Though production levels vary annually, agriculture has been the bedrock of the Central African economy, employing most of its workforce and accounting for half of the GDP for years. Agricultural output varies by product but has remained strong. Cotton production suffered from declining prices in the late 1990s, but this decrease was compensated for by increased food production. Lumber production also increased during the late 1990s as new timber companies entered the market. The CAR could produce far more agricultural exports, but it has been constrained by the lack of modern methods and poor access to regional markets.
The industrial sector is focused on diamond mining, in which 80,000 members of the labor force are employed, and which accounts for most of Central Africa's export revenue. Production figures have been difficult to estimate because of widespread diamond smuggling, but production grew during the late 1990s. During 2000, evidence was found of world-class deposits of iron ore, offering hope of expanded mining activities. In addition, oil exploration in the northern part of the country has begun. The construction of a pipeline between Douala and southern Chad will make oil production more feasible in the CAR. There are also several basic industries producing beverages and footwear and assembling bicycles for the domestic market. The industrial sector accounted for 20 percent of GDP in 1999.
The service sector includes a few companies and a thriving informal retail trade. Although small (27 percent of the GDP in 1999), the service sector has been strengthened by the privatization of several state enterprises during the 1990s. As the government sells its industrial companies, private ownership increases the demand for banking and other services. Nevertheless, the World Bank estimates indicate that services fell from a high of 32 percent of the CAR's GDP during the late 1990s.