In 2019, the Central African Republic had an average population density of 8 residents per km2, but the population is unevenly distributed, with a strong concentration to the western parts, while the eastern is very sparsely populated.
According to Countryaah, 41 percent of the population lives in cities. The capital Bangui is the clearly dominant city with 734,400 residents (2013). Other cities include Bimbo (267 390).
For information on life expectancy and other demographic statistics, see Country facts.
The population of the Central African Republic is made up of some 20 ethnic groups, most of whom feed on hake farming supplemented by hunting and river fishing. Cassava is the base crop, and is also grown for its own use corn, peanuts and millet. The largest groups are gangs (236,000) and related groups in the central parts of the country, baya or gbaya (256,000) in the west, and the culturally closely related nzakara (65,000) and azande (81,000) in the southeast. Banda and baya traditionally lived in acephal communities, while nzakara and azande formed the kingdom under the leadership of the respective bandiya and avongar dynasties.
In the south, along the Oubangui River, ngbandi, a smaller group of fishermen and traders, lives, among others. includes sango (422,000), whose language has become lingua franca in the country and is now national language. The traditional religion of these peoples is based on faith, and witchcraft plays an important role – even if the majority are nominally Christian.
In the country’s southwestern forest area live smaller bantu groups, as well as acapygmies (about 20,000), which feed on hunting and gathering. Other, little-known pygmy groups also live within the country’s borders, such as buraka (3,300), banziri (1,800) and gundi (14,000).
In the north, various Muslim groups live, among others. Runga (28,000), whose political loyalty is primarily to local Sultans. Large areas in the north-eastern part of the country are virtually uninhabited as a result of slave hunts from the Principality of Bornu, Bagirmi, Wadai and Darfur in Chad and Sudan in the 18th and 19th centuries. Around Bambari and Bouar there are groups of mbororofulanians (56,000), who are Muslims and feed themselves as nomadic herdsmen.
In the cities, there is a significant element of Muslim immigrant groups from the north, primarily Arabs (100,000) from Chad and Hausa (32,000) from Nigeria. They are mainly engaged in trade and transport and to a certain extent dominate the economy at the local level.
In the Central African Republic, about 70 languages are spoken, most of which belong to the adamawa-unabridged branch of the Niger-Congo language. About fifteen languages belong to the Nilo-Saharan language family. Official languages are French and since 1991 according to the constitution also sango, which is a Creole language based on the Ubangi language ngbandi and commonly used as a lingua franca. Compare Ethnography above.
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In recent decades, the number of Christians has increased rapidly, and a clear majority of the population (about 50%) are now (1999) Christian, mainly Protestants. The number of Muslims is limited to about 15% (1999). President Bokassa’s transition to Islam in 1976 had no positive effect on the spread of Islam. Domestic religion is still practiced by a large part of the population even though they are nominally Christian.
The country it is in a serious situation of economic backwardness and the possibilities of mitigating it are severely compromised by the marked imbalance existing between the growth rates of the population and those of the economy. The main vulnerability factors are linked to the strong dependence on the primary sector, the poor industrialization based on small-sized, technologically backward plants, the very high demographic pressure, as well as the strong political and social instability. Despite the investments envisaged by the first development plans in the industrial sector, the structure of the Central African economy remains rooted in agriculture, the salient feature of which is the association of food and planting crops. The former include cereals (corn, millet, rice), cassava, fruit (citrus fruits, bananas); on the other hand, sugar cane and especially the production of cotton and coffee – which have undergone a sharp decrease – whose profitability is conditioned by the trend of prices on international markets and by the climatic disturbances that cyclically involve the whole region. The production of wood and rubber obtained from forestry is significant. The breeding includes, for some time now, bovine breeds immune to the epidemics previously caused by the large presence of the tsetse fly, while in the steppe areas there are numerous goats.
Diamonds are the main resource of the subsoil (380,000 carats in 2005) and also give rise to initial processing activities, but the smuggling market is very substantial; the extraction areas are located in the western regions, in large alluvial deposits. Other resources include gold, iron and, above all, uranium, already discovered in Bakouma, 500 km E of Bangui. The uranium reserves, estimated at around 20,000 t, are characterized by a high metal content. However, the exploitation of this resource has been delayed, pending the discovery areas being served by roads, which are essential for the export of the mineral. Industrial activities are very modest: the manufacturing industry, alongside the plants for the processing of agricultural products (mainly cotton), it includes some textile, chemical, mechanical and food plants. The use of river waters opens up good prospects for the energy sector. The trade balance is negative; main partner is the France, from which a large part of the financial aid also comes. Among the major problems that the country has to face are: foreign debt, the need to implement a taxation system, control over state spending and the initiation of measures to stimulate the private sector. A serious obstacle to the geographical-economic evolution of the Republic of C. is also represented by the scarcity of communication routes, both rail and road. The main outlet of the country to the outside is the navigation on the Oubangui (river port in Bangui), while the capital is also equipped with a good airport.