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). Bordered by Cameroon, Chad, the two Congos and the two Sudans, the Central African Republic has now been mired in crises for over two decades.
With a population of over six million, the Central African Republic ranks at the bottom of the Human Capital and Human Development Indices. Its institutions are weak, citizens have limited access to basic services, infrastructure is woefully inadequate, gender-based violence is widespread, and the social fabric has been eroded. Despite its vast forests and significant agricultural potential, only 5% of the 15 million hectares of arable land are currently exploited.
The Central African Republic is a fragile country. The cycles of violence are deeply entrenched, owing primarily to (i) a lack of social cohesion, (ii) the concentration of political power in the hands of a small elite, (iii) social and regional disparities, (iv) the capture and mismanagement of natural resources by the elite, and (v) persistent insecurity fueled by a regional system of conflicts.
President Faustin Archange Touadera was reelected during the combined elections of December 2020. The President’s ruling United Hearts Movement (MCU) party dominates the National Assembly and the political scene.
With more than 15,000 personnel, the UN peacekeeping force MINUSCA has been in the Central African Republic since 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 and Rwanda.
The Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation (APPR-RCA), signed in February 2019 with 14 armed groups, continues to provide a roadmap to long-term stability and peace, even after armed groups linked to the CPC left the agreement in December 2020.
- Economic activity slowed in 2021 for the second year in a row, owing to the prolonged effects of COVID-19 on the global economy and the deteriorating security environment in the aftermath of the 2020 elections. Real GDP grew at an estimated 0.9% in 2021, unchanged from 2020. The economy could rebound in the medium term, supported by agricultural and industrial production, provided the security situation improves;
- The main challenges remain (i) the restoration of lasting peace and security and (ii) 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
- The Central African Republic remains one of the poorest countries in the world and is grappling with numerous human capital challenges. It ranks 188th out of 189 on the Human Development Index and it is estimated that approximately 71% of the population was living below the international poverty line.
- Almost 664,000 persons remain internally displaced while 735,000 Central African refugees are sheltering in neighboring countries (UNHCR data as of February 15, 2022). It is estimated that by 2022, 3.1 million Central Africans, or more than half of the country’s population, are expected to need humanitarian assistance. The government of the Central African Republic and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) have officially launched a $461.3 million Humanitarian Response Plan for 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 children out of every 1,000) (UNICEF, 2020).
- 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 remain pressing challenges for the country.
- Average life expectancy is 53 years. 40% of the population suffers from chronic malnutrition while fertility rates remain high with 6.4 children per woman.
Last Updated: Sep 23, 2022