Madagascar: Doing business and staying in touch
Doing Business in Madagascar
Meetings tend to be formal with handshakes and titles observed. Loosely gripping your right forearm with your left hand whilst shaking hands is a sign of respect, as is passing or receiving something with both hands (you will notice that the Malagasy may pass you money or documents, for example, two-handed).
Lightweight suits are advised and business cards exchanged. Interpreters can sometimes be supplied by your embassy if pre-arranged well in advance.
Mon-Fri 0900-1700 with a two-hour lunch break at noon. Banks operate the same hours but most towns have one bank that opens Saturday morning.
Agriculture accounts for more than 25% of GDP and employs 82% of the population. Coffee is produced for foreign exchange, rice and cassava for domestic consumption. Deforestation and erosion, aggravated by the use of firewood as the primary source of fuel, are serious concerns. The country suffers from frequent cyclones which can make crop yields wildly unpredictable.
Madagascar has appreciable mineral deposits which are being exploited, whilst the manufacturing industry, mainly textiles and food processing, accounts for around half of all exports.
The economy grew strongly between 2002 and 2009, but a coup left the country without an official government for over four years. During that period, the economic progress of the 2000s was undone.
France has been the main trading partner of Madagascar since independence in 1960, but its influence is now reducing. Exports to the USA< rocketed in the early 2000s, eventually exceeding a third of Madagascar's total sales, as a result of an arrangement called AGOA that permitted duty-free sales to the US. The 2009 coup saw Madagascar suspended from AGOA, however, and US sales have since plummeted to just 10% of all exports.
Trade with China is increasing fast and exports there now exceed those to the US.
US$10 billion (2016).
Coffee, vanilla, shellfish, sugar and cotton.
Capital goods, petroleum, consumer goods and food.
Main trading partners
France, China, USA, Germany and India.
Keeping in Touch in Madagascar
For cheap calls buy a telephone card – you can buy cards almost everywhere, including post offices and hotels – and use a public telephone booth. These are found more commonly in the main cities but their usage has been eclipsed by growing mobile phone ownership.
Roaming agreements exist with international mobile phone companies. Coverage reaches major cities and main roads but is scarce in rural areas. If you have an unlocked phone, consider picking up a Malagasy sim card and using this for your stay; it is far cheaper to make calls this way.
Public Internet access exists in large cities; there are a few internet cafés in Antananarivo but connections tend to be horribly slow. Many post office also offer internet facilities.
Madagascar's constitution does allow for a free press, but whilst freedom of speech is generally respected, in reality the dominant voice is that of the government, since much of the country's media is state-sponsored. Ousted President Ravalomanana owns the Malagasy Broadcasting System, which operates MBS TV and Radio MBS, and many private radio stations in the capital are owned by pro-Ravalomanana politicians. Although nationwide radio and TV broadcasting remain the monopoly of the state, there are hundreds of private local radio and TV stations.
A boom in privately-owned FM radio stations and more critical political reporting by the print media followed a 1990s law on press freedom. However, during the island's recent political turmoil many Malagasy journalists have faced censorship, threats, and arrest for reporting contentious issues or voicing critical opinion. There are no English-language newspapers on the island, with the main newspapers, such as La Gazette de la Grande Ile, Madagascar Tribune and Midi Madagasikara being published in French or Malagasy. Privately owned radio stations include Radio Don Bosco (Roman Catholic FM station), Radio Tsioka Vao and Radio Korail. Malagasy National Radio (RNM) is state-owned.
Airmail to Europe takes at least seven days and surface mail three to four months.Post Office hours
Browse our Video Guides