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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Expat Interview – Living in Madagascar, here’s what you must know

In this article, Moses a Cameroonian shares his experience living in Madagascar as an expat.

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Kimberly is the founder and Editor in Chief at Passports Beyond Borders (PBB). She is an award-winning entrepreneur with a wide range of experience in the Travel Industry. She is a very passionate family woman who enjoys the thrill of living in multiple countries as an expatriate. Connect with Kim on Facebook & Instagram @Kimberlyndehfombang
Like many people, I knew Madagascar as the title of one of my favourite animated films until very recently when a friend started living in Madagascar. I mean the actual country. It dawned on me that Madagascar is a country where not only Alex and his friends can escape from New York, but expats can relocate to live and work there too. Due to my curiosity about how expats experience life in different countries, I interviewed my friend to share his experiences living in Madagascar.
What’s your name?
Moses Ngwanah
What country are you originally from?
Where do you currently live?
Why did you move here and what do you currently do?
I relocated to Madagascar to provide expertise in establishing a domestic airline with a regular flight schedule. The goal was to expand an existing general aviation business into a full-fledged commercial airline that could provide both domestic and regional services.
What is your impression about this country?
Madagascar possesses vast potential due to its abundant biodiversity and mineral resources. Despite this, the country has faced obstacles to its development such as poor governance, Corruption, restrictive (Protectionism) economic policies, and insufficient infrastructure. However, there are indications that Madagascar is making progress, particularly in the tourism sector, which may help unlock its growth potential.
Despite this, the Malagasy people take pride in their language and heritage, and the country is very proud of its national emblems.
Living in Madagascar
Living in Madagascar – Lemurs
Can foreigners easily get a job here and eventually relocate?

Madagascar has a high expatriate population compared to other French-African countries, with many senior positions filled by expats from various backgrounds, including Europeans, Africans, and Asians. Securing a job in the country is possible, but learning the local language is essential for integration. While the local workforce is smart and creative, expats are still needed in certain industries.

In light of this, the answer is affirmative.

What is the process of obtaining a work permit from your home country?
It is straightforward. Your employer has to apply to the Economic Development Board of Madagascar(EBDM). It takes an average of 60 days to obtain a work permit.
What is the work culture in Madagascar like? 
In Madagascar, as in many African countries, people value their jobs and also prioritize their time for socializing. Professional relationships at work are kept separate from personal relationships, with few employees forming friendships with their colleagues outside the office. Trust and loyalty are not common values for a typical Malagasy worker. As an expatriate, you may need to spend more time supervising your team than actually doing the work yourself. Trusting your colleagues to meet deadlines or take initiative may not be common practice.
What can you highlight about income tax in Madagascar? 
The income tax rate is set at 20%. Many expatriates and their associated businesses opt to use offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes in this jurisdiction, which hurts the local economy. This situation is well known, yet nobody speaks up about it.


What do you enjoy most about living in Madagascar? What is the local lifestyle like? 
Madagascar has a unique climate, architecture, and nightlife, especially in its coastal towns. The country also boasts stunning landscapes, rich biodiversity, and an abundance of flora and fauna. Malagasy people tend to be closed off and rarely go out, unless from the upper echelons of society. It is also interesting to note that the people of Antananarivo do not consider themselves African. Work culture is weak and it is more common to see people begging on the street than holding a job. Poverty is a major issue in the country, with a high amount of children birthing children due to the lack of resources.
What are the pros and cons of living here? 
Pros: The country has a good climate, is naturally beautiful and is politically stable. Malagasy people are generally easygoing but mostly introverts.
Cons:  Madagascar is geographically distant from other countries, with high costs in affluent neighbourhoods, a limited middle class, significant safety issues in impoverished areas and an inadequate urban transportation system. Additionally, there is a distorted view of African people, specifically black Africans, in the country.
What are the biggest adjustments you have had to make? 
The biggest adjustment is to read body language. A typical Malagasy may never tell you yes or no, but if you pay attention to his/her body language you could get hints.
What should expats know about the weather before moving here?
Winter temperatures are as cold as 8 Degrees Celsius and Summer can go as high as 35 degrees in Antananarivo. In the regions, it is hotter and can even go up to 40 degrees Celsius.
What is the cost of living here compared to your home country? 
The cost of living here is relative to where you live in the city and your preferences. Generally, Madagascar is cheaper than Cameroon, but some areas are not. For example, the health system is rudimentary at best and if you need anything serious, it is expensive. Alcoholic drinks (whisky, wine etc) are a lot more expensive compared to Cameroon.

Public transportation in Antananarivo offers contrasting experiences. Buses can be overcrowded and inexpensive, costing around 0.11 cents per trip, while taxis are pricey despite their aged vehicles.

What are your thoughts on the healthcare system? Have you got info foreigners should be aware of? 
The healthcare system is Broken and arguably one of the worst in Africa. 90% of expats have personal insurance and are always Medically airlifted overseas for care.
How would you rate public transport?  What is the most memorable experience of using public transport?
As an expatriate, it is essential to own a car to plan and carry out tasks effectively. My personal experience dates back to my early days in Antananarivo during the COVID-19 pandemic. I once requested a taxi to take me to a supermarket (Renault 4CV). The driver was unable to speak French and quoted me a price in FMG (Franc Malagasy), an outdated currency that had been out of circulation since December 2004. A kind person intervened to help me convert the amount to Ariary. I later found out from a colleague that I had been overcharged. The challenges continued as I struggled to open the car door and noticed the worn-out seats. To my surprise, the driver used a small 5-litre container in the bonnet of the car as a makeshift fuel tank. Despite the language barrier, we managed to communicate mostly through gestures during the journey to the supermarket. I still gave him a tip though lol.
What are the popular and recommended cars to use while in this country?
Popular Cars here are marks from China. However, German cars are also of high use. But the most popular are Kia, Hyundai, Chevrolet, GAC, HAVAL, and Ford.
What are the biggest safety issues for expats living here?
What are the telecom companies available in Madagascar? 
Telma, orange and Airtel. Telma is the best and has good connectivity. Better than many African countries especially Cameroon.
Is it popular to travel by air within the country? 
The only answer to moving from one part of the country to the other is by Air. Air connectivity for domestic travel is highly developed compared to most African countries, however, the market is underserved.
How has living in Madagascar been beneficial to you?
Learning and adapting to different ways of communication, asserting power and authority, management etc.
What do you wish you had known before relocating here?
Firstly, saying “yes” does not always indicate true agreement until actions align with the words. Secondly, having confidence in someone does not mean relinquishing control over the situation.
What’s the minimum salary(income) to guarantee a decent standard of living in Madagascar?
For an expat 2000 USD
Are you part of any associations or do you associate solely with expats?
Aviation and the Cameroonian community
Have you lived or currently living in Madagascar? Let us know anything you’d like to share your experience or you can leave us a comment in the comment section.
If you’d like to share your story with us, please send us an email at info@passportsbeyondborders.com

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  1. The vision of an ambitious Cameroonian like Moses – “expand an existing general aviation business into a full-fledged commercial airline that could provide both domestic and regional services”.

    Fantastic information about Madagascar 🇲🇬. I guess more of a tourist destination for me to see the home of Alex and his friends (as per the author). Great insight. Thank you.

  2. I hope that this interview about life in Madagascar can inspire and motivate individuals, particularly those from continental Africa. Madagascar is a wonderful country that defies mainstream media narratives, and is making positive progress.

    Nevertheless, Madagascar faces significant deficiencies in infrastructure, particularly in the medical and transportation sectors, which ultimately impact the country’s development. Despite these challenges, consider visiting Madagascar for your holidays and you may be pleasantly surprised.

    Thank you PBB for doing an excellent job of sharing our experiences and knowledge, providing others with a platform to access in-depth information about various locations.

    All gratification to God.


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