With a pledge to protect the “beating blue heart of the planet,” President Faure’s administration has demonstrated constant dynamism to achieve the objectives of the Blue Economy for the benefit of the nation.
Danny Faure has been President of Seychelles since 2016, previously having served as the country’s vice president and finance minister. With a strong monetary policy supporting his administration, the enigmatic leader is guiding Seychelles through a time of growth while sustaining a harmonious balance between the country’s exquisite environment and its people. Penresa had the great opportunity to sit down with President Faure to discuss the nation and the Blue Economy.
- You’ve recently stated, “Our ocean is our most precious resource. We recognise not just its vast potential, but also the fragility of its ecosystems and the need to preserve it for future generations.” How has the adoption of the Blue Economy inspired new business practices in Seychelles?
Over the last 40 years, we have been looking at developments in capital, production, land and services yet this huge ocean surrounds us. Our EEZ is 1.3 million square kilometres. The ocean is part of us, it is the beating blue heart of the planet. In economic terms, it represents the next frontier for development so it must be developed in a sustainable way. Engraining the concept of Blue Economy is what we need: we cannot make the mistakes of the past. We are the first country in the world to have a roadmap on how to develop the ocean. We know exactly what needs to be done. However, for the means to do that, we need partnerships. This is an opportunity for partnership and investment in areas where we can reap the benefits of what the Blue Economy represents for the country. In August, after piloting the first aquaculture marine, people will know that we will be able to harvest the species we have in our oceans. We need to manage what there is in the ocean and this will bring investment and new jobs. The Blue Economy is the next frontier of Seychelles development because it represents a new growth for the country. That signifies an inclusive growth that can benefit all of the people of Seychelles.
- As for the Blue Bond, what type of partners would be most welcome to Seychelles?
For the Blue Economy, we need serious partners. It is an area whereby you need to take risks, but also be available to put your capital in. Business is also about taking risks. Venturing in projects that have a win-win solution is what we are looking for. We want win-win for the investor and for country. That is why we are looking for serious partners whose philosophy is sustainable development. Now that there is a paradigm shift in development, you would rather go to a country whose government believes strongly in sustainable development. We are tuned to that language. We have a future, but it must be long term.
- The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA) has now come into force with Seychelles as one of the 10 African countries ranked among the top 100 most competitive countries in the world. How do you feel the AfCTA will enhance competitiveness in Seychelles’ industries to give competitive advantage within the continental market?
My presidency has given more importance to African relationships. As president, I attended all summits convened by regional blocks in Africa. I represented my country in all AU and SADC meetings. All these meetings were about trade: now we have seen an increase in the products coming from Kenya to Seychelles (agriculture). We should not be thinking to take things elsewhere than our neighbours. Africa is a huge market. We just need to do it in the right way, by bilateral cooperation. No African government stands to lose if you do it in the right way. In this way, it will always be a win-win.
- How has Seychelles advised the African continent and the rest of the world to focus more on global warming and the ocean?
As a country, well before leaders started talking about climate change, Seychelles had already started talking about it. However, we do things and we do not talk about it: that is part of us. We are humble in this regard; we have been doing a lot of things quietly. We are happy that now that has been recognised. However, we also took some risks. For example, I went down 124m in order to give a message. I wanted to use the modern technology of our time with an American co-pilot who has done 50 dives like that. We took a week preparing that speech, delivered on the 14th at 4 a.m. It is only in that moment that I told myself: “I am going down there.” We are living in a world whereby some leaders do not even believe in climate change. I had to prove to the world that we could go down and do that speech for that cause. That was the first live broadcast by a president underwater. Seychelles is the first to say that this is a human rights issue and that it is the right of every citizen to survive on this planet, our common home. We need to change the mindset. Climate change is a human right issue: the right of each and every human being, regardless of where or what you come from, to survive on planet earth.
- International investment in Seychelles in the first quarter of 2018 reached USD$35 million, the highest since 2016. What do you think has propelled investors’ strong return confidence?
Personally, I think investors have looked at the way we have managed the economy. We made commitments to the IMF and World Bank and in a period of ten years, we constantly had a primary surplus of 4% of our GDP. My presidency has also given more weight to institutions that are always held accountable to the general population. This creates confidence and trust in the population. Seychelles is an open country with democracy, stability. All this is an indicator for people to come here.
- Economic growth is projected to be 3.3% in 2019 and 2020, with the service sector remaining the primary driver of growth. What sectors are currently most appealing to invest in the nation’s growing economy?
We are looking at the value chain now, even in tourism. Tourism is growing, there has been an 8.7% growth compared to the same period last year. There has been a 6% growth in tourism earning. That shows you the potential of tourism. The economic growth of the country last year was 3.6%. We forecast that we would be 3.4% so now we need to look at the value chain in tourism. In other words, we need to start thinking where the food tourists are eating comes from since we import a lot. If aquaculture grows, it will feed the locals and tourism as well. Now, there is a leakage in terms of forex coming in because import costs are very high. The philosophy of the government is to try and see how we can reduce the number of outflows in terms of forex for you to pay for your high import bills. In order to do so, you have to produce. However, we do not have enough land. That is why we need to look at innovations in agriculture on how to optimise and maximise to produce more. Another issue is renewable energy. Now, we have taken a decision to make a switch to LNG, which presents a huge opportunity for investment. So, we welcome any investor, but it has to be a win-win for the state and for the investor. The country in general has robust policy to attract foreign investors.
- As a diverse yet welcoming nation, why is now the best time to invest in Seychelles?
I can only say that I attribute our success story to one leader, former President France-Albert René. He told us one thing: regardless of our origins, we have one identity, we are Seychellois. Since then, we have built on that identity. We have given value to the human dimension of our identity. As for investment, where do you go when you want the best quality of air? Seychelles. What does it mean? It means that the economy is healthy, and your investment will be safe. Seychelles is a country where people come and invest because it is taking care of what you breathe, of itself. The economy is healthy and people are conscious of that. If you start killing this, you kill investors and the investment.