The former French colony of Ubangi-Shari, now the Central African Republic (CAR), is well named; it is a landlocked country in the center of the African continent. Land boundaries extend for 5,203 kilometers (3,233 miles) connecting Cameroon to the west, Chad and Sudan to the north, and the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the south. The country covers an area of 622,984 square kilometers (240,534 square miles), slightly smaller than Texas. The CAR is covered with tropical rainforest in the southern and western regions and dryer savanna in the north and east. The capital city, Bangui, is in the southwest, on the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The other main towns are Bambari and Bossangoa.
The population of the Central African Republic was estimated at 3,576,884 in July 2001. It was growing 1.85 percent annually. The birth rate is estimated at 37.05 per 1,000 people and the death rate is 18.53 per 1,000 people. If current trends continue, the population, of which 43 percent are younger than 15, will surpass 4.2 million by 2010. These figures may change, however, because of the devastating effects of AIDS, which was prevalent in nearly 14 percent of the population in 1999, and the small percentage of people over 65 years. Some estimate that deaths caused by AIDS may be the most disruptive economic problem that the CAR will have to face in the coming years.
According to some sources, there are as many as 75 ethnic groups in the CAR but the Banda predominate, with the Baya, Sara and Mandjia people also prominent. There are 6,500 Europeans in the country, of which 2,500 are French. Approximately 24 percent of the population subscribe to indigenous religious beliefs, 50 percent are Christians (25 percent Protestant, 25 percent Roman Catholic), and 15 percent Muslim, with 11 percent after other faiths. Two-thirds of the people live in rural areas, with most of the remaining third residing in the capital, Bangui.
While French is the official language of the CAR, the national and most widely spoken language is Sangho. Other African languages, notably Hunsa and Swahili, are also spoken, as is Arabic.
Central African Republic has no territories or colonies.
"Central African Republic and the IMF." International Monetary Fund. <http://www.imf.org/external/country/CAR/index> . Accessed January 2000.
"Central African Republic (CAR)." Mbendi: Information for Africa. <http://www.mbendi.co.za/land/af/cr/p0005.htm> . Accessed February 2001.
"Central African Republic." World Bank. <http://www.worldbank.org/> . Accessed January 2000.
Central African Republic Page. <http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/Country_Specific/CAR.html> . Accessed October 2001.
Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report: Cameroon, Central African Republic and Chad, 2nd Quarter, 1999. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 1999.
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html> . Accessed October 2001.
U.S. Department of State. Background Note: Central African Republic. <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/bgn/index.cfm?docid=4007> . Accessed October 2001.
U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide for Chad. <http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/business/com_guides/CAR> . Accessed December 2000.
Communauté Financiére Africaine franc (CFA Fr). There are 100 centimes to 1 CFA Fr and 100 CFA Fr equal 1 French franc. Coins are in denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50, 100 and 500 CFA Fr, and bills of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 CFA Fr.
Diamonds, timber, cotton, coffee, and tobacco.
Food, textiles, petroleum products, machinery, electrical equipment, motor vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, and industrial products.
US$6.1 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).
Exports: US$166 million (f.o.b., 2000). Imports: US$154 million (f.o.b., 2000).