Seven years ago Madagascar was rocked by violence as a political coup turned bloody. When relative calm was restored to allow a fresh election the man left standing was Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who went on to become president in 2014.
But last year things turned incredibly sour when parliament voted overwhelmingly to impeach him over alleged constitutional violations and general mismanagement. To discuss his trials and tribulations, Euronews’ Tokunbo Salako caught up with the president during his recent trip to France.
Tokunbo Salako: Mr President, it’s been two years since you’ve been in office, how do you feel?
Hery Rajaonarimampianina, Madagascar President: I feel engaged, more engaged for the good of the Malagasy people, for the good of the country. Today, the most important thing for me is the determination to go forwards, to get this country and its people out of poverty, to exploit resources which are in this country for the good of its people.
TS: Have you always wanted to be president?
HR: No, back in 2009 I never thought of becoming president, I simply thought that I had a responsibility, as I was finance and budget minister, that I had an enormous responsibility and that it was an opportunity to serve the country and then later I became president which gave me another chance to serve the country a bit more. And then because I’m young, thoughtful about the good of the country, the training and experience I’ve had, the profession that I exercised…all that, in my opinion, provided what I’d call the foundations that formed the man.
Biography: Hery Rajaonarimampianina
- President of Madagascar since 2014.
- Graduated from Quebec University with Economics and Accounting degree
- In 1995 founded accountancy firm, Associated Auditors.
- Holds world record as global head of state with longest name
TS: Let’s go back to last year and the impeachment process which saw members of your own party rebel against you. Did that feel the same as the coup?
HR: No, you can’t compare those two events. It’s true last year these things happened but I think the politicians spoke, but the people also reacted. The people demonstrated that their main interest is stability and development.
TS: So talking of stability, two years ago the World Economic Forum ranked your country as among one of the lowest in the world for political stability, how do you react to that?
HR: My first objective is to put in place this stability. We need political stability. We need this stability to attract investors. This stability is needed at different levels, it’s called for in relation to how we ensure people’s rights, the fight against corruption, good governance too. But if I can only just talk about investors, then we’re putting in place a framework in which our businesses can attract and benefit from investments.
TS: The last time you were here in France, you described your country as a “work in progress” in terms of its economic development – how would you assess it now?
HR: The work in progress is continuing, it’s a big job. We’re carrying out big projects which I call structural. I’m not here to criticise what when on before but our weakness is not having structural projects in the country. For example, let’s consider energy. How can it be today that in a country like Madagascar, considering we have sun, wind and very large flowing water, that 70 percent of our energy is produced by combustibles or fossil fuels? I think that’s unacceptable. So today, I’m here to put in place renewable energy projects to make the most of our resources in order to boost our development. That’s what I call structural projects.
TS: Your country of course is very rich in natural resources but still desperately poor, and of course with the fall across Africa in commodity prices, what are your plans to diversify?
HR: That’s a paradox which we want to address. We want to use our resources to help our country develop. It’s true that the mining industry is very important to our country and last year we suffered when prices dropped. But we don’t only have mines in Madagascar, we have great potential in several different sectors, like tourism. If you consider our eco-system which is practically unique, we have fauna and flora endemic to Madagascar, and all those things contribute to allow us to offer a different tourism experience, based on ecological development.
TS: Later this year your country plays host to the COMESA as well as the francophone heads of state, what’s your message to them?
HR: These are the events which cement, first of all, Madagascar’s return to the international stage and which consecrate the international community’s support of Madagascar as it tries to pick itself up again. I think it’s a strong signal and we deserve it too, and will be putting all our efforts into making these summits a success.
TS: Finally, Mr President I want to ask you a question, which really comes from my children, has the Hollywood animation film, Madagascar, had an impact on say, tourism?
HR: Now just the word Madagascar rings a bell with children! Adults too know the name Madagascar and now we have to do more. I think people are interested in the country, I feel, little by little, the world of commerce is getting to know the country, not only through the film but the movie has given others the opportunity to learn about Madagascar, its fauna and flora, to discover lemurs, animals endemic to Madagascar, rare species, turtles and things like that, so for me I think its helped us on our way!