The Central African Republic is a landlocked nation within the interior of the African continent. Despite its significant mineral deposits and other resources, the CAR is among the ten poorest countries in the world. Persistent conflict has hampered telecommunication and media development in the country. There are nevertheless several active television services, radio stations, internet service providers, and mobile phone carriers.
The Internet penetration rate was below 5% of the population in 2016. The network consists principally of microwave radio relay and low-capacity, low-powered radiotelephone communication. There is limited telephone service with less than one fixed-line connection per 100 persons, with several mobile-cellular service providers.
The fixed-line market is a monopoly of the government’s incumbent operator, whereas four companies are competing in the mobile sector. Cellular usage is increasing from a low base, and most fixed-line, mobile-cellular telephone, and Internet access services, are concentrated in the capital, Bangui. The Agence Chargée de la Régulation des Télécommunications (ART) is the state’s agency for telecommunications that regulates licenses and fair competition in the country.
Subsistence agriculture, together with forestry and mining, remains the backbone of the economy of the Central African Republic (CAR), with about 60% of the population living in outlying areas. The agricultural sector generates more than half of GDP. Timber and diamonds account for most export earnings, followed by cotton. Important constraints to economic development include the CAR’s landlocked geography, poor transportation system, largely unskilled work force, and legacy of misdirected macroeconomic policies. Factional fighting between the government and its opponents remains a drag on economic revitalization. Distribution of income is extraordinarily unequal. Grants from France and the international community can only partially meet humanitarian needs.
Since 2009, the IMF has worked closely with the government to institute reforms that have resulted in some improvement in budget transparency, but other problems remain. The government’s additional spending in the run-up to the 2011 election worsened CAR’s fiscal situation. In 2012, the World Bank approved $125 million in funding for transport infrastructure and regional trade, focused on the route between CAR’s capital and the port of Douala in Cameroon. In July 2016, the IMF approved a three-year extended credit facility valued at $116 million. The World Bank in late 2016 approved a $20 million grant to restore basic fiscal management, improve transparency, and assist with economic recovery.
Socatel (Société Centrafricaine de Télécommunications) is the leading telecommunications and Internet service provider in the Central African Republic. The government owns 60% of its stock and France Câbles et Radio, an affiliate of France Telecom, owns 40%. Socatel’s subsidiaries include Caratel, a mobile phone service provider.