Comoros Table of Contents
Nzwani factory that distils oil from lemongrass
Courtesy Brian Kensley
Industrial activities are responsible for only a tiny portion of Comoran economic activity--about 5 percent of GDP in 1994. Principal industries are those that involve processing cash crops for export: preparing vanilla and distilling ylang-ylang into perfume essence. These activities were once controlled almost entirely by French companies, but as they closed unprofitable plantations, individual farmers set up many small, inefficient distilleries. Comorans also produce handicrafts for export. Other industries are small and geared to internal markets: sawmills, printing, carpentry, and the production of shoes, plastics, yogurt, handicrafts (such as the jewelry exchanged as part of the grand mariage), and small fishing boats. Several factors provide major obstacles to the growth of industry: the islands' geographically isolated position, their distance from each other, a scarcity of raw materials and skilled labor, and the high cost of electricity (energy is produced by hydropower, imported petroleum, and wood products) and transportation. Value added in industry slowly declined throughout the 1980s.
Perhaps the primary outcome of South African penetration of the Comoran economy during the Abdallah regime was the development of tourism. Although South African investors built or renovated several hotels during the 1980s (with assistance from the South African and Comoran governments), only one resort, the 182-room Galawa Beach on Njazidja, was operating by late 1992. About 100 other hotel rooms were available on the islands. Political instability, a declining South African interest in the islands as the apartheid regime was disassembled and other tropical tourism venues became more welcoming, and the need to import most construction materials and consumable supplies inhibited the growth of tourism, despite the islands' physical beauty. Nonetheless, in large part thanks to Galawa Beach, which had been closed during 1990, tourism increased from 7,627 visitors in 1990 to 16,942 in 1991. Most of these tourists were Europeans, primarily French (see Historical Setting , this ch.).
Data as of August 1994