This is is my debut article on my experiences in Africa. In my columns I will share with readers my on-the-ground experiences relating to the economy, industry, people and lifestyle of each African nation I visit and have involvement in.

My articles will aim to be direct, robust and very much a no-holds-barred report on leadership, politics, business and potential. I truly hope we will engage on not only desk top opinions of Africa, but live experiences. I look forward to sharing my journey in our African continent.

Madagascar is a nation living a certain cliche. This was my experience, arriving on this island nation and after meeting several stakeholders and the presidency.

The oft-repeated cliche was that “Madagascar has so much potential”.

It’s clear that this country and its population of roughly 25 million people, with its robust agriculture and rich wildlife, is a paradise, but the population is not living in paradise.

Only some of the population has access to power and education, which in the rural areas is basically non-existent. Another sticking point is healthcare. Access to medical care remains beyond the reach of many.

Health personnel are unevenly distributed, with medical supplies often in short supply or unavailable.

Poverty is obvious; systems are lacking and infrastructure is in a state of limbo. Again, the question is if you look at the wealth of resources like gold, agriculture, oil and gas, among others, is it a typical African story?

I asked a well-renowned businessman, once, about how he rates a country’s economy, without a complicated formula.

He laughed and said: “I judge a nation’s economy on the cost of two products.” This has now become the Neil Economic Table and is simple – the cost of a Coca-Cola and the price of fuel per litre.

Why? Because these products are found in every nation on earth.

The price of a 300ml Coca-Cola is AR 2000 (R7.67) and petrol per litre is AR 4200 (R16.12) – very similar to South Africa.

Madagascar has three main economic income drivers: mining of nickel, vanilla and tourism. It is a huge statistical fact that Madagascar produces 80 percent of the world’s vanilla supply.

So for the vanilla milkshake, the crème brulee and soft serve ice cream that one can enjoy on a hot summer’s day, the vanilla ingredient is most probably grown in Madagascar.

Approximately 2 percent of world coffee production takes place in Madagascar, making the country number 23 on the world atlas ranking system. Thus, two popular products – coffee and vanilla – come from this unique island nation. Again, look at the cliche of potential.

Politics has no doubt been at the forefront of the difference in a stable economy and a vision to build this nation’s true potential.

Newly elected President Andry Rajoelina is young, a mere 44 years old. In this he now joins a world league of younger statesman like French President Macron, 41, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, 47, and New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern, 38.

The hope is that this leader will steer Madagascar out of the cliche of having the potential to actualise its potential.