CHAD – The Dead Heart of Africa


Chad, named after Lake Chad, is a landlocked Sahelian country in central Africa which is 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 southwest, 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% of the national budget. After independence, Idriss Deby who was an army officer and a graduate from Muammar Gaddafi’s World Revolutionary Center helped Hissen Habre topple Goukouki Oueddei government in 1982. Furthermore, in 1990 after being appointed as the chief military adviser to the Presidency, Idriss Deby toppled the government of President Hissene Habre and he became the president of Chad. Since then he is still Chad’s president making him the 4th longest current serving African President with 29 years in power.

With a population of 15.8 million, GDP of $11.05 billion and the unemployment rate of 5.9%, Chad is one of the world’s least developed countries, with a Human Development Index (HDI) 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 i.e rearing of livestock, Cotton, Cattle and Gum Arabic which are primary non-oil exports. In 2017 the sector accounted for almost 50% of GDP and it also employees 90% of the population. However, the economy depends heavily on oil, which accounted on average for 78% of total exports in 2016– 18 and 89% in 2018. Oil revenues averaged more than 65% of total non-grant revenues and 60% of the national budget. This dependence on oil revenue affected the public debt which rose up to 49.2 % of GDP in 2018 however, there has been a recovery in the oil prices which might result in an estimated fall to 45.4% 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) despite its dependency on oil.

The major exports in 2017 were led by Crude Petroleum which represents 92.3% of the total exports of Chad, followed by Insect Resins, which account for 2.67%. The imports were led by Packaged Medicament’s which represent 6.47% of the total imports of Chad, followed by Soap, which accounts for 3.41%. The top export destinations are the United States, China, the Netherlands, India, and Turkey, and 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). Inflation Rate is -2.8 which is rare in Africa.

Investing in Chad has been difficult due to its limited infrastructure, lack of trained workers, extensive government bureaucracy, and poor governance. The country is also experiencing violence and instability from internal rivalries between ethnic groups, conflicts in neighbouring countries and fighting the extremist group Boko Haram, which have negatively impacted the country’s competitiveness and growth. The government has however made regional integration a pillar of its development strategy and also assisting more than 450 000 refugees from neighbouring countries who make 4% of Chad’s population.