Photo © Claire M.
With a record level of commitments in 2012 (EUR 1.5bn) and the strategic priority given to the private sector in 2013, AFD has underscored its role and specificity in the French overseas provinces: maximize synergies between these communities and neighboring countries in order to find regional solutions.
French overseas province, French overseas provinces: what economic and social disparities are reflected by this broad term?
The move from singular to plural reflects a reality: the overseas provinces are disparate in many respects. Firstly, from a demographic point of view: French Guiana is France’s youngest department and is extremely dynamic, whereas the French West Indies are becoming the oldest French department.
There is then the migration aspect: the Reunionese tend to stay in Réunion, while active West Indian graduates work more easily in mainland France or abroad.
We can also think in terms of comparative advantages. Here again, the overseas provinces are not on the same line. While New Caledonia can rely on substantial nickel reserves, which contribute to its growth and thereby to the high level of per capita GDP, the other provinces are seeking growth drivers that will allow them to further integrate their environment.
Last year, we published a study calculating the Human Development Index (HDI) in the overseas provinces in order to make a comprehensive analysis of development gaps. The results are striking: for example, the index of French Guiana and, especially, Mayotte is significantly lower than in Guadeloupe or New Caledonia. In addition, the improvement in the HDI over the past twenty years, which reflects the catching-up process in these provinces, has not been seen in French Polynesia.
Do the overseas provinces nevertheless face common challenges?
The overseas provinces, however different they may be, share common issues compared to mainland France. They are, with the exception of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, located in the tropical and equatorial region. They account for 10% of the world’s coral reefs and four biodiversity hotspots: the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean Islands, New Caledonia and Polynesia. Furthermore, they are closed economies, particularly in terms of energy. They have a high-carbon energy mix, unlike mainland France, which benefits from less polluting nuclear energy and hydropower.
The overseas provinces are directly confronted with dominant trends, such as the increase in the price of raw materials (agricultural, hydrocarbons…), climate change (rise in temperatures and the sea level) and the loss of biodiversity. Beyond these long-term trends, they face different types of shock: economic, related to speculation on the cost of raw materials and mineral resources; social, due to the high cost of living, the number of people outside the labor market, the lack of housing and infrastructure; climate (cyclones, drought…); geological (volcanism, earthquakes, tsunamis…); epidemiological (chikungunya, dengue fever, avian flu…). This situation severely undermines small isolated economies.
What can AFD bring to these overseas communities?
Solutions adapted to very short and long-term issues. How to better anticipate crises, how to manage them, how to overcome them? The situation in the overseas provinces (closed economies, tropical environment with all the climate implications) is common to many of the foreign countries where we operate. It is a question of sharing the right institutional, organizational and financial solutions.
‘‘AFD is a communicator of solutions between the French overseas provinces and foreign countries.’’
What are the focus sectors?
AFD is very active on the issue of energy transition: demand management, energy efficiency and renewable energy. Using low-carbon energy reduces the impact on the climate and increases resistance to speculative shocks. AFD also has expertise in urban development. It finances more sustainable cities that are better designed for the community by creating public transport, eco-neighborhoods…
AFD also participates in reflection on the climate agenda and biodiversity agenda at the national and international levels. These two topics are core to its strategy and it is able to develop synergies between the experience of foreign countries and the experience of the overseas provinces. The aim is to propose an approach involving ecosystems as the cornerstone for climate change adaptation.
The coexistence of these different areas of operation within a single public institution is one of our strengths. Sharing the experiences of the overseas provinces and foreign countries generates economic activity, stimulates consumption, production and the dissemination of goods and services. In addition, exporting the ideas of the overseas provinces is a way to promote France and its expertise and thereby contribute to a policy of influence.
Is the exchange of good practices a factor of regional integration?
Yes, it is an important driving force for integration. When the Indian Ocean Commission launches a natural disaster warning and response system, when an epidemic surveillance and investigation network is set up in the Indian Ocean, we are fully in this regional dynamic. We can also mention the geothermal system financed by AFD in Dominica, which will contribute to supplying renewable energy to Martinique and Guadeloupe.
We are convinced that while a number of responses are territorial (energy mix, demand management, urban development…), others are regional (biodiversity protection, containment of epidemics, natural disaster prevention and management…), hence the interest of operating in both the overseas provinces and in neighboring countries.
AFD is a communicator of solutions between the overseas provinces and foreign countries: an incubator and a developer of regional responses.
Document de travail n° 131| Approche comparée des évolutions économiques des Outre-mer français sur la période 1998-2010
Claude Parain (INSEE, Reunion) and Sébastien Merceron (ISPF, French Polynesia)
Contacts AFD : Virginie Olive & Françoise Rivière
This document analyses the impact of the 2008 economic crisis in the French overseas terrirories. The authors submit a comparative analysis of the macroeconomic data availablle for these territories beween 1998 and 2010.