By Connor J. Wangler
Divided is a good word to describe the Republic of Chad. Divided geographically between the Sahel and Sub-Saharan Africa. Divided between northern Muslims and southern Christians. Divided in its politics. Divided in its distribution of wealth and opportunity. According to the World Bank, about 46.7% of the Chad’s population lived below the national poverty line as of 2011. Many may see this as surprise given that country’s large oil industry; however, following independence from France in 1960, Chad has struggled to gain its footing. Poor governance, corruption, conflict, a geographically widespread population, and a harsh climate have not helped the country’s economic growth, and consequently, its high levels of extreme poverty.
Chad’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been far from stable since its independence. The country saw great growth following increased foreign direct investment (FDI) in the early 2000s. However, after the beginning of the civil war in 2005, the country’s GDP growth rate dropped rapidly. Fortunately, the country has been able to get back on a path of growth and the current GDP estimate by the World Bank is $12.9 billion (USD) and an annual growth rate of 7.2 percent.
Despite the country’s economic instability, the government has not stopped attempting to promote growth and reduce poverty levels. In 2003, the government developed a National Poverty Reduction Strategy (NPRS) to address its political, economic, and cultural divisions. The strategy begins by recognizing the determinants of poverty in the country: large rural households make up a majority of the country, most heads of households have low levels of education, and a national lack of access to healthcare and nutrition. Recognizing the rural, sparsely distributed population, the government is focusing on infrastructure projects to provide jobs and to link rural populations to develop a diversified economy. It focuses on improving access to human resources, such as healthcare and education. Additionally, it attempts to develop consolidated political governance to reduce mismanagement.
The government’s strategy also includes coupling state sponsored projects with NGO and international supported investments. One of these projects that has been successful is Farcha Farm near Chad’s capital, N’Djamena:
Despite these efforts, Chad’s reality remains brutal. A lack of resources, poor planning and implementation, and political disunion have long overshadowed any success in development. The country is not expected to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goal deadline.
“Africa is off-track in seeking to halve poverty by 2015, even though recent figures point to substantial progress in this area.” – UN MDG Report of Progress, March 2013
To increase progress on MDGs, the government revised the National Poverty Reduction Strategy in 2008 and 2010. An International Monetary Fund (IMF) review board called the updated NPRS “commendably frank and comprehensive.” Only time will tell if Chad’s commitment to growth and progress is enough to reach not only its own goals but also the MDGs.
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