Comoros is an island country in the Indian Ocean situated in the northern end of the Mozambique Channel. The country comprises of three main islands in the Comoros Archipelago and several other minor islands. The archipelago is located between the African coast and Madagascar, with no land border between the two. Comoros covers a total area of approximately 785 square miles, making it one of the smallest countries in the world. It also claims 120 square miles of the territorial sea. The capital city is Moroni, located on the Ngazidja, the largest island of the Comoros Archipelago. Comoros has a population of 850,680 people, making it one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The country is heavily reliant on the fishing and tourism industries.
Economy of Comoros
Comoros is one of the poorest countries in the world with very few natural resources. The country has an estimated GDP per capita income of $700 and a very high unemployment rate of 14.3%. Agriculture is the leading sector in the economy, accounting for 38.4% of the workforce in Comoros. The current priorities for the government are poverty reduction and economic growth. The high population density and growth, especially in the agricultural zone has affected agricultural production since agricultural land is being converted to settlements. The fiscal policies are continuously constrained by the high civil service wage bill, erratic fiscal revenue, and external debts. Industrial activities such as manufacturing and processing do not contribute much to the economy. The principal industries involve those processing cash crops for export. Other industries are mainly geared towards meeting domestic demand. Here are some of the notable industries in Comoros.
Agriculture is the leading economic activity in Comoros, involving over 80% of the population and accounts for about 40% of the total GDP. It is the source of almost all the country’s foreign revenue. About 76% of the land of Comoros is under cultivation, the most of any country in the world. There are two agricultural zones in the country; the highland area where crops for consumption such as rice, bananas, cassava, and sweet potatoes are cultivated, and the coastal area which supports mainly the cash crops such as cloves, ylang-ylang, and vanilla. Comoros is one of the major producers of ylang-ylang essence, derived from flowers of a tree originally obtained from Indonesia. This essence is used in the manufacture of soaps and perfumes. Comoros is also one of the largest producers of vanilla and cloves. The production of the three cash crops fluctuates considerably in response to changes in the global market and natural disasters. This industry is also the major source of raw material for other industries such as manufacturing and food processing industries.
Fishing is the second most important economic activity after agriculture, accounting for 8% of the total GDP and 10% of the total workforce. The share of the fishing sector in the GDP decreased from 10% in 2010 to 8% in 2013, indicating how subsistence and informal the sector is and its vulnerability to shocks. The fishing sector was prioritized in the government’s growth strategy for 2010-2014. The sector can be divided into three sub-sectors; artisanal, traditional, and semi-industrial. Traditional fishing involves the use of dugout canoes, locally known as “ngalawas.” Traditional fishing activities are confined to inshore waters within the reef ecosystem. Artisanal fishing involves the use of motorized fishing crafts such as planked, locally known as “fedewas,” and fiberglass boats. This equipment mainly targets medium-sized pelagic fish. Semi-industrial fishing involves the use of modern and longer fiberglass boats and is part of the integrated fisheries development project that is being promoted by the National Fishing Company. Industrial fishing in Comoros’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is conducted almost entirely by foreign tuna fleet. The entire domestic fish production is mainly sold in the local market as either fresh or dried fish. Although fish exporting is almost non-existent, Comoros is working at exporting fishery products, especially to the EU market.
The Comoros islands located in the Madagascar Channel between East Africa and Madagascar are unique ecoregions containing rich wildlife and forests. The forests of Comoros are similar to the neighboring Madagascar forests, although they contain 500 more endemic plants. In 2000, forests in Comoros covered an area of approximately 8,000 hectares. However, with the high population growth rate, parts of the forests have been cleared to give way for settlements. The forests consist of numerous fruit trees and tropical hardwood. These forests have been sources of timber mainly for local use. The timbers are mainly used in the construction and manufacture of papers. However, the contribution if this industry is very minimal to the economy of Comoros that it accounts for less than 1% of the GDP. The government has encouraged sustainable timber harvesting but still has to deal with illegal lumbering.
The tourism industry in Comoros developed from the penetration of the Comorian economy by South Africa during Ahmed Abdallah’s regime. Although the investors from South Africa constructed or renovated several hotels on the islands in the 1980s, only a few hotels are still operating. Political instability and competition from other venues have inhabited the growth of tourism. The tourism industry in Comoros is not as strong as its neighbors but the contribution to the economy is still significant. The country has several natural resources such as beautiful beaches and the marine environment that are capable of attracting tourists. Tourists who visit Comoros are mainly wealthy Europeans and Americans. The country’s major attractions are the beaches, mountain sceneries, underwater fishing, and unique bird species.
Other Notable Industries
Comoros does not have many industries like some of its neighbors. Apart from the above industries, others include the processing industry which is mainly involved in processing agricultural produce for local use and export. Vanilla processing and distilling of ylang-ylang for export are the major components of this industry. The construction industry is also coming up, with the demand and importation of construction material on the rise. The manufacturing industry is not well developed and involves mainly artisans and those involved in handcrafts.