Mayotte – “Paradis of France”

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On this majestic island, different people have settled leading to different religions and languages. Islam and Christianity are the major religions, and the people speak French, Swahili, Bushi and Maore. Ensure that you are conversant with at least two of these languages to have an easy time there. Which place or paradise are we referring to? We referring to Mayotte, the French overseas department and region located in the Indian Ocean, between Madagascar and Africa. Geographically, it belongs to the archipelago of Comoros, but politically, it is part of France. Mayotte became an official French colony in June 1843. In 1846, slavery was abolished there. The three other islands in the Comoros archipelago became French protectorates forty years later. And since then ties between France and Mayotte are older and closer than those between France and the other islands of the Comoros archipelago.

Mayotte, with an area of 144 square miles (374 square kilometres), is the easternmost island in Comoros off the coast. Mayotte is made up of several small islands, including Petite Terre, where the airport is located, and Grande Terre, the main island. More spectacularly the coral barrier reefs that surround it has created one of the largest lagoons in the world. When it comes to the population, Mayotte has increased vastly in less than thirty years. The population grew from 45,000 in 1975 to 131,000 in 1997, with half the people being under age 20. And based a 2007 census, the population of the island was estimated at 210,000 inhabitants in 2009. What is more unique from Mayotte’s is the use of space in urbanisation areas. The typical housing structures are built of cob (earth mixed with rice straw), coconut fronds, or raffia. A program of social housing put in place in 1975 encourages the construction of houses made of earthen bricks and cement painted in bright colours. The majority (65%) of the population lives in houses made from solid materials and 75% of houses have electricity. Due to the increasing population as well as climate changes Mayotte has been forced to impose severe water restrictions on tens of thousands of people due to the late arrival of seasonal rains. The droughts in Mayotte’s has exhilarated many water problems.

Mayotte’s economic activity is based primarily on the agricultural sector, including fishing and livestock raising. Mayotte is not self-sufficient and must import a large portion of its food requirements, mainly from France. The economy and future development of the island is heavily dependent on French financial assistance, an important supplement to GDP. Mayotte’s remote location is an obstacle to the development of tourism. In 2010, tourism accounted for around 7% of active companies in Mayotte and employed less than 2% of the workforce. Tourism remains limited, despite the island’s potential for natural and cultural tourism. This sector suffers from a low level of quality and quantity of reception facilities, combined with the lack of qualifications of the workforce. It is also limited by the fact that the destination has only recently been promoted and by the high cost of air travel. However, for Mayotte, tourism is a sector of activity with great potential to create added value and employment.

With its abundance of fauna and plant life, from tulip trees to wild orchids, a 100-kilometre hiking trail and a coral reef bordering one of the world’s largest enclosed lagoons, it ought to be a magnet for more adventurous tourists. But poor infrastructure and the insecurity of which residents complain set it years behind such other Indian Ocean destinations like Mauritius, Seychelles and – also French – Reunion. The direct link with France, with Mayotte essentially being as French as Paris or the Cote d’Azur, makes the difference and should in time make the island a good deal more attractive to visitors.