Central Africa

Chad Society

Alphabetized adults: 22.3% (2016, estimated)

Major religions: Islam 53%, Christianity 34%

Urban population: 23% (2017, estimated)

Life expectancy (female / male): 54.5 / 52 years (2017, estimated)

Gender Inequality Index: Rank 160 of 162 (2018)

Number of births: 4.34 / woman (2017, estimated)

Infant mortality: 75.2 / 1000 live births (2017, estimated)

Macrosocial structure

The macrosocial structure of Chad has changed considerably since the beginning of the 20th century due to the colonial conquest and administration. Although there were already great differences between the centralized sultanates mainly located in the north and the small, less hierarchically organized village societies in the south, the colonial administration brought radical changes for the population. Many traditional authorities were deposed and others, some of which could rely on little acceptance from the population, were replaced by the French colonial administration. New administrative units and borders were created, promoting local and ethnic separation. In addition, the population of the south (le tchad utile) was favored over the north and the sedentary population over the nomadic population. This unequal treatment persisted even after independence and is still an important element in interethnic conflicts today.

Another major turning point and change for the social structures in the clans and families was the introduction of the money economy and the cultivation of cash crops (cotton), especially in the south. Individuality gained in importance and weakened traditional village structures. However, the family still forms the basis of the social organization, with the majority of the ethnic groups being structured in a patrilineal manner.

In spite of this, or precisely because of the conflicting state history, the traditional authorities still active in large parts of the country, such as sultans, kings or councils of elders, have important advisory and mediation functions to this day. You will be provided by the local people often placed more trust in them than in state representatives. This is also made visible by an ethnological study from the refugee area around Dar Sila in the east of the country, which deals with social structures, causes of violence and mediation strategies in this region.

Ethnicity and languages

Ethnicity and tribalism

According to ezinereligion, the country is divided into more than 200 ethnic groups that are very heterogeneous both linguistically and culturally. The geographical conditions of the Sahara, Sahel and Sudan zones have led to different forms of economy, which are expressed in nomadic, semi-nomadic or sedentary ways of life. The socio-economic structure of society of the various ethnic groups therefore differs greatly. Although attempts have been made since colonial times to establish the idea of a ‘national’ society within the artificially drawn borders, the local or regional social order remains the most important frame of reference outside the family, especially for the rural population.

Representatives of the various economic forms are, for example, the Tubu nomads and Daza of the Sahara, the often semi-nomadic Arab ethnicities of the Sahel regions and the sedentary Sara of the Sudan zone. The largest ethnic group in Chad is the Sara with 27.7%, followed by the Arabs with 12.3%, Mayo-Kebbi with 11.5%, Kanembou 9%, Ouaddai 8.7%, Hadjarai 6.7%, Tandjile 6.5% and Gorane with 6.3%, Masalit, Peul and many others.

Discrimination against minorities prevails in Chad especially against the Peul, who are excluded from important decision-making processes despite an anti-discrimination law adopted in 2006.


Chad is one of the most linguistic countries in the world. There are over 120 languages and dialects in the country, most of which can be assigned to the Nilo-Saharan, Afro-Asian and Niger-Congo language families. Around 26% of the total population speaks Arabic as their mother tongue and around 20% of the population speaks Sara, which is widespread in the south of the country.

The official languages are French and Arabic, although the local Chad Arabic is spread through trade even among the less educated sections of the population, even in the south of the country. French, in its typical form, is mostly spoken of only by population groups with a formal Western education and by the urban population.

Social situation

The unemployment in Chad, including those of young people is very high, with little meaningful statistical data exists. Most people make do with odd jobs and small trade and also try to make a living through subsistence farming. Even college and university graduates with good degrees have trouble finding jobs.

The informal sector is of great importance in Chad because the state and private sector structures are only marginally developed. 97% of women earn their living with informal work. Particularly noteworthy is the Bili-Bili production (local millet beer), which is made exclusively by women. However, the income generated from the informal sector is usually only low and access to means of production and credit is difficult.

Chad Education for girls

Urban-rural relationship

As in many countries in the Sahel zone, there is an unmistakable gap between town and country in Chad. The degree of urbanization is around 23.5% for 2020. The largest city in the country is the capital N’Djaména with almost 1.5 million residents. Other economically important centers are Moundou and Sarh in the south and Abéché in the northeast.

An overview of the most important cities with population figures illustrates the low degree of urbanization of the population.