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 38% of export earnings in 2001. 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 39% of export revenues in 2001. 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 2001, the inflation rate had dropped to 3.6%, with a GDP growth rate of 1.8%. 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 2003 were concentrating on poverty reduction programs and reform plans to refuel the economy, including the privatization of state-owned enterprises and corruption-fighting measures.