Situated in the heart of Africa, the Central African Republic has no access to the sea and few railways.
Situated in the heart of Africa, the Central African Republic has no access to the sea and few railways. Consequently it relies heavily on the River Oubangui for communications and for exporting its products.
From Bangui, the capital, exports are sent down the river 750 miles (1200 kilometres) to Brazzaville, in the people's Republic of the Congo. From there they are railed a further 300 miles (480 kilometres) to the Atlantic Coast port of Points Noire. The exports consist mainly of groundnuts, cotton, coffee and timber.
The River Oubangui is use also to export products from another landlocked country, the Republic of Chad, which sends goods from Fort Lamy to Bangui by road, to continue their journey to the sea.
It is planned eventually to extend the Trans-Cameroun railway to Bangui, but until that day comes, the River Oubangui will continue to play a key role in the Central African Republic's exports, and in the travels of its ordinary people, who use the river boats in the same way as other Africans use buses.
SYNOPSIS: Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, depends on the River Oubangui for its transport. The country is landlocked, and the river is its lifeline to the sea. From this port, exports set off on a thousand-mile journey to the Atlantic Ocean. Timber is one of the most valuable products, vast areas of forest awaiting exploitation.
Barges like these carry all manner of traffic. The exports journey, seven-hundred miles to Brazzaville in the Congo People's Republic. From there they go by railway a further three-hundred miles to the Atlantic port of Points Noire. The barges cannot go upstream because of the rapids. The departure of these "river trains" is a major event in the capital...
The river forms the frontier. Passengers buying boat tickets have to pass through Customs formalities, even for canoe journeys. Canoes like these run taxi services across the river to the town of Zongo, in the Republic of Zaire.
Nature too uses the Oubangui for transport. These river flowers break away and sail downstreams to the River Congo. Hundreds of miles away people in Brazzaville see the same vegetation sailing past as it nears the sea.