COUNTRY NAME: Union of the Comoros
LAND AREA: 2,240 km2
POPULATION: 773,407 (2010 est.)
LANGUAGE: Comorian, Arabic, French
CURRENCY: 1 Comoros Franc (KMF) = 100 Centimes (not issued);
1 EUR = 491 KMF (Nov. 2010)
MAIN CITIES: Moroni (capital), Fomboni, Tsimbeo,Domoni
NATIONAL DAY: 6 July
TIME ZONE: Standard Time is GMT + 3
The Comoros, officially known as the Union of the Comoros, comprises a group of islands in the Indian Ocean, off the eastern coast of Africa on the northern end of the Mozambique Channel between northern Madagascar and north-eastern Mozambique. The Comoros has a diverse culture and history, as a nation formed at the crossroads of many civilizations.
Much of the land area is mountainous and made up of lava-encrusted soil that is unsuited to agriculture. Nevertheless, subsistence agriculture and fishing involves more than 80% of the population and represents 40% of the country’s gross domestic product, providing virtually all foreign exchange earnings. Plantations engage a large proportion of the population in producing the islands’ major cash crops for export: vanilla, cloves, perfume essences, and copra. Comoros is the world’s leading producer of essence of ylangylang, used in the manufacturing of perfume. It also is the world’s second-largest producer of vanilla. Principal food crops are coconuts, bananas, and cassava. It is not self-suffi cient in food and foodstuffs constitute 32% of total imports. Service sectors that are important include tourism, construction and commercial activities. Money sent home by Comorans working abroad provides a vital source of revenue. The government is endeavouring to upgrade education and technical training, to privatise commercial and industrial enterprises, to improve health services, to diversify exports, to promote tourism, and to reduce the high population growth rate. Some villages are not linked to the main road system or are at best only connected by tracks usable only by four-wheel-drive vehicles. Ports are rudimentary, although a deepwater facility functions in Anjouan. Only small vessels can approach the existing quays in Moroni on Grande Comore, despite improvements. Long-distance, ocean-going ships must lie offshore and be unloaded by smaller boats; during the cyclone season, this procedure is dangerous, and ships are reluctant to call at the island. Most freight is sent fi rst to Mombasa or the island of Reunion from where they are transshipped. France, Comoros’ major trading partner, fi nances small development projects. Comoros has an international airport at Hahaya on Grande Comore.
Comoros is endowed with numerous picture postcard beaches that make its potential for tourism considerable, but development has been impeded by recent political instability and numerous coups. Three main islands in the volcanic Comoros archipelago: Grande Comore, Moheli and Anjouan. The Comoros also claims the French controlled island of Mayotte (aka. Mahoré). The Comoros has a diverse culture and history and three offi cial languages—Comoran (Shikomor), Arabic, and French. It is the only state to be a member of the African Union, the Francophonie, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the League of Arab States and the Indian Ocean Commission. In 2007, the Comoros joined the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD). At 2,235 km², the Comoros is the third smallest African nation by area, and one of the smallest in the world, and with a population estimated at 798,000 it is also the sixth smallest African nation by population. Its name derives from the Arabic word qamar (“moon”), which explains to symbol depicted on its flag.
Population fi gures for the islands vary considerably. According to UN fi gures, Comoros has a population of around 800,000, with an average projected increase of 2.5 percent between 2004 and 2015. Comoros is more densely inhabited than many other sub-Saharan countries, putting severe strain on its limited farmland, water and fi rewood; 34 percent of the population dwelling in urban areas. There is an average of 275 people per km².
An International Monetary Fund mission team visited the capital Moroni in June 2009 to assess the country’s performance under the Emergency Post-Conflict Assistance (EPCA) programme and to discuss a new programme that could be supported by the IMF under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF). The IMF met with the President of the Union, the Governors of the three island entities, the Minister of Finance of the Union and the Governor of the Central Bank of Comoros. Key objectives are to re-establish fiscal stability by containing the domestic primary budget defi cit below 1 percent of GDP per year, and raising total revenue to 14.3 percent of GDP by 2012. Structural reforms, including reforms of public utilities, would aim to raise economic growth to around 2 ½ percent per annum during the period 2010-12. The IMF welcomed recent progress in preparing reform strategies for the Comoros Hydrocarbons Company (SCH) and Comores Telecom; and in initiating preparations for a reform strategy for the electricity parastatal. Looking ahead, the IMF said decisive implementation of the reforms will be important to foster sustained strong growth and achieving faster poverty alleviation.
Major imports include basic foodstuffs, mainly rice, some consumer goods, as well as petroleum products, cement and transport equipment. The main export partners are the US, France, Singapore and Turkey. Imports partners are France, South Africa, the UAE, Kenya, Italy, Mauritius and Singapore. Traditionally, France has been the main trading partner for Comoros and remains so today with France providing almost half of the imports and taking two-thirds of exports. Britain’s trade links with Comoros are minimal.
After nearly a decade of political turmoil, significant progress has been achieved with national reconciliation and inter-island cooperation over recent years. Political tensions have obstructed the implementation of coherent policy reforms and severely impeded economic progress, particularly effecting investment, tourism and growth of the private sector. Comoros continues to follow IMF recommendations on implementing policies conducive to the restoration of confidence, including revenue-sharing, joint administration of the customs office, and the transfer of spending competencies to the island governments. However, much needs to be done to reform the civil service and the budget process.
Comoros considers the tourism sector to be a potentially important source of higher economic growth. Tourism in the region has generally increased in recent years, but Comoros has been the exception because of its political instability. Reestablishing air links, simplifying visa procedures, and promoting the Comoros as a destination for specialized tourism could herald a recovery in tourist arrivals and revive hotel infrastructure.
There is no national newspaper in Comoros; the leading regional paper is Al-Watwan published on Grande Comore; Kwezi is also published on Mayotte. There is a Radio Comoros and a Comoros National TV both providing nationwide services.
The country’s banking system consists of the Central Bank of Comoros (Banque Centrale des Comores) established in 1981; the Bank for Industry and Commerce (Banque pour l’Industrie et le Commerce-BIC), a commercial bank established in 1990 that had six branches in 1993 and was a subsidiary of the National Bank of Paris- International (Banque Nationale de Paris-Internationale); BIC Afribank, a BIC subsidiary; and the Development Bank of Comoros (Banque de Développement des Comores), established in 1982, which provided support for small and medium-sized development projects. Most of the shares in the Development Bank of Comoros were held by the Comoran government and the central bank; the rest were held by the European Investment Bank and the Central Bank for Economic Cooperation (Caisse Centrale de Coopération Économique-CCCE), a development agency of the French government. All of these banks had headquarters in Moroni.
Source: Austro-Arab Trade Directory 2011.
The mentioned data are subject to modification. No responsibility is taken for the correctness of the details provided.
Last modified: 24 January 2011