Seychelles, formerly known as the Republic of Seychelles, is a group of islands located in the Indian Ocean. There are 115 islands, and its capital is Victoria, which is located 1,500 km from the east of mainland Eastern Africa. Other nearby island states and territories include Comoros, Mayotte, Madagascar, Reunion and Mauritius to the south. With a population of about 92,000, Seychelles has the smallest population of any independent African nation; however, its population is larger than that of the British overseas territories of St. Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha.
It is a member state of the African Union, as well as the Southern African Development Community, and the Commonwealth of Nations and the UN. After the proclamation of its independence from the UK in 1976, Seychelles has developed from a predominantly agricultural society into a market-based, diversified economy, where agriculture has been superseded by the rapidly increasing service and public sectors, along with tourism. Since 1976, per capita production has increased nearly sevenfold. During recent years, as the government has encouraged more foreign investment, these sectors have improved. Currently, Seychelles has the highest nominal GDP per capita in Africa. This is one of just a few nations in Africa that have a high Human Development Index. Despite its newfound economic prosperty, widespread poverty is still prevalent because of the extremely high level of income disparity, which is one of the highest in the world, as well as the low level distribution of wealth.
Tourism in Seychelles
With the establishment of the Seychelles International Airport in 1971, tourism has become a very important part of the nation’s economy, basically splitting the economy into two sectors: plantations and tourism. The plantation sector of the economy became less important and tourism has become the main industry in Seychelles.
During the last few years, the government has stimulated foreign investment in order to improve their hotels and other services. These incentives have led to a tremendous amount of investment in real estate projects and new resorts, such as the TIME project distributed by the World Bank, along with its predecessor, MAGIC.Despite its growth, the vulnerability of the tourism sector was highlighted by the sharp decline in 1991-1992, largely due to the Gulf War.
Since then, the government has moved to reduce dependence on tourism by encouraging the development of agriculture, fisheries, small-scale manufacturing, and most recently the offshore financial sector through the establishment of the Financial Services Authority and the passage of several laws (such as the International Corporate Service Providers Act, the International Business Companies Act, the Securities Act, the Mutual Funds and Hedge Fund Act, among others).
In March 2015, Seychelles allocated the island of Assumption to be developed by India.
Geography of Seychelles
Located in the Indian Ocean, north-east of Madagascar and approximately 1,600 km from Kenya, the Seychelles is an island archipelago. The archipelago consists of 115 islands. Most of the islands are uninhabited, many of them as nature reserves.
According to the constitution, the islands are divided into groups as follows.
A total of 45 granite-based islands which are known as the Granite Seychelles: Mahé, Praslin, Silhouette Island, La Digue, Curious, Felicite, Frégate, Ste-Anne, Norden, Cerf, Marianne, Big Sister, Thérèse, Aride, Conception, Little Sister, Cousin, Lang, Reef, Rund (Praslin), Anonymous, Mamelles, Medium, Pierre (Praslin), Zavé, Harrison Rocks (Grand Rocher).
There are two coral sand bays north of the granitic: Denis and Bird.
South of the Granitics there are two coral islands: Coëtivy and Platte.
In the Amirantes Group west of the Granitics there are 29 coral islands: Desroches, Poivre Atoll (consisting of three islands – Poivre, Florentin and South Island), Alphonse, D’Arros, St. Joseph Atoll (consisting of 14 islands – St. Joseph Île aux Fouquets, Resource, Petit Carcassaye, Grand Carcassaye, Benjamin, Bancs Ferrari, Chiens, Pélicans, Vars, Île Paul, Banc de Sable, Banc aux Cocos and Île aux Poules), Marie Louise, Desnoeufs, African Banks (consisting of two islands) – African Banks and South Island), Rémire, St. François, Boudeuse, Etoile, Bijoutier.
In Farquhar group, south-southwest from Amirantes, there are 13 coral islands: Farquhar atoll (consisting of 10 islands – Bancs de Sable Déposés Île aux Goëlettes Lapins Île du Milieu North Manaha South Manaha Middle Manaha North Island and South Island), Providence atoll (consisting of two islands – Providence and Bancs Providence) and St. Pierre.
The Aldabra group has 67 coral islands west of the Farquhar group: Aldabra Atoll ( which consists of 46 islands – Grande Terre, Picard, Polymnie, Malabar, Île Michel, Île Esprit, Île aux Moustiques, Ilot Parc, Ilot Emile, Ilot Yangue, Ilot Magnan, Île Lanier, Champignon des Os, Euphrates, Grand Mentor, Grand Ilot, Gros Ilot Gionnet, Gros Ilot Sésame, Heron Rock, Hide Island, Île aux Aigrettes, Île aux Cèdres, Îles Chalands, Île Fangame, Île Héron , Île Michel, Île Squacco, Île Sylvestre, Île Verte, Ilot Déder, Ilot du Sud, Ilot du Milieu, Ilot du Nord, Ilot Dubois, Ilot Macoa, Ilot Marquoix, Ilots Niçois, Ilot Salade, Middle Row Island, Noddy Rock, North Row Island, Petit Mentor, Petit Mentor Endans, Petits Ilots, Pink Rock and Table Ronde), Assumption Island, Astove and Cosmoledo Atoll (consisting of 19 islands – Menai, Île du Nord (west-north), Île Nord-Est (east-north) ), Île du Trou, Goëlettes, Grand Polyte, Petit Polyte, Grand Île (Wizard), Pagoda, Île du Sud-Ouest (South), Île aux Moustiques, Île Baleine, Île aux Chauve-Souris, Île aux Macaques, Île aux Rats, Île du Nord-Ouest, Île Observation, Île Sud-Est and Ilot la Croix).
Wildlife in Seychelles
Environmental legislation is very strict and every tourism project has to go through an environmental assessment and a lengthy process of consultations with the public and conservationists. The Seychelles are world leaders when it comes to sustainable tourism. This sustainable development has resulted in an unspoilt sustainable natural environment which attracts financially strong visitors (150,000 visited the island in 2007) rather than a short term mass tourism. Since 1993, a law guarantees citizens the right to a clean environment while obliging them to protect it. The country holds a record for the highest percentage of land under conservation – almost 50 % of the total land area.
Seychelles, in common with many fragile island ecosystems, experienced some loss of biodiversity when people first started to settle in the area, which included a disappearance of the majority of giant tortoises from the granite islands, the clearing of coastal and middle forests, and the extinction of species such as the chestnut-flanked white-eye, the Seychelles parakeet and the saltwater crocodile. However, extinctions have been far lower than on islands such as Mauritius or Hawaii, partly due to a shorter period of human settlement (since 1770). Today, Seychelles is known for success stories in protecting its flora and fauna. The rare Seychelles black parrot, the country’s national bird, is now protected.
The granite islands of Seychelles are home to some 75 endemic plant species, with another 25 or so species in the Aldabra group. Especially well-known is the Coco de Mer, a type of palm which grows only on the islands of Praslin and the neighbouring island of Curieuse. Because of the shape of its fruit, which when the shell is removed is a “double” coconut resembling a buttock, it is sometimes called a “love nut” and produces the heaviest seed pods in the world. The jellyfish tree is only found in a few places on Mahe. This odd looking and very old plant in its own genus (Medusagynaceae) has resisted all attempts to propagate it. There are other unique species of plants including Wright’s Gardenia (Rothmannia annae), which can only be found in the Aride Island Special Reserve.
Aldabra giant tortoise is now inhabiting in many of the islands of the Seychelles. At present, the Aldabra population in the Seychelles is the largest in the world. These unique reptiles can even be found in captivity. The granitic islands of Seychelles have been reported to harbour several species of Seychelles giant tortoise; the status of the various populations is currently unclear.
There are several unique species of orchids on the islands.
Seychelles is home to some of the largest seabird colonies in the world. The outer islands of Aldabra and Cosmoledo harbour the largest numbers. In the granitic Seychelles, the largest numbers are on Aride Island, including the world’s largest number of two species.
The sea life surrounding the islands, particularly on the the more remote coral islands, is spectacular. More than 1,000 species of fish have been counted.
Environmental issues in Seychelles
Since the use of spear guns and dynamite for fishing was banned through the efforts of local conservationists in the 1960s, wildlife is no longer afraid of snorkellers and divers. The coral bleaching of 1998 damaged most reefs, but some reefs are showing healthy recovery (e.g. Silhouette Island).
Despite huge differences between nations, Seychelles claims to have achieved almost all the Millennium Development Goals. 17 MDGS and 169 goals have been achieved. Preservation of the environment has become a cultural value.
Seychelles’ government climatologist accurately describes the nation’s climate as rainy, which includes a dry season in ocean regions. Southeast trade is down, but still quite strong. Weather patterns there are reportedly becoming less predictable.
Demographics of Seychelles
When the British gained control of the islands during the Napoleonic Wars, they allowed the French upper classes to keep their land. Both the French and British settlers used enslaved Africans, and although the British banned slavery in 1835, African workers continued to arrive. As a result, the Gran Blan (“great white”) of French heritage continued to dominate both economic and political life. The British government employed Indians as indentured servants to the same extent as in Mauritius, resulting in a small Indian population. Indians, like a similar minority of Chinese, were confined to a commercial class.
Seychelles, with its harmonious socio-economic policies and development over the years, can now be described as a fusion of peoples of different cultures.Many Seychellois are considered mixed-race: a blend of African, Asian and European ancestry to create a modern Creole culture. Evidence of this harmonious blend can also be found in Seychelles’ cuisine, which incorporates various aspects of French, Chinese, Indian and African cuisine.
Since the islands of Seychelles had no native population, the present-day Seychelles consist of people who immigrated. The largest ethnic groups were of African, French, Indian and Chinese descent. The average age of the Seychelles was 32 years.
Seychellois majority are Christians according to the 2010 census: Roman Catholic 76.2%, Protestant 10.6%.
Hinduism is practised by 2.4%, Islam by 1.6%. Other non-Christian faiths accounted for 1.1% of the population, while another 5.9% were non-religious or did not indicate a religion.
Economy of Seychelles
Throughout its plantation era, the main exports were cinnamon, vanilla and copra. In 1965, during a three-month visit to the islands, futurist Donald Prell prepared an economic report for the then Governor General of the Crown Colony, which included a scenario for the future of the economy. Citing from his report, by the 1960s approximately 33% of the labouring population was working on plantations and 20% was in the public or government sector. Indian Ocean Tracking Station located on Mahé was shut down in August 1996 as a result of the Seychelles government’s attempt to increase the rent to over $10,000,000 annually.
From independence in 1976, the income per capita increased to approximately 7 times. The growth has been led by the tourism sector, which employs about 30% of the labour force, compared to agriculture, which now employs about 3% of the labour force. Despite the growth of tourism, some people are still employed in agriculture and fisheries, as well as in industries that process coconuts and vanilla.
The main export products are processed fish (60 %) and frozen fish without fillets (22 %) (as of 2013).
The main agricultural products currently produced in Seychelles include sweet potatoes, vanilla, coconuts and cinnamon. These products provide much of the economic support for locals. Frozen and canned fish, copra, cinnamon and vanilla are the main exports.
Since the global economic crisis of 2008, the Seychelles government has made it a priority to contain the budget deficit, including curbing social welfare costs and further privatising public enterprises. The government has a pervasive presence in economic activity, with public enterprises engaged in the distribution of petroleum products, banking, importation of basic products, telecommunications and a variety of other enterprises. According to the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom, which measures the degree of limited government, market openness, regulatory efficiency, rule of law and other factors, economic freedom has increased every year since 2010.
Seychelles’ national currency is the Seychellois rupee. Originally pegged to a basket of international currencies, it was devalued and allowed to circulate freely in 2008 in the hope of attracting further foreign investment into the Seychelles economy.