Projects: Chad and Africa In Crisis
If there is a single nation in Africa that has gone most abruptly from the most brilliant of prospects for the next quarter century to the darkest in the shortest period of time, 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 Exxon/Mobil 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 is below the global poverty line, while the nation’s per capita income is less than $1,500 a year.
But perhaps most disturbing in a nations that could be an anchor of West Africa over the next quarter century is the rampant corruption that has stymied every effort at development. Tied with Guinea and Sudan as the world’s sixth most corrupt nation by Transparency International, the World Bank actually froze its 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 arm trade that fuels the on-again, off-again civil war which periodically sweeps the country.
Malaria is still thought to kill a million people each year, though in Chad the death rate may be far higher than most since so many deaths go unrecorded in rural areas. Moreover, this figure is rising, not falling. Maternal mortality rates are the world’s third highest in Chad, 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 in overcrowded refugee camps.