|General background: The former French colony
of Ubangi-Shari became the Central African Republic
upon independence in 1960. After three tumultuous decades
of misrule - mostly by military governments - a civilian
government was installed in 1993.
Slightly smaller than Texas
hot, dry winters; mild to hot, wet summers
Terrain: Vast, flat to rolling, monotonous plateau;
scattered hills in northeast and southwest
Ethnic groups: Baya 33%, Banda 27%, Mandjia
13%, Sara 10%, Mboum 7%, M'Baka 4%, Yakoma 4%, other
Religions: Indigenous beliefs 35%, Protestant
25%, Roman Catholic 25%, Muslim 15%
Language: French (official), Sangho (lingua
franca and national language), tribal languages
Government type: Republic
Legal system: Based on French law
Economic overview: Subsistence agriculture,
together with forestry, remains the backbone of the
economy of the Central African Republic (CAR), with
more than 70% of the population living in outlying
areas. The agricultural sector generates half of GDP.
Timber has accounted for about 16% of export earnings
and the diamond industry for 54%. Important constraints
to economic development include the CAR's landlocked
position, a poor transportation system, a largely
unskilled work force, and a legacy of misdirected
macroeconomic policies. The 50% devaluation of the
currencies of 14 Francophone African nations on 12
January 1994 had mixed effects on the CAR's economy.
Diamond, timber, coffee, and cotton exports increased,
leading an estimated rise of GDP of 7% in 1994 and
nearly 5% in 1995. Military rebellions and social
unrest in 1996 were accompanied by widespread destruction
of property and a drop in GDP of 2%. The IMF approved
an Extended Structure Adjustment Facility in 1998
and the World Bank extended further credits in 1999
and approved a $10 million loan in early 2001. As
of January 2002, many civil servants were owed as
much as 16 months pay during the PATASSE administration,
as well as 14 months pay from the KOLINGBA administration.
Communication/Telephone system: Fair system,
network consists principally of microwave radio relay
and low-capacity, low-powered radiotelephone communication.
Satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean).
Places of interest: The Central African Republic
(CAR) has possibly the most pristine national park
in the whole of Africa, where pygmies guide you through
forest that's the domain of elephants and rare lowland
gorillas. Dense rainforests explode in riots of colorful
butterflies, and out on the plains you can spot elephants,
lions, leopards, rhinos and a host of other animals
you won't see outside of a zoo at home.
Travel tips: Foreigners are targeted regularly
by rebels and thieves. Check with your own embassy
if you intend to go to the Central African Republic,
but seriously consider changing your plans and traveling
to a safer country for the time being.