France and Madagascar

Political relations

Since Madagascar’s independence until 2001, France had mixed relations with the island nation, characterized by three main periods: 1) very strong presence during President Tsiranana’s mandate (1959-1972); 2) decline during the “progressive” period (with the closure of military bases and the withdrawal from the Franc zone in 1972, “Madagascarization” and nationalizations in 1975-1978); 3) renewal, after the turnaround in Malagasy external policy in the late 1980s (the dispute over nationalizations and the spoilations of private citizens was resolved between 1998 and 2001).

Today’s relations, which remain strong because of data linking the two countries and ties of solidarity between Member States of the Indian Ocean Commission, are standardised and friendly. The 2009-2013 crisis was resolved by consultations between the Malagasy authorities with the mediation of the African Union, supported by the “International Contact Group” made up of the island’s main partners, of which France was one.

Visits 4 March 2016: meeting in Paris between the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Madagascar, Ms Béatrice Atallah and the French Foreign Minister, Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault.

5 September 2015: visit to Paris by Prime Minister Jean Ravelonarivo to meet with his counterpart in Matignon.

10 April 2015: meeting in Paris between the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Beatrice Atallah, and the Secretary-General of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

9 December 2014: Visit of the AFD Director General.

19 September 2014: visit to Paris by President Hery Rajaonarimampianina and meeting with the President of the French Republic.

June 2014: visit to Madagascar by the Minister of State for Development and Francophonie, Ms Girardin.

Website of the French Embassy in Madagascar

Economic relations and development assistance

France is a major economic player in Madagascar since it is:

  • its largest trading partner with trade worth €727 million in 2015;
  • its biggest customer (17.8 % of Madagascar’s exports in 2014);
  • its 2nd largest supplier (11.3 % market share), behind China (22 %) and ahead of India (5.7 %);
  • its 3rd largest investor in FDI stock with 15.3% in 2014, behind Canada (21.6%) and the United Kingdom (17%);
  • its 2th foreign investor in 2013 (after Mauritius) with €95 million in FDI flows (22 % of the total). In FDI stock, France is the 3th largest source country with €747 million in 2013 (15.3% of total stock);
  • its largest bilateral donor, through the AFD;
  • the leading tourist destination for tourists from Madagascar (52% of arrivals in 2014), followed by Italy (20%).In 2015, French imports of Malagasy products were €402 million, while exports of French products totalled €325 million.
    In 2015, Madagascar is France’s13th-largest market in sub-Saharan Africa.

France: Madagascar’s leading bilateral donor

France provides Madagascar with around €55 million in development assistance each year, €19 million of which is multilateral (European Development Fund, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria) and €36 million of which is bilateral (including €15 million from the French Development Agency (AFD) and €16 million from the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE)).

As regards cooperation, France relies on many very active institutions: the AFD, whose commitments reached €176 million in 2015, the Institut français of Madagascar, the main cultural centre of the island, the network of 29 Alliances françaises, the 24 French schools but also research institutes linked with France, the Institute for Research and Development, the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development and the Pasteur Institute.

A Partnership Framework Document (PFD) is set to be signed shortly with the Malagasy authorities for the 2016-2020 period. This document will follow on from the PFD 2006-2010, whose renewal had been suspended due to the political crisis in Madagascar. Now refocused on a reduced number of priorities, in line with the 2014-2020 National Indicative Programme of the 11th European Development Fund, it will enable France to develop, following the example of the other major donors from Madagascar, a strategic plan in line with the 2015-2019 National Development Plan adopted by the Malagasy authorities.

Major trading links which have been growing over the last decade

Trade between France and Madagascar has been over €500 million for the past 10 years. In 2015, France was the island’s leading partner. With an 11 % market share and €325 million in exports (+11.7% compared to 2014), France is Madagascar’s second largest supplier after China, and its number one customer (receiving 15% of Madagascar’s imports (€402 million in 2015)). In total, Madagascar is the 13th largest market for French products in sub-Saharan Africa and France’s 7th largest supplier, despite only being Africa’s 26th largest economy. This increase in trade (+8.4 % in total between 2014 and 2015) is taking place in an economic and business climate which remains very weak and confirms the strong trade relationship between the two countries.

French exports are mainly focused (72 %) on four sectors. The leading export sector is textiles, leather and shoes, bound for clothing companies located in free-trade zones (25.3 % of French exports). Mechanical and electrical equipment accounts for 19.5 % of French exports and has decreased by 10 %; most is industrial or agricultural machinery. Transport equipment makes up 18.6 % of exports, followed by 8.6 % for agri-food products. The vast majority of French imports (85%) is based around three types of products: textiles (38.1 %), agricultural and fish products (24.2 %, mostly vanilla, cocoa beans, cloves, green coffee, peppers and prawns) and agri-foods (22.4 %).

Trade with Mayotte and Réunion, while increasing slightly, is still slow. Exports from Réunion to Madagascar (€13.5 million) account for 4.2 % of French exports to that country. These are mainly of agri-food products including feed intended for prawn farms. For both Réunion and Mayotte, whose exports (€287,000) remain very modest, there has been a significant increase in trade in 2015. In addition, Madagascar’s share of imports to Réunion and Mayotte, respectively 1.1 % and 1.8 %, have showed a slight increase compared with the previous year. Trade with other Indian Ocean islands currently represents less than 5 % of Madagascar’s international trade.

A very strong French presence supported by an extensive network of French firms and growing investment

France has long-standing interests in Madagascar, covering a variety of sectors:

financial services (Société Générale, BPCE, Allianz), telephony (Orange Camusat), consumer goods (Castel, Casino, Canal Sat), fuel and gas distribution (Total, Air Liquide), buildings and public works, real estate, transport (Air France, Air Austral, Corsair, Bolloré), tourism and services. There are 170 subsidiaries, including 8 CAC 40 companies (Air Liquide, Bouygues, LafargeHolcim, Orange, Société Générale, Total, Vinci, Vivendi). Over 1,000 French-owned companies are located in Madagascar.

In 2015, French companies Matière and Eiffage won two financing contracts from the World Bank to renovate the Betsiboka and Kamory bridges on the RN4 road. ATR finalized an agreement to supply three ATR 72-600 airliners for $77 million and Elix Aviation Capital leased two ATR 72-600s to Air Madagascar.

SIT, a partner of local company Vidzar, will renovate two production units (Brickaville and Nosy Be) at the State sugar manufacturer Sirama, an investment worth €15 million. Furthermore, French group BRL won a €2 million tender to draw up a blueprint and identify priority sanitation work in Antananarivo. The ADP/Bouygues/Colas/Meridiam consortium won the contract for Ivato and Fascene international airports in Antananarivo and Nosy Be respectively. Phase one of the project will cost €178 million.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

The French cultural network in Madagascar is particularly strong, with a cultural centre in Antananarivo, a technical and economic information centre and Alliances françaises (29 centres), which welcomed over 26,000 students in 2015.

The three fundamental tasks of the network of Alliances françaises in Madagascar are to teach French “in all its forms”, to organize cultural activities and events, and to promote public reading. The Alliance française’s cultural programme focuses on several key areas: cooperation with major festivals in the capital and provinces, cooperation with research institutes (IRD, CIRAD, Pasteur Institute) to organize tours of science fairs and conferences, and organizing major annual public events (Fête de la Francophonie, Fête de la Musique, etc.). In July 2012, the government of Madagascar granted the Alliance française non-profit association status.

With 24 establishments, Madagascar is the AEFE’s fourth largest French-teaching network in terms of student numbers, with an enrolment of 11,449 for the school year beginning September 2015.

Other types of cooperation

Existing military cooperation between France and Madagascar is mainly based on advice and training in security and defence. In September 2008, the first Military Service for Development Action (SMAD) centre for training on urban professions was opened.

Cooperation activities carried out by France for several years in support of the gendarmerie, the naval forces, civil protection, reorganizing the army and logistics, and training and development assistance helped to maintain some stability while the country was suffering a long political crisis.

Updated: 25 April 2016