The Union of the Comoros is a small archipelago with an estimated population of 734.900 (2013) covering a territory of about 1,800 km². About 52% of the population lives on the largest island, Ngazidja (or Grande Comore), which is also home to the Union capital, Moroni, the seat of the Union government. The second largest island, Nzwani (Anjouan), has 42% of the population, and the smallest, Mwali (Mohéli), is inhabited by 6% of the population. A fourth island, Mahoré (Mayotte), opted against independence from France, in a referendum held on all four islands in 1974.
Comoros is a fragile state with a long history of political and institutional instability. There have been some 21 coups and attempted coups since it declared independence from France in July 1975. A constitution adopted in 2001 greatly increased the autonomy of island governments with a president for each island and included a union presidency that rotated every four years among the islands. Constitutional reforms adopted in 2009 represent a turning point in Comoros’ development, transforming relations between the islands, significantly reducing tensions and improving the prospects for greater stability. The amendments curtailed the autonomy of the islands, converted the island presidents to governors, and reaffirmed the unity of the state and the pre-eminence of the federal government by reducing political decentralization and bureaucracy. Presidential elections were held in late 2010 and the new president took office in May 2011. With presidential elections not expected until 2016, these developments are expected to contribute to greater political stability in the future and could set the basis for a new focus on a continuous reform program in the Comoros.
Comoros has a dense population of about 390 inhabitants per square kilometer and a population growth rate estimated at 2.4%. More than half of the population (53%) is younger than 20 years old. With a gross domestic product (GDP) estimated at $657.3 million in 2013, gross national income (GNI) per capita is about $880 (current, 2013). Some 44.8% of the population lives below the poverty line, however the incidence of poverty varies significantly across the islands and is generally higher in rural areas and in Anjouan. Comoros ranked 159 out of 187 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index in 2014.
Progress has been made on several of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Comoros is on track to achieve the universal primary education goal (MDG2) and HIV/AIDS (MDG6), with little progress on poverty (MDG1) and water access (MDG7). The country also made progress toward reducing child mortality (MDG4) and maternal health (MDG5), indicators that many other countries have found very difficult to achieve. One of the most challenging targets, especially in the wake of the food price crisis, will be to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
Comoros’ economy is growing at a moderate pace, having enjoyed a period of relative political stability. Economic conditions improved in 2013 as growth reached an eight year high of 3.5%, up from 3% the previous year. Comoros has a narrow economic base, and its economic output is largely driven by trends in its agricultural sector. This is reflected in recent performance as the expansion in growth was driven mainly by favorable prices in clove and vanilla markets and a positive supply response. Activity in the commerce and hospitality sector also accelerated in recent years, bolstered by steady and robust levels of remittances, coupled with an associated increase in domestic demand. Moreover, the medium term growth outlook is expected to remain moderate and increase gradually to 4% as potential gains from telecom, electricity and investment climate reforms materialize.
Inflation dropped in 2013 due to reduced food and fuel prices pressures. The monetary policy stance continues to be prudent as Comoros maintains a peg against the euro, and has remained in conformity with the Franc Zone monetary arrangement. Overall, Comoros continues to operate under a tight fiscal situation, even though reforms in recent years have yielded modest yet steady gains in terms of fiscal consolidation. Comoros continues to be at high risk of debt distress despite debt relief upon reaching the HIPC completion point in December 2012. Comoros also remains highly exposed to external price and exchange rate shocks, especially those affecting food and fuel markets.
In the future, Comoros’ ability to sustain growth will depend on its ability to capitalize on a number of large foreign direct investment (FDI) projects including in the tourism sector and to gear the proceeds of debt relief toward growth supporting investments in human and physical capital.
Last Updated: Oct 15, 2014