The Chad Valley Building. Photo: Pixabay
The Chad Valley Building. Photo: Pixabay

Neil on Africa: Chad – the ‘Dead Heart of Africa’

By Neil De Beer Time of article published Feb 13, 2020

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CAPE TOWN – Chad, named after Lake Chad, is a landlocked Sahelian country in central Africa that's often referred to as the “Dead Heart of Africa" due to its distance from the sea and desert climate.

The country is bordered by Cameroon in the south west, by the Central African Republic in the south, by Libya in the north, by Niger in the west, by North Sudan in the east and it has a border with Nigeria just across Lake Chad.

Chad is the largest of the 16 landlocked countries in Africa. It gained independence from France in 1960, though France still remains a source of Chad's budget, funding about 30 percent of the national budget.

After independence, Idriss Déby, who was an army officer and a graduate from Muammar Gaddafi’s World Revolutionary Centre, helped Hissen Habre topple the Goukouki Oueddei government in 1982.

Furthermore, in 1990, after being appointed as the chief military adviser to the Presidency, Idriss Déby toppled the government of President Hissene Habre and he became the president of Chad. Since then he has remained Chad’s president, making him the fourth-longest current serving African President with 29 years in power.

With a population of 15.8 million, gross domestic product (GDP) of $11.05 billion (R163.47bn) and an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent, Chad is one of the world's least developed countries, with a Human Development Index ranking of 186 out of 189 countries and territories (UNDP, 2018). The country is ranked 165 out of 180 countries in the 2018 Transparency International corruption perception index and 182 among 190 economies in the World Bank Doing Business 2019 report.

Chad's main economic activities are primarily agriculture, ie rearing of livestock, cotton, cattle and gum arabic, which are primary non-oil exports.

In 2017 the sector accounted for almost 50 percent of GDP and it also employs 90 percent of the population. However, the economy depends heavily on oil, which accounted on average for 78 percent of total exports in 2016/18 and 89 percent in 2018. Oil revenues averaged more than 65 percent of total non-grant revenues and 60 percent of the national budget.

This dependence on oil revenue affected the public debt, which rose up to 49.2 percent of GDP in 2018.

However, there has been a recovery in the oil prices, which might result in an estimated fall to 45.4 percent in 2020 (AEC, 2019). The country is said to have gold deposits, silver, diamonds, quartz, bauxite, granite, tin, tungsten, uranium, limestone, kaolin, and salt (ATA, 2019).

The major exports in 2017 were led by crude petroleum, which represents 92.3percent of the total exports of Chad, followed by insect resins, which account for 2.67 percent. The imports were led by packaged medicaments, which represent 6.47 percent of the total imports of Chad, followed by soap, which accounts for 3.41 percent.

Chad's top export destinations are: the US, China, the Netherlands, India and Turkey. Its top import origins are: China, France, Cameroon, India, and Belgium-Luxembourg.

On the Neil Economic Scale, the price of a can of coke in Chad is 597 CFA (R14.85) and a litre of petrol costs 600 CFA (R14.92). Its inflation rate is -2.8, which is rare in Africa.

The government has made regional integration a pillar of its development strategy and is also assisting more than 450 000 refugees from neighbouring countries, who make up 4 percent of Chad's population.

Neil de Beer is the president of the IFA and advises numerous African states on economic development. or [email protected]


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