Country Information: The capital of the Central African Republic is Bangui. There are approximately 6 million people living here. The official language of Central African Republic is French, but Sangho is widely spoken and is considered a national language. The majority of Central Africans practice indigenous beliefs, but protestant Christianity and Roman Catholicism are also practiced.
One fun fact about CAR is that it was once named Ubangi-Shari by French colonizers and was renamed Central African Republic after gaining independence on August 13, 1960.
Jim’s Perspectives: One of the poorest countries in the world, with 60% of the population living below the world’s poverty line – – which means it is VERY poor. And, generally, with dire poverty comes instability, making CAR one of the most dangerous places on the planet. When researching my trip to CAR, every website emphatically discouraged traveling there. In fact, the US State Department rated it a “Level 4” security rating, equal to North Korea’s.
With 4 million inhabitants, half of whom live in the villages outside the capital of Bangui, this is a country (hopefully) in transition from war to peace. Whether its President can crack down on sectarian violence remains to be seen. A UN peacekeeping force of 12,000 soldiers offer the only security against armed rebels, and they are a prime target for attacks. 12 were killed last year.
My guide described CAR like this: “This is a huge country with no people.” It is landlocked … but it is full of natural resources. And such possibilities if it were properly run.
The color of the green primary forest through the airplane window was breathtaking, even on a cloudy day. Driving outside of Bangui, the gentle rolling hills revealed vast amounts of arable land prime for growing fruits and vegetable of all kinds. The villages teemed with activity, with people selling fish, veggies, used clothes, firewood, etc.
Dozens of people piled into trucks serving as buses, and ordinary taxis above 20+ people from point-to-point, seated inside and on top of the vehicle! A motorcycle carried another motorcycle, a spectacle I’ve not yet witnessed before!
People from CAR are known to have aggressive personalities. If you want to test this, try taking a picture in Bangui and you’ll see this for yourself! I smiled as people yelled at me, acting as if I didn’t know better.
My best guess for this personality trait is this was born out of struggle and tyranny. Which brings me back to the topic of … “What if?”
As a spectacularly rich country, with plentiful resources, you have to wonder where the timber trucks are that lined the highways in Cameroon. CAR has the same mahogany forests. Where are the fruit plantations? What happens to the money the government gets from the uranium and gold mined in the country? Why are the majority of men in the country sitting around idly? With the incredible game parks in CAR, why hasn’t the country developed the tourism industry? The only viable tourist site within 3 hours of Bangui are the waterfalls, where once stood a lovely hotel and conference center. However, the rebels shot it up in 2003 … and it hasn’t “yet” been restored. This is a country of “some day”!!!
I loved my time in the Central African Republic in 2018. The Hotel Ledger Plaza was much nicer than expected, which is impressive given that I’m a hotel snob. I hope to return to the CAR one day to visit their game reserves and to see this country realize its incredible potential.