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FEATURE STORY December 18, 2019

Comorians, We Heard You, and Thanks to Your Comments, We Are Now Preparing Our Development Strategy

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • The World Bank has finalized its first diagnosis of the economic and social situation in Comoros (SCD), after several months of consultations with the various players in the country's development.
  • These consultations made it possible to identify three priority areas for poverty reduction in Comoros: closing the investment gap, strengthening human capital and leveraging natural resources.
  • After this first step, the World Bank is carrying out new consultations to determine its action in Comoros over the next five years, to be formalized in a partnership framework (CPF).

MORONI, November 11, 2019 - After a long period of consultations on-site, online and on social networks, the World Bank has just finalized its first assessment of the economic and social situation in Comoros, or Systematic Country Diagnosis (SCD). The objective? To identify priority areas for economic development.

From September 2017 to May 2018, many experts from the World Bank, working in sectors as varied as education, health, employment, access to energy or water and sanitation, crisscrossed Comoros to meet with the authorities, donors such as the French Development Agency, the United Nations Development Program, and the African Development Bank, representatives of the private sector and civil society, to get their views on what works and what needs to be improved to reach Comoros’ development goals.

Among the obstacles to the development of Comoros mentioned by those interviewed, we found the geographic isolation of the country combined with the lack of connectivity between the various islands of the archipelago. These constraints are costly and limit economic activity. The weight of informal trade as well as the high unemployment rate - especially among young people - was also widely mentioned as a concern among Comorian families. Finally, the mismatch of skills between job seekers and the actual needs of employers seems to be an important issue. Girls, in particular, lack opportunities and support, both in education and employment.


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Photo: World Bank


"We must facilitate and encourage the private sector in the country" commented Elhad Kassim Said Ahmed on the online consultation page. "For this, we must establish a fair justice system and good governance to attract foreign investors and create jobs for the Comorians."

Representatives from the private sector expressed their desire to enhance and maintain a regular dialogue with the government to resolve their main difficulties, notably the lack of access to credit, the absence of long-term financing, the high electricity costs or, in some cases, the economic repercussions of non-compliance with contracts.

The last household survey carried out in 2014 provides useful information. It reveals, for example, that almost 4 out of 10 Comorians live below the international poverty line set at 3.2 dollars per capita and per day (in purchasing power parity). The incidence of poverty, which varies considerably from one island to another, appears to be higher in rural areas and on the island of Mohéli. The primary sector is particularly affected by the cultural preference of the Comorians (especially on the main island, Grande Comore) to favor more qualified jobs in the secondary and tertiary sectors.

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Photo: World Bank
 


Comoros is also one of the highest remittance-recipient countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In the past decade, net remittances sent by Comorian emigrants averaged 13% of annual GDP. Funds from the diaspora are generally used to finance weddings, building houses, and to cover health and education expenses. They are rarely used to support entrepreneurial projects.

"As the State develops a social safety net and the business environment improves, Comorians will increasingly use remittances for productive private investment," said Jose Luis Diaz Sanchez, the Country Economist for Comoros and co-author of the SCD report.

The SCD team has identified three pathways to enable Comoros to reduce poverty and promote more inclusive economic growth:

  • bridge the public and private investment gap, by strengthening macroeconomic management, increasing domestic revenues, and improving financial intermediation, and the business environment;
  • enhance human capital, by reducing infant and child mortality and stunting, improving the quality of education, and reducing the disparities between girls and boys in school;
  • protect natural resources and optimize their exploitation by improving water management, reforming the agricultural and fishing sector to promote sustainable techniques and practices, and improving disaster management.

"Strengthening the capacities of formal institutions and supporting citizen participation are elements that should guide all efforts in these three pathways in a transversal manner" said Neelam Verjee, a World Bank specialist in conflict and fragility.

The outcome of this broad survey will serve as the basis for the partnership strategy between the World Bank Group and Comoros, where every four to six years the Bank identifies priority sectors to be financed.



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