Chad Development Context

 The Development Context in Chad: Internal and External Crises


Chad is one of the world’s poorest countries and has been plagued in recent years by multiple internal and external crises. Internally, the government of Chad continues to face off against the attacks of armed opposition groups based in the eastern part of the country and neighboring Sudan. This conflict has caused general instability in much of the country and has hindered development efforts. In fact, rebels were able to infiltrate parts of the country’s capital N'Djamena as recently as February 2008. [1]


Food insecurity has been another destabilizing factor. Most Chadians depend on subsistence farming and animal husbandry, leaving them vulnerable to changing weather patterns, especially within its Sahel regions. Exacerbating the country’s general food insecurity has been the influx of some 330,000 refugees from Sudan and the Central African Republic due to conflicts within those countries. These refugees are often housed in camps in the eastern and southern provinces of Chad. In addition, fighting between the government and rebels in Chad has displaced approximately 166,000 people internally in the last three years. [2]

Chad has limited capacity to cope with the influx of refugees and relies on food aid from international organizations and other countries. A persistent lack of food, combined with chronic poverty, has resulted in limited access to education for most children. Nearly three quarters of adults are illiterate.

The Influence of Oil

The ability of the Chadian state to manage crises and fight poverty hinges to a large extent on the flow of money from oil production in the southern region around the Doba basin. Tax revenue from oil production slumped from $20.4 billion in 2008 to 11.6 billion in 2009 but is expected to recover this year amid higher prices and the introduction of new oilfields. [3]

Oil revenues have been a highly politicized resource under the government of President Idriss Deby. Chevron first discovered oil here in the 1970s, but the crude remained untapped for nearly 25 years as an inhospitable business climate kept potential investors wary. In 2000, the World Bank approved $365 million in loans for the $3.7 billion Chad-Cameroon pipeline, the largest construction project ever in Sub-Saharan Africa at the time. The loans gave the private sector confidence in the success of the project. Hundreds of millions of dollars in loans from private and other public sources followed in rapid succession.

The World Bank loan included mechanisms aimed at making sure that oil revenues were used primarily to improve the lives of Chad’s present and future population. But Déby decided in January 2006 to modify the initial system of management of oil revenues in order to make more funds available to buy arms. Since 2006, the corporate tax imposed on the consortium operating oil production has contributed more the half of the country’s tax revenue.

This concentration of revenue from a singular dependable source has allowed Deby to reject political dialogue and respond to rebel actions from Sudan by what some consider in the development community as overspending on the military instead of concentrating upon poverty reduction. Chad's military spending over the period 2000-2009 rose from $14 million to $315 million. [4] Large public works projects, ostensibly intended to improve Chad’s dilapidated infrastructure, have also become sources of corruption and collusion between elites. [5]

Improving transparency in governance is a key goal for domestic and international development organizations, as they hope to better identify how funds are being used and to which development initiatives performed by the government are most effective. In Chad’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRSP II 2010-2014), the government promises to devote a larger portion of public expenditure to social services, such as health and education, though development groups say spending will still fall short of needs.

The State of the Economy and the Potential for Growth

After oil, Chad’s second largest industry is agriculture and livestock, which accounts for about 18 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Around four fifths of Chadians rely on subsistence agriculture. Transport and trade industries are the third largest sector and generate about 13 percent of GDP.

Insufficient basic infrastructure and a lack of quality public services have held back private sector development. The poor national road network makes it difficult to get agricultural production to market. Landlocked Chad also has limited transport links with other countries in the region, limiting exports of livestock, cotton, gum arabic and other items. Limited water and electricity infrastructure as well as livestock management systems work against diversification of the agricultural sector.

As in many other sub-Saharan countries, Chad's business environment is unattractive to many private investors. The World Bank's 2010 Doing Business report ranked Chad 178th among 183 countries in 2009, with particularly low rankings for indicators measuring barriers to starting a business, closing a business, enforcing contracts, and trading across borders. [6]

Delivery of public services is also affected by tax-collection problems caused by a lack of coordination between the Inland Revenue (DGI) and the Treasury (DGT. The African Development Bank (AfDB) claims that most service providers with government contracts do not fully pay their taxes, resulting in a significant loss in potential state expenditure. [7]

Despite these deficiencies. the AfDB identifies some strengths and opportunities for economic growth. Chad is in a key continental transit zone on a Tripoli-to-Cape Town Trans-African corridor. The AfDB thus supports the development of Chad’s highway system. (Koumr-Sarh Development Project).

Despite substantial food insecurity within Chad’s Sahel region, the country’s Southern or Soudanian zone has potential for more agricultural development. Chad has 39 million hectares of arable land, 5.6 million hectares of irrigable land, 84 million hectares of natural pastures and large populations of livestock. Lack of production infrastructure and inaccessibility of production areas, rather than food supply per se, have been the sources of food insecurity. For a profile of rural poverty in Chad, see a report by IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) here and for current projects being implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization- UN here. For a media profile of agricultural workers select here.

The State of the Media and ICTs in Chad

Radio is by far the most widely used communication medium. Most privately-owned and operated radio stations are based around N’Djamena in the southwest. A number of these stations are run by nonprofits and have a limited broadcast range.

The state-run Radiodiffusion Nationale Tchadienne (RNT) operates both national and regional radio stations. Interestingly, the October 2009 survey used in this analysis indicates that in the more densely populated areas like the southwestern regions, where there is competition between private and state stations, Chadians prefer the privately-run stations. However, for the 73 percent of Chadians living in rural areas with little to no domestic radio competition, RNT is the most popular radio station. For more information on regional media and ICT habits in Chad see our research article on the topic here.

In recent years, international and domestic non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Internews and Association pour le Développement des Médias Communautaires (ADMC) have worked to establish and support community radio stations aimed at informing and empowering Chadians and refugee communities. For more information on the media environment and development efforts in Chad, see our research article here.

Chart 1

Mobile Phones

The number of mobile subscriptions in Chad rose from just 63,000 mobile subscriptions in 2003 to 1.8 million in 2008 for a population of nearly 11 million. The introduction of market competition (there are now two mobile service providers) helped to drive down the cost of pre- and post-paid subscriptions and expanded coverage areas. The two service providers are CelTel Tchad (Zain) and Millicom Tchad. The ratio of mobile to fixed –line subscriptions in 2008 was 139.2 to 1, according to the International Telecommunication Union. [8]

As is the case in many African countries, mobile phones are often shared within households and among friends, which helps to explain why household access rates within the survey extend beyond assumed subscription rates. [9]

Expanded mobile phone access has the potential to improve personal security by having a constant means of communication with loved ones, as has been found in other conflict and post-conflict areas such as Liberia. [10] Chadians, especially those living in the eastern regions, have been subject to cross-border attacks from bandits, armed opposition groups and interethnic violence over limited resources.

Television and the internet are both sparsely used in Chad. Television use could be limited by the expense of owning a set, poor access to electricity and government restrictions on broadcasting. As for the internet, Chad lacks a national backbone infrastructure and international fiber-optic access to support broadband services. All long-distance connections, both national and international, are currently made via satellite. However, this situation is likely to improve gradually under the Central African Backbone (CAB) project in September 2009, which may finally bring fiber-optic cable to the country.

Agricultural Workers

It has been estimated by the FAO that approximately 2 million people affected by poor cereal harvests and livestock yields in 2009 are in need of food assistance. The ability to communicate with both agricultural workers and those families being affected by food insecurity is crucial. Relaying effective agricultural information about farming best practices, seed supply programs or food supplement projects becomes ever more important in such environments. The agricultural workers questioned in the late 2009 survey showed that they have overall less access to information and communication mediums, other than radio, compared to the general public. [11] This may be the result of a number of reasons, including their status as subsistence farmers, impoverishment, illiteracy and/or a lack of access to electricity.

Chart 2

Radio station listenership among agricultural workers, as with other Chadians, is region-dependent. The state-run RNT is the only radio network with a national reach, while about a dozen privately-run stations are regionally based, mainly in Chad’s urban east and southeastern areas. Due to the lack of radio diversity outside of urban areas, RNT is by far the most popular radio station among agricultural workers. For a further breakdown of the more popular radio stations by region see our article The Importance of Location: How Regional Differences Define Media in Chad.

The lack of radio listening options may limit agricultural workers’ level of news consumption. Only about 48 percent surveyed said they consume news programming at least daily, compared to 63 percent of urban dwellers, who have more options. News consumption on the weekly level jumps to 70 percent among agricultural workers. This is still 10 percentage points below the workers’ overall weekly use rate. Obviously, limited access to electricity could be another simple explanation for the differences between the habits of agricultural workers and the general public.

Those in the agricultural sector did not have vastly different opinions on topics of interest than their Chadian peers, with the exception of health issues. When asked to rate their level of interest in the topic on a scale of one to ten, some 82 percent of agricultural workers responded with an eight or above. The only other topic that reaches half the popularity of health issues was “home improvement”, which reached 46 percent.

[1] “UN Condemns Chad Rebel Attack”. 5 February 2008. Doha, Qatar. Accessed June 2010.

[2] “2010 Country Operations Profile: Chad”. United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees. Geneva, Switzerland Accessed June 2010.

[3] “Chad”. African Economic Outlook. Accessed June 2010. Updated 7 April 2010.

[4] “Chad: Escaping from the Oil Trap”. International Crisis Group. Africa Briefing N°65. 26 Aug 2009. Accessed May 2010.

[5] Ibid.

[6] “Doing Business: Measuring Business Regulations”. World Bank. 2010. Washington, DC. Accessed May 2010.

[7] “Public Resource Mobilization”. African Economic Outlook. 7 April 2010. Accessed May 2010.

[8] “Mobile Cellular Subscriptions”. International Telecommunication Union. Accessed June 2010.

[9] Lopez, Asbel. UNESCO Courier. Juyl/August 2000. and Sebusang, S., Masupe, S., & Chumai, J. (2005). Botswana. In A. Gillwald (Ed.), Towards and African eindex: ECT access and usage. Johannesburg, South Africa: The Link Centre, Wits University School of Public and Development Management.

[10] Best, Michael L. And Edem Wornyo† Thomas N. Smyth! and John Etherton. “Uses of Mobile Phones in Post-Conflict Liberia”. Jan. 2009. Georgia Institute of Technology: Atlanta, GA

[11] Agricultural workers in the survey include those that described themselves as being employed as an “agricultural worker”, “commercial farmer”, “subsistence farmer”, or simply “farmer”.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr and mknobil.