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18 April 2018
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Newsletter n° 91 [ENG]

The Special Economic Zone law : a gateway to land grabbing in Madagascar

Continuing its action in defence of Malagasy lands and for a reasonable and sustainable management of natural resources, the TANY Collective is willing to carry on keeping the debate going about the Special Economic Zones (SEZ ). The issue is so important that it deserves that all Malagasy citizens have the opportunity to know the various aspects and consequences of the project and bring their opinion, their remarks and contributions.

The 2017 – 023 law of November 28, 2017 about the SEZ (1), which was the subject of a TANY Collective communiqué (2), has already been approved by the two Parliament chambers. Following the Constitutional High Court decision about the lack of conformity to the Constitution of some articles (3), an amended version will be submitted to the National Assembly during its extraordinary session which started on February 27, 2018.

1/ The law about SEZ will deprive Malagasy people of accessing thousands of hectares of land for a long period and possibly for an unspecified period (4).

Ordinary Malagasy citizens will not have access to SEZ which will be nearly States within the State (5), out of control for Malagasy responsible persons. Investors who will have acquired SEZ – called developers – (6) will be fully responsible of the management of these great surfaces and of decisions about them. Controlling the territories will be taken away from local communities and even possibly from elected officials (7). Lots of sites with fertile soil, benefitting various resources and often close to an access to the sea, are being selected and will go out of the life zones of the majority of Malagasy people, becoming territories set aside mainly for foreigners and possibly for a very small minority of Malagasy nationals.

Populations presently living on the concerned spaces and surfaces will be expropriated (8) or expelled, and in all cases displaced.

Land which have been acquired and maintained on the sweat of preceding generations and present families will be lost forever (4 and 8) : neither their wealth and goods nor their local traditions will be safeguarded, neither their roots nor their sacred links to the land will be respected.

2/ Loss of sovereignty for the State and of living spaces for the population

If the spirit of the law in the first proposal is maintained, there is a big risk that the Malagasy State will fully delegate the management of the selected territories to the SEZ Regulation Authority. The procedures for implementing the delegation were censored by the Constitutional High Court as being contrary to the Constitution (3).

State leaders and agents will have very few means to check what will happen in SEZ, much less to correct or rectify deviations relating to international standards and to existing Malagasy regulations. This is all the more true as present responsible persons already have difficulties to enforce laws and regulations in some areas of the Malagasy territory which are living in a state of insecurity (9).

Malagasy authorities always want to facilitate foreign investment. Let us note that the International Monetary Fund considers that the SEZ law will not attract new investors apart from those who are already willing to come without this new law (10). The TANY Collective insists that wealth exploitation for a reasonable duration and matching the importance of the investment is fully possible without resorting to allocating huge areas of land.
State responsible persons and Malagasy decision makers must be in a position to evaluate by themselves the content, the implementation conditions and the mutual benefits of each investment project, instead of leaving it to others – the SEZ Authority and developers – to decide. In this way, if the project objectives do not meet the Nation’s interests, they can and they must refuse it. Malagasy leaders must express and prove their capacity to manage and develop the country in the interest of the majority of the population, instead of transferring parts of the territory and State sovereign responsibilities to investors (3), who will mainly aim at getting profit for themselves as they are not philanthropists.

The future SEZ, located in the North of Madagascar, which was the subject of a several days international meeting in February 2018, is stretching over a very large 2000 hectares area (11). At this rate, and considering the proliferation of various investment zones heralded in laws or draft laws about similar size lands which will be part of the “specific status lands”, Madagascar is in the risk of being in the same situation as Cambodia where citizens live and peasants cultivate on very reduced areas, in the gaps between big plantations and concessions owned by companies which are often foreign (12). The situation in Cambodia due to a land grabbing policy is subject to a report to the International Criminal Court laid by international non government organisations as being a crime against humanity (13).

Is not it a new shape of fivarotana tanindrazana (selling the ancestors land) ? What shall we leave to future generations ? The present leaders responsibility is to avoid the risk of Malagasy people ending up in the same situation. 

3/ Malagasy local communities gnawed : between hope for a better life and misleading statements

Those who promote looking for investors at all costs, even at the expense of the population basic rights over lands, paint development, jobs and a better “modern” life in glowing colours for the local communities.

Part of the population could be tempted by such an “adventure”, facing the promises and the seductive discourse (14) of leaders, especially as they are in a more and more precarious economic situation. Some citizens are wondering and worried (15), others express their dedication to their way of life, to their present sources of income, to their environment and to their assets (16).

Examples of other countries which implemented the SEZ and which allegedly got an economic success are often quoted by SEZ promoters. Yet, but SEZ did not bring the expected results, particularly in India and Africa. Establishing SEZ does not guarantee the success in terms of development for countries which implemented them (17). These examples demonstrate that to “believe” is not enough, it is not magical.

SEZ economic effects for the nation and for local communities raise legitimate questions.

As for employment, previous experiences with the establishment of some large companies such as QMM and Ambatovy, allow us to assert that although the offer is abundant in the construction phase, it will get reduced in the permanent operation phase (18).


All Malagasy decision makers should question the danger of this SEZ law. It is still time to stop, for the interest of the nation and of future generations. Big infrastructures and major industries can be established without using this system which constitutes
- a voluntary giving up of rights over land, over many potential taxes, of national sovereignty,
- and eventually a loss of dignity for the country.

Paris March 8, 2018

The Collective for the defense of Malagasy land - TANY ; ;

References  :

(1) Law n°2017-23 of November 28, 2017 :



(4) Some words and phrases were underlined by us in order to highlight them.
Article 51 de la loi 2017-023 - qui n’a pas fait l’objet de remarque de la part de la HCC : « La mise à disposition des terrains au développeur se fait par le biais d’une concession foncière d’une durée maximale de 30 ans renouvelable ».

(5) Some words and phrases were underlined by us in order to highlight them.

Selon l’Article 2 de la loi 2017-023, une « Zone économique spéciale » ou « ZES » est une « zone géographique ou zone spécifique de développement délimitée physiquement bénéficiant du régime juridique établi par la présente loi, destinée à être un pôle d’investissement en offrant un environnement compétitif aux affaires et à l’investissement.
Toujours selon l’Article 2, l’« Autorité de régulation des ZES » ou « AZES » est une « autorité administrative nationale compétente pour la régulation des ZES ». L’Article 17 souligne que « Sauf disposition contraire prévue par la présente loi, les autorités compétentes conservent et maintiennent la plénitude de leurs prérogatives administratives pour réguler toute activité au sein des ZES. Les autorités compétentes peuvent toutefois déléguer à l’AZES certaines de leurs attributions y compris les questions relatives à la délivrance des permis, certificats, autorisations, approbations et enregistrements relatifs à l’emploi, à l’immigration, à la protection de l’environnement, à la sécurité, à l’enregistrement et à l’immatriculation des entreprises, à la fiscalité et aux douanes, ainsi qu’à toute autre question spécifiée aux textes d’application. Les modalités d’application de la délégation seront précisées par des Protocoles d’Accord. » (Cette dernière phrase a été commentée par la HCC comme étant contraire à la Constitution car permet à l’AZES d’exercer des fonctions régaliennes de l’Etat.)
Article 7 : Les différents types d’activités qui peuvent être exercés au sein de la ZES sont, « sans que cette liste ne soit limitative :
- Les activités industrielles et agro-industrielles, - Les activités scientifiques et technologiques, - Les activités touristiques, Les activités financières, - Les activités de transport et de logistique (et) Toutes autres activités pouvant contribuer à la croissance de la ZES et qui sont conformes aux dispositions de la présente loi ».
Selon l’Article 13 : « Chaque ZES sera dotée d’un guichet unique : Le guichet unique est mis en place afin d’alléger les procédures de traitement des dossiers des investisseurs et des utilisateurs de ZES. Le guichet unique permet ainsi : - la centralisation des demandes et leur traitement ; - la fourniture de tout service administratif et toute information que pourront requérir les entreprises, travailleurs et investisseurs ZES ; - la proposition aux entreprises, travailleurs et investisseurs ZES de ses services afin d’agir en qualité d’« interlocuteur unique » entre ces derniers et l’AZES ; - la délivrance sur place par les administrations représentées des agréments, permis, autorisations et services de contrôle requis par les entreprises, investisseurs, travailleurs ZES.
Article 15 : « Le guichet unique est composé de tous les représentants de l’État des divers domaines concernés par le fonctionnement de la ZES ainsi que de toute entité servant à l’accomplissement de la mission du guichet unique, au besoin, sur décision de l’AZES. »
Les responsabilités de l’AZES et du développeur décrites dans les articles 54 à 58 renforcent l’idée que les ZES seront des Etats dans l’Etat.

(6) Selon l’Article 2, « Développeur de ZES » : entreprise qui conçoit, finance, aménage une ZES, y fournit des services, l’exploite, l’entretien et la promeut conformément à une convention de développeur ;
« Convention de Développeur » : accord conclu entre l’AZES et un développeur de la zone conformément à la présente loi et aux textes d’application qui établissent les termes et les conditions selon lesquels un développeur de la zone est autorisé à développer et viabiliser des terrains de la zone, à créer des infrastructures dans la zone et à promouvoir, exploiter, gérer la zone, ainsi qu’à offrir les services complémentaires ;
Voir également les articles 21 à 30 relatifs au droits (et devoirs) des entreprises et développeurs.

(7) In the documentary feature « Je veux ma part de terre – Madagascar » (I want my part of land) which shows realities about the QMM Company between 2005 and 2013 in the Anosy region, a Fort Dauphin deputy is complaining that he cannot access the Ehoala Park without requesting an autorisation from the Canadian company in charge of the management of the Park. This 440 hectares park is part of future SEZ.

(8) We underlined some words and phrases in order to highlight them
Dans l’Article 2 de la loi 2017-023 sur les ZES, l’ « Expropriation » est définie comme étant « une « procédure permettant à la puissance publique de contraindre une personne privée à lui céder un bien immobilier ou des droits réels immobiliers pour un motif d’utilité publique, moyennant une indemnité juste et préalable » 




(12) The first reference includes a map illustrating the trend :





(18) – According to the QMM itself, the number of direct jobs was reduced from 4.000 during the construction phase to 750 when operations started, and even 620 permanent staff in 2014 :
- In the Ambatovy company, according to them, there were more than 18 500 direct jobs during the construction phase and it was reduced to 3000 when operations started