels in December 2020.
With a population of about 6,100,000, the Central African Republic ranks at the bottom of the human capital and development indices (188th out of 191 countries in 2022). Its institutions are weak, its citizens have limited access to basic services, infrastructure is woefully inadequate, gender-based violence (GBV) is widespread and the social fabric has been eroded. Despite its significant agricultural potential and vast forests, the population is yet to share in the associated benefits.
The Central African Republic is a fragile country. The drivers of fragility include a lack of social cohesion, the concentration of political power, social and regional disparities, the capture and mismanagement of natural resources by the elite and persistent insecurity fueled by a regional system of conflicts.
With more than 15,000 personnel, the UN peacekeeping force MINUSCA has been in the Central African Republic since September 15. Since the departure of French troops in 2016, the country has also been receiving bilateral military support from Russia and Rwanda.
The Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation (APPR-RCA), signed on February 6, 2019 with 14 armed groups, continues to provide a roadmap to long-term peace and stability, even after armed groups linked to the CPC left the agreement in December 2020.
The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) has made headway in preparing for the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation (DDRR) of CPC combatants. The dissolution in December 2022 of four armed groups and the relocation in early March 2023 of François Bozizé, a former president and Head of the CPC, is expected to contribute to peace and stability. Progress in the dialogue with the remaining armed groups is key to moving forward on the program for disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation. The restoration of the State’s presence is a prerequisite for the lasting stabilization of conflict-affected areas. However, these gains remain fragile as armed groups continue to target the population.
The political climate remains polarized and tensions with the international community persist, owing to geopolitical developments. The Constitutional Court has paved the way for a constitutional referendum. In the meantime, local elections are scheduled to be held this year, for the first time since the 1980s. Members of the opposition, particularly those who do not support the constitutional referendum, and a number of civil society actors frequently accuse pro-government youth groups of intimidation. In addition, Wagner Group operations in support of the government have heightened tensions between the government and some of the country’s traditional partners.
- After two consecutive years of virtual stagnation, economic activity is estimated to have ground to a complete halt in 2022, owing to major flooding and fuel shortages. Real GDP growth is estimated at 0.0% in 2022, down from 1.0% in 2021. With per capita GDP growth declining by 2.2% in 2021, it is estimated that more than 3.5 million persons are expected to continue living in extreme poverty between 2023 and 2025.
- Provided that domestic fuel supplies improve and security gains continue, real GDP growth is projected at 3.0% in 2023, before reaching 3.8% on average over the period 2024–2025.
- The medium-term outlook is subject to significant internal and external risks. Internal risks include a reversal in security gains and a deterioration in food security triggered by food price pressures and climate shocks (floods). The main external risk is the decline in international timber prices, which could affect forestry sector activity, significantly reduce export earnings and delay prospects for economic recovery.
Social Context and Development Challenges
- The Central African Republic remains one of the poorest countries in the world and is grappling with numerous human capital challenges. The latest estimates, which date from 2020, show that roughly 71% of the population is living below the international poverty line ($1.90 per day, in terms of PPP).
- The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator estimates that 56% of the population will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2023, a 10% increase over 2022.
- Maternal mortality is among the world’s highest (882 per 100,000 live births), while the under-five child mortality rate is the sixth highest in the world (116 out of every 1,000 children) (UNICEF, 2020). The Central African Republic also has one of the highest fertility rates in the world, with six births per woman. The average life expectancy for both men and women is 53 years.
- The Central African Republic has some of the lowest education indicators. The expected length of schooling is 5.3 years for boys compared to 3.8 years for girls. The quality of primary education is low and few girls have access to secondary education.
- The country has some of the largest gender gaps in the world, ranking 188th out of 191 countries in terms of gender equality. These gender gaps contribute to high rates of GBV that are a major obstacle to the full participation of women in social and economic life. Their empowerment is key to the country’s development. Although the Central African Republic has committed to complying with the gender equality provisions in the law, implementation remains weak, thereby depriving women and girls of protection. Violence against women is widespread; 11,000 incidents are reported each year (2016), and 74% involve children.
Last Updated: Mar 30, 2023