The Central African Republic is a sparsely populated country with a young population. More than 60 percent of residents are younger than 25 years. Most live in the west, while large areas in the east are uninhabited. Armed fighting has in recent years led to many people moving inland or to neighboring countries, which makes population statistics very uncertain.
There are over 70 different ethnic groups. There is a clear dividing line between the peoples of the rivers in the south (so-called river peoples such as yakoma, ngback, sango, nzakara and azandé) and people on the savannah further north (sara, mboum, banda and baya). The residents of the south are mainly traders and fishermen, while in the north they mainly live on agriculture and livestock management.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Central African Republic, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
The two largest ethnic groups are the savannah baya (or gbaya) and band that together make up half the population. Banda lives in the central parts of the country, while baya is found in the west.
Collectors and hunters aka (a kind of pygmy) live in the rainforest in the southwest. Only a few thousand members remain of this nation. Their culture is threatened by logging as they depend on the forest for their livelihood, and many aka living in poverty.
There is a strong rivalry between the North and the South, which is rooted in the social and economic divisions that arose during the French colonial empire (circa 1910-1960). The rivers first came into contact with the French, who gave these groups education and employment in the colonial administration. This led the people of the South to dominate political life as far back as the 1990s (see Modern History). In terms of economic development, too, the south was favored, while the northern parts of the country fell behind.
The contradictions between different peoples groups have been diluted by the fact that different presidents have favored their own peoples group. The conflict that was triggered in 2012 has also set Muslims and Christians against each other (see below).
Previously, less than one-sixth of the country’s residents were Muslims. They lived mainly in the northern and western parts of the country. In the cities there were Arab Muslims from Chad and Nigeria. They were mainly engaged in trade.
Muslims were discriminated against when it came to access to community service and jobs. The constitution adopted in 2004 banned religious intolerance, which was interpreted as an attempt to strengthen the position of Muslims, but in practice nothing changed.
Many Muslims fled the country during the bloody battles that erupted from the end of 2012 when a Muslim-dominated rebel group and a largely Christian militia attacked each other and subjected the civilian population to extensive abuse (see Modern History). In 2014, Muslims’ share of the population had fallen from 15 to 2 percent. The majority of the Muslim population of 120,000 people in the capital Bangui had been forced to flee. Livestock-fed Fulani, who are Muslims, have recently become the target of much of the violence. Other Central Africans often regard them as “foreigners”.
According to the UN, the conflict had claimed about 5,000 casualties from the end of 2012 until the summer of 2015.
The fighting generally led to large streams of refugees. UN refugee agency UNHCR stated in 2015 that up to half a million people lived as refugees in their own country. More than 400,000 were estimated to have moved to neighboring countries.
The violence also frightened many of the few thousand Europeans, mostly Frenchmen, who had been living in the Central African Republic.
The Central African Republic has previously received refugees from conflict-affected neighbors, but many of them returned home when the unrest broke out. In 2014, around 17,000 refugees from mainly Chad, Sudan and Congo-Kinshasa were estimated to live in the Central African Republic.
French and Sango are official languages. Sango is a mixed language (Creole language) based in the local language ngbandi (which is spoken by the yakomna people, among others). Sango has long been used for communication between different language groups, especially in commerce. French is spoken within the state administration. There are a further 80 different languages and dialects. Important regional languages are banda, baya, mandja and sara.
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
savanna peoples banda and baya are the biggest – the savanna peoples also include sara and mboum. Among the river peoples are yakoma, ngbak, sango, nzakara and azandé
Number of residents
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
41.0 percent (2017)
35.7 per 1000 residents (2016)
13.5 per 1000 residents (2016)
1.4 percent (2017)
4.9 number of births per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
50.7 percent (2017)
52 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
54 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
50 years (2016)
French and Sango are official languages 1
- about 80 local and regional languagesSources
The UN sends peacekeeping troops to the country
The UN is sending a peacekeeping force, Minurcat, to protect civilians from continuing fighting in the northeastern part of the country as well as in eastern Chad.
Peace agreements are signed and broken
Peace agreements are signed between the government and the leaders of the rebel groups UFDR and APRD. The agreements do not hold, and the rebel groups continue their attacks.