Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Madagascar is Emerging From Its Global Isolation

The international community is accustomed in contemporary times to associating the name Madagascar with instability, political crises, military interventions, and epidemics. The country’s political development in the post-independence period is in this sense no different from other Francophone countries. Paris maintains a post-independence “stable” instability strategy that specifically defines Françafrique.

As is known, tension between political groups and the army, and disputed elections, are “classic” events in the political history of Madagascar. Some of the major reasons why this country couldn’t attract foreign investment are French-linked instability and “disinformation”. Despite the prevalence of terrorist incidents throughout the black continent, France attaches special importance to any negative development in Madagascar, which has led to the Western perception of the country being even worse than Somalia’s because of the French media. Other than anti-French sentiment in the country, one of the driving forces behind the Elysse’s systematic “disinformation” policy is Antananarivo’s partnership with China.

Madagascar one of the most strategic countries in the African context of the “One Belt One Road” project, which is also why it’s of importance to Japanese interests in the continent. After the signing of the African Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA) on 21 March in Kigali, countries such as South Korea, India, and Australia are increasingly just as interested in Madagascar as China and Japan are.

The most important factors inhibiting Madagascar’s transformation into an industrial powerhouse are its instability, corruption, and high crime rates. France’s “aggressive” policies impede it from developing a multidimensional strategic partnership with the country, just like with many other Francophone ones. The influence of the French lobby on Madagascar is especially visible when it comes to the financial, educational, religious, intelligence, and media “orientations” of the country.

Paying respect to France’s fears, Antananarivo is cautious about its relations with Beijing and is determined to keep Chinese investment at a certain level. On the other hand, it displayed no such concerns when it came to accepting large-scale Canadian mineral investments in the nickel industry. As with all Francophone countries, Madagascar is continuing to prioritize its work with former French colonies and the imperial center rather than explore opportunities to trade with neighboring countries.

The “psychological barrier” created by the French legacy prevents the country from participating in East Africa’s regional development. For example, in the geographic sense, it would be much more pragmatic for Madagascar to trade more with the Republic of South Africa, Mozambique, and Tanzania than with Algeria.

Madagascar’s gas exploration activities accelerated after Mozambique discovered this resource in the eponymous channel between the two countries. The drilling studies that have already been undertaken provide some idea about the size of its reserves. These deposits and the construction of LNG terminals will change the fate of Madagascar. In parallel with this, Antananarivo has recently bestowed special importance upon the issue of oil exploration.

Madagascar will soon hold presidential elections, and the opposition already started its campaign against the current president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who has been unable to produce a solution for the country’s development during his five-year term. Rajaonarimampianina’s pro-Western populist policies haven’t stabilized the country nor secured its interests. The upcoming elections will probably be a turning point in terms of Madagascar’s history. Antananarivo can chart a course for decades of development and stability if it can achieve a balance between East and West without waiting for help and investment from the latter. Mozambique is the most vibrant and successful example of this policy.

Alongside these developments, the opposition has taken the serious step of overcoming the problem of political instability. An economic forum was held in Antananarivo from 17-18 August (Madagascar forum économique international 2018) under the leadership of AFRIC (Association for Free Resarch and International Coorperation). Five of the presidential candidates who are running in the 7 November elections and many African experts, economists, and politicians joined the conference.

After the forum, the presidential candidates declared that they will not dispute the upcoming election results and will instead work together for stability. This initiative is a first in the political history of Madagascar and vital for the future of the country.

The GFFM political movement’s leader Pasteur André Christian Dieudonné Mailhol, one of the presidential candidates, said that the largest obstacle to the development of Madagascar is political instability. According to AFRIC coordinator and political analyst Mikael Cheuwa, the contribution of local experts to the process is important for analyzing regional problems.

However, it may be useful to also cooperate with foreign partners for brainstorming possible solutions and then implementing them. At this point, China and Russia, which are “real” alternatives to the current order, are paying more attention to the continent. According to Chewa, the presence of these countries provides a lot of opportunities for Africans and can be translated into stability if properly managed. For example, the new balancing element behind Russia’s international security strategy could help stabilize Africa.

The world is witnessing the US-Russian Hybrid War’s shift from Ukraine to Syria and now sub-Saharan Africa, but this time the conditions are relatively favorable for Russia. It’s not yet clear who will be the dominant power in the LNG market, and the reserves discovered off the East African coast are changing the dynamics of the energy market. The American-Russian dominance in this industry also seems to conflict with French interests, too.

In light of these developments, there is no doubt that Madagascar’s geostrategic importance will soon reveal itself, and a new administration in Antananarivo can leverage the current experiences in order to provide for the country’s long-term stability.

By Engin Ozer

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