Monday, November 14, 2011

Malagasy Miracle?

In an article about South African led political negotiations in Madagascar, WSJ reporter Peter Wonacutt says a couple surprising things about Madagascar:

"Rich in vanilla, coffee, cocoa and minerals, Madagascar has long been an economic miracle waiting to materialize."

"the first since a military-led coup in 2009 upended one of Africa's most promising economies."

The article also shows a graph of the country's recent growth rates:

What the article doesn't show or discuss is Madagascar's demographics. Almost half of the population is below age 15. Population growth has averaged between 2.5 and 3 percent. Thus, per-capita GDP is not growing anything like what is shown in the graphic.

Mrs. Angus and I were in Madagascar for 3 weeks in 2008, before the coup. There was really only one good road in the entire country (from the Tana airport to the town to the Andasibe-Mantadia national park). Transportation infrastructure in the South and West was non-existent (We didn't visit the north).

Villages were filled with babies that had just had babies, and the country appeared not to have any old people at all. There was only one airline in the country and flights left whenever all the ticketholders arrived (this could be either substantially early or extremely late). One of the main occupations in rural areas was chopping down trees to make and sell charcoal.

Finally, exporting primary commodities has not proven to be a reliable path to achieving development.

Two caveats. First, I'm not a Madagascar specialist. But given my experiences in that country and knowledge of its demographics, I was stunned by the interpretation of its economy given in the article. Second, Mrs. Angus and I had a tremendous visit to the country. We thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend such a trip to any semi-adventurous travelers.


Marc said...

Having spent eight months in Madagascar in 2004 collecting data in rural areas for my dissertation, I second your recommendation for tourism. The only caveat I would add is this: Spend as little time as possible in Antananarivo. It is not a walkable city, and besides the Tsimbazaza zoo and the Rova (Queen's Palace) up in the hills, there is little to do there.

Angus said...

For sure, the countryside is the way to go. We loved the west coast. we did Morondova-Kirindy-Bekopaka.