If there is a single nation in Africa that has gone abruptly from the most brilliant of prospects for the next quarter century to the darkest, it is Chad. Despite the start of oil production in 2003, an investment of $3.7 billion by a consortium of foreign oil companies headed by ExxonMobil, and the construction of an oil pipeline bankrolled, in large part, by the World Bank, Chad remains the world’s fifth poorest country. Some 80 percent of the population lives below the global poverty line, while the nation’s per capita income is less than $1,500 a year.
But perhaps most disturbing for the next quarter century is one of the nations that could be an anchor of West Africa is the rampant corruption that has stymied every effort at development. Tied with Guinea and Sudan as the world’s sixth most corrupt country by Transparency International, the World Bank froze it’s funding of the oil pipeline project when the government reneged on its pledges to devote 80 percent of the revenue to development projects. Instead, vast amounts of funds have been poured into the arms trade that fuels the on-again, off-again civil war which periodically sweeps the country.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, malaria kills nearly one million people each year, and many deaths go unrecorded in rural areas. Moreover, this figure is still rising. Chad’s maternal mortality rates are the world’s third highest, and more than 80 percent of the women face female circumcision. And each year, as the rainy season ends, rebels are on the move from the east, where tens of thousands of refugees from the even more beleaguered Darfur region of Sudan and the Central African Republic languish on overcrowded refugee camps.