REPUBLIC OF CHAD
Chad; Arabic: تشاد Tshād; French: Tchad), officially the Republic of Chad (Arabic: جمهورية تشاد Jumhūrīyat Tshād; French: République du Tchad), is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic to the south, Cameroon and Nigeria to the southwest and Niger to the west. It is the fifth largest country in Africa in terms of area.
Chad has several regions: a desert zone in the north, an arid Sahelian belt in the centre and a more fertile Sudanian Savanna zone in the south. Lake Chad, after which the country is named, is the largest wetland in Chad and the second-largest in Africa. The capital N’Djamena is the largest city.
Chad’s official languages are Arabic and French. Chad is home to over 200 different ethnic and linguistic groups. The religions of Chad are Islam (at 55%), followed by Christianity (at 40%).
Beginning in the 7th millennium BC, human populations moved into the Chadian basin in great numbers. By the end of the 1st millennium BC, a series of states and empires had risen and fallen in Chad’s Sahelian strip, each focused on controlling the trans-Saharan trade routes that passed through the region. France conquered the territory by 1920 and incorporated it as part of French Equatorial Africa. In 1960, Chad obtained independence under the leadership of François Tombalbaye. Resentment towards his policies in the Muslim north culminated in the eruption of a long-lasting civil war in 1965. In 1979 the rebels conquered the capital and put an end to the south’s hegemony. However, the rebel commanders fought amongst themselves until Hissène Habré defeated his rivals. He was overthrown in 1990 by his general Idriss Déby. Since 2003 the Darfur crisis in Sudan has spilt over the border and destabilised the nation, with hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees living in and around camps in eastern Chad. Unsustainable high birth rates and a lack of agriculture let the country persist in poverty.
While many political parties are active, power lies firmly in the hands of President Déby and his political party, the Patriotic Salvation Movement. Chad remains plagued by political violence and recurrent attempted coups d’état. Chad is one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world; most inhabitants live in poverty as subsistence herders and farmers. Since 2003 crude oil has become the country’s primary source of export earnings, superseding the traditional cotton industry.
The United Nations’ Human Development Index ranks Chad as the seventh poorest country in the world, with 80% of the population living below the poverty line. The GDP (Purchasing power parity) per capita was estimated as US$1,651 in 2009. Chad is part of the Bank of Central African States, the Customs and Economic Union of Central Africa (UDEAC) and the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA). Chad’s currency is the CFA franc. In the 1960s, the Mining industry of Chad produced sodium carbonate, or natron. There have also been reports of gold-bearing quartz in the Biltine Prefecture. However, years of civil war have scared away foreign investors; those who left Chad between 1979 and 1982 have only recently begun to regain confidence in the country’s future. In 2000 major direct foreign investment in the oil sector began, boosting the country’s economic prospects.
Over 80% of Chad’s population relies on subsistence farming and livestock raising for its livelihood. The crops grown and the locations of herds are determined by the local climate. In the southernmost 10% of the territory lies the nation’s most fertile cropland, with rich yields of sorghum and millet. In the Sahel only the hardier varieties of millet grow, and these with much lower yields than in the south. On the other hand, the Sahel is ideal pastureland for large herds of commercial cattle and for goats, sheep, donkeys and horses. The Sahara’s scattered oases support only some dates and legumes. Chad’s cities face serious difficulties of municipal infrastructure; only 48% of urban residents have access to potable water and only 2% to basic sanitation.
Before the development of oil industry, cotton dominated industry and the labour market had accounted for approximately 80% of export earnings. Cotton remains a primary export, although exact figures are not available. Rehabilitation of Cotontchad, a major cotton company weakened by a decline in world cotton prices, has been financed by France, the Netherlands, the European Union, and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). The parastatal is now expected to be privatised. Other than Cotton, Cattle and Gum Arabic are dominant.
If Chad can maintain a semblance of stability foreign investments will eventually return, but even 24 years after the last successful coup that brought President Idris Deby to power, investors are still wary of investing in Chad.