Whether you've just had your December holiday or you're looking to go on vacation this year, there's no better way to get away from the hustle and bustle of busy life on some African island. Apart from the sun, sand and sea, Africa’s island nations have a lot going for them.
Look at any index ranking African countries by democracy, governance, business environment or prosperity, and chances are that Africa’s island states are outperforming the rest of the countries on the mainland. But the six island states – Cape Verde, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Sao Tome and Principe, and Seychelles – are incredibly diverse, and their individual complexities and intrigues are often lost when they are lumped together. We unravelled some of the data on Africa’s island states, and here’s what we found:
The range of population in Africa’s island states varies from just 88,300 in Seychelles – all of the Seychellois could fit inside Wembley Stadium in London, and there would still be 1,700 seats empty – to Madagascar’s 22 million, which makes it Africa’s 15th most populous country.
Seychelles has the countries highest per capita income, at $21,338 (adjusted for purchasing power parity) – similar to that of the Czech Republic. Mauritius is second, at $15,796, equivalent to Brazil, and Cape Verde third at $5,962, similar to Bolivia. Sao Tome and Principe has a per capita income of $2,796, while Comoros is at $1,481 and Madagascar at $1,344 – all “middle-of-the-pack” African per capita incomes.
All six island states have achieved universal enrolments in primary school, although Comoros and Madagascar record very high gross enrolment rates of 127% and 177% respectively, as a result of either out-of-school children returning to school, or older children who have repeated grades.
Seychelles spends the most on its citizens’ healthcare, at $1,196 per capita. It means that the average Seychellois pays for just 2.3% of their healthcare from their pocket. By contrast, relatively rich Mauritius spends $784 per capita on healthcare, and Mauritians pay for 46% of their healthcare from private sources – the highest percentage of the six island nations.
Despite its name, Cape Verde isn’t a lush green paradise at all – a cold Atlantic current creates an arid atmosphere around the archipelago, so the islands receive scant rainfall and most of the land is too dry for agriculture. As a result, Cape Verde is considered water-scarce, with just 606 cubic metres per capita – Chad has twice as much water per capita than Cape Verde; even Afghanistan is in a better position.
By contrast, Madagascar has one of the most abundant freshwater reserves in Africa, at 15,116 cubic metres per capita.
Environment and Tourism
Comoros has the biggest chunk of its territorial waters under environmental protection – 33.5% of Comorian waters are marine-protected, compared to just 0.95% in Mauritius, 1.25% in Cape Verde, and 8.63% in Seychelles.
But Mauritius brings in the big tourist dollars, making $1.7billion from international tourism in 2012, and Madagascar is in second place at $633 million; Cape Verde is third at $471 million.
A ferry with passengers leaves one of the islands of Comoros, in the Indian Ocean. (Photo/ Flickr/ David Stanley)
Scenic sunset on Ilha do Ibo, Mozambique. (Photo/ Flickr/ Rosino).
A stunning view looking out from one of the islands of Seychelles. (Photo/ Flickr/ Sandy Saab).
Young men gather on a boat on the beach in Ilha do Mozambique. (Photo/ Flickr/ Rosino).
Children take a games class beside the neo-Gothic Church of St Francis of Assisi (1953) in Baie Lazare on Mahe Island, Seychelles. (Photo/ Flickr/ David Stanley)
Setting off on a dhow off the coast of Zanzibar. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous component of Tanzanian republic. (Photo/ Flickr/ David Berkowitz).