Central African Republic, republic in central Africa, bordered on the north by
Chad, on the east by Sudan, on the south by the Democratic Republic of the Congo
(DRC, formerly Zaire) and the Republic of the Congo, and on the west by Cameroon.
The landlocked nation has an area of 622,436 sq km (240,324 sq mi). Bangui is
the capital and largest city.
LAND AND RESOURCES The Central African Republic is situated on the northern
edge of the Congo River Basin. Most of the land is a plateau that ranges in
elevation from about 610 to 790 m (about 2000 to 2600 ft). Two ranges of hills
in the north and northeast rise to maximum heights of about 1400 m (about 4600
ft). Most of the country has a savanna vegetation—a grassland interspersed
with trees. Open grassland is found in the extreme north, and a dense rain forest
covers the major part of the southwestern area. The country is drained by several
major rivers, the Bamingui and Ouham rivers in the north, and the Ubangi, a
tributary of the Congo, in the south. q6z13zl
Natural Resources The mineral resources of this primarily agricultural country
are relatively undeveloped. Diamonds are the dominant exploited mineral. Deposits
of uranium exist, as well as iron ore, gold, lime, zinc, copper, and tin. Commercially
valuable trees include the sapele mahogany and the obeche. Almost every animal
of the African Tropics is found in the country.
Agriculture and Forestry Only 3 percent of the total land area is used for growing
crops. Basic food crops include cassava, plantains, corn, peanuts, sweet potatoes,
and millet. In order to increase the wage-earning power of the peasant farmer,
the government has organized agricultural cooperatives, placing primary emphasis
on introducing new crops that are expected to produce a higher income. The cultivation
of tobacco, sesame, and rice is encouraged by the government. The most important
cash crop is coffee, once grown mostly on European-owned plantations, but now
produced largely on smaller African-owned farms. In 1997 coffee production was
18,000 metric tons. Cotton, which is widely cultivated, is also a leading cash
crop and represents a significant portion of export earnings.
Exploitation of forest reserves was slow to develop but has increased in importance.
In 1995 some 3.9 million cu m (136 million cu ft) of roundwood were produced.
Timber accounted for 8 percent of export revenues in the early 1990s.
Manufacturing and Mining Manufacturing activity in the Central African Republic
is very limited. Products include cottonseed, peanut, and sesame oils; textiles;
leather goods; tobacco products; soap; flour; bricks; and paint. The output
of electricity in 1996 was 100 million kilowatt-hours, 80 percent of which was
generated in hydroelectric installations. Gem diamonds account for nearly all
the country's mineral output and two-thirds of its export revenue. Production
was 350,000 carats in 1996. Uranium was discovered in the eastern part of the
country in 1966, but production is awaiting improvement in international prices.
A small amount of gold is mined, mostly by individual prospectors.