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publicationNovember 16, 2023

Improving Agriculture, Human Capital, and Infrastructure – Key to Take on Poverty in the Central African Republic

Poverty Assessment for Central African Republic

World Bank


  • The Central African Republic (CAR) has the 5th highest rate of poverty in the world, with nearly 70% of the country’s people living in extreme poverty.
  • The World Bank’s first-ever Poverty Assessment for CAR also reveals huge gaps in people’s living conditions with 90% of Central Africans living without electricity.
  • The report urges urgent action to boost agriculture, human capital, and infrastructure to save lives and lift people out of poverty.

BANGUI, November 16, 2023 – The World Bank issued today its first-ever Poverty Assessment report for the Central African Republic (CAR).

Here are some highlights from the report:

1. Extreme poverty is widespread in CAR

CAR has one of the world’s highest rates of poverty – almost 7 out of 10 people are living on less than $2.15 per day, the international poverty line for extreme poverty. More than half are food poor, which means they are unable to afford enough food even if they devote their entire household budget to food.

Many of country’s 6.1 million people are also suffering from extreme non-monetary deprivations – almost nine out of 10 people have no access to electricity; secondary school enrolment is a meagre 16%; and only 2.5% of the country’s roads are paved.

Poverty at $2.15 per day in CAR and comparator countries

Poverty Assessment for Central African Republic

2. Declining prosperity

Conflict, political instability and displacement have plagued CAR since gaining independence in 1960. As a result, the country’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita has been declining and is lower today than in the 1960s.

Real GDP per capita in CAR (1960-present)

Poverty Assessment for Central African Republic

3. Fixing Farming and Infrastructure

The report identifies a roadmap to reducing poverty. With 70% of the country’s working age population dependent on farming, fixing agriculture offers the most direct way to improve livelihoods and feed people. Rainfed agriculture is prevalent throughout the country, with cassava, maize, rice, sorghum, and millet comprising the main staple crops. These activities are also potentially vulnerable to climate-related shocks.

However, agricultural productivity is low, constrained by lack of access to key inputs (such as fertilizers, irrigation, and equipment) and markets (lack of paved roads and limited trade). About 1 in 10 Central Africans need to walk more than one hour to reach a primary, secondary, or tertiary road. This underscores the importance of investing in infrastructure to improve farmers’ access to markets for enhancing agricultural productivity and bolstering livelihoods.

Difficulties encountered by households trying to sell agricultural produce

Poverty Assessment for Central African Republic

4. Boosting Human Capital

Many Central African children live prohibitively far away from schools, especially secondary schools. The report finds that half of primary-school-age children live more than 30 minutes’ walk from the nearest primary school and 30% live more than one hour away. The situation is graver for secondary schools, with 64% of secondary school-age children living more than 30 minutes away on foot and about 55% living more than one hour away. For many, health facilities are also prohibitively far away.

Access to essential services, such as education, healthcare and water, to build young Central African’s productive potential can help trigger durable poverty-reduction.

Indicators of non-monetary Poverty

Poverty Assessment for Central African Republic

5. Social protection

Policies to enhance human capital and improve livelihoods and infrastructure may take time to lift people out of poverty. They need to be complemented by more direct action, such as social safety nets, to ensure that households can consume at least a basic minimum level of food.

Expanding social protection is key, as current social protection programs are too small to address the needs of the most vulnerable. In 2021, just 1% of Central Africans lived in a household receiving government cash transfers, less than 10% lived in a household receiving care for infants and pregnant women, and just 14%  lived in a household receiving food. As a result, Central Africans respond to shocks by adopting coping strategies – including reducing their food consumption – which could weaken investments in physical and human capital.

Given the country’s fiscal constraints, prioritization and better targeting of social safety nets to reach the people most in need is key. Promoting peace and security is also critical, and all poverty-reducing policies must consider issues of displacement and the conflict-affected environment.

Shocks experienced by poor and non-poor Central Africans

Poverty Assessment for Central African Republic

The Poverty Assessment report uses unparalleled microdata to generate practical policies to lift Central Africans out of poverty. The report draws primarily on the 2021 Survey of Harmonized Data on Households Living Conditions (EHCVM in French), the first household survey suitable for poverty measurement conducted in CAR in more than a decade. Using data to track progress on poverty and welfare over time can provide further practical and more specific guidance to policymakers, as well as holding them accountable, boosting transparency, and supporting good governance.