FLAG: The national flag consists of four horizontal stripes (blue, white, green, and yellow) divided at the center by a vertical red stripe. In the upper left corner is a yellow five-pointed star.
ANTHEM: La Renaissance (Rebirth).
MONETARY UNIT: The Communauté Financière Africaine franc (CFA Fr), which was originally pegged to the French franc, has been pegged to the euro since January 1999 with a rate of 655.957 CFA francs to 1 euro. The CFA franc is issued in coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 CFA francs, and notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 CFA francs. CFA Fr1 = $0.00189 (or $1 = CFA Fr528.28) as of 2005.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.
HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Anniversary of President Boganda's Death, 29 March; Labor Day, 1 May; National Day of Prayer, 30 June; Independence Day, 13 August; Assumption, 15 August; All Saints' Day, 1 November; Proclamation of the Republic, 28 November; National Day, 1 December; and Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include Easter Monday, Ascension, Pentecost Monday.
TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.
Located entirely within the tropical zone of Central Africa, the Central African Republic has an area of 622,984 sq km (240,535 sq mi), extending 1,437 km (893 mi) e–w and 772 km (480 mi) n–s. Comparatively, the area occupied by Central African Republic is slightly smaller than the state of Texas. Entirely landlocked, it is bordered on the north by Chad, on the east by Sudan, on the south by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DROC—the former Zaire) and the Republic of the Congo (ROC), and on the west by Cameroon, with a total boundary length of 5,203 km (3,233 mi). The Oubangui and Mbomou rivers form much of the southern border; the eastern border coincides with the divide between the watersheds of the Nile and the Zaire rivers. The Central African Republic capital city, Bangui, is located in the southwestern part of the country.
The land consists of an undulating plateau varying in altitude from 610 to 762 m (2,000–2,500 ft). Two important escarpments are evident: in the northwest is a high granite plateau (rising to 1,420 m/4,659 ft), which is related to the Adamawa Plateau of Cameroon; in the northeast the Bongos Range rises to 1,368 m (4,488 ft) and extends into Sudan.
Soils are complex; sands and clays are predominate, sometimes covered with a lateritic layer, over granite and quartz rocks. The land is well drained by two river systems: the Ubangi and its tributaries in the south, and the tributaries of the Chari and Logone rivers in the north.
The climate is tropical, with abundant rainfall of about 178 cm (70 in) annually in the south, decreasing to about 86 cm (30 in) in the extreme northeast. There is one rainy season (December–March) and one long, hot, dry season (April–November). Temperatures at Bangui have an average minimum and maximum range from 21°c (70°f) to 34°c (93°f).
Flooding is common during the rainy season. An unusually heavy rainfall beginning in August 2005 caused severe flood damage to homes in Bakala, Grimari, Kouango, and Bambari. Damage to local farmland, particularly in Ouaka, posed the threat of famine to follow.
The tropical rain forest in the southwest contains luxuriant plant growth, with some trees reaching a height of 46 m (150 ft). Toward the north, the forest gradually becomes less dense, with wider patches of grassland, and eventually gives way to the rolling hills of the savanna, interrupted by taller growths along riverbeds. Almost every animal of the tropics is found, including the elephant; its ivory was once a major source of wealth but has declined in economic importance. The southwest has a colorful variety of butterflies. As of 2002, there were at least 209 species of mammals, 168 species of birds, and over 3,600 species of plants throughout the country.
The most significant environmental problems in the Central African Republic are desertification, water pollution, and the destruction of the nation's wildlife due to poaching and mismanagement. The encroachment of the desert on the country's agricultural and forest lands is due to deforestation and soil erosion. There are 13 national parks and wildlife reserves. About 8.7% of the total land area was protected in 2003. The Dzanga-Sangha nature reserve in the southwest protects the nation's last rain forest. The Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Central African Republic has reported major losses in its elephant population. In 1979, it was disclosed that three-quarters of what had been the nation's elephant population at independence (40,000–80,000) had been killed so that the tusks could be sold for ivory. In the mid-1990s, it was estimated that 90% of the nation's elephant population had been eliminated over the previous 30 years, 85% since 1982. Elephant hunting is now banned.
According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 11 types of mammals, 3 species of birds, 1 type of reptile, and 15 species of plants. Endangered species in the Central African Republic included the black rhinoceros and northern square-lipped rhinoceros.
The population of Central African Republic in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 4,238,000, which placed it at number 120 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 4% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 43% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 95 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 2005–2010 was expected to be 1.7%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 5,487,000. The population density was 7 per sq km (18 per sq mi), but large areas in the east are almost uninhabited.
The UN estimated that 41% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.81%. The capital city, Bangui, had a population of 698,000 in that year. Other cities and their estimated populations include Bouar (95,193), Bambari (87,464); and Berbérati (82,492).
The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has had a significant impact on the population of Central African Republic. The UN estimated that 12.9% of adults between the ages of 15–49 were living with HIV/AIDS in 2001; the number of AIDS orphans grew by more than 20,000 from 2001 to 2003. The AIDS epidemic causes higher death and infant mortality rates, and lowers life expectancy.
Both internal and external migration is mainly seasonal. As of 1999, there were 34,831 Sudanese refugees and 3,590 Chadians. Refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC) also arrived in the Central African Republic in January and July 1999. Many settled on their own; however, the government was attempting to relocate all to the Boubou refugee camp. Repatriation efforts began in 1999. Some 1,500 Chadians were ready to return home, and some 500 from the DROC had requested assistance to return to Kinshasa. In 2000, the total number of migrants was 59,000, of which 95% were refugees. In 2003, there were 200,000 internally displaced persons (IDP) within the country. In 2004, some 1,300 Central Africans sought asylum in Cameroon and France. In that same year 28,136 people sought refuge in the Central African Republic: 25,020 refugees, 2,748 asylum seekers (some from Chad), and 368 returned refugees. The net migration rate for the country estimated for 2005 was zero.
There are more than 80 ethnic groups, which are classified according to geographic location. The Baya (33% of the population) to the west and the Banda (27%) in the east central region are estimated to be the most numerous groups. In the savanna live the Mandjia, accounting for 13% of the population, the Sara, accounting for 10%, and the Mboum, accounting for 7%, each with several subgroups. In the forest region are the Pygmies (Binga) and some Bantu groups, including the Mbaka, who account for another 4% of the population. About 4% of the population are Yakoma. There were about 6,500 Europeans in 1998, including 3,600 French.
Many languages and dialects are spoken, including Arabic, Hunsa, and Swahili, but Sangho, the language of a group living on the Ubangi River, is spoken by a majority and is the national language. French is the official language of government and is taught in the schools.
Though about 50% of the population are Christians, it is believed that most of these followers incorporate traditional indigenous elements into their faith practices. Catholic and Protestant missions are scattered throughout the territory. Islam is practiced primarily in the north. About 25% of the population are Protestant, another 25% are Roman Catholic, and 15% are Muslim. Traditional indigenous beliefs are practiced by about 35% of the population as a primary or exclusive belief system. Missionary groups within the country include Lutherans, Baptists, Grace Brethren, and Jehovah's Witnesses.
The constitution (suspended since 2003) provides for freedom of religion while prohibiting certain forms of religious fundamentalism. This prohibition is generally considered to be directed toward Muslim fundamentalists. Christian holidays are celebrated as national holidays. All religious groups must be registered through the Ministry of Interior. The Unification Church has been banned since the mid-1980s. The practice of witchcraft is considered a criminal offense, however, prosecution is generally made only in conjunction with other criminal activity, such as murder.
Transportation is limited to river, road, and air, with river transportation the most important for movement of freight. As of 2004, there were some 2,800 km (1,750 mi) of navigable waterways, which consisted mainly of the Sangha and Oubanqui rivers. The important Oubangui River route leads to the Zaire River port of Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, where a rail line travels to the Atlantic port of Pointe-Noire. The Lobaye and several tributaries of the Chari and Logone rivers are partly navigable, but service is irregular during the dry season. The port of Kilongo (at Bangui) is the largest in the country. Both Kilongo and the port of Nola are being enlarged to accommodate steadily increasing maritime traffic.
In 2002, the country had 23,810 km (14,796 mi) of roads, of which only 429 km (267 mi) were paved. A rehabilitation project, begun in 1974 and completed ten years later, centered on three highways running north, west, and south from Nola. In 2003, there were about 1,850 passenger cars and 1,650 commercial vehicles were in use. There are no railroads.
In 2004, there were an estimated 50 airports. However, only three had paved runways, as of 2005. There is an international airport at Bangui-Mpoko. Five airlines provide international transport. The Republic is also a partner in Air Afrique. Inter-RCA provides domestic service. In 2003, about 46,000 passengers were carried on domestic and international flights.
Before its colonial history, the area now known as the Central African Republic was settled by successive waves of peoples, mostly Bantu. Both European and Arab slave traders exploited the area in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and slave raids and intertribal wars were frequent until the French conquest. In the 19th century, the main population groups, the Baya and the Banda, arrived from the north and east, respectively, to flee the slave trade.
The French explored and conquered the country, chiefly from 1889, when an outpost was established at Bangui, to 1900, as part of a plan to link French colonies from the Atlantic to the Nile. The strongest and most sustained opposition to the French came from Sultan Senoussi, who was finally defeated in 1912. Isolated local revolts continued well into the 20th century, however. The strongest and bloodiest of these, known as the War of Kongo-Wara, lasted from 1928 to 1931.
The territory of Ubangi-Shari was formally established in 1894, and its borders fixed by treaties between the European colonial powers. The western border with the German Cameroons was fixed by a convention with Germany in 1884; a convention of 1887 with Belgium's King Leopold II delineated the southern border with the Independent State of the Congo; the eastern border with the Sudan was fixed by an 1899 convention. These boundaries were drawn with little knowledge of the human geography of the area, so ethnic groups were sometimes separated into different territories. From 1906 to 1916, Ubangi-Shari and Chad were merged as a single territory. In 1910, Gabon, Middle Congo, and Ubangi-Shari (including Chad) were constituted administratively as separate colonies forming parts of a larger French Equatorial Africa. Ubangi-Shari's resources were exploited by French companies, and abuses of the forced labor system were common.
In 1940, the colony quickly rallied to the Free French standard raised at Brazzaville, Congo. After World War II, the territory elected Barthélémy Boganda as its first representative to the French Parliament in Paris. In a referendum on 28 September 1958, Ubangi-Shari voted to become an autonomous republic within the French community. The Central African Republic was proclaimed with Boganda as president on 1 December 1958. On 30 April 1959, Minister of the Interior David Dacko was elected to succeed Boganda, who had died in a plane crash on 29 March. The country declared itself an independent republic on 13 August 1960, with Dacko as president. In 1961, the constitution was amended to establish a presidential government with a single-party system.
On 1 January 1966, a military coup d'etat led by Col. Jean-Bédel Bokassa overthrew Dacko (Bokassa's cousin), abolished the constitution, and dissolved the National Assembly. Bokassa, who became president in 1968 and president for life in 1972, proclaimed himself emperor of the newly formed Central African Empire on 4 December 1976. A year later, on that date, he crowned himself emperor in a lavish ceremony at an estimated cost of $25 million—a quarter of the nation's annual export earnings.
On 20 September 1979, Dacko, with French support, led a bloodless coup that overthrew Bokassa while he was out of the country. The republic was restored, and Bokassa, who took refuge in Côte d'Ivoire and France, was sentenced to death in absentia for various crimes, including cannibalism. Moreover, an African judicial commission reported that he had "almost certainly" taken part in the massacre of some 100 children for refusing to wear the compulsory school uniforms. In January 1981, six of his supporters, including two sons-in-law, were executed.
A new constitution allowing free political activity was approved by referendum in February 1981. A month later, Dacko was elected, polling a bare majority against four rivals. Violence followed the election, which the losers charged was fraudulent. Economic conditions failed to improve, and Dacko was overthrown on 1 September 1981 by a military coup led by army chief of staff Gen. André Kolingba. Kolingba became chairman of the ruling Military Committee for National Recovery, and the constitution and all political activities were suspended. The Kolingba regime survived an attempted coup in 1982 and an aborted return by Bokassa in 1983. On 21 November 1986, Kolingba was elected unopposed to a six-year term as president, and a new constitution was adopted establishing a one-party state. The new ruling party, the Central African Democratic Party (Rassemblement Démocratique Centrafricaine—RDC), nominated a list of 142 of its members, from which voters elected 52 to the new National Assembly on 31 July 1987.
Bokassa made an unexpected return in October 1986 and was retried. On 12 June 1987, he was convicted of having ordered the murders of at least 20 prisoners and the arrest of the schoolchildren who were murdered. He was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to a life term in February 1988. He was released from prison on 1 September 1993, as a result of an amnesty. He died of a heart attack in Bangui on 3 November 1996 at age 75.
The 1990s proved to be a decade of unsteady democratization. In April 1991, under pressure from France, the IMF, and local critics, Kolingba agreed to legalize opposition parties, many of which had already formed a united front to press for further reforms. Elections were held on 25 October 1992, but widespread irregularities led to the Supreme Court dismissing the results for both the National Assembly and the presidency. Elections were rescheduled, and on 19 September 1993 citizens elected Ange-Félix Patassé as head of the Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MLPC), president. A new National Assembly of 85 members was elected. Patasse's party won only 33 seats, and Kolingba's RDC won 14 seats. Despite some irregularities, an international observer delegation certified the validity of the outcome.
Despite the 1994 national referendum and a new constitution instituting democratic reforms, nonpayment of salaries provoked three mutinies and widespread ethnic violence in 1996 and 1997. The French army quelled the mutinies, leaving over 100 people dead and hundreds more injured.
Mediation from four heads of neighboring states produced the Bangui Accord in January 1997. The accord included an 800-strong Inter-African Peace Force (MISAB) composed of six French-speaking countries, approved and supported by the UN and French government. In April 1998, the UN deployed a peacekeeping force of 1,498 military personnel called MINURCA. Its mandate was mainly to monitor implementation of the Bangui Accord. MINURCA succeeded in maintaining security, stability, and an environment conducive for peaceful elections.
On 22 November and 13 December 1998 parliamentary elections were held, overseen by MINURCA. The ruling MLPC won 47 of the 109 seats of the National Assembly, but the opposition formed a parliamentary majority. Patassé won the presidential elections held on 19 September 1999, taking 51.6% of the vote. His runner-up, Kolingba, got 19.3%. Despite opposition allegations of rigging and irregularities, the UN and other international observers declared both elections generally free and fair.
The dawn of the new millennium witnessed more civil unrest in the country. On 15 February 2000, a UN peace-building mission replaced MINURCA and UN troops were withdrawn. However, on 28 May 2001, Kolingba led an unsuccessful coup attempt against Patassé during which at least 59 people were killed and thousands fled Bangui in 10 days of violence. Chadian and Libyan troops, and rebel troops from the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, aided Patassé in suppressing the coup attempt. Economic instability followed the aborted coup. Former army chief of staff, François Bozizé, was accused of being involved in the coup attempt, and in November, fighting broke out between government forces attempting to arrest Bozizé, and Bozizé's supporters. Libya, Chad, and the United Nations intervened to attempt to resolve the conflict. Bozizé fled to Chad, but his supporters returned in October 2002 engaging the government in six days of heavy fighting. Libyan forces aided Patassé's troops in suppressing the rebellion.
On 15 March 2003, Bozizé staged a coup, captured Bangui, declared himself president, suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament. Patassé, who had been in Niger for a meeting of African heads of state, fled to Cameroon. Bangui was ravaged by two days of looting and violence, in which at least 13 people were killed. Bozizé replaced the National Assembly with a National Transitional Council (NTC) composed of the leading political factions, police and army personnel, and civil society representatives, including Nicolas Tiangaye, a prominent human rights advocate. His rule brought a measure of stability, but state sector arrears brought about strikes in February and March 2004, and his government squandered an opportunity to strengthen support in the countryside by failing to compensate people for their farms and businesses that were destroyed during the 2003 coup.
Despite these shortcomings, and his promise to step down at the end of the transition, Bozizé contested the 13 March 2005 presidential elections in which all of the leading opposition candidates were allowed to run except for Patassé. Bozizé won on the second run-off round on 8 May 2005, defeating Martin Ziguélé, who ran on the former ruling party ticket of the MLPC. The National Elections Commission declared Bozizé the winner with 64.6% of the vote to 35.4% for Ziguélé. The election received a general declaration of fairness, although the absence of Patassé cast a shadow over the legitimacy of the process.
On 8 May 2005, Bozizé gained yet a further victory when his coalition, Convergence Kwa Na Kwa won 42 parliamentary seats in the legislative run-off vote. The MLPC came in second with 11 seats while the RDC managed only eight seats. The remaining seats were won by independents or by smaller parties. In June later that year, the African Union (AU) lifted sanctions against the country, which had been applied after the 2003 usurption of power.
In early 2006, Bozizé's government appeared stable. However, Patassé, who was living in exile in Togo, and whose supporters reportedly were joining or were prepared to join rebel movements in belief that their leader was still the official elected leader of the MLPC and the rightful head of state of the country, could not be ruled out as a leader of a future uprising. Further, members of Kolingba's Yakoma tribe in the south posed a potential threat to Bozizé's government because of their widespread boycott of the second round of the legislative elections. Members of the Yakoma dominate the army.
The 1959 constitution was suspended after the January 1966 coup, and the National Assembly was dissolved. An imperial constitution issued in December 1976 lapsed with Bokassa's fall in 1979. A new constitution was promulgated on 6 February 1981 after 97.4% of the voters had approved it in a referendum. It provided for the election of a president and National Assembly by universal adult suffrage, and it allowed multiple parties. It was suspended after the military coup of 1 September 1981. All executive and legislative power was assumed by the ruling Military Committee for National Recovery (Comité Militaire pour le Redressement National), headed by Gen. André Kolingba. This committee was disbanded in 1985.
A new constitution adopted by plebiscite on 21 November 1986 established a one-party state and a 52-member National Assembly; simultaneously, Kolingba was elected unopposed to a six-year term as president. The National Assembly provided a forum for debate, but it had little substantive impact on government policy.
In 1991, Kolingba was forced to legalize opposition parties. After the Supreme Court invalidated a 1992 election, new elections were conducted successfully in September 1993. For the 1993 elections, the unicameral National Assembly was enlarged to 85 members. Upon Kolingba's defeat, Ange-Félix Patassé, was installed and a transition to multiparty democracy took place. His coalition government was headed by the MLPC and included members of three other parties. Constitutional reforms passed by referendum in 1994 and instituted in 1995 and 1996 created a stronger prime minister, a constitutional court, and created regional assemblies. On 15 March 2003, former army chief François Bozizé dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution.
Prior to the March 2003 coup, the constitution provided for an independent judiciary, although it was subject to executive interference. The president could veto legislation, although the legislature could override his veto, and he could rule by decree under special conditions. Members of the National Assembly served five-year terms. Suffrage was universal at age 21.
The national referendum on 5 December 2004 validated constitutional amendments proposed by the NTC including shortening the presidential term to five from six years, renewable only once; the strengthening of the office of the prime minister and the National Assembly; and a reduction in fees required of political candidates.
Following the resignation of Celestin Gaombalet on 11 June 2005, Prime Minister Elie Doté was named to head the government (on 13 June 2005). The prime minister is appointed by the party with a parliamentary majority. Bozizé's nephew holds the key mining and energy portfolio, his son is cabinet director in charge of the Ministry of Defense, and Bozizé himself retains control over the defense portfolio. The next presidential elections were scheduled for April 2010.
The Movement for Social Evolution of Black Africa (Mouvement d'Évolution Sociale de l'Afrique Noire—MESAN) was founded by Barthélémy Boganda in September 1949. Boganda, himself a deputy in Paris for some years, constantly fought for greater internal autonomy and an end to French administration.
Internal antagonism to Boganda came particularly from those who resented his electoral laws, which made it difficult to contest any seats with MESAN. In the election of 25 September 1960, MESAN received 80% of the votes, while the newly founded Movement for the Democratic Evolution of Central Africa (Mouvement d'Évolution Démocratique de l'Afrique Centrale—MEDAC) received 20%. MEDAC was dissolved by the government in February 1961. In December 1962, a constitutional amendment recognized MESAN as the sole party in the republic, but with the military coup d'état in January 1966 all political activity was banned. MESAN was revived in 1972 by Jean-Bédel Bokassa.
After Bokassa's fall, the single-party system was maintained, but the name of the party was changed to the Central African Democratic Union (Union Démocratique Centrafricaine—UDC) in 1980. The February 1981 constitution allowed other parties, and five competed in the presidential election of 15 March 1981. President David Dacko, the UDC candidate, received 50.2% of the vote. His chief opponent was Ange-Félix Patassé of the Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic (Mouvement pour la Libération du Peuple Centrafricain—MLPC), who received 38.1%. Following the military coup of 1 September 1981, all political activity was suspended. The MLPC was formally banned on 6 March 1982 after an unsuccessful coup that the government blamed on Patassé. Patassé subsequently fled to Togo.
The Central African Democratic Party (Rassemblement Démocratique Centrafricaine—RDC), the sole legal political party adopted by the Kolingba regime, held its founding assembly in February 1987. The same year three opposition parties in exile in Paris, including the MLPC, established a coalition called the United Front.
In 1991, opposition parties were legalized and in October 1992, multiparty elections were held. The Supreme Court invalidated the results and on 19 September 1993, new elections led to Kolingba's defeat. His old nemesis, Patassé, became president and the MLPC gained 33 of the 85 seats in the National Assembly. The RDC won 14 seats.
Other parties in the government coalition included the Liberal Democratic Party, the Alliance for Democracy and Progress, and the David Dacko Movement (an informal grouping of supporters of the ex-president). In opposition, along with the RDC, were the Consultative Group of Democratic Forces (CFD), an alliance of 14 opposition groups; the Social Democratic Party; and the National Convention.
A record 849 candidates from 29 parties and 118 independents contested the parliamentary elections that were held in November and December 1998. Patassé's MLPC won 47 of the 109 seats; Koringba's RTC had 20; Dacko's MDD (Movement for Democracy and Development) got 8; and Goumba's FPP (Patriotic Front for Progress) won 7 seats. Eleven of the 29 contesting parties won seats to the National Assembly.
Pattasé was reelected for a second presidential term with a narrow majority of 51.6% of the vote and sworn in as president on 22 October 1999. Kolingba came second (19.3%), Dacko third (11.1%), and Goumba fourth (6%) in the 10-candidate contest.
The National Assembly was dissolved in March 2003 after François Bozizé seized power in a coup. Bozizé scored 43% of the vote in the 13 March 2005 presidential elections, and won the second run-off round on 8 May 2005 with 64.6% of the vote to 35.4% for Martin Ziguélé of the MLPC. André Kolingba of the RDC came in a distant third on the first round with 16.4% of the vote. Bozizé was supported on the second round with endorsements from Jean-Paul Ngoupandé of the Parti de l'unité nationale, and the leader of the Forum démocratique pur la modernité (Fodem), Charles Massi.
On 8 May 2005, Bozizé's coalition, the Convergence Kwa Na Kwa, won 42 parliamentary seats in the legislative run-off vote giving it the largest coalition in the 105-seat body. The MLPC came in second with 11 seats while the RDC managed only eight seats. The remaining seats were won by independents or by smaller parties.
The country is divided into 16 prefectures, 69 subprefectures, and the autonomous commune of Bangui. In 1988, local elections created 176 municipal councils, each of which was headed by a may- or appointed by the president.
There are several civil courts, criminal courts, and a court of appeal situated in Bangui. At the apex is a Supreme Court, also located in Bangui, the members of which are appointed by the president.
There are also provisions for a High Court of Justice, a body of nine judges created to try political cases against the president, members of congress and government ministers, which has never convened.
The 1994 constitution reorganized the judiciary, which consists of regular and military courts. A Constitutional Court was formed in 1996 to determine if laws passed by the National Assembly conform to the constitution: three of its judges are appointed by the president, three by the president of the National Assembly, and three by fellow judges. New courts of justice were created in 1997 in both urban and rural areas, and a juvenile court in 1998. The functioning of these courts is undermined by inefficient management, shortage of trained personnel, increasing salary arrears, and a general lack of material resources. Significant case backlogs are not uncommon.
The legal system is based on the French civil law system. Criminal defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to counsel, to public trial, and to confront witnesses. Trials are public and frequently broadcast on national radio.
The Army, numbering 1,400 active personnel in 2005, had three main battle tanks and eight reconnaissance vehicles in its arsenal. The 150-man Air Force had no combat aircraft or helicopters. The paramilitary gendarmerie numbered around 1,000. The defense budget in 2005 totaled $15 million.
On 26 September 1960, the Central African Republic was admitted to the United Nations; CAR is a member of ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies. In 1959, together with Chad, the Congo, and Gabon, it formed the Equatorial Customs Union (Union Douanière Equatoriale—UDE), a customs union in which merchandise, property, and capital circulated freely. The Monetary and Economic Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), has superceded the UDE. The nation is part of the Franc Zone. The country is also a member of the African Development Bank, the Central African States Development Bank (BDEAC), the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CENSAD), the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), G-77, and the African Union, and is a signatory to the Lomé Convention. CAR is part of the Nonaligned Movement and is an observer in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). In environmental cooperation, CAR is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES, the International Tropical Timber Agreement (1994), the Montréal Protocol, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Desertification.
The Central African Republic (CAR) has a basically agricultural economy supplemented by the export of diamonds. Agriculture engages about 85% of the workforce and produces about half of GDP. Food crops—manioc (tapioca), corn, millet, bananas, and rice—are grown on low-technology farms for domestic consumption. Coffee, tobacco, timber and cotton are the CAR's principal export crops. The large forest reserves support growth in timber exports; timber accounted for 48% of export earnings in 2004. Livestock production grew in the early 1990s as the northern limit of the tsetse fly zone retreated south. Diamond output leads the mining sector, with sales of uncut diamonds contributing approximately 47% of export revenues in 2004. Published figures on production levels for diamond mines are considered unreliable, due to widespread smuggling and mine owner's attempts to minimize their exposure to export taxes. It is possible there are oil deposits along Cameroon's northern border with Chad. The country suffers as a result of its isolation from its major markets, deteriorating transportation infrastructure, and largely unskilled workforce. The communication network also is limited.
Economic growth stagnated between 1989 and 1991, severely affected by declining world prices for its exports. In 1994, the CFR franc was devalued. This had the effect of increasing diamond, timber, coffee, and cotton exports, resulting in a 5% growth in GDP. On the other hand, imports rose in price, driving inflation to 45% in 1994. By 2005, the inflation rate had dropped to 2.5%, with a GDP growth rate of 2.2%. The country runs both budget deficits and trade deficits, has a large debt burden and limited foreign direct investment, and, as of 2002, had seen a decline in per capita GNP in the last 30 years. World Bank and IMF programs to support investments in livestock, agriculture, and the transportation sectors have not been successful. As such, the World Bank and IMF as of 2005 were concentrating on poverty reduction programs and reform plans to refuel the economy, including the privatization of state-owned enterprises and corruption-fighting measures.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 the Central African Republic's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $4.5 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $1,200. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 2.5%. The average inflation rate in 2001 was 3.6%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 55% of GDP, industry 20%, and services 25%.
Foreign aid receipts amounted to about $13 per capita.
The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Central African Republic totaled $917 million or about $236 per capita based on a GDP of $1.2 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1980 to 1990 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 1.5%.
The vast majority of the labor force is engaged in subsistence farming, herding, and fishing. The unemployment rate was approximately 8% in 2001, (the latest year for which data was available) with up to 23% unemployed in the capital city of Bangui. There is no data on the size of the country's workforce.
According to the law, workers can join or form a union without getting prior authorization, and while civilian police forces and judges can form a union and strike, national security forces, such as the gendarmarie and millitary personnel, are prohibited from striking or forming a union. Unions have the right to strike after certain conditions are met. Prior to the actual strike action, union demands must be presented to the employer, followed by the latter's response, a conciliation meeting between the two sides and the finding of an arbitration council that an agreement could not be reached on valid demands must take place. In addition, eight days advance notice of a planned strike must be given.
Although forced or coerced labor is prohibited, reports have been made of prisioners, children and pygmies being forced or coerced into performing labor.
The 40-hour workweek has been established for government and most private sector employees. Also required is a minimum 48-hour-per-week rest period. The government sets minimum wage laws sector by sector. As of 2005, agricultural workers had a minimum wage of $12 per month while office workers were promised $28 per month. However, wage levels have not changed for more than two decades and the minimum wage is insufficent to support a worker and a family with a decent living standard. There are general safety and health standards, but the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service has never defined them or enforced them. Although the labor code prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14, child labor is a common practice especially in rural areas.
Agricultural output is dominated by subsistence crops. Agriculture (including forestry and fisheries) accounted for 61% of GDP in 2003, and it employed about 70% of the labor force. The FAO estimates that about 2,024,000 hectares (5,001,000 acres, or 3.2% of the total land area) are arable or under permanent crops, and 3,125,000 hectares (7,722,000 acres, or 5% of total land area) are in permanent pasture. The CAR is nearly self-sufficient in food production and has potential as an exporter.
Manioc, the basic food crop, is raised on about 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres); output was about 563,000 tons in 2004. Bananas are the second major food crop. Production was 110,000 tons in 2004, while plantain production was 80,000 tons. Other food crops in 2004 included 119,000 tons of corn, 10,162 tons of millet, and 42,480 tons of sorghum. Some tropical fruits are produced in small quantities, including 20,000 tons of oranges and 1,800 tons of lemons and limes in 2004. An oil-palm plantation covering 2,500 hectares (6,200 acres) opened in 1986 at Bossongo, 35 km (22 mi) sw of Bangui. In 2004, production of palm kernels totaled 2,000 tons.
The first commercial cotton production in French Equatorial Africa began in Ubangi-Shari in 1924. Cotton is grown in the Bamingui and Gribingui river valleys. In 1969–70, 58,000 tons of seed cotton were produced, a national high, but production quickly slumped: in 2004, it totaled 1,000 tons.
Another important cash crop is high-quality coffee, which is cultivated on the plateaus along with sisal and tobacco; coffee production was 7,500 tons in 2004; coffee exports were valued at only $587,000 in 2004, down from $2.8 million in 2001.
Production of peanuts, which are cultivated in conjunction with cotton, was an estimated 133,600 tons in 2004.
Although most of the Republic is in the tsetse fly belt, some animal husbandry is carried on. In 2004 there were an estimated 3,423,000 head of cattle, 3,087,000 goats, 805,000 pigs, and 259,000 sheep. About 127,300 tons of meat were produced in 2004, with beef accounting for 58%. Cow's milk production was around 65,000 tons the same year. There were an estimated 4,760,000 chickens in 2004 when some 1,476 tons of eggs were produced. Honey production amounted to 13,000 tons in 2004.
Fishing is carried on extensively along the rivers, but most of the catch is sold or bartered on the DROC side of the Ubangi. In 1950, the government began a fish-farming program, and by the end of 1968 there were almost 12,000 ponds. The 2003 fish catch was about 15,000 tons.
There are 22.9 million hectares (56.5 million acres) of forest (37% of the total land area), but only 3.4 million hectares (8.4 million acres) of dense forest, all in the south in the regions bordering the DROC. The CAR's exploitable forests cover 27 million hectares (68 million acres), or 43% of the total land area. Transportation bottlenecks on rivers and lack of rail connections are serious hindrances to commercial exploitation. Most timber is shipped down the Ubangi and Zaire rivers and then on the Congo railway to the Atlantic. More than a dozen types of trees are felled, but 95% of the total is composed of obeche, sapele, ebony, and sipo.
A dozen sawmills produced 516,000 cu m (18 million cu ft) of sawn logs and veneer logs in 2003. The government is encouraging production of plywood and veneer. Roundwood removals were estimated at 2.8 million cu m (99.7 million cu ft) in 2003. Competition from lower-cost Asian and Latin American loggers has hurt the local industry, which is encumbered with high transportation and labor costs. In 2003, the country exported $89.8 million of forest products.
Diamond mining was the country's leading industry and top export commodity in 2002. Mining accounted for about 4% of GDP and 40%–50% of export earnings. Diamonds were discovered in alluvial deposits in various parts of the country in 1935 and 1947. Production, which reached 609,360 carats in 1968, was put at around 350,000 carats in 2004. In 2003, diamond output totaled 332,700 carats in 2003. However, sizable quantities are smuggled out of the country. About 60% of the nation's diamonds came from the upper Sangha region. Preliminary gold production in 2004 was put at 7 kg, unchanged from 2003. Gold was still mined in alluvial deposits, by artisanal miners, primarily in the Bandas and the Bogoin-Boali greenstone belts.
Uranium was discovered in 1966 in the Bakouma region in the eastern part of the country, and there was further prospecting in the Berbérati and Bangassou areas; exploitation has not occurred, because of high start-up costs and poor transportation. Reserves were estimated at 18,000 tons. Iron deposits estimated at 3.5 million tons have been exploited, but production has ceased. The country also had deposits of nickel, graphite, ilmenite, lignite, monazite, rutile, manganese, cobalt, tin, copper, china clay, and limestone. The lack of adequate transportation and industrial infrastructure hindered the development of the nation's mineral industry. Little of the country's 400,000-sq-km Precambrian terrain has been explored using modern exploration techniques.
Electric power production totaled 103 million kWh in 2002, with consumption at 0.096 billion kWh for that same year. The capital city of Bangui is supplied by two hydroelectric generators and one thermal plant. A new dam on the Mbali (a joint project with Democratic Republic of the Congo), which permits year-round hydroelectric generation, opened in late 1991. Total generating capacity was 40,000 kW in 2002, with thermal sources accounting for 21,000 kW and hydroelectric at 19,000 kW for that year.
Exxon drilled an exploratory oil well in 1985, but further work was deemed economically infeasible. Any oil production would depend on the connection of a pipeline from Chad to Douala, Cameroon. In 2002, the Central African Republic's average daily fuel imports included 610 barrels of distillate fuel oil, 590 barrels of jet fuel, 530 barrels of kerosene, and 470 barrels of gasoline. As of 2002, the country has no known reserves of oil, natural gas or coal.
Industry contributed 11.4% of GDP in 2004. Textile and leather manufacturing are the leading industries. The largest single factory is a joint-venture textile complex (51% French owned) in Bangui, which handles spinning, weaving, dyeing, and the manufacture of blankets. All cotton produced in the country is ginned locally, with cotton-ginning plants scattered throughout the cotton-producing regions. Refined sugar and palm oil also are produced, as are soap, cigarettes, beer, bottled water, and soft drinks. Other light industries are paint, bricks and utensil manufacture, and motorcycle and bicycle assembly. Manufacturing primarily serves local needs. The Central African Republic's (CAR) total annual diamond production is estimated at $100 million. The CAR is the world's 10th largest producer of diamonds. There are seven major diamond exporting companies operating in the country. Most diamond mining is artisanal.
Among the research institutes in the Central African Republic are a study center on animal sleeping sickness in Bouar and an agricultural institute in M'Baiki. The National Institute of Textile Research and Food Crops is in Bambari. The Pasteur Institute in Bangui conducts research on various diseases. French institutes include the Institute of Scientific Research for Cooperative Development, at Bangui, and the experimental station of Maboké, in M'Baiki, under the direction of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. The University of Bangui has faculties of science and technology, health science, a polytechnic institute, and a research institute for mathematics teaching. The Central School of Agriculture is located in Boukoko, and the Territorial School of Agriculture is in Grimari. In the period 1990–2001, there were 27 technicians, and 47 scientists and engineers per million people engaged in research and development. Also, in 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 30% of college and university enrollments.
A vast majority of the population is employed in agriculture, which accounts for about 58% of the GDP (2004 est.). Light industries,
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
primarily in Bangui, include food processing, textiles, cigarettes, a brewery, and a diamond-cutting facility. Most local produce and imports are sold at markets in towns and villages. Company agents and independent middlemen buy export crops at local markets or directly from the producers for sale to large companies. Most commercial businesses are controlled by French and Lebanese owners. The government fosters the distribution of agricultural products through a monopolistic state trading company.
A chamber of commerce at Bangui promotes trade and provides information to business firms. Advertising is found in local newspapers, company publications, and handbills and on billboards and radio. Normal business hours are from 7 am to noon and 2:30 to 6:30 pm, Monday through Friday. Saturday hours are from 7 am to noon.
Diamonds are the largest Central African commodity export, sold either for jewelry (35%), or natural abrasives (35%). Many diamonds are smuggled out of the country, so exact figures are difficult to compile. Agricultural exports are cotton (14%) and coffee (2.6%). Another 5% can be attributed to the manufacture of motor vehicles and parts. In 2004 the main destinations for CAR's exports were Belgium (39%), Italy (9%) and Spain (8%). Imports came mainly from France (17.6%), the United States (16.3%) and Cameroon (9.3%).
The Central African Republic's frequent deficits in trade and services are financed mainly through international aid. In the early 1980s, the Republic faced a severe balance-of-payments problem caused by low world prices for its exports and high fuel import costs. A structural adjustment program was begun in 1986 (and further developed in 1988 and 1990) to curb the public sector and to promote private-sector investment in an effort to decrease the reliance on infusions of foreign aid. In 1998, the IMF approved a three-year structural adjustment program equivalent to $66 million (subsequently augmented and extended); this program expired in 2002. The first six-month emergency post-conflict assistance (EPCA) program expired in December 2004. In 2005, the IMF decided to delay the approval of a new post-conflict program. This decision followed the government's failure to meet key macroeconomic targets, reflecting poor fiscal performance. This undermines the return of foreign investors, which is critical for economic recovery.
The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that in 2005 the purchasing power parity of the Central African Republic's exports was $188.6 million, while imports totaled $143.5 million, resulting in a trade surplus of $45.1 million.
In November 1972, a new central bank, the Bank of the Central African States (Banque des États de l'Afrique Central-BEAC), replaced the existing Central Bank of the States of Equatorial Africa and Cameroon, which had been controlled by French interests. This move was designed to strengthen the monetary solidarity and sovereignty of the Central African Republic (CAF) and other member African nations, which would now control part of their foreign exchange and monetary policies. France continues to guarantee the convertibility of the CFA franc.
Other banks are the International Bank for Occidental Africa (20% state owned) and the Union Bank of Central Africa (60% state owned). The state has a one-third share in the Bank of Agricultural Credit and Development, established in 1984. By late October 1996, the efforts of the prime minister (and minister of finance and economics), Jean-Paul Ngoupandé, and reformist colleagues to rescue government finances and public sector management were impressing the IMF, the World Bank, and France. Hopes were rising that the country might eventually secure an agreement with the IMF for an enhanced structural adjustment facility (ESAF). Only with an ESAF in place can the Central African Republic look forward to large-scale, longer-term economic aid commitments or the granting of debt relief from the Pan's Club of its official bilateral creditors.
|Balance on goods||15.3|
|Balance on services||-80.7|
|Balance on income||-22.7|
|Direct investment abroad||-7.2|
|Direct investment in Central African Republic||3.6|
|Portfolio investment assets||…|
|Portfolio investment liabilities||…|
|Other investment assets||8.1|
|Other investment liabilities||48.3|
|Net Errors and Omissions||-15.0|
|Reserves and Related Items||-13.1|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate commonly known as M1—were equal to $135.3 million. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $149.6 million. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 6.5%.
There is no securities market.
In 1986, one state enterprise (SIRIRI) and eight foreign companies were represented in the Central African Republic, including La Mutuelle du Mans, Mutuelle Générale Française-Accidents, the Reliance Marine Insurance Company, Union Centrafricaine d'Assurances et de Réassurances, and l'Union des Assurances de Paris (IARD). In the same year, over 99% of all premiums paid were for nonlife insurance. Motor insurance is compulsory.
A rapidly expanding civil service, nationalization of enterprises, and expensive short-term borrowing in the 1970s led to large budget deficits, which were made even worse in the early 1980s by falling commodity prices. The Central African Republic and the IMF have worked together since 1980 to attempt to better manage the economy. The 1980 austerity plan focused on stabilizing budget and foreign deficits by concentrating on agricultural production. The 1982 Recovery Plan, also conducted within IMF frameworks, led to a formal structural adjustment plan in 1987. A second structural adjustment plan was agreed to in 1990, at a time when political instability began to affect the government's ability to reach its targets. Goals of the IMF-sponsored program were a reduction of the number of government employees and their salaries, pricepolicy reforms, and privatization of the parastatal sector. In 1999, the IMF loaned the Central African Republic $11 million to fund unpaid government salaries and continue economic reforms that were launched in 1998. The government owed about nine months of unpaid salaries to 20,000 civil servants and army soldiers, and was behind in payments of grants for students and retirement benefits for pensioners.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that Central African Republic's total external debt was $1.06 billion.
Current information is unavailable.
In 1959, the four territories of French Equatorial Africa joined the Equatorial Customs Union (Union Douanière Equatoriale—UDE), within which goods and capital flowed without obstruction. The UDE was expanded in December 1964 to include Cameroon and together they formed the Central African Customs and Economic Union (Union Douanière et Economique de l'Afrique Centrale—UDEAC). The Republic therefore had no customs system of its own. In early 1968, the Central African Republic left the UDEAC to join an economic union with Zaire and Chad, but in December 1968 it returned to the UDEAC. As of 1993, the Central African Republic was a member of both UDEAC and the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC).
The UDEAC covers the entire range of commodity trade and bans all import and export taxes between member states. Goods and merchandise originating in member states are exempt from various taxes except in special circumstances. The gains derived from import duties in member states go into the state budgets, but to offset the advantages gained by transit trade, especially to coastal countries, a share of import duties is deposited in a common fund. There is a uniform customs tariff levied against all third parties, but since the UDEAC countries are associated with the common market, imports from EU countries receive a reduction in customs duties. Imports from outside the franc zone require a license. Customs evasion through the smuggling of goods across the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon borders is a serious problem. Such goods are sold at 10–40% off the price of legitimate items, depriving the government of significant revenue.
Until the late 1980s, almost all foreign investment in the Central African Republic was by the French government and private French firms. For many years, the territory had been worked by French concessionaires who obtained privileges in the area by decree. But with the decline of concessions, interest in private investment diminished. Foreign investment was further discouraged by the nationalization without compensation of private textile, oil distribution, and river transport interests in 1974.
In the early and mid-1980s, in an attempt to revitalize the nation's sagging economy, the Kolingba government reaffirmed its interest in foreign investment, stressing joint partnerships between private business and government. A 1982 investment code provided liberal incentives, including priority in the allocation of foreign exchange for the import of equipment and raw materials.
As of the late 1990s, the Central African Republic continued to be heavily dependent on foreign assistance. The World Bank, European Union, UN Development Program, and the African Development Fund all provided grants; one-fourth of all development assistance continued to come from France, followed by Japan, Germany, and the United States.
Armed insurrections in May 2001, October 2002, and March 2003, ending in the government's forceful overthrow by coup on 15 March 2003, have taken the Central African Republic off the map in terms of foreign investments. Although the presidential election held earlier in 2005 passed without major incident, potential investors have remained cautious about making any real commitments until instances of banditry and extortion are reduced and the government moves ahead with its reform program.
The 1981–85 five-year plan called for CFA Fr233,117 million in expenditures, including CFA Fr83,363 million for rural transport and CFA Fr54,935 million for agriculture and livestock raising. The 1986–90 plan called for CFA Fr261.4 billion in spending (86% from foreign sources), with 53% for infrastructure and 35% for rural and regional development. Development expenditures are financed almost exclusively by foreign donors. The World Bank extended a $30-million loan in 1986.
In 1986, the government began a structural adjustment program (SAP) to improve agricultural production, to encourage early retirement among government workers, and to privatize government enterprises. Phase two of this program began in 1988, and phase three in 1990. The goals of phase three—particularly in privatizing utilities and fuel distribution—had not been met by the mid-1990s. Although the state-owned water company had been privatized, no changes were accomplished with either the electric utility or fuel distribution monopoly.
The 1994 devaluation of the CFA franc made products such as coffee, timber, cotton, and diamonds more attractive on the world market. On the other hand, prices for imports also rose, creating a period of high inflation in 1994. By 1995, the inflation rate had dropped to levels near the prevailing rate prior to devaluation.
As of 2003, the estimated external debt was $1,328 million. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank have encouraged the Central African Republic to privatize state-owned business enterprises, address corruption, and streamline labor and investment codes. Economic reforms are tailored to alleviate poverty. Between 2001–2005 GDP grew at an average rate of -0.96% while inflation averaged 2.14% annually. The lowest GDP growth rate during this period was in 2003 when GDP grew at -7.7% and inflation was 4%. An IMF Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement, approved in 1998 expired in January 2002. The Central African Republic introduced a value-added tax (VAT), and the state-owned petroleum company (PETROCA) was liquidated. At the beginning of 2002, wage payments fell approximately 20% short of commitments, and many civil servants were owed 16 months of pay during the Patasse administration, and 14 months of pay during the Kolingba administration.
François Bozizé, the new president elected in 2005, has pledged to apply austerity measures in an attempt to improve the fiscal situation. However, his government can expect popular opposition and strike action, if the government fails to kick-start the economy and pay public-sector salary arrears. Improved security conditions and the resumption of donor support will help the economy to recover slowly, with real GDP growth forecast to rise to 3% in 2006 and 4% in 2007.
A social insurance program provides benefits to all employed persons with the exception of agricultural workers and temporary laborers. Old-age pensions are payable at age 55 (men) or 50 (women). Disability pensions come to 30% of average monthly earnings. There is also a survivor pension available for those who are pensioners at death or meet other qualifications. Other payments include prenatal allowances, a lump sum payable at the birth of each of the first three children, and if the mother is employed, a recuperation allowance for 14 weeks. The government's commitment to social welfare and health has been neglected due to lack of funds. The majority of the population work in the agricultural sector and therefore are not covered by these programs.
The constitution mandates that all persons are equal, although in practice women face widespread discrimination. Single, widowed, and divorced women are not considered to be heads of household. Economic and educational opportunities are limited for women. Polygyny remains legal and is widely practiced. Although banned by law, female genital mutilation is practiced in some rural areas. Spousal abuse and violence is a widespread problem. The government does not adequately fund programs for women and children.
The government's human rights record remains poor. Indigenous pygmies face discrimination despite constitutional provisions. Freedom of speech and press are restricted. Arbitrary arrests and detention are common, police beat and torture detainees, and prison conditions are harsh.
Mobile crews treat local epidemic diseases, conduct vaccination and inoculation campaigns, and enforce local health regulations. They conduct research on sleeping sickness, malaria, and other tropical diseases and devise prophylactic methods best suited to the rural population. The most common diseases are bilharziasis, leprosy, malaria, tuberculosis, and yaws. The Central African Republic is a yellow fever endemic zone country. The Pasteur Institute at Bangui cooperates actively with vaccination campaigns. All medicine, antibiotics, and vaccine imports must be authorized by the Ministry of Health.
As of 2004, it was estimated that there were fewer than 3 physicians and 9 nurses per 100,000 people. Average life expectancy was 43.39 years in 2005. Also in 2000, 60% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 31% had adequate sanitation.
The infant mortality rate in 2005 was 87.33 per 1,000 live births. As of 1999, the immunization rates for children up to one year old were as follows: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 33% and measles, 39%.
The Central African Republic is one of several African nations with a high incidence of AIDS. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 13.50 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 260,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 23,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003.
The Central African Republic has struggled with overcrowding and housing shortages, particularly in rural areas where only 5% of the population live in permanent structures. A majority of the population live below the poverty line, further contributing to the lack of resources through which housing improvements can be made. In 2000, there were an estimated 751,000 households. UN-HABITAT projects that that number will leap to 1.1 million households by 2015. In 2000, only 60% of the population had access to improved water sources and only 31% had access to improved sanitation.
The Central African Real Estate Investments Society makes small loans for the repair of existing houses and larger loans (amounting to almost the total cost of the houses) for new construction. Interest rates are low, and repayment extends over a long period. Because of their higher credit ratings, salaried civil servants and employees of large trading companies receive most of the loans. Loans are made to mutual self-help groups and others for the construction of waterworks or electrical distribution systems and to individuals for the purchase of refrigerators, furniture, and other household equipment.
The educational system is patterned on that of France, but changes designed by the government are being introduced gradually to adapt the curriculum to local needs. Education is provided free in government-financed schools. There are a few mission schools operated by religious groups; they receive little government aid but must comply with government guidelines. Education is compulsory the first six years of primary school (students between ages 6 and 12). A second stage of basic education covers a fouryear course of study. Students may then choose to attend general secondary schools or technical schools, all of which offer three year programs. The academic year runs from September to July. The primary language of instruction is French.
In 2001, there were about 411,000 students enrolled in primary schools. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 77 to 1 in 1999.
Specialized institutions include two agricultural colleges, a national college of the performing and plastic arts, and the University of Bangui, founded in 1969. In 2001, about 6,000 students were enrolled in tertiary education programs. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 48.6%, with 64.8% for men and 33.5% for women.
As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 1.9% of GDP.
The French Institute of Scientific Research for Development and Cooperation maintains a research collection of 18,000 volumes in Bangui. The Agricultural Research Center in M'baïki has a library of 2,800 volumes. There is a municipal library in Bangui as well as a Roman Catholic mission library. The University of Bangui library has 26,000 volumes.
The Barthélémy Boganda Museum in Bangui (founded in 1964) includes collections on the ethnography, archaeology, and natural history of the country. There are regional natural history and anthropology museums in Bouar and M'Baiki. The Labasso Museum in Bangassou (1975) features archaeological and anthropological exhibits from the Nzakara and Zandé areas.
Bangui is linked by satellite for telephone communication with France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Greece. The Republic has radiotelephone, telegraphic, and telex links with Paris. In 2003, there were an estimated two mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 1,200 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 10 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.
Television broadcasting services are government owned and operated by Radio–Télévision Centrafrique. Television transmissions are available only in Bangui. Broadcasting is in Sango and French. In 2002, there were five FM and one AM radio stations along with one television station. Radio Centrafrique is operated by the state. Radio Notre Dame is held by the Roman Catholic church and Radio Ndeke Luka is backed by the Untied Nations. In 2003, there were an estimated 80 radios and 6 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were two personal computers for every 1,000 people and one of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.
The nation's first daily newspaper, the government controlled E Le Songo, began publication in 1986. Its circulation in 1995 was 2,000. The Centrafrique Presse, was created by the government in 2001 to reflect the views of the ruling MLPC. Echo de CentrAfrique is a private daily newspaper but seems to be linked to the ruling party. Le Citoyen, Be Afrika, and Le Democrate are the most widely read private newspapers; however, many private papers publish sporadically. The official news agency is Agence Centrafricaine de Presse. The Agence Centrafricaine de Presse (ACAP) bulletin appears sporadically.
The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press. In 2000, the president dissolved the High Broadcast Council, which had been created to regulate the media. However, the government still seems to control much media and its content.
The Chamber of Agriculture, Livestock Raising, Water, Forests, Hunting, and Tourism and the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Handicrafts have their headquarters at Bangui. In rural areas, cooperatives promote the production and marketing of agricultural products. There are some national professional and trade associations, including a major teachers union called the National Union of Teachers and School and University Administrators of the Central African Republic (NUTSUACAR). The National Olympic and Sport Committee (CNOS) coordinates about eight national youth sports groupings. Youth scouting organizations are active and there are a few Catholic youth organizations as well. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, Caritas, Habitat for Humanity, UNICEF, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Development of the tourism industry in the Central African Republic has been held back due to periods of political unrest since the country gained independence from France in 1960. The main tourist attractions are hunting, fishing, the many varieties of wild animals, and the waterfalls. Of special interest are the falls at Boali and Kembé, and the megaliths of Bouar. Ecotourism is popular in the southern Dzanga-Sangha National Park.
Visitors must have a valid passport and a visa. A certificate indicating vaccination against yellow fever is also required.
In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the cost of hotel, food, and other basic expenses in the Central African Republic at $201 per day.
Barthélémy Boganda (1910–59), a dynamic leader of Central African nationalism, worked toward independence and attained virtually complete political power. The first president of the independent Central African Republic was David Dacko (1930–2003), who served from 1960 to 1966 and again from 1979 to 1981. JeanBédel Bokassa (1921–96) overthrew Dacko in 1966, proclaimed himself emperor in 1976, and was himself ousted by Dacko in 1979. Gen. André Kolingba (b.1936) seized power in 1981, and he served as president until he was defeated in the 1993 elections by Ange-Felix Patassé (b.1937). Patassé served from 1993–2003, when he was deposed by rebel leader François Bozizé (b.1946).
The Central African Republic has no territories or colonies.
Dun and Bradstreet's Export Guide to Central African Republic. Parsippany, N.J.: Dun and Bradstreet, 1999.
Kalck, Pierre and Xavier-Samuel Kalck. Historical Dictionary of the Central African Republic. 3rd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2005.
Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.
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