Only 3.1% of the land is arable, but the country has an array of natural resources, including diamonds, gold and timber.
"Government officials from Bangui have accused Seleka of harboring 'foreign provocateurs' greedy for the country's vast mineral wealth, and there are suspicions that nationals from Chad, Nigeria, and Sudan also make up Seleka's ranks," African studies doctoral candidate Jason Warner wrote in a piece for CNN.
How did the rebels take over the capital?
For weeks, the Seleka rebel coalition pushed its way from its base in the north toward the capital city of Bangui, seizing towns along the way.
Their efforts took a pivotal turn on March 24, when they infiltrated the capital.
Witnesses reported hours of fierce gunfire in the city, and a government official said seven civilians were killed.
Before he ended up in Cameroon, Bozize had crossed into the Democratic Republic of Congo by the end of the day, said Jules Gautier Ngbapo, a government spokesman.
And the rebels issued a bold message:
"The Central African Republic has just opened a new page in its history," said a written statement from Justin Kombo Moustapha, secretary general of the Seleka rebels.
The statement described Bozize as the country's former president and urged residents to remain calm and prepare themselves to welcome rebel forces.
Why were South African soldiers in the country?
South Africa sent 200 troops to the country in January to work with the military there to quash the rebellion.
During the rebel advance, 13 South African soldiers were killed and 27 wounded, the South African president's office said. One soldier was unaccounted for.
What is likely to happen next?
That's what world leaders are scrambling to figure out.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the "unconstitutional seizure of power," echoing the African Union's dismay over the rebels' offensive.
Ban's office said the United Nations will continue working with the African Union and the Economic Community of Central African States to find a solution.
Rebel leader Djotodia declared himself the new president, and the rebel alliance said democratic elections will take place after three years.
"A new page is opening for peace and democracy in the CAR," Francois Nelson N'Djadder, a rebel spokesman, wrote.
"Bozize being gone, the Central Africans must gather around the table to talk and find a common path which will ... lead to the organization of democratic elections."
What other challenges does the Central African Republic face?
Despite its richness of natural resources, the country is stymied by a landlocked position, a poor transportation system, a largely unskilled work force and a legacy of misdirected macroeconomic policies, the CIA's World Factbook said.
Its per-capita GDP -- the country's economic output divided by the population -- is just $800, putting the country in 222nd place out of 228 countries.
And more than one in 25 adults are afflicted with HIV or AIDS.