Sunday , 5 December 2021
30 years after the institution of the Indian Ocean Commission, Madagascar still has to find its way forward. Its economic development is still little more than a mess, whereas the other islands like Mauritius and La Reunion have taken a large enough lead to bring their industries onto the Malagasy territory and take profit from the local cheap labor. Such a synergy inside the intergovernmental organization does not hold its promises of welfare as well as expected, for the targeted markets prove tight and uneasy. Madagascar still have an asset up its sleeve though: its potential as regional barn potentially able to see to the Indian Ocean's islands food security.

IOC: regional synergy through economy

The Indian Ocean Commission was initially created on the European Union’s bidding, out of the will to create ties between African, Carribean and Pacific Ocean countries. The economic integration pattern began to emerge with the liberalization of Madagascar’s economy, particularly marked by the entry of Mauritian textile tax free industries by the beginning of the 1990s, as the first major economic and commercial bridge in the Indian Ocean. Free trade areas and custom union were not yet scheduled by then. The European made integration pattern is actually not suitable to the Indan Ocean’s islands since their regional trade does not consume more than 10% of each island’s export goods. In 1995, Madagascar began to enjoy the Integrated Regional Program of Exchange Development, which was aiming at the creation of free trade area when the political project materializes. The regional coordinator of the IRPED used to suggest to keep away from the regional integration if not ready to bear the consequences. According to Henry Rajeriarison, “the Malagasy government failed from taking the necessary measures.”
Airline and see travel company projects
The IOC was drawing plans of major significance. The regional airline connection was however met much less enthusiastically as expected. Member countries actually found it hard to combine and drop their airline independence represented by their respective companies like Air Madagascar, Air Mauritius or Air Seychelles, they were so much proud of. Each of these companies now have to face up to the same challenge from low costs offers somewhere else. Combination would not only improve service quality but also eventually lead to more competitive prices. Price competitiveness happens to be the key to the reduction of exploitation costs which currently undermine profitability. The IOC also intends to push for the creation of a single company in charge of connecting the concerned islands by sea and transporting fright. In it Madagascar did not display any interest comparable to that of Mauritius and the Seychelles due to the small scale of interregional exchanges. The country is very likely to change its mind when / if it turns into the IOC’s barn.
Madagascar at the heart of the Indian Ocean’s food security
Madagascar’s Agriculture Department already issued an application for funding of modern and extensive agriculture in each the island’s four regions. Could the EU provide with the requested funds, rice (180 000t) corn (200 000t) dry beans (18 000t) and onions (28 000t) will be supplied to the whole of the IOC. Those figures largely overshoot the demand, but the Great Isle’s own food security will first have to be secured. Local needs are 10 to 15% higher than the local production of 3.5 millions of tons or rice a year. The Agriculture Ministry’s program coordinator recalled that Madagascar was exporting rice even when having to import rice for its own population. “This great project to be supported by the EU will lead to the improvement of performance and to the extension of cultivated areas, namely thanks to the development of watering systems” argued Bruno Rakotomahefa. Until this project materializes, the Indian Ocean countries keep importing their rice from Asian countries. La Reunion gets its supplies from Thailand, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, and shows a strong interest in Madagascar’s bio rice