45 Facts About Central African Republic

Last updated on April 18th, 2022

The Central African Republic or CAR is also known as Centrafrique. The country’s name comes from its geographical location. The official name of CAR is République Centrafricaine. The country was once called the the Ubangi-Shari from the Ubangi and Chari rivers. It was renamed the Central African Empire from the period of 1976-1979. The Central African Republic shares borders with other countries: Sudan, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Chad.

The official languages of CAR are French and Sangho. The currency of the CAR is the XAF or Central African CFA Franc. CFA is the acronym for Communauté Financière Africaine. The currency is backed by the treasury of France. With these facts about the Central African Republic, let us learn more about its history, people, culture, geography and more.

1. The capital of CAR is Bangui, which is also its largest city. It was named after the Ubangi River and was once a French outpost. The name Ubangi means “rapids” in the Bobangi dialect.

2. Its location and significance as a city and capital makes Bangui an important section of the country. It has been destroyed and rebuilt several times due to political and social upheaval and remains at the center of rebel activity. In 1996, Bangui was considered one of the riskiest and most dangerous cities in the world.

3. The flag of Central African Republic consists of five colored stripes – four horizontal stripes of equal size and one vertical stripe running down the middle. The colors of the horizontal stripes from top to bottom are blue, white, green, and yellow. The single vertical stripe is red. A single yellow star is placed on the upper left corner of the blue stripe.

4. The flag features the three colors of the French flag – the blue, white, and red. The blue color represents the sky and independence; the white color represents dignity and peace, the green color symbolizes hope and faith, while yellow symbolizes tolerance. The red stripe represents respect between the Africans and the Europeans, while the yellow star symbolizes the country’s aspirations for a better future.

The Flag of Central African Republic

Central African Republic flag

5. The flag was designed by Barthelemy Boganda, an independence activist and politician. He also wrote the lyrics to “La Renaissance”, the country’s national anthem. Boganda was also the first CAR representative to France. He founded the MESAN (Movement for the Social Evolution of Black Africa).

6. CAR is predominantly Christian, with a large population practicing Catholicism. About 9% are Muslims. In 2019, there were more Protestants than Catholics in the country.

7. CAR is a mainly agricultural country. Its farmers perform subsistence farming to sustain their needs and earn an income.

8. CAR struggles economically due to extended political and social instability. It is still one of the poorest countries not just in Africa but in the world.

9. Slave traders captured Africans in the region beginning in the 16th century until the 17th century. The people they captured were sent to various regions, including Europe, Arabia, the Western Hemisphere, and the Mediterranean.

10. The country came under French control during the late 19th century. However, France gave a portion of the basins of Sangha and Lobaye to Germany in exchange for a region that is now Chad. The territory was again annexed by France after WW1.

The Central African Republic on Map

11. Private concessionary companies were allowed after WW1. These companies paid a portion of their profits to France but forced the natives to work for free. Workers had to meet a quota harvesting coffee and rubber, among other commodities. The workers were forced to work because their families were held hostage by the companies.

12. The stress of enslavement in their own country caused many Central Africans to die, mainly because of famine, exploitation, and diseases. Just one year after the arrival of the French in 1890 and until 1940, the population was reduced in half.

13. Enslavement of the people of CAR continued until the 1920s and the 1930s under French control. The locals had to work under a mandatory cotton cultivation policy and huge masses of individuals were displaced to work in constructing the Congo-Ocean Railway. The estimated fatality in the construction of the railway is estimated to be at least 17,000. These people died due to diseases and/or on-site accidents.

14. Numerous insurrections occurred as a result of the oppressive French rule. One of the major uprisings was the Kongo-Wara rebellion of 1928. It was known as the “War of the Hoe Handle” and lasted for several years. The rebellion and others like it were kept under wraps from the people of France because the colonialists did not want the public to learn about any oppositions regarding forced labor and the negative effects of French rule.

15. In 1957, the Ubangi-Shari Territorial Assembly held an election to allow Africans a role in the government. Of the 356,000 votes, MESAN won 347,000. It also captured every seat in the legislative.

16. Boganda established the Central African Republic and became prime minister, the country’s first. France granted independence to the country on paper but it remained a French Empire colony.

17. David Dacko took over MESAN after Boganda died in 1959. France finally granted independence to CAR in August 1960 and Dacko became the first president of the country. Dacko is a cousin of Boganda.

18. Dacko was deposed in 1965 because of a coup d’etat let by Jean-Bedel Bokassa. Bokassa then suspended the constitution and declared himself president for life. He also named himself Emperor Bokassa I in 1976.

19. Bokassa’s coronation is infamous. He had himself enthroned and crowned in a lavish ceremony that was designed to mimic the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte. In fact, Bokassa’s special day was on the same day as the 173rd anniversary of the French emperor’s coronation.

20. At the time, Bokassa’s coronation cost US $20 million (which is about US $90 million at present). The amount was higher than the yearly budget of the country and no expense was spared for the lavish event. The pomp and celebration went on for two days.

21. Bokassa commissioned a golden throne with a giant golden eagle behind it. The throne was actually bronze with a gold plating and weighed two tons. He also required the citizens to wear only certain colors. Black for senior government officials, navy blue for middle-management, and white for school children.

22. The coronation gown worn by Bokassa’s empress was made by the House of Lanvin to the tune of $72,400. Other accessories such as the crown, sword, and scepter for Bokassa were made by the House of Arthus Bertrand, a famous jeweler.

23. Bokassa ensured that the world’s leaders and monarchs received an invitation to his coronation. They all refused (including France), save for one – Prince Emmanuel of Liechtenstein. The only world leader who came to attend was Sir S. Raugoolam, the Mauritian Prime Minister. The other countries sent their wives or representatives instead. The event was considered such an embarrassment that not even Idi Amin came.

24. The cost of the coronation of Bokassa was mostly paid for by France. In exchange, they receive access to the country’s uranium deposits and CAR will no longer transact with Libya. News and photos of the ceremony were splashed in papers around the world and Bokassa was widely mocked.

25. Bokassa was also responsible for the killing of about 100 teenagers and young children, who were students in 1979. Bokassa had decreed that school uniforms be purchased only from a company that his wife (one of several) owned. The students protested and were met with violence by government troops. Five months later, he was overthrown by the French government.

26. Bokassa’s throne was stripped of its plating and other precious stones that decorated it. It stayed in the gym where the coronation took place for many years until it was rediscovered by young Central Africans who re-installed and repainted it, presumably for tourists. The Tourism Minister had the throne removed and even had the people who re-installed it questioned. The throne was taken away and it now stands in the courtyard of the Culture Ministry, covered by corrugated roofing sheets.

27. A civil war is still going on in the Central African Republic. The conflict began in 2012 and is being fought by three factions – the anti-balaka militias, the Seleka coalition rebels, and the government. It was preceded by another conflict, the CAR Bush War, which lasted from 2004 to 2007.

28. Some of the most famous landmarks in the CAR are the Bouar Megaliths, which are found in the western region of the country. The megaliths are estimated to date back to 3500 to 2700 B.C. They appeared in a 1967 CAR stamp and was included in the tentative list of the UNESCO World Heritage.

29. Although the constitution of CAR allows religious freedom, witchcraft was considered a criminal offense. As a result, the constitution was temporarily suspended in 2003.

30. People in CAR dress informally. Depending on the predominant culture or religion of the area, people are required to dress modestly. In Muslim areas, for example, wearing shorts is discouraged.

31. Although taking pictures is generally allowed, tourists and even locals should be careful and respectful when photographing local people. To be on the safe side, it is important to ask for permission before snapping photos. Taking pictures of government buildings and military installations is also prohibited.

32. The national animal of CAR is the elephant. This gentle giant is still on the endangered list due to poaching for its ivory. CAR has two kinds of elephants – the bush and the forest. Although the bush elephant is larger compared to the forest elephant, the latter is preferred by poachers because its tusks are stronger, harder, and make better-looking ivory.

33. There are national parks set up in CAR to protect its wildlife. The largest of these parks is the Manovo-Gounda St. Floris, which has an area of 1,740,000 hectares.

People from a tribe of Baka pygmies in village of ethnic singing.
People from a tribe of Baka pygmies in village of ethnic singing. Photo © USO/istock

34. One national park, the Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve, is shared by CAR with the Republic of Congo and Cameroon. The famous western lowland gorillas can be found in this reserve.

35. The rivers of CAR are home to two of the most dangerous animals on the planet – the hippopotamus and the crocodile. Hippopotamuses, while herbivores, can be quite aggressive. About 500 people are killed each year in Africa by these semi-amphibious creature.

36. Mosquitoes, while tiny, are to blame for more deaths in CAR and in other countries in Africa than any other (larger) animal. Mosquitoes transmit malaria, which kills hundreds of thousands of people each year.

black rhino
Black rhino. Photo © Jason Busa

37. Many animals are endangered in Central African Republic and in fact, some are already extinct. The black rhino, for example, was declared extinct in 2011. It was recommended to be included in the endangered list in 2006 although the last reported sighting was actually in 2003. The last few rhinos were killed off by poachers.

38. Due to internal strife, many Central Africans leave their homeland for neighboring countries. Over 630,000 are estimated to have crossed borders to seek shelter elsewhere.

39. Education is one sector that still struggles in CAR. Its primary education is poor and secondary school education barely exists for girls.

40. CAR has a mining industry that produces gold, diamonds, iron ore, limestone, quartz, graphite, and uranium. Most of the time, however, the country only harvests gold and diamonds, relying mainly on subsistence farming to power its economy.

elephants playing withe each other in a jungle in Central African Republic
Photo © ANDREYGUDKOV/istock

41. The baobab tree appears on CAR’s coat of arms along with the elephant. These symbolize Nature, of which the country is blessed, and the country’s backbone.

42. The diet of Central African Republic consists of locally-grown produce such as sorghum, millet, yam, bananas, okra, rice, peanuts, and spinach. The locals also use palm oil, garlic, and yellow onion. The country also imports products such as cassava, maize, tomatoes, chili peppers, and sweet potatoes.

43. Because animal meat is scarce in the country, the people use fish as a source of protein. As a protein alternative, they may use peanuts and a variety of insects, such as termites, cicadas, crickets, and grasshoppers. Caterpillars are also eaten, usually in forest areas.

44. Some of the most popular dishes in CAR feature starch, usually from cassava and rice. Makara, for example, is bread using cassava flour, while chikwangue is made from cassava or manioc. A unique dish is the egusi, which is a blood-colored sauce made using pumpkin or gourd seeds, onions, chili, and tomatoes.

the king protea
Protea cynaroides, also called the king protea. Photo © Bilal Khan

45. The national flower of CAR is the king protea (Protea cynaroides). It is also known as the giant protea, king sugar bush, or honeypot and its flower is the largest in its genus. The flower is well-adapted to harsh environments. It can even survive wildfires because its thick underground stem has many buds that remain dormant. If the upper ground stem is damaged, the buds simply grow to replace them.

Central African Republic – quick facts and statistics

Independence day13 August 1960 (from France)
Capital CityBangui
4°22′N 18°35′E
Largest CityBangui
Population5,357,984 (July 2021 est.)
Areatotal: 622,984 sq km

land: 622,984 sq km

water: 0 sq km
Suffrage18 years of age; universal
DemonymCentral African
Government typeUnitary semi-presidential republic
PresidentFaustin-Archange Touadéra
Prime MinisterFélix Moloua
National anthem"Le Renaissance" (The Renaissance)
National symbolselephant
National colorsblue, white, green, yellow, red
Official LanguageFrench and Sango
BordersEgypt, Eritrea and Ethiopia, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Chad and Libya.
CurrencySudanese pound (SDG)
Life expectancy at birth55.07 years (2021)
Life expectancy at birth indicates the number of years a newborn infant would live if prevailing patterns of mortality at the time of its birth were to stay the same throughout its life.
Natural resourcesdiamonds, uranium, timber, gold, oil, hydropower
Terrainvast, flat to rolling plateau; scattered hills in northeast and southwest
Climatetropical; hot, dry winters; mild to hot, wet summers
Mean elevation635 m
Highest pointMont Ngaoui 1,410 m
Lowest pointOubangui River 335 m
Industriesoil, cotton ginning, textiles, cement, edible oils, sugar, soap distilling, shoes, petroleum refining, pharmaceuticals, armaments, automobile/light truck assembly
Exports$113.7 million (2017 est.)
lumber, gold, diamonds, sea vessels, cocoa paste (2019)
Imports$393.1 million (2017 est.)
refined petroleum, packaged medicines, natural gas, broadcasting equipment, second-hand clothing (2019)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$900 note: data are in 2017 dollars (2020 est.)
Birth rate32.79 births/1,000 population (2022 est.)
Death rate11.76 deaths/1,000 population (2022 est.)
Sex ratio0.99 male(s)/female (2020 est.)
Time ZoneWAT (UTC+1)
Internet country code.cf
Calling Code+236
Drives on theRight
Table last updatedMarch 10, 2022