Madagascar president woos investors

Johannesburg - Madagascar's new leader went on a charm offensive on Friday hoping to lure investors to his impoverished island nation and kick-start development.

“The private sector will bring development and create jobs in Madagascar,” Hery Rajaonarimampianina told a business meeting in Johannesburg, before attending President Jacob Zuma's inauguration.

Madagascar's president Hery Rajaonarimampianina was voted into office in December 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya. Credit: REUTERS

Newly returned to democracy, the Indian Ocean island is leaving behind “five years of crisis and 50 years of poverty,” its new leader said.

Rajaonarimampianina was elected president last December, the first vote following a coup in 2009.

Former strongman Andry Rajoelina's overthrow of Marc Ravalomanana dumped the country in a diplomatic wilderness and cut vital aid.

Over 90 percent of the population survives on less than $2 a day.

“There won't be any development if there isn't security, and an independent judiciary,” said Rajaonarimampianina, a former Rajoelina protege.

“We must strengthen good governance, put in place the rule of law, reinforce democracy.”

Describing the island as an untapped economic frontier, he promised to “put in place a business environment that will secure long-term investment in Madagascar”.

These included customs and tax benefits, said the Canadian-educated former finance minister.

He especially pressed for investment in the embryonic mining sector, boasting of riches like gas, oil, gold, uranium and precious stones.

Renewable energy, tourism and especially ecotourism were other possible sectors, he added.