Landlocked in the heart of Africa, the Central African Republic is a sparsely populated country of 5.4 million inhabitants. It is one of the poorest and most fragile countries in the world despite its abundant natural resources. Its impressive agricultural potential and vast mineral resources and forests have yet to yield benefits for the population, and the country ranks at the bottom of the human capital and human development indices. For over 40 years, the country has been caught in a cycle of recurrent violence. Its institutions are weak, citizens have limited access to basic services, the infrastructure is woefully inadequate, and gender-based violence (GBV) is widespread. More than 1 million people have been displaced and the social fabric has been eroded.
Political and Security Context
The Central African Republic is a fragile country. The cycles of violence are deeply rooted in factors that drive fragility such as a lack of social cohesion at all levels of society, the concentration of political power in the hands of a small elite, social and regional disparities between Bangui and its outskirts, the capture and mismanagement of natural resources by the elite, and persistent insecurity fueled by a regional system of conflicts.
Despite attempts by the rebel CPC (Coalition of Patriots for Change) to forestall the elections and overthrow the regime, President Faustin-Archange Touadéra was reelected during the first round of combined elections, which were held on December 27, 2020 with support from the international community. The government is headed by the former Minister of Finance, Henri-Marie Dondra, a member of Touadéra’s United Hearts Movement (MCU) party which dominates the political scene along with its allies.
With more than 12,000 personnel, the UN peacekeeping force MINUSCA has been in the Central African Republic since September 15, 2014, with a primary mandate to protect civilians. Since the departure of French troops in 2016, the Central African Republic has also been receiving bilateral military support from Russia (since October 9, 2017, in the context of talks between President Touadéra and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov) and from Rwanda (since October 15, 2019 in the context of President Paul Kagame’s visit to the country).
The Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation (APPR-CAR) signed on February 6, 2019 with 14 armed groups, provides a roadmap to long-term stability and peace, even after armed groups linked to the CPC left the agreement in December 2020. Based on UNHCR data as of January 30, 2021, there were more than 632,000 refugees and 630,834 displaced persons in the country because of the persistent insecurity.
- Economic activity slowed in 2020 but remained positive at about 0.8%, more than 2 percentage points below its 2019 level. This slowdown is primarily due to COVID-19 and the related restriction measures that affected trade between the Central African Republic and the rest of the world, and is disrupting input and food supply chains. However, the sound performance of the agricultural sector helped reduce the downturn in economic activity in 2020.
- Post-electoral disputes and the related waves of insecurity are expected to slow the economy in 2021, owing, among other things, to the blockade of the Bangui-Douala corridor, which adversely affected economic activity and tax revenues.
- The main challenges remain the restoration of lasting peace and security and the implementation of an ambitious reform agenda to foster a sustainable economic recovery; more inclusive economic growth; sound and prudent management of public finances; economic diversification; the creation of better jobs; improved human capital; the promotion and improvement of the business environment; and strengthened farming capacity.
Social Context and Development Challenges
- Poverty remains high and projections suggest that roughly 71% of the population was living below the international poverty line ($1.90 per day, in terms of PPP) in 2020.
- Approximately 630,834 people remain internally displaced while 632,000 Central African refugees were sheltering in neighboring countries (UNHCR data as of January 30, 2021). It is expected that in 2021, 2.8 million Central Africans—more than half of the country’s population—will need humanitarian assistance, with 1.9 million people in acute need. In order to meet humanitarian needs, the government of the Central African Republic and the Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA) officially launched the $444.7 million Humanitarian Response Plan for 2021.
- The Central African Republic remains one of the poorest countries in the world and is grappling with numerous human capital challenges. It ranks near the very bottom of the UN Human Development Index (188 out of 189 countries in 2020), which could present devastating consequences for its future generation. While the most recent estimates show that more than 71% of the population is poor, there have been improvements in the provision of key public services in the country’s southwestern region.
- 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, with 116 out of every 1,000 children dying before their fifth birthday (UNICEF, 2020), highlighting the severity of the health situation.
- The Central African Republic has one of the lowest education and gender equality indicators in the world. The poor quality of primary education, the nonexistence of secondary school education for girls, and the numerous cases of violence against women and girls, with 11,000 reported incidents each year (2016), 74% of which involve children, remain pressing challenges for the country.
- Average life expectancy is 53 years. High levels of malnutrition exist, with more than 40% of the population suffering from chronic malnutrition (stunting). The fertility rate is high at 6.2 children per woman.
Last Updated: Jul 13, 2021