Of the ten countries in Central Africa, six are ranked "low human development" on the United Nations Development Programme's 2010 human development index — Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda.
More than half of the region's total population lives on less than US$1.25/day; almost half is under 15 years of age.
Conflicts within Central Africa and particularly in the Great Lakes region have generated political, economic and social instability. Violence against women and girls remains an issue.
Economic growth in the region is based mainly on extracting and exporting natural resources. The Great Lakes region represents an area of great, untapped potential. Its natural resources, fertile lands, wildlife, and natural attractions offer many economic possibilities. The countries in this region could tap into this potential and perform better once long-term peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and neighbouring countries is established.
Regional cooperation and integration are necessary to meet some of the common development challenges faced by Central African countries such as lasting peace, economic growth through equitable and sustainable natural resource management, and preventing violence against young women and girls.
While Rwanda is likely to achieve some of the Millennium Development Goals, many countries are off track on most targets. In Burundi, almost two out of five children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition.
The biggest challenge to regional integration in Central Africa is mutual understanding and agreement as advocated by the African Union. To help achieve this, CIDA is working with regional organizations such as COMIFAC [Central African Forests Commission], COCAFEM-GL [Collective of coalitions of associations working for the advancement of women in the Great Lakes region], and the regional economic communities.
The goal of CIDA's Central Africa regional program is to stimulate sustainable economic growth and secure a future for children and youth by protecting young women and girls from violence.
CIDA's Central Africa regional program is aligned with the African Union's vision of a united Africa with strong social and economic development, more accountable public institutions, and sustainable natural resources—a vision that can only be achieved through extensive regional cooperation and integration.
CIDA focuses on helping the Central Africa region stimulate economic growth by improving forest management in the Congo basin and fostering economic integration.
CIDA focuses on helping the Central Africa region secure a future for children and youth by:
CIDA works with emerging regional organizations that have the potential for effective programming and the support of other donors. CIDA is increasing its field presence in Central Africa to more fully coordinate its regional program with other donors and improve policy dialogue. Canada is the chair of the Group of Friends of the Great Lakes and facilitator of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership.