ANTANANARIVO, 12 February 2021 – Authorities in Madagascar have banned all rallied in the capital, Antananarivo, ahead of street protests called by the opposition.
Lawmakers banded together under “Mara-Manonia” – Malagasy for “Let’s Make Waves Together” – have demanded the withdrawal of security forces outside the home of Malagasy former president Marc Ravalomanana.
The opposition has also called on the government to lift a ban on the Malagasy Broadcasting System, a radio and television station owned by Ravalomanana.
Observers and diplomats in Madagascar say tension has been growing in the country as the economic situation has deteriorated and the unemployment rate, notably among young people, has continued to rise.
Almost 80 percent of the population works in agriculture based on subsistence crops (rice, cassava, corn), and jobs in the sector are mainly low paying, with considerable underemployment.
The poverty rate for citizens who are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods was 86.4 percent in 2013.
The economy remains heavily dependent on imported goods (food and intermediate products, oil products), which represent more than 71 percent of imports.
Inflation is a worrisomely high 10 percent, with the best projections putting it at 5.8 percent in 2021.
The strongest value-added export commodities (vanilla, cloves, cocoa beans) are grown on small farms, and the food industry remains underdeveloped (barely 2.0 percent of GDP), with almost no progress in recent years, according to the African Development Bank.
Madagascar’s real gross domestic product (GDP) posted a weak 2.0 percent in 2020 with recovery to 5.1 percent expected in 2021, driven by public and private investments in ports, airports, roads and energy infrastructure.