Madagascar is a relatively untapped market for U.S. capital and goods and services. As the government pursues its plans for large-scale infrastructure projects, U.S. firms can explore establishing local subsidiaries or partnering with local companies, bringing capital and technical expertise to a market hungry for both.
Over the last five years, the top product categories for U.S. exports to Madagascar were hardware and machinery, aircraft parts, liquefied gas, foodstuff, and apparel. The volume of exports in these categories has room to grow. If a long-standing plan for a public procurement agency gets off the ground, it will be responsible for the acquisition of a wide range of necessary goods. The associated calls for tenders will offer opportunities for U.S. companies to identify procurement needs and priorities and to compete in a market traditionally dominated by Chinese, European, and Asian companies. As the government and international donors prioritize repair and extension of roads, ports, and airports, American infrastructure companies and suppliers of construction equipment can pursue these opportunities as well.
Madagascar’s poor energy infrastructure and desire to embrace clean energy sources present a significant opportunity for U.S. companies, particularly in solar, wind, thermal energy, and hydroelectricity. At present, less than 15 percent of the population has access to electricity, most of which is generated by high-cost, environmentally unfriendly, heavy-fuel technology. The grid, where it exists, is limited to urban areas and their outskirts. U.S. companies could export technical know-how and equipment to help national utility JIRAMA build grid capacity, extending its reach and reliability. Unreliable electricity production also presents opportunities for U.S. suppliers. In rural areas outside the grid – where over seventy percent of the population lives — the access rate is only 4 percent, presenting a market for suppliers of off-grid solutions.
Madagascar relies heavily on imports of consumer goods from France, China, India, and South Africa, including a high-end market of roughly $750 million. U.S. exports could target the country’s upper middle class and wealthy who, according to the World Bank, comprise 10 percent of the population and are responsible for one-third of consumption.
The textile sector showed its resilience in late 2020 and the first half of 2021 by bouncing back strongly to pre-pandemic levels of production and export. There are opportunities to partner with established businesses or set up new export-oriented workshops which can take advantage of the country’s low-cost skilled labor and the GOM’s tax concessions.
Madagascar is also eager to tap into the global eco-tourism market, taking advantage of its rich biodiversity and high proportion of endemic plants and animals to attract foreign investors and tourists. Its tourist infrastructure remains limited, offering opportunities for hotel chains, airlines, tour operators, transportation solution providers, and other service providers. The closure of the country’s international borders since March 2020 due to COVID-19 hit this sector hard, causing layoffs and business bankruptcies; however, this sector is also expected to rebound quickly once borders re-open and international flights resume.
COVID-19 may also offer an opportunity for providers of e-wallets and other methods of cash disbursements and payments to penetrate underserved markets in Madagascar. The pandemic has revealed significant weaknesses in the GOM’s method of disbursing financial aid, and there have been charges of corruption and favoritism at the local level. A third of the population, or 9 million individuals, own mobile phones, another market opportunity for developers of innovative solutions.