Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the 10 poorest countries on earth. CAR has more than 80ethnic groups, where Muslim minority constitutes approximately 15% and 80% are Christians. CAR is a landlocked country with few roads and a long history of costly and divisive arm conflicts, coup d’etats and dictatorships. After around six decades of independence from France (13 August 1960), CAR stands at the end in the list of world’s countries, with repressive regimes, like that of Jean-Bedel Bokassa (1965–1979), periodically destroying CAR economy.
CAR is a semi-presidential republic, where elections into 105-members, unicameral “Assemblee Nationale” are held every five years. CAR is divided into 16 prefectures and subdivided to 71 sub-prefectures. Bangui prefecture, with more than 0.5 million inhabitants, is the most populous in CAR.
The executive power in CAR is split between its president, elected by popular vote, and a prime minister, appointed by “Assemblee”. This political system led to a situation where CAR president periodically claims more legitimacy than PM and then asks for more executive authorities.
The latest political settlement was reached in January 2014 after almost two years of the civil war between Seleka — the rebel coalition of Muslim groups, including the Union of Democratic Forces or UFDR — and anti-balaka (translated as “anti AK-47 amulet”) movement — the union of animists and Christians.
Economy of CAR is dominated by the agriculture and diamonds mining (57% of export). The main crop is cassava, which is used primarily in a production of alcoholic beverages and in a culinary. Official CAR per capita income is around $300. However, it is supplemented by a large informal economy, which mostly consists of non-registered trade of diamonds and sale of alcohols. For years, GDP yearly growth rate has not exceeded 3%, with periodic sharp drops during wars (for example, it fall to almost minus 30% in 2013). The international assistance provides for more than 10% of the country’s budget.
CAR population is poor, its economy is undeveloped and its political system is violent. High-technology industries are absent in CAR and the base for startup ecosystem growth is feeble at best. Local population relies on the subsistent agriculture, legal as well as administrative frameworks governing SME are non-efficient and a basic telecommunication infrastructure is absent in most of the country. At the same time, the number of youth in CAR is growing rapidly and there is an open market opportunities for an e-business aimed at urban users of mobile Internet in such sectors as FinTech and e-commerce.
Business Notes for Startups Founders:
- political climate: not friendly;
- economic climate: not friendly;
- regions to focus: locally;
- industries to focus: FinTech (crypto-currencies), e-commerce;
- major limitations: small non-industrial economy (GDP less than $2 billion), 50% of inhabitants depend on subsistence agriculture, low-income consumers (per-capita around $300), political instability, absence of seed and VC investments, very high inflation rate (about 40%), heavy administrative and legal burdens, poor infrastructure (fixed Internet penetration rate less than 5%);
- stimulus: low costs, low competition;
- opportunities: to develop an e-business aimed at growing number of young urban users of mobile Internet in such sectors as FinTech and e-commerce.