Is there any reason to believe why Madagascar - one of the poorest countries in the world - would be a candidate for a marketer to look at as an opportunity?
The short answer is 'No'. In spite of the fact that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is forecasting GDP growth this year of 7.0 percent, and in spite of the fact that the right sectors (investment particularly) are developing nicely, most of the population lives in very fragile circumstances in a subsistence economy.
But the fact is that Madagascar is a place to keep in mind. This for two reasons: One, there's a new Government, a reform-minded Government that appears to have the will and the means to make important changes - particularly against corruption.
Two, last year, the country had some considerable environmental problems to deal with. Two huge storms battered the island and left the economy reeling. But Madagascar showed some serious resilience, and ended 2004 with GDP growth of 5.3 percent, following a 9.8 percent increase the year before.
Also, the new Government has shown considerable discipline in attacking inflation. In 2002, it jumped a disastrous 16.2 percent, contracted -1.1 percent the following year, grew again in 2004 10.5 percent, and is likely to end 2005 having grown only 5 percent.
In it's extensive review of Madagascar's prospects in December 2004, the IMF said that the country had performed well in meeting key macroeconomic goals, and that it (the IMF) was expecting more steady progress in the year ahead.
These are some of the signs that indicate a certain level of promise for a country's ability to create a market economy for itself. And given the fact that today's communication technologies can accelerate market development, Madagascar is in a position to become a factor in the region.
Comparing projected 2005 GDP with GDP a decade ago shows an increase of 33 percent. Comparing PPP per capita in the same way shows an increase of only 14 percent. This means that even this meagre increase in wealth is not commensurately going into peoples' pockets. Madagascar has a long way to go, but it has made a solid beginning.
MADAGASCAR'S POPULATION IS
The population growth...