Republic of Seychelles
LOCATION AND SIZE.
The Seychelles are a group of islands in the Indian Ocean about 925 kilometers (575 miles) northeast of Madagascar. The country consists of 115 small islands with a total land area of 455 square kilometers (176 square miles) and a total coastline of 491 kilometers (305 miles). The territory of the Seychelles is about 2.5 times the size of Washington, D.C. The country consists of 2 groups of islands, the largest being the Mahe group in the northern part of the archipelago, comprised of 40 granite rock islands (the largest are Mahe, Praslin, La Digue, Silhouette, Fregate, and North) with hilly interiors rising up to 900 meters (2,953 feet). The other group consists of about 65 small coral islands spread over a wide area of ocean south of the Mahe group. Mahe Island, with a total area of 153 square kilometers (59 square miles) is home to the capital city Victoria (pop. 40,000, 1997). The strategic importance of the Seychelles group is derived from its location in the Indian Ocean on the sea route from South Africa to the Indian subcontinent, which was a major route before the Suez Canal was opened in 1869.
The population of the Republic of Seychelles was estimated at 79,326 in July 2000, an increase of around 16 percent from 68,598 in 1987. In 2000 the birth rate stood at 17.99 per 1,000 and the death rate at 6.74 per 1000. The estimated population growth rate is 0.49 percent, a low rate attributed mainly to the high emigration rate of 6.3 per 1,000. Life expectancy at birth is 64.87 years for males and 76.12 years for females. It is expected that the country's population will reach 100,000 by 2020.
The diverse population is composed of 3 major ethnic groups: French settlers, freed slaves of African descent, and Indians brought to work on the plantations. Creoles (mixture of Asian, African, and European) make up 89.1 percent of the population, Indians make up 4.7 percent, and Malagasy (from Madagascar) make up 3.1 percent. There are also small minorities of Chinese (1.6 percent) and European (1.5 percent) origin. Some 29 percent of the population is below the age of 14, and 6 percent is older than 65. A majority of the country's inhabitants, 56.1 percent, lives in urban areas.
Limited natural resources and scarce land forces the government of the Seychelles to limit inflow of immigrants and to control population growth. In the 1980s there was sizable emigration of the people from islands due to economic difficulties and political instability. In the early 1990s many of them returned home when the Seychelles government significantly liberalized the political and economic environment and allowed opposition parties.
Since the 1970s, tourism has dominated the national economy as its single most important sector, providing direct employment (hotels and restaurants) for 3,829 people or 12.4 percent of the workforce, according to Seychelles in Figures 2000 . Including secondary employment, these figures rise to 9,797 people or 32 percent of the workforce. In 1998 an estimated 128,000 tourists visited the country, contributing SRe584 million (US$111 million) to the economy. The island nation offers a total of over 4,700 hotel rooms. The Seychelles promotes itself as the "Dream Destination," offering up-market services to international visitors seeking the charms of a tropical island paradise, mainly from France, Germany, and Britain. The government plans to redefine the national tourism strategy in 2001.
The services sector was controlled by the state throughout the 1980s, until the economic and financial liberalization in the 1990s. The Central Bank of Seychelles (CBS) is fairly efficient according to international standards, although it lacks independence from the government. The largest local bank is the Development Bank of Seychelles. In 1999 there were also 4 international banks in the country: Barclays Bank (UK), Banque Française Commerciale-Ocean Indien (France), Bank of Baroda (India), and Habib Bank (Pakistan). In 1995 the government established the Seychelles International Business Authority (SIBA) and opened the Seychelles International Trade Zone (SITZ) in an attempt to develop the country as an international "offshore" financial-services center.
The retail sector is developed to meet the demands of foreign tourists. This sector is dominated by small and medium-sized retail shops where visitors and local consumers can buy a wide variety of products and souvenirs.
Seychelles has no territories or colonies.
—Alfia Abazova, MILS
Seychelles rupee (SRe). There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents. One Seychelles rupee equals 100 cents.
Fish, cinnamon bark, copra, petroleum products (re-exports).
Machinery and equipment, food products, petroleum products.
GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:
US$590 million (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).
BALANCE OF TRADE:
Exports: US$91 million (f.o.b., 1998). Imports: US$403 million (c.i.f., 1998).