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Central African Republic

Economic Overview

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

The precarious political and security situation that characterises Central African Republic (CAR) since 2013 negatively impacts economic growth. Since 2020, the adverse economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic further deepened the many challenges faced by the country. After contracting by -1% in 2021, GDP growth is expected to recover to 4% in 2022 and 5% in 2023 (IMF), supported by private consumption and elevated commodity prices. Economic growth should be bolstered by the completion of energy projects and the resumption of agricultural and mining activities, as well as international aid.

The CAR was only slightly affected health-wise by the Covid-19 pandemic, but it suffered from its economic consequences. In late 2020-early 2021, the deterioration of the security situation and the prolonged closure of the trade corridor with Cameroon had a substantial economic and fiscal impact. Grants were also delayed due to worsened relations with CAR’s donors. Fiscal reforms nonetheless allowed public finances to improve. The budget deficit that rose to -3.3% GDP in 2020 decreased to -1.1% GDP in 2021, and is expected to remain stable at -1.2% GDP in 2022 (Coface). The CAR is highly dependent on an external aid that enables the country to limit its budget deficit. More than half of public spending is covered by external multi- or bilateral financing, much of it in the form of grants (Coface). The public debt to GDP ratio increased from 44.1% in 2020 to 46.5% in 2021, and is expected to follow a downward trend and reach 44% in 2022 and 42.3% in 2023 (IMF). It is below the 70% ceiling imposed by the CEMAC, but more than three quarters of public debt is external, exposing CAR to a high risk of debt distress. Inflation increased from 2.3% in 2020 to 3.7% in 2021 (IMF), reflecting deteriorating security conditions. It is expected to decrease and stabilize at 2.5% in 2022 and 2023 (IMF). The government priorities remain supporting economic recovery and poverty reduction and pursuing the program of structural reforms supported by the IMF. In December 2019, the IMF approved a three-year arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) for an amount of about 115.1 million USD. This programme aims at maintaining macroeconomic stability, strengthening administrative capacity, governance and the business climate and addressing balance of payments needs. Due to its poor implementation and the intensification of the domestic conflict, the program was suspended. In December 2021, the IMF approved a seven-month Staff-Monitored Program (SMP), designed to help the authorities address the economic challenges caused by the security crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic. Its satisfactory implementation is a condition for the ECF’s resumption. CAR remains in a very fragile situation, with an unstable security environment, limited administrative capacity, poor governance and lack of social cohesion.

According to the World Bank, more than 70% of CAR's population lives below the poverty line and there is considerable inequality. According to the 2020 Human Development Index published by the UNDP, the Central African Republic was ranked 188th (out of 189 countries). Unemployment is high, despite misleading official statistics (6.4% of the population in 2020 according to the World Bank). The security crisis that the nation has recorded in the past years deepened social inequalities as well as the deficit in basic social infrastructures. The country has more than 630,800 internally displaced persons, and 632,000 Central African refugees have found shelter in neighbouring countries (World Bank). The United Nations peace mission (Minusca) has suffered losses in its ranks and does not seem to have sufficient resources.

Main Indicators 201920202021 (e)2022 (e)2023 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 2.282.392.592.803.02
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 3.01.0-
GDP per Capita (USD) 480e494526557589
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 47.2e44.146.544.042.3
Inflation Rate (%)
Current Account (billions USD) -0.11-0.21-0.18-0.17-0.18
Current Account (in % of GDP) -4.9-8.6-6.9-6.1-5.8

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , October 2021

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by La Coface.



Main Sectors of Industry

Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 69.8 6.3 23.9
Value Added (in % of GDP) 33.9 20.8 42.5
Value Added (Annual % Change) -1.0 0.2 0.6

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
CFA Franc BEAC (XAF) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD 593.01582.09555.72585.90575.59

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.



Foreign Trade

Traditionally, the Central African Republic (CAR) is highly favorable to international trade. International trade represented 52% of the country's GDP in 2020 (World Bank). However, the country's protectionist policies limited its openness and customs duties are relatively high. In addition, certain agricultural products benefit from higher tariff protections. Despite easy access to its internal market, the CAR does not grant preferential tariffs to other countries. CAR is a member of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC). The country mainly exports gold (25.19% of total exports), vehicles (24.81%), wood (18.23%), diamonds (16.43%) and machinery (9.29%). CAR's main imports comprise vehicles (18.22% of total imports), mineral fuels (12.97%), electrical equipment (10.04%), medicines (9.66%) and machinery (6.87%) (International Trade Centre, 2020)

CAR's main customers are the United Arab Emirates (24.3% of total imports), Sweden (15.2%), France (10.2%), Switzerland (8%), Uganda (7%) and China (6.9%). Its main suppliers are Cameroon (26.2% of total imports), China (17.1%), France (14%), Belgium (7.1%), Italy (5.1%) and the United States (3.6%) (International Trade Centre, 2020). Security issues have a major impact on trade, as illustrated by the three-month closure of the Bangui-Douala corridor early 2021.

CAR's trade balance is structurally in deficit, a trend which should continue in the years to come. In 2020, CAR exported USD 125 million in goods and imported USD 602 million. In 2018, exports of services reached USD 52 million, while imports amounted to USD 394 million (WTO). In 2019, imports of goods and services increased by 8% compared to 2018, while exports decreased by 2% (World Bank). In 2020, due to the COVID-19 crisis, global trade volumes decreased sharply. Demand for CAR's diamonds fell while wood exports were affected by supply chain disruptions. Imports also decreased due to lower oil prices and reduced household demand. In 2022, exports are expected to be boosted by surging prices and increased demand for wood; while imports will be driven by higher oil prices (Coface).

Foreign Trade Values 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 382368606603602
Exports of Goods (million USD) 93140164147125
Imports of Services (million USD) n/a039400
Exports of Services (million USD) n/a05200

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 50.557.165.952.249.8
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -8.222.914.7-2.2n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 35.739.947.035.834.0
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 14.817.318.916.415.8

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) -
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) -7.318.6-

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

International Economic Cooperation
Member of African Union (AU)

Member of Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD)

Member of Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) (in French)