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Republic of Seychelles

CAPITAL: Victoria

FLAG: The flag is made up of five oblique bands of (left to right) blue, yellow, red, white, and green.

ANTHEM: Begins "Seychellois both staunch and true."

MONETARY UNIT: The Seychelles rupee (r) is a paper currency of 100 cents. There are coins of 5, 10, and 25 cents and 1, 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, 100, 1,000, and 1,500 rupees and notes of 10, 25, 50, and 100 rupees. r1 = $0.18182 (or $1 = r5.5) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's, 12 January; Labor Day, 1 May; National Day, 5 June; Independence Day, 29 June; Assumption, 15 August; All Saints' Day, 1 November; Immaculate Conception, 8 December; Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday, Corpus Christi, and Ascension.

TIME: 4 pm = noon GMT.


Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, consists of an estimated 115 islands, most of which are not permanently inhabited. The second-smallest country in Africa, Seychelles has an area of 455 sq km (176 sq mi), of which Mahé, the principal island, comprises 144 sq km (56 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Seychelles is slightly more than 2.5 times the size of Washington, DC. There are two main clusters: one is a granitic group, centering around Mahé; the other, to the sw, includes the coralline Aldabra Islands and the Farquhar group. Situated about 1,600 km (1,000 mi) off the east coast of Africa, Mahé extends 27 km (17 mi) ns and 11 km (7 mi) ew.

The capital city of Seychelles, Victoria, is located on the island of Mahé.


The Seychelles Islands are the highest points of the Mascarene Ridge, an Indian Ocean ridge running in a generally north-south direction. The granitic islands rise above the sea surface to form a peak or ridge which, in the case of Mahé, attains an elevation of 912 m (2,992 ft) at Morne Seychellois, the highest point. Rugged crests, towering cliffs, boulders, and domes contribute to the islands' great natural beauty. Here and there, in the hollows in the rock relief, are pockets of lateritic soil, often very thin and easily eroded. Mahé possesses white, sandy beaches behind which are flats of coral and shell known locally as plateaus. Small streams descending the mountain slopes deposit alluvial material, creating the most fertile soils on the island.

The coralline Seychelles are, in contrast, low lying, rising only a few feet above the surface of the sea. Many have the typical Indian Ocean lagoon. Soils tend to be thin, with poor moisture retention. These islands are suited only to the coconut palm and a few other species.


Although the Seychelles Islands lie close to the equator, their maritime situation results in coastal temperatures that are fairly constant at about 27°c (81°f) throughout the year. At higher altitudes, temperatures are lower, especially at night. Mean annual rainfall at sea level on Mahé is 236 cm (93 in); in the mountains there may be as much as 356 cm (140 in) a year. On the southwestern coral islands, rainfall is much lower, averaging about 50 cm (20 in) a year on Aldabra. May to October is the relatively dry sunny season; in this period, the southeast monsoon winds bring brief showers every two or three days. The northwest monsoon arrives in December and continues until March, bringing frequent and heavy rain. Humidity is high, especially in the coastal areas.


Primary forest is found only on Praslin and Curieuse islands, northeast of Mahé. On Praslin, native forests of coco-de-mer have been protected in small reserves; its fruit, a huge coconut weighing up to 18 kg (40 lb), is the largest seed in the world and this is the only place were the palm is found growing wild. Virtually all the broadleaf evergreen rain forest has been cut down. In its place are the coconut plantations, with occasional patches of vanilla. Other existing trees are native to the islands and have adapted to the local conditions. Underplanting is quite usual and includes avocado, breadfruit, banana, cinnamon, mango, papaya, patchouli, and pineapple.

Sharks abound in the surrounding oceans, but on land there are no reptiles or mammals that present a threat to human life. The most noteworthy animal is the giant tortoise; once very plentiful, the species is now sorely depleted. There is a great variety of bird life including dozens of the world's rarest species, but very few insects.


Seychelles does not have the resources to maintain a comprehensive program of environmental regulation. The monitoring of the environment is complicated by the fact that the nation consists of 15 islands distributed over a 1.3 million sq km area. Seychelles has no natural fresh water resources. In addition, the nation has a water pollution problem due to industrial by-products and sewage. Fires, landslides, and oil leakage also affect the environment in Seychelles.

The government Environmental Management Plan of Seychelles 19902000 proposed 12 areas of environmental regulation. The Aldabra atoll is a native preserve on the UNESCO World Heritage list, as is the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve. The Port Launay Coastal Wetlands are listed as a Ramsar site. The Ministry of Planning and External Relations and the Ministry of National Development hold principal environmental responsibility.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 3 types of mammals, 13 species of birds, 3 types of reptiles, 6 species of amphibians, 10 species of fish, 2 types of mollusks, 2 species of other invertebrates, and 45 species of plants. The olive ridley, hawksbill, and green sea turtles and the Seychelles black parrot, Seychelles magpie robin, and Seychelles warbler are threatened species. The Aldabra brush warbler and the Seychelles parakeet (or parrot) have become extinct.


The population of Seychelles in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 81,000, which placed it at number 181 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 8% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 26% of the population under 15 years of age. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 1.0%, a rate the government viewed as too high. A National Population Policy, finalized in 2002, contained programs aimed at limiting population growth. The projected population for the year 2025 was 88,000. The overall population density was 180per sq km (466 per sq mi), with 80% of the population living on the island of Mahé.

The UN estimated that 50% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.24%. The capital city, Victoria, had a population of 25,000 in that year.


Entry for the purpose of employment is strictly controlled. Since the 1950s, some retirees from the United Kingdom have settled in Seychelles. In 2000 the total number of migrants was 5,000. In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated -5.54 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the emigration level as too high, but the immigration level as satisfactory.


There are no distinct ethnic divisions, apart from small Indian and Chinese groups constituting about 1% of the total population. The bulk of the population is Seychellois, a mixture of African, French-European, and Asian strains.


Creole, a simplified form of French with borrowings from African languages, has been the first language since 1981 and is the initial language in public schools; it is spoken by about 91.8% of the population. English and French are also widely spoken as second languages. English is the first language of about 4.9% of the population. English, Creole, and French are all considered to be official languages; English is the official language of the National Assembly.


The great majority of the population practices Christianity. According to the most recent estimates, Roman Catholics constituted about 87% of the Christian community; Anglicans totaled another 7%. Other Christian churches include Baptists, Seventh-Day Adventists, the Assemblies of God, the Pentecostal Church, Nazarites, and Jehovah's Witnesses. Hindus, Muslims, and Baha'is are also present.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and there is no state religion; however, the government does offer sometimes substantial financial assistance to churches from the state budget, primarily in the form of grants, through an application process that is open to all.


Until the opening of the international airport on Mahé in 1971, the Seychelles Islands were entirely dependent on the sea for their links with the rest of the world. Until 1970, passenger and cargo service by ship was irregular. In the early 1970s, however, new deepwater facilities were dredged at Victoria Harbor. Private ferries connect Mahé to Praslin and La Digue. As of 2005, there were five merchant ships of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 42,223 GRT.

The road network totaled an estimated 280 km (174 mi) in 2002, of which 176 km (109 mi) were paved. One road encircles the island and another runs across the island by way of the central mountain ridge. There were 5,100 automobiles and 2,000 commercial vehicles in 1995.

In 2004 there were an estimated 15 airports, 8 of which had paved runways as of 2005. Seychelles International Airport is at Pointe Larue on Mahé. Flights to London, Zürich, Frankfurt, and Rome are in service via Air Seychelles, the national carrier. Air France's scheduled flights connect Seychelles with Europe. In 2001 (the latest year for which data is available) about 420,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights. Ligne Aérienne Seychelles (LAS), a private line, ran charter flights to Australia, Singapore, Botswana, and Malawi.


The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama discovered the Seychelles Islands (then uninhabited) in 1502, and an English expedition visited the islands in 1609. The name Seychelles derives from the Vicomte des Séchelles, Louis XV's finance minister. The French first claimed the islands in 1756, but colonization did not begin until 1768, when a party of 22 Frenchmen arrived, bringing with them a number of slaves. As competition grew among European nations for the lucrative trade with India and Asia, more and more seamen called at the islands to provision their vessels and to pick up commodities useful for trade.

The French and British battled for control of the islands between 1793 and 1813. French bases were blockaded in 1794 and again in 1804; on each occasion, the French capitulated. Under the Treaty of Paris (1814), the islands, together with Mauritius, were ceded to Britain. Both before and after the cession, the islands were administered from Mauritius as dependent territories. When the British made clear that they would enforce the ban on slavery throughout the Empire, many of the French landowners who had continued to import African slaves, largely from Mauritius and Réunion, departed for Africa and elsewhere, taking their slaves with them. However, with slavery ended, thousands of liberated slaves and others came into the islands. Indian labor was introduced to work on the plantations and some Chinese immigrants became shopkeepers.

In 1872, a Board of Civil Governors was created, increasing the degree of political autonomy; a Legislative Council and an Executive Council were established in 1888. On 31 August 1903, the islands became a crown colony, no longer subordinate to Mauritius. By this date, the cosmopolitan character of Seychelles had been established. Intermarriage between the descendants of the French, African, and Asian populations produced the Seychellois of today.

In 1948, the first elections were held, filling four seats on the Legislative Council. A new constitution was written in 1966 and promulgated in 1967. It vested authority in a governor and a Governing Council. General elections, the first based on the principle of universal adult suffrage, were held in December 1967 for the new Legislative Assembly. Further amendments to the constitution in March 1970 gave the Seychellois greater autonomy over affairs of internal government.

Seychelles achieved independence at 12:05 am on 29 June 1976. Upon independence, the UK government recommended the transfer from the British Indian Ocean Territory to Seychelles of the island groups of Aldabra and Farquhar and the island of Desroches. These islands, which had been detached from Seychelles in 1965, were duly returned to the new republic.

James Richard Marie Mancham, then leader of the conservative Seychelles Democratic Party, became president on independence, heading a coalition government that included Seychelles People's United Party (SPUP) leader France Albert René as prime minister. Mancham was overthrown by a coup on 5 June 1977 and went into exile; René became president. He suspended the constitution, dismissed the legislature, and ruled by decree.

In 1978, a new political party, the Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF), absorbed the SPUP. The constitution of March 1979, adopted by referendum, established a one-party state as the country drifted toward a Marxist political system. In November 1981, about 50 mercenaries recruited in South Africa landed in Mahé, briefly seized the airport, and apparently planned to return Mancham to power; however, Seychellois troops forced them to flee. Tanzanian troops, airlifted to Seychelles following this incident, also played a part in restoring order after an abortive army mutiny of 1718 August 1982 took at least nine lives. All Tanzanian troops had left the country by the end of 1984. A number of other plots have been alleged since then.

René was reelected president without opposition in June 1984. Since then, the Seychelles made progress economically and socially. Under rising pressure to democratize, in December 1991, René agreed to reform the electoral system. Multiparty elections were held in July 1992 (the first since 1974), and the prospect of reconciliation between René and Mancham supporters was raised. Many dissidents, including Mancham, returned from exile. In June 1993, 73% of the voters approved a new constitution providing for multiparty government.

Since the introduction of multiparty competition, the SPPF has remained dominant, but has gradually seen its popularity weaken. Presidential and National Assembly elections were held 23 July 1993, with René winning the presidency and the SPPF capturing all but one of the directly elected legislative seats. In the 1998 contest, René obtained 66.7% of the presidential vote and his party captured 30 of 34 seats. In August 2001 elections, René again defeated his opponents, but this time by only 54.19%, and in National Assembly elections in December 2002the first to be held separately from presidential electionsthe SPPF captured 23 seats to 11 for the SNP.

In April 2004, after 27 years in power, Renébarred constitutionally from running for a third termhanded over power to his vice president James Michel. The move gave Michel time to establish himself, and as SPPF party chair, René continued to exercise power behind the scenes. One sign of this power was the expansion of the central committee from 20 to 25 members composed of former ministers and key civil servants. In the annual SPPF congress in May 2005, Vice President Joseph Belmont was named to be Michel's running mate.

Whether the SPPF would continue its political dominance was believed to hinge primarily on the economy. Real GDP was expected to contract for the fourth consecutive year in 2006.


The 1976 constitution provided for a multiparty system, but was replaced in 1979 with a document authorizing a one-party state. The June 1993 constitution reestablished multiparty elections for president and for a National Assembly consisting of 33 members, 22 directly elected and 11 allocated on a proportional basis. The president is both head of state and head of government and appoints a cabinet of ministers from outside the National Assembly. Typically, the president also holds key ministerial posts. While the 1993 constitution guarantees extensive political and civil liberties, it also allows the curtailment of freedom of expression in order to protect "the reputation, rights, and freedoms of private lives of persons." This is a thinly veiled limitation on the freedom of the press. The independent media was the target of restrictions under the René administration.

In 1996, the SPPF successfully introduced constitutional changes, including the enlargement of the National Assembly to 35 (with 10 members to be chosen by proportional representation) and creation of the post for a vice president. In 1998, the United Opposition (UO) boycotted the National Assembly meetings protesting the SPPF's heavy-handed behavior. Presently, the National Assembly comprises 34 seats, 25 elected by popular vote and 9 allocated on a proportional basis to parties winning at least 10% of the vote.

The next presidential elections were due to take place by August 2006 with parliamentary elections scheduled to occur no later than the end of 2007. Parliamentary elections may be concurrent with presidential elections. The president and members of the National Assembly serve five-year terms.


Before 1978 there were two political parties, the Seychelles Democratic Party (SDP) and the Seychelles People's United Party (SPUP), both founded in 1964. In the last legislative elections prior to independence, on 25 April 1974, the SDP won 13 of 15 elective seats and the SPUP 2. Appointments in June 1975 brought total party strength to 18 for the SDP and 7 for the SPUP. The successor to the SPUP, the Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF), was established in 1979 as the sole legal party, with the avowed objective of creating a Socialist state; the SDP was declared to have "disappeared." There were at least three opposition groups in exile. In the 1979 parliamentary elections, 55 candidates sanctioned by the SPPF competed for 23 elective seats in the People's Assembly. In the 1983 parliamentary elections, 17 of the 23 elected candidates ran unopposed; and in the December 1987 elections, 36 candidates, all of them members of the SPPF, competed for the 23 seats in the People's Assembly.

After René's announcement of a return to multiparty democracy, parties began to organize in preparation for an election to a constituent assembly in July 1992. Many dissidents returned from exile and the Democratic Party (DP) was reestablished. Also established were the Seychelles Party (PS), the Seychelles Democratic Movement (MSPD), and the Seychelles Liberal Party (SLP).

After the 23 July 1993 elections, eight opposition members obtained seats in the 33-seat National Assembly. René won the presidential election with 59.5% of the vote. The Parti Seselwa, the Seychellois National Movement, and the National Alliance Party opposed the adoption of the new constitution in 1993 and contested the July 1993 elections as the United Opposition (UO) coalition. Its presidential candidate, former president Mancham, received 36.6% of the vote. The SPPF won 21 legislative seats to the DP's 1. The SPPF was also given 6 of the 11 seats apportioned according to the percentage of the votes won; the DP, 4 seats; and the UO, 1 seat.

In the 1998 elections, the SPPF captured 30 seats; the UO three; and the DP only one seat. The Reverend Wavel Ramkalawan replaced James Mancham as leader of the opposition, and in late 1998, the UO changed its name to the Seychelles National Party (SNP). In National Assembly elections held in December 2002, the SPPF captured 23 seats to 11 for the SNP. The SPPF retained a strong grassroots structure throughout the islands.


All seats on the 23 elected district councils (formerly the SPPF district branch committees) are held by SPPF members. In June 2003, SPPF delegates to a special party congress agreed that members of district committees would be appointed rather than elected.


Magistrates' courts are normally the courts of the first instance. The Supreme Court hears appeals and takes original jurisdiction of some cases. An independent Appeal Court was established in 2005. The president of Seychelles appoints the chief justicea naturalized citizenand also appoints all other judges from other Commonwealth countries on seven-year contracts. As of 2005, the court president was Justice Michael Ramodibedi of Lesotho.

Civil law is based on the French Napoleonic Code, while criminal law follows the British model. Members of the armed forces accused of serious offenses are tried by court-martial unless the president decrees otherwise. Executive and ruling party dominance in the judicial system has been challenged unsuccessfully.

The Constitutional Court convenes weekly, or as needed, to consider constitutional and civil liberties issues. The Court of Appeal convenes twice a year and considers appeals from the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court only. In addition, an industrial court and a rent tribunal exist.


In 2005 there were 450 active personnel in the armed forces of Seychelles, including an army of 200 (one infantry company and one security unit) and a paramilitary national guard of 250. There was also a 200-member coast guard, that included 80 marines, and 20 others in an air wing. In 2005, the defense budget totaled $12.6 million.


Admitted to the United Nations on 21 September 1976, Seychelles participates in ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the IAEA, FAO, the World Bank, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, and the WHO. The nation belongs to the ACP Group, the African Development Bank, COMESA, SADC, the Cross-border Initiative in Eastern and Southern Africa (CBI), the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), and the Indian Ocean Commission. It also belongs to the Commonwealth of Nations, G-77, and the African Union. The country has observer status in the WTO. It is part of the Nonaligned Movement. IN environmental cooperation, Seychelles is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES, the London Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Seychelles possesses a thriving economy, but external debt holds back real economic development. Agriculture, fishing, and forestry accounted for about 4% of GDP in 1999. Crop production is limited by mountainous terrain and low soil fertility, leaving the Seychelles dependent on imports for beef, rice, potatoes, and some fresh produce. The manufacturing sector accounts for 26% of GDP. Since the opening of the international airport in 1971, the Seychelles economy has become dependent on tourism. In 1999, tourism employed 30% of the labor force, and provided the majority of foreign exchange earnings, but in 2000, industrial fishing surpassed tourism as the most important source of foreign exchange. Stiff international competition for tourist dollars caused the government to take steps to broaden the economic base by promoting the development of fishing and light manufacturing. The tourism industry was adversely affected by the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and the subsequent decline in air travel. Tuna fishing and canning accounted for 70% of GDP in 2003.

Although private enterprise and private property are permitted, the public sector drives the economy and accounts for more than 40% of GDP. The government controls the importation, licensing, and distribution of virtually all goods and services, and exercises significant control over all phases of the economy. Since 1990, a program to privatize the economy has resulted in progress in several sectors including tourism, fish processing, and agriculture. In 1995, the American food company Heinz and Co. purchased 60% of the previously state-owned Seychelles Tuna Canning Factory, and the joint venture between the government and Heinz is now the single largest employer in the Seychelles. In addition, most state-owned agricultural land has been turned over to private control. The government is attempting to develop an offshore and free trade zone to further develop the economy and move it away from its dependence upon tourism and fishing.

The economy registered a slight expansion of 1.3% in 2002, before it started plummetingby -6.3% in 2003 and by -2.0% in 2004; in 2005 real GDP growth was -4.0%. Inflation remained fairly stable but was expected to jump to 10% in 2005 as a result of the economic recession. The tourism sector continues to suffer as vacationers look for cheaper destination like the Comoros, Mauritius, and Madagascar. In addition, Heinz decided that it will sell its 60% stake in the Indian Ocean Tuna cannery as soon as a buyer is found.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Seychelles's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $626.0 million. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $7,800. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at -3%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 4.4%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 3.2% of GDP, industry 30.4%, and services 66.4%.

According to the World Bank, in 2002 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $1 million or about $12 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.1% of GDP.


In 1996, the labor force numbered 30,900. Services accounted for 71% of the workforce, with industry 19% and agriculture the remaining 10%. In addition, there are self-employed people, casual workers, domestic servants, and agricultural workers on small land holdings. There was no data available as of the unemployment rate in Seychelles.

Seychelles had two trade unions organizations as of 2001: the Seychelles Federation of Workers' Union and the Independent Seychelles Workers Union. Employees have the right to organize and bargain collectively, but in practice most wages are set by the governmentthe country's largest employer. The government has the right to review and approve labor contracts between individuals and large firms. Approximately 1520% of the workforce is unionized.

The minimum age for employment is 15, but children are encouraged to attend school until the 9th or 10th grade. Apprenticeships and vocational programs are available to those who leave school early. The minimum wage was $427 per month in 2001. Most workers also receive a variety of free public services. The legal maximum workweek is 45 to 52 hours, but most government workers work less than that. The government has issued comprehensive occupational health and safety regulations but they are not effectively enforced. The government is making attempts to improve this enforcement.


Although agriculture has long been the basis of the Seychelles economy, it contributes only about 4% to GDP. Production in 2004 included coconuts, 3,200 tons; and bananas, 1,970 tons. Tea planting began in the early 1960s. Other crops produced for export are cinnamon bark, vanilla, cloves, and patchouli (an essence used in soap and perfume). In 2004, the Seychelles produced 200 tons of cinnamon bark and 225 tons of tea. Sweet potatoes, yams, breadfruit, and cassava are grown in small quantities but are not sufficient to satisfy the local demand. Oranges, lemons, grapefruit, bananas, and mangoes meet the local requirement only in season.


Seychelles is self-sufficient in the production of pork, poultry, and eggs. In 2005 there were about 18,500 hogs, 5,150 goats, and 1,400 head of cattle. Cattle of improved strains are imported and maintained on an intensive feedlot system.


Per capita fish consumption in the Seychelles is very high, yet the development of industrial fishing is at its early stages. The development of port services for foreign tuna fishing fleets since the early 1980s has raised incomes and living standards, while diminishing the role of artisanal fishing. Fishing accounts for about 1% of GDP and about 8% of exports. Foreign vessels fishing in Seychelles waters must be licensed to operate within the 322-km (200-mi) economic zone, which encompassed one of the world's richest tuna-fishing grounds. French investments have focused on tuna fishing and canning. The European Community, Korea, and Japan hold the key licenses to Seychelles coastal fishing. Fish landings by the domestic fleet totaled 86,869 tons, including 36,802 tons of skipjack tuna and 34,734 tons of yellowfin tuna. Exports of fish products totaled $210.8 million in 2003.


Little natural forest remains. Coconut plantations are the main source of timber, aside from imports. A reforestation program projects the planting of 100 ha (250 ac) each year. Imports of forest products totaled $1.4 million in 2004.


Seychelles' mineral production in 2004 consisted granite dimension stone, gravel and crushed rock, and sand. Although production of guano (a phosphate fertilizer comprising bird droppings, extracted from Assumption) ceased in the mid-1980s, a plant with a capacity of 5,000 tons per year remained; modest production was unofficially reported in the mid-1990s. Output of granite dimension stone in 2004 was estimated at 93,000 metric tons, up from 92,120 metric tons in 2002. Gravel and crushed rock output in 2004 was estimated at 213,000 metric tons, up from 212,926 metric tons in the previous year. Sand production in 2004 was estimated at 2,200 metric tons, up from 2,165 metric tons in 2002. Polymetallic nodules were known to occur on the ocean bottom near the Admirante Islands. The Seychelles comprised 40 granitic and at least 50 coralline islands.


Seychelles has a total installed electric generating capacity of 28,000 kW, as of 1 January 2003. Output in 2003 reached 0.24 billion kWh, of which 100% came from fossil fuels. Consumption of electricity in 2003 came to 0.22 billion kWh.

As of 1 January 2005, Seychelles had no proven reserves of crude oil, natural gas, or coal, nor any crude oil refining capacity. All fossil fuel and refined petroleum product consumption was met by imports. In 2004, imports and domestic demand for petroleum products each averaged 4,000 barrels per day. There were no recorded imports or consumption of natural gas or coal in 2003.


In 2000, the manufacturing and construction sector contributed 29% to GDP. The average annual industrial growth rate was averaging 10% in the early 2000s. Tuna fishing and canning accounted for 70% of GDP in 2002. The largest plant is the tuna cannery, opened in 1987 and privatized in 1995 with a 60% purchase by US-based Heinz Inc. The tuna business has grown rapidly, and the joint venture between Heinz and the government was the single largest employer in the Seychelles in 2002. Other factories are smaller and process local agricultural products. A tea factory handles locally grown tea. Others process copra and vanilla pods and extract coconut oil. There is a plastics factory, a brewery and soft drink bottler, and a cinnamon distiller. Salt, cigarettes, boats, furniture, steel products, publications, animal feeds, processed meats, dairy products, paints, and assembled televisions are also produced. Oil exploration is underway, and geophysical and geochemical analyses indicate potential for commercial production.

In 2004, the main contributors to the GDP were transport, communications, and distribution (30.3%), manufacturing (16.7%), government services (12.7%), and hotel and restaurants (10.1%). As of 2006, the Heinz company was liquidating its shares in the tuna canning factory, which had been privatized in 1995.


Seychelles Polytechnic, founded in 1983 at Victoria, has schools of agriculture, engineering, health studies, humanities and science, and maritime studies. In 2002, there were 18 researchers and 30 technicians engaged in research and development per million people. For that same year, R&D spending totaled r4.080 million. Of that amount, 89.7% came from government sources, with private nonprofit organizations accounting for 3.4% and foreign sources 6.9%.


The Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB), with wide powers over imports, distribution, and quality of goods, was established in 1984. Though its monopoly on the sale of fruits and vegetables was abandoned in 1987, the SMB still operates all major supermarkets.

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 38.0 245.7 -207.7
Saudi Arabia 14.4 39.8 -25.4
France-Monaco 12.8 26.2 -13.4
Madagascar 2.6 2.6
United Kingdom 1.7 19.5 -17.8
South Africa 1.1 22.2 -21.1
Japan 0.9 1.8 -0.9
Netherlands 0.8 3.3 -2.5
Austria 0.7 0.7
Australia 0.4 4.0 -3.6
Denmark 0.4 2.4 -2.0
() data not available or not significant.

The small Chinese merchant class plays an important part in the retail trade. The variety of domestic goods for sale is very limited. There are price controls on most foodstuffs. The capital of Victoria is the major commercial center of the island. Shops range from supermarkets to a traditional open-air market. A small handicrafts and pottery industry creates products primarily for tourists.

Normal business hours are 8 am to noon and 1:30 to 4 pm, MondayFriday; 8 am to noon on Saturday. Most business is conducted in English, but French is widely spoken.


Foreign trade is habitually in deficit. Strict trade regulations hinder trade growth. Preserved fish (73%), fresh fish (8.0%), salted, dried, and smoked fish (6.5%), and shellfish (3.7%) account for the majority of Seychelles's commodity exports. Other exports include cinnamon and vanilla (2.4%).

In 2005, exports totaled $312 million (FOBfree on board), while imports grew to $460 million. Most of the exports went to the United Kingdom (27.7%), France (15.8%), Spain (12.6%), Japan (8.6%), Italy (7.5%), and Germany (5.6%). Major imports included food and live animals, manufactured goods, fuel, machinery and transport goods, and chemicals, and they mainly came from Saudi Arabia (15.5%), Spain (13.3%), France (10.3%), Singapore (7%), South Africa (6.8%), Italy (6.7%), and the United Kingdom (4.7%).


Development aid, income from tourism, and earnings from reexports have generally been sufficient to offset Seychelles' persistent visible trade deficit.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2001 the purchasing power parity of Seychelles's exports was $182.6

Current Account -130.6
   Balance on goods -139.6
     Imports -376.3
     Exports 236.7
   Balance on services 105.2
   Balance on income -92.5
   Current transfers -3.8
Capital Account 5.0
Financial Account -64.0
   Direct investment abroad -89.0
   Direct investment in Seychelles 61.4
   Portfolio investment assets 0.1
   Portfolio investment liabilities 1.1
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets -9.8
   Other investment liabilities -9.8
Net Errors and Omissions 0.5
Reserves and Related Items 189.1
() data not available or not significant.

million while imports totaled $360.2 million resulting in a trade deficit of $177.6 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001 Seychelles had exports of goods totaling $215 million and imports totaling $387 million. The services credit totaled $283 million and debit $193 million.

Exports of goods and services totaled $629 million in 2004, up from $620 million in 2003. Imports grew from $593 million in 2003, to $629 million in 2004. The resource balance, while positive in 2003 at $28 million, decreased to $0 million in 2004, indicating that imports were growing faster than exports. A similar trend was registered for the current account balance, which deteriorated from -$6 million in 2003, to -$21 million in 2004. Foreign exchange reserves (including gold) decreased to $37 million in 2004, covering less than a month of imports.


The Seychelles Monetary Authority, established in 1978 as the bank of issue, became the Central Bank of Seychelles in 1983. Other government banks are the Seychelles Savings Bank and the Development Bank of Seychelles. Five major commercial banks operate in the Seychelles, namely Barclays, Nouvobanq, Banque Française Commerciale Océan Indien, Bank of Baroda, and Habib Bank. Development of an offshore banking center was announced in 1999.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $220.5 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $607.0 million. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 1%.

There is no stock exchange in Seychelles.


All private insurance companies were nationalized in 1983 and their business transferred to the State Assurance Corp. Two of the companies doing business in the Seychelles in 1997 were H. Savy Insurance Co., and State Assurance Corp. of Seychelles.


Annual budgets of increasing deficits were common in the 1980s. The public sector is responsible for two-thirds of Seychelles' employment, and the budget amounts to about 40% of GDP. Public investment focuses on social and physical infrastructure, tourism, and export activities. Some privatization has occurred in recent years, including the privatization of some port operations and the Seychelles Tuna Canning Factory, 60% of which was purchased by Heinz.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Seychelles's central government took in revenues of approximately $343.3 million and had expenditures of $332.2 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $11.1 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 129.7% of GDP. Total external debt was $276.8 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2002, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were r1,607 million and expenditures were r2,172.8

Revenue and Grants 1,607 100.0%
   Tax revenue 999.1 62.2%
   Social contributions 253.7 15.8%
   Grants 25.1 1.6%
   Other revenue 329.1 20.5%
Expenditures 2,172.8
   General public services 770.8 35.5%
   Defense 78.8 3.6%
   Public order and safety 81 3.7%
   Economic affairs 165.5 7.6%
   Environmental protection
   Housing and community amenities 54.5 2.5%
   Health 136.6 6.3%
   Recreational, culture, and religion 23.8 1.1%
   Education 211.8 9.7%
   Social protection 302 13.9%
() data not available or not significant.

million. The value of revenues in US dollars was us$293 million and expenditures us$333 million, based on a official exchange rate for 2002 of us$1 = r5.4800 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 35.5%; defense, 3.6%; public order and safety, 3.7%; economic affairs, 7.6%; housing and community amenities, 2.5%; health, 6.3%; recreation, culture, and religion, 1.1%; education, 9.7%; and social protection, 13.9%.


As of 2005, Seychelles had a progressive corporate income tax structure made up of four bands, with rates of 0%, 25%, 30%, and 40%. There is no capital gains tax in the Seychelles. A withholding tax of 15% is applied to dividends paid to nonresidents. Residents receiving dividends are not taxed. Interest income paid to nonresidents (excluding banks, financial companies, and other firms whose primary business is money lending) are subject to a 10% withholding rate. A 40% withholding rate is applied to interest received by residents or nonresidents holding a security issued by a Seychelles financial institution, and is applied at the time of redemption. Royalties paid to Seychelles citizens are not taxed, while nonresidents are subject to a 15% withholding rate. The principal indirect taxes are customs duties and a goods and services tax (GST). The GST applies a 12% tax on certain locally manufactured goods and on imported goods (in addition to the customs duty). Local services providers and tourism-related services providers are subject to a GST between 7% and 15%. The Seychelles operates as a tax haven. It applies a territorial basis of tax assessment to corporations, so they are taxed only on the income that is derived directly from the country. The makes it an inviting place for international companies to headquarter, because the profits made by branches are not imputed to the center for tax purposes. Also the government imposes no personal income tax, although it does require social security contributions.


All imports are controlled by the Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB), which places quotas on certain imports (such as motor vehicles) and other types of restrictions on other items. Prohibited goods include arms and ammunition, dangerous drugs, pornographic materials, and spearguns. Import tariffs are 30%.

The Seychelles International Trade Zone offers tax benefits and other advantages to exporters.


The government offers full repatriation of after-tax profits; normal exemption from import duties for machinery, spare parts, and raw materials; and possible tariff protection. While parastatals are common in Seychelles, there is no policy of nationalization, though joint ventures are preferred when foreign capital is involved. Public and private investment is sought for the tourist, fishing, agriculture, and manufacturing sectors. In 1995, the government established an International Investment Authority which offers incentives and tax concessions to foreign investors.

Annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to the Seychelles from 1997 to 2000 ranged from $54.4 million in 1997 to $60 million in 1999. In 2001, FDI inflows slowed to $34 million. In 2005, attempts were underway to find a buyer for Heinz's share in the Indian Ocean Tuna cannery, which delayed planned investments in the factory.


The 198589 plan sought to create jobs and emphasized developing cash crops, tourism, and the fishing industry. The 199094 plan emphasized the need to attract foreign investment. Of considerable interest to donors in the 1990s was the 10-year plan to improve the Seychelles environment. In 1999, the government undertook an intensive review of trade policies in connection with its application to join the WTO, which may increase development. As of 2003, the Seychelles' WTO application was still pending.

The economy continued to contract in 2005, and was expected to continue the same trend in 2006. Tourism still suffers from decreasing numbers of incoming visitors, and manufacturing will remain depressed as a result of insufficient foreign exchange. Prospects for 2007 are somewhat brighter as major investments in luxury hotels are expected to put the economy back on track.


All citizens residing in Seychelles territory and resident foreign employees are entitled to participate in the social security fund. There is voluntary coverage available to the self-employed. Benefits are provided for old age, disability, survivorship, sickness, and maternity. Employees and employers are required to make monthly contributions. Retirement is set at age 63 with at least five years of residency. There is also a workers' compensation scheme. Health services are free for all residents under the National Health Plan. Although there is no statutory unemployment program, daily subsistence wages are provided under certain conditions.

Traditional Seychelles culture is matriarchal and women are accorded considerable respect within society. However, violence against women, particularly domestic violence, remains a problem, and has been linked to alcohol abuse. Women are fairly well represented in both the public and private sectors. Inheritance laws do not discriminate against women. In 2004, more than 70% of births were out of wedlock.

Human rights are generally respected although there are still arbitrary arrests and detentions. There is some discrimination against foreign workers. Nongovernmental organizations operate freely.


In 2004, the Seychelles had an estimated 132 physicians, 5 pharmacists, 467 nurses, 4 midwives, and 12 dentists per 100,000 people. Approximately, 3.9% of the gross national product went to health expenditures. Water and sanitation were available to over 90% of the Seychelles residents.

The infant mortality rate in 2005 was estimated at 15.53 per 1,000 live births and average life expectancy at 71.82 years. In the same year, the birth rate was 17.3 and the overall mortality rate at 6.6. Approximately 99% of the country's children were vaccinated against measles, 99% against hepatitis B, and 97% against polio. Seychelles has also reached the 2000 goal of attaining at least 90% immunization DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus). No cases of polio, measles, or neonatal tetanus were reported, however leprosy was still present.


As of the 2002 census, there were about 20,270 housing units throughout the nation serving 20,933 households. The average household size was four members. Most homes were made of stone block with corrugated iron roofs (77%); others are constructed of wood frames and walls. Some rural houses were thatched. About 73% of all housing was listed in good condition; 66% of all housing was owner occupied. Of all housing units, 94% had flush toilets, 87% had indoor treated water, and 96% had electricity.

The Home Ownership Scheme lends money for building costs to low-income families, and the Housing Loan Fund provides loans for families who want to purchase or build their own homes. Concrete-block housing developments have been constructed.


Since 1980, public education has been free and compulsory for 10 years for children between the ages of 6 and 16. Six years of primary education are followed by five years of secondary education. Vocational courses are offered for secondary students. In 2001, about 90% of children between the ages of four and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary and secondary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 100% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that nearly all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 14:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was also about 14:1.

Seychelles does not provide education at university level, but there is a teacher-training college and a polytechnic institute. Only members of the National Youth Service can apply to the teacher-training college. In the absence of higher education facilities, many students study abroad, mainly in the United Kingdom. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 91.9%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 5.2% of GDP, or 10.7% of total government expenditures.


The National Archives and a National Library (80,000 volumes) are both located in Victoria (Mahé Island). Seychelles Polytechnic University has 12,000 volumes. The Seychelles National Museum of History is located in the same building as the National Library. There is also a Seychelles Natural History Museum in Victoria.


In 2002, there were 21,700 mainline phones in use nationwide. In 2003, there were an additional 54,500 mobile phones in use.

Radio-Television Seychelles, which is government owned, broadcasts in English, French, and Creole. Television service, controlled by the government, began in 1983. License fees for privately owned radio and television stations are so high that an independent media has not been able to develop. As of 1999 there were three AM radio stations and two television stations. There were 627 radios and 150 television sets per 1,000 population in 1998. In 2002, there were about 11,700 Internet subscribers served by over 260 Internet hosts. There is one daily newspaperSeychelles Nation (2002 circulation 3,500)published by the government in English, French, and Creole. The president has the authority to censor publications.


Trade groups include the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Seychelles Farmers' Association. The Women's Association and the Youth Organization are arms of the SPPF. Other youth organizations include the National Youth League of the Seychelles and the Scout and Guide Movement of the Seychelles. There are several sports associations representing such pastimes as tennis, squash, yachting, and track and field. There are national chapters of the Red Cross and Caritas.


The prosperity of Seychelles depends on tourism. Visitors can enjoy coral beaches, water sports including scuba diving, waterskiing, and windsurfing, and boat or yacht tours of the islands. The archipelago's wildlife is also a popular tourist attraction. Valid passports are required, but visas are not. If traveling from an infected area a certificate of vaccination is required.

There were 122,038 tourist arrivals in 2003. Most of the visitors came from France and Germany. Hotel rooms numbered 2,435 with 4,926 beds and an occupancy rate of 46%. That same year the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Seychelles at $271.


Sir James Richard Marie Mancham (b.1939), leader of the SDP, became Seychelles' first president in 1976. He was deposed in 1977 by France Albert René (b.1935), who served until 2004. James Alex Michel (b.1944) became president in 2004.


Seychelles has no territories or colonies.


Bennett, George. Seychelles Pramila Ramgulam Bennett. Oxford, England; Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio Press, 1993.

Carpin, Sarah. Seychelles. 6th ed. Hong Kong: Odyssey, 2005.

McAteer, William. Rivals in Eden: A History of the French Settlement and British Conquest of the Seychelles Islands, 17421818. Sussex, Eng.: Book Guild, 1990.

Scarr, Deryck. Seychelles Since 1770: History of a Slave and Post-Slavery Society. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1999.

Skerrett, Adrian. Birds of the Seychelles. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Vine, Peter. Seychelles. 2nd ed. London, Eng.: Immel Publishing, 1992.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

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Republic of Seychelles

Major City:


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated May 1993. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


The 115 lush, tropical islands which comprise the Republic of SEYCHELLES are considered the jewels of the Indian Ocean. Untouched for centuries, and settled only in 1744, the archipelago rises from the sea in colorful, majestic panoramas. It is so unique in its beauty, "a thousand miles from the rest of the world," that romanticists have suggested that it may have been the original Garden of Eden.

In Seychelles, people of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds have come together to forge their future. The Seychellois are united by their Roman Catholic religion and Creole language, with few of the animosities which have divided other nations.



Victoria, the capital and principal town, is the seat of government. It is situated on Mahé Island. For many years, it was only a small village but, today, it is becoming an attractive city with privately owned buildings, a new town area, a harbor, and banking facilities. Its area population is about 23,000a number swelled considerably each year by throngs of tourists. The international airport, served by carriers from Europe, Africa, and Asia, is located eight miles from the center of the city.

Victoria has several banks, supermarkets, a cinema, a number of shops, several excellent restaurants, a service station, and an open-air market. Hotels (seven of international standard) and numerous guest houses are situated around the island.

Mahé is the largest of the islands in the Seychelles. Its beaches are famous for their water-sports facilities and resort comforts. Beau Vallon, on the western coast, is the most famous.

Schools for Foreigners

The International School of Victoria, based on the British system, provides an education for non-Seychelles students up to grade five. French is taught as a foreign language. In addition to a standard curriculum, students can participate in extracurricular activities. These include drama, gymnastics, field trips, squash, basketball, sailing and canoeing.


Because of the pleasant climate, Seychelles offers a wide assortment of outdoor sports. Victoria has one nine-hole golf course, a tennis club, a yacht club, several squash courts, and a flying club with its own light aircraft and instructor. Golf and tennis competitions are organized frequently. Scuba diving, wind-surfing, snorkeling, water-skiing, and sailing are all offered at the bigger hotels.

Soccer is the national sport, but basketball, track and field, volleyball, boxing, and weight lifting are increasing in popularity. A small but active rugby club is composed mostly of expatriates.


Movies, cocktail and dinner parties, and hotel and club dancing provide most of Victoria's opportunities for entertainment. The civil and social organizations consist of Rotary Club, Round Table, and youth groups who meet in town centers. The American community has no organized activities as such, but the Satellite Club at the tracking station on Mahé frequently hosts dances or picnics on American holidays. Considerable informal entertaining is done at home.

Personal relations with host country nationals are excellent, and it is relatively easy to develop associations and friendships. The diplomatic missions in Victoria, other than that of the U.S., are the British, French, Chinese, Russian, and Indian. The largest component of the 2,000 foreign residents is comprised of South Asian expatriates employed by the Seychelles Government, parastatals, and multinational corporations.

It should be noted that, for all its charm, Seychelles is small and isolated. Since the distance to the mainland is about 1,000 miles, it is prohibitively expensive to leave the island periodically. The result is that some people suffer from "island fever," although it is usually only an especially long stay that produces such an effect.


Geography and Climate

Situated in the western Indian Ocean, just south of the equator, The Republic of Seychelles consists of a nucleus of several granitic islands, with a large number of outlying coralline islands. It is an aggregate of more than 171 square miles of land, and about 600,000 square miles of territorial sea and exclusive economic zone. The 115 islands in the archipelago are divided into two distinct groups: the Mahé, 40 granite islands with high hills and mountains; and the coral-line group, which are, for the most part, only a few feet above sea level, and generally uninhabited except for plantation workers collecting coconuts for copra. The main group of islands is of rugged formation and lies on the center of a bank which covers about 16,000 square miles.

The granitic group is fairly compact, with no island being more than 35 miles from Mahé. Its total land area is 87 square miles, of which Mahé(the largest and most important island) claims 55.6 miles. These islands are rocky in formation, with an extremely narrow littoral, from which a central range of hills and mountains rises steeply to almost 3,000 feet. The vegetation is lush and tropical, and the sea gentle and beautiful, owing to the surrounding coral reefs.

Mahélies between 4° and 5° south latitude. It is 17 miles long and four to seven miles wide, rising abruptly from the sea to a maximum altitude of 2,969 feet at the top of Morne Seychellois National Park. The only other islands of importance in terms of size and permanent population are Praslin, 21 miles from Mahé, and La Digue, 30 miles away.

The coralline islands lie between 60 and 612 miles from Mahé. No permanent population resides on most of them; indeed, some are waterless and uninhabitable.

The daily temperature is about 80°F, and varies little throughout the year. The hot, humid season runs from December to May. March and April are the hottest, but temperatures seldom exceed 88°F. During the coolest months, July and August, temperatures drop as low as 70°F. Southeast trade winds blow regularly from May to November and this period, corresponding to winter elsewhere in southern latitudes, is the coolest, driest, and most pleasant part of the year. At higher altitude levels, on the inhabited part of the rocky hills, temperatures are cooler and the air fresher.

Rainfall varies considerably from island to island and from year to year. The rainfall recorded at Victoria, the capital, has averaged 94 inches for the past 25 years. The greater part falls in the hot months when the northwest trade winds blow. During the rainy months, the climate is enervating because of high humidity and constant heat. The islands are outside the hurricane zone, and thunderstorms are rare and mild when they do occur. By contrast, rainfall in the outlying coralline group is far less, ranging from 50 inches in the more easterly islands to 20 inches on southernmost Aldabra, which is considered the world's largest atoll.


The people of the Seychelles are non-indigenous. The islands were completely uninhabited until the middle of the 18th century when French settlers arrived, bringing with them African slaves. Since then, an influx of Chinese and Indian traders has formed today's main mercantile class. Intermarriage has been widespread, resulting in a great diversity of people. It is difficult to delineate ethnic groups accurately.

The total population of Seychelles is about 80,000, with nearly 90 percent living on Mahé. Victoria's population is approximately 40,000; some of these are expatriates, including French, British, Italians, and other continental Europeans. The predominant group remains the British, and includes business representatives, technical assistance workers, and many retirees. Since 1963, when the U.S. Air Force satellite tracking station was constructed on the Mahé mountain range of La Misere, the expatriate population has included many Americans.

Seychelles' islanders are charming and hospitable. Their official language is now Creole, but English is a second official tongue, and the study of French is compulsory in schools. Some 90 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, and the remainder Anglican, Seventh-Day Adventist, Baha'i, Hindu, and Muslim. About 58 percent of the adult population is literate.

Civic and social groups consist of the Rotary Club, the Round Table, and youth groups which meet in social centers. Neighborhood athletic leagues participate in soccer, boxing, field hockey, basketball, and volleyball.


Seychelles achieved independence from Great Britain on June 29, 1976. Following a coup on June 5, 1977, the existing constitution was suspended, and the legislature dismissed. A new constitution took effect on the same date two years later.

The 1993 constitution permits multiparty elections. The Seychelles had been governed as a one-party state since 1978, controlled by the Seychelles People's Progressive Front. Provision is for a National Assembly to be comprised of 34 members (25 directly elected and 9 assigned on a proportional basis). Under current terms, the president (who serves as both chief of state and head of government) is elected for a five-year term. France Albert René, who assumed power in the 1977 coup, was elected to the presidency two years later, and reelected in 1984, 1989, 1993, and 1998. After the multiparty elections in 1998, there were four opposition members in the National Assembly.

The civil service is based on the British system. Principal secretaries are charged with day-to-day operation of the ministries, under the guidance of presidentially appointed ministers.

Seychelles follows a policy of non-alignment in international affairs, and (in theory) requires a guarantee that all naval warships docking in the islands are without nuclear weapons.

Since 1996, the flag of Seychelles has consisted of five oblique bands of blue, yellow, red, white and green.

Arts, Science, Education

In 1981, a structured educational system was implemented, requiring attendance in grades one through ten. After completing the tenth grade, students who wish to continue their education may attend a one-year National Youth Service (NYS) Program. While living at the NYS village, students receive academic instruction as well as training in gardening, cooking, housekeeping, the care of livestock, etc. Those finishing NYS are then eligible to attend Seychelles Polytechnic (not a university-level institution) for pre-university training, or go to one of the technical training schools.

The initial language of instruction is Creole. English is introduced as a teaching language for certain subjects, beginning in grade three, and French in grade six.

No institutions of higher education operate in the islands. University entrance and higher professional training are available through the United Kingdom's technical assistance program, Commonwealth scholarships, U.S. African Manpower Development Program, French Government scholarships, and other programs.

The main library is the National Library in Victoria, with a branch on Praslin. The Seychelles National Archives and Museum are located just outside of Victoria at "La Bastille."

The handicrafts industry consists of tortoise shells and seashell items and basketry.

Commerce and Industry

Seychelles' primary problems are demographic and economic. The birth rate is still high, and poverty exists, although it is reduced in severity by the benign climate. Efficient production of plantation crops has required less labor in recent years. Increasing population, however, creates considerable development expenditures. Although government policies emphasize increased food production by small holders, agricultural production for export is still mainly based on the plantation system. Copra and cinnamon production is predominantly for export, and many foodstuffs are imported despite soil and climatic conditions that could produce a wide variety of agricultural products.

Vegetables are grown on the island along with many tropical fruits; however, importation is necessary. The land, though fertile, is limited in quantity and additional room is not available to expand production. Agricultural production has not kept up with the increased demand for food. Modern methods have not taken hold because of the high cost of imported materials.

The two most important crops are copra and cinnamon. Pakistan receives virtually all copra exports. Other important exports are canned tuna, fresh and frozen fish, oil (used in the manufacture of soap and perfume), fresh coconut, and guano.

The main industries prepare copra and vanilla pods and extract essential oils for export. Coconut oil for cooking, coconut for stock feed, soap, coir (coconut fiber) rope, mattress fiber, beer, soft drinks, tobacco, and cement are produced in small quantities for local consumption.

Seychelles has a small handicrafts industry. Locally made handicrafts include tortoise shell, coral jewelry, black coral, sea shells, batik, shark spine walking sticks, baskets, dolls, and the famous coco-de-mer or sea coconut, found only in the Seychelles. Ceramics and pottery are available at a local Potters Cooperative and a variety of African jewels and curios are on the local market.

Tourism provides more than 70 percent of foreign exchange earnings, over 20 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), and 30 percent of formal employment. This growth was made possible by the opening of the islands' first commercial airport on Mahéin December 1971.

A hotel building boom began in the 1970s. The number of tourists steadily increased. As a result, employment in tourism escalated rapidly, and foreign exchange earnings from this source rose to record levels. However, stiff international competition for tourist dollars and a dramatic drop in tourist receipts because of the 1991 Persian Gulf War caused the government to take steps to broaden its economic base. Over 120,000 tourists visit the Seychelles annually, generating over $100 million in revenue.

During the 1970s, considerable effort and money was devoted to improving infrastructure, primarily on Mahé, but also on the nearby islands of Praslin and La Digue. Roads, water and electricity supplies, a new deep water pier, urban land reclamation from the sea, improvement in telecommunications, education, and health projects are capital developments carried out during the past few years.

The main objectives of the Seychelles government are: diversification of the economy, particularly in agriculture and fisheries; expansion of home ownership; steady, controlled growth which can be sustained; increased employment; greater Seychellois participation in the economy; inclusion of the outer islands in economic development; more equitable distribution of the benefits of economic development; and a slower population growth rate.

Seychelles has traditionally incurred a trade deficit, offset by aid, private capital investment, and tourism earnings.

Seychelles is a member of the U.N. and several of its specialized agencies, the Organization of African Unity, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the International Monetary Fund.

There is no official Chamber of Commerce in the Republic of Seychelles.


Mahé is served by several international air carriers. Flights operate most days a week to Africa, Europe, and Asia. A few cruise ships call at Port Victoria each year.

Interisland travel is provided by Air Seychelles, ferryboat service, and private launches.

Mahé's public transportation is sporadic. Small buses operate to all parts of the island during the day. Taxis are in service on Mahé and Praslin. Rates are high and service after midnight is limited. Car rentals are readily available.

Roads are steep and narrow with dangerous hairpin turns and few guardrails. A single traffic lane moves on the left, and maximum speed is 65 kilometers (40 miles) per hour. There are few traffic signals, and no traffic signs posted.

For any extended stay in Seychelles, a personal car is a necessity. Only compacts or subcompacts are advisable; the steep, narrow roads have no shoulders or sidewalks, and cars often are parked on the sides. Good brakes are essential.

Spare parts for American cars are unavailable, and U.S.-manufactured automobiles are difficult to repair, especially those with automatic transmissions. The types of cars available locally are Toyota, Mazda, Honda, Nissan, Suzuki, Peugeot, and English Ford; all can be easily serviced and repaired. Wear and tear on vehicles, particularly on tires and brakes, is pronounced because of driving and road conditions.

Vehicle insurance rates are comparable to those in the U.S., but include full comprehensive, collision, and third-party coverage in the initial protection purchase.


Telephone and telegraph service is excellent. International calls and cables are carried by satellite, with a call to the U.S. rarely requiring more than three minutes for contact. Airmail arrives from the U.S. in approximately 10 days; surface mail is en route from three to six months.

Radio Seychelles broadcasts in French, English, and Creole. Television broadcasting is in the PAL-B format. Programming is limited to two or three programs per week of general interest, including feature films, sitcoms, and newscasts.

A wide range of magazines and newspapers is available in Seychelles. It is possible to obtain the International Herald Tribune, weekly editions of Time and Newsweek, and a variety of other publications in French and German, as well as in English. The American Cultural Center displays more than 25 different periodicals. Bookstores carry a good selection of fiction and nonfiction paperbacks. Some home and fashion books or magazines are available.


Local facilities on Mahé are adequate for most routine medical needs, and the major hospital on the island is suitable for emergency medical and surgical care. The hospital is staffed by expatriate doctors, a few of whom have received their training in the U.K.

Although there is a dental clinic, most specialized medical care is unobtainable. For example, no optometrist or optician practices in the country, and U.S. residents find it necessary to travel to Nairobi (Kenya) for routine eye examinations.

Health problems on Mahé include intestinal parasites (hookworm, amebiasis, whipworm, and tape-worm). Venereal diseases are widespread, with no active health programs for their control. However, infectious hepatitis is uncommon, and tropical diseases such as malaria and yellow fever are unknown. Dengue fever epidemics occurred in 1976, 1978, and 1986; some cases were also reported in 1992. While it is not fatal, this disease causes high fever and severe discomfort for up to a week, followed by unpleasant aftereffects. Government-supplied water is potable.

All raw fruits and vegetables should be washed before eating. Most meats come from abroad and can be eaten rare. Persons assigned to Seychelles (or visiting) are advised to receive, as well as thorough medical and dental checkups, inoculations against typhoid, measles, and DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus), and gamma globulin shots.

Most drugs, including antibiotics, can be obtained either locally or at the tracking station, but an adequate supply of nonprescription medicines (including vitamins), insect repellent, familiar brands of cosmetics, and other drugstore items should be kept on hand. Wash raw vegetables and fruits before eating.

Clothing and Services

American-style summer clothing is both appropriate and comfortable in Seychelles. Men find that safari suits, casual slacks, and short-sleeved shirts are acceptable everywhere. Women wear either cotton or cotton-blend fabrics (synthetics are too warm) in long and short styles. Sundresses are most comfortable during the day; pantsuits are rarely worn. Shorts are suitable only at home or at the beach. Coats and ties (for men) and formal or expensive clothing (women) are needed only for such occasions as weddings or funerals. Simple, lightweight fabrics are best for children.

Because of the humidity, mold, and mildew, clothes and shoes do not last as long as in the U.S. Shoes are of good quality in Seychelles, but tend to be overpriced.

Umbrellas, light raincoats, sunglasses, lightweight sweaters, and shawls are needed. Winter clothing is inappropriate for island living, but one should keep in mind the possibility of travel to cooler climates.

Adequate shoe-repair service can be found in Victoria. No dry cleaners are available on the island. Major hotels have beauty/barber salons, and hairdressers are located in various places throughout the city. Good dressmakers and tailors are also available. Radio and appliance repair is virtually nonexistent. Hardware stores carry a good supply of tools and repair materials. Auto repairs (for standard-transmission vehicles) are excellent when spare parts are available. Film developing is available but expensive.

A good selection of toiletries and cosmetics is easily obtained at local shops, but at prices higher than in the U.S. Stores carry brands from South Africa and Europe. A family planning an extended stay in Seychelles should have a supply of paper products, candles, art materials, sports equipment, sewing needs (including fabrics), toys, and craft/hobby items. All manufactured goods are more expensive in Victoria than in the U.S.

Most foodstuffs are imported from New Zealand, India, Kenya, France, South Africa, Singapore, and Australia. Because of the uncertainty of shipping schedules, Victoria experiences occasional shortages of particular items.

Beef, lamb, and shellfish are imported. Pork, chicken, duck, and various fish can be purchased locally and are of excellent quality. Canned meats and luncheon meats are not always available. Local bacon and sausage have a high fat content. Frozen vegetables are limited and expensive. Some seasonal fresh tropical fruit and vegetables are available locally; quality varies from good to excellent. The following vegetables and fruits are imported periodically and are expensive; celery, oranges, strawberries, apples, cauliflower, potatoes, grapes, pears, cabbage, and squash.

Canned, powdered, reconstituted, and sterilized milk are available, as are eggs and butter. Cheese is imported and when available the selection is good. A modest selection of cooking spices is always available.

Domestic Help

Domestic help is available, and most domestics have some experience and speak English. Salaries are somewhat high. Local government regulations strictly enforce minimum wages and social security benefits. While all salaries are negotiable above the minimum, the Seychelles Labor Board sets recommended wages for domestic workers, based on each person's requirement.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Jan. 2 & 3 Bank Holiday

Mar.(2nd Mon) Commonwealth Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

May 1 Labor Day

May/June Corpus Christi*

June 5 Liberation Day

June 29 Independence Day

Aug. 15 Assumption

Nov. 1 All Saints' Day

Dec. 8 Immaculate Conception

Dec. 25 Christmas Day



The most direct route from the U.S. to the Seychelles is from New York to Nairobi (Kenya), and from there to Victoria via Kenya Airways. Some people prefer to travel to Europe (London, Frankfurt, Paris), and then to Seychelles on a direct flight.

No special problems should be encountered for entry into Seychelles. Americans do not need visas (only passports), but should have a transit visa for Kenya.

Travelers arriving from the U.S. or Europe are not required to have immunizations; those arriving from endemic areas must show evidence of current cholera and yellow fever inoculations. Cars entering Seychelles must have third-party liability coverage, and drivers are required to have valid U.S. or international licenses.

Pets must be quarantined in the United Kingdom for six months before entering Seychelles. No exceptions are considered.

No firearms or ammunition may be brought into the country.

The Anglicans and Roman Catholics each maintain a cathedral in Victoria, and the Seventh-Day Adventists have a church. A Sunday interdenominational service is conducted each week by the Far East Broadcasting Agency (FEBA), a Christian missionary group. A non-sectarian mosque opened in Victoria in 1982. No facilities exist here for most other Protestant denominations or for the Jewish faith.

The time in Seychelles is Greenwich Mean Time plus four hours.

Local currency is the Seychelles rupee (SR). Amendments to foreign exchange laws require that visitors pay for their hotel stays via a credit card. If they wish to make payment in Seychelles rupees, they are required to show proof of acquisition. If the rupees were won at a casino, a casino receipt should be shown as proof.

In 1981, Seychelles converted to metric weights and measures. However, many commodities entering the country are marked in accordance with British or American standards.


The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Camerapix. Seychelles. New York:Hunter Publishing, 1991.

Fodor's Kenya, Tanzania, Seychelles. 3d ed. New York: Fodor's Travel Publications, 1990.

Hassall, S. Let's Visit the Seychelles. London: Macmillan Publications, 1988.

Hassall, S., and P.J. Hassall. Seychelles. Let's Visit Places and Peoples of the World Series. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.

Hildebrand Travel Guides. Seychelles. Rev. ed. New York: Hunter Publishing, 1990.

Kenya, Tanzania, Seychelles: With Ratings of Major Safaris. 3d ed. New York: McKay, 1990.

McAteer, W. Rivals in Eden. London: Book Guild, 1991.

Willox, Robert. Mauritius, Reunion & the Seychelles: A Travel Survival Kit. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 1989.

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Republic of Seychelles



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.


Tourism, agriculture and fishing, and industry are the 3 main sectors of the Seychelles economy. The current structure of the country's economy was formed during the 1970s and 1980s and underwent drastic changes in the 1990s. Despite government efforts to encourage agricultural and industrial development, tourism remains the dominant sector in the country's economy. It provides most of the country's revenue and employment, and it maintains a positive image of the archipelago as an exotic and desirable destination.

France acquired the uninhabited islands in 1756 and populated them with French settlers and slaves from the African continent. In 1814, after the Napoleonic wars in Europe, Great Britain established its control over the Seychelles, administering them from Mauritius. The islands were important to British trade routes, due to their strategic location halfway between the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) and the Indian subcontinent. This strategic importance diminished somewhat after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. In 1903 the Seychelles became a Crown Colony, but its extremely limited resources and remote location isolated the country from the major events of the 20th century.

Since the 1970s, 2 factors have impacted the economic and social life of the Seychelles: mass-market international tourisman international airport opened in 1971and independence in 1976, which ushered in a period of centralized planning. A government led by France Albert Rene introduced state control over major sectors of the economy, and the first centralized 5-year plan was introduced in 1985, modeled after the socialist economies of Eastern Europe. This plan created around 30 parastatals (state-controlled enterprises) covering all sectors of economic activities. With the demise of the Soviet Union and of state socialism in the early 1990s, the Seychelles government initiated elements of a free-market economy under the guidance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. Most state enterprises, with the exception of public utilities and transport, were privatized , and the government attempted to increase foreign investments by developing the country as an international "offshore" financial-services center. The economic development program in the 1980s and 1990s increasingly relied on external borrowing, although the country managed to reduce its total external debt from US$474 million in 1979 to US$166 million in 1989. In 1999 the external public debt was estimated by the IMF at US$188.5 million (31 percent of the GDP), compared with US$153 million (26 percent of the GDP) in 1997. These figures are very high for a small country of 79,000 people, leading to fiscal and external imbalances and to the growing burden of external debt servicing.


Since achieving independence from the United Kingdom in 1976, the Seychelles political scene has been dominated by the intense competition between 2 political parties and personalities, the right-centrist Seychelles Democratic Party (SDP) and the leftist Seychelles People's United Party (SPUP). Immediately after independence, Sir James Mancham of the SDP became the first president and France Albert Rene of the SPUP became prime minister. The coalition unraveled after a 1977 coup by Rene that forced Mancham into exile. In 1979, the constitution of 1976 was replaced by a significantly revised one that replaced the multiparty system with a one-party state. The SPUP, renamed to the Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF), became the only political party in the country. Rene was elected president in 1979 and survived several coup attempts. In a dramatic political turn, the one-party political system was abandoned in 1992 under a new constitution that restored multiparty rule and saw Mancham return from exile to lead the SDP once more. Support of the SDP gradually declined with the rise of another opposition party, the Seychelles National Party (SNP, formerly the United Opposition), led by Wavel Ramkalawan. In elections for the 35-seat legislature in 1998, the SPPF won 61.7 percent of the vote, SNP won 26.1 percent, and the SDP won only 12.1 percent. Rene also won reelection as president. Despite this political tumult, elections and transitions of power have been peaceful.

Under President Rene, Seychelles introduced a socialist economy with state control over economic activities and 5-year national development plans, though the government also sought financial assistance from England and France. The main aims of the government policy were the diversification of the national economy, development of agricultural and manufacturing industries, the production of goods for domestic consumption and for export, and increase of hard currency . Most tax revenues in the Seychelles are derived from the net income or profit of a business. This tax is paid by resident and non-resident business owners on a graduated scale that ranges from 0 percent of the first SRe24,000 of income up to 40 percent of higher levels of income. Imported products, including alcohol and cigarettes, are also taxed. In 1998 trade taxes accounted for 44 percent of total revenues.


The Seychelles has a well-established infrastructure in the northern Mahe group of islands, but not in the remoter group of coral islands to the south. After independence, the government made considerable efforts to expand its infrastructure in order to attract upper-middle-class tourists from Europe and North America. The concentration of the population in the capital of Victoria and in the few main islands made this task easy. In 1999, the major islands were served by a network of 424 kilometers (263 miles) of roads, of which 370 kilometers (230 miles) were paved. The country restricts car ownership through an annual quota system for auto imports. It is estimated that the total number of registered vehicles reached 9,394 in 1999. None of the islands have railways, and the islands' public transportation system relies on a bus fleet.

The country has 6 airports with paved runways and 8 with unpaved runways. The international airport at Pointe Larue was opened in 1971. The national air carrier, Air Seychelles, regularly flies to Frankfurt, London, Milan, Paris, Rome, and Zurich in Europe, as well as to Dubai, Johannesburg, Mauritius, Nairobi, and Singapore. It operates a small fleet of 4 light aircraft servicing the inter-island routes and a fleet of Boeing aircraft for inter-continental flights. The islands are also served by some international air-carriers, including the British Airline, Kenya Airways, Aeroflot, Air Mauritius, and others. The main port and harbor is Victoria. The state-controlled operator uses ferries to link Mahe with Praslin and La Digue. Private schooners are also available for trips to some islands.

The Seychelles has no oil, gas, or coal resources and relies solely on imported petroleum. Only Mahe, Praslin, and La Digue islands have electricity; total power production was around 125 million kW in 1998, and there was a plan to build a new 50 mW thermal station.

Telecommunication services in the Seychelles have been under intensive reconstruction since the early 1990s. According to the local authorities, there were 19,635 telephone lines and a rapidly growing number of mobile phone subscribers (16,316 in 1999), although the CIA World Factbook lists considerably lower numbers of phone usage. The country had 1 Internet service provider (ISP) hosting 818 accounts in 1999.


Economic development in the Seychelles is limited by its geographic isolation, lack of natural resources, and a small population. The country heavily relies on international tourism from European and North American countries. The number of tourists arriving to the Seychelles

Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations b Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Seychelles 19,635 16,316 (1999) AM 1; FM 2;shortwave 2 42,000 2 11,000 1 5,000
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542;shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
South Africa 5.075 M (1999) 2 M (1999) AM 14; FM 347;shortwave 1 13.75 M 556 5.2 M 44 1.82 M
Mauritius 223,000 37,000 AM 5; FM 9;shortwave 2 420,000 2 258,000 2 55,000
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

rose steadily from the 1970s until the middle of the 1990s, and declined slightly afterwards. While employment in tourism-related industries dominates private sector employment, the largest single employer is the government, which employed 9,989 people, or 32 percent of the labor force , in 1999.

Manufacturing, which in 1999 accounted for 28.8 percent of total GDP according to Seychelles in Figures 2000, is the fastest-growing sector of the national economy, with an average annual growth rate of 4.8 percent between 1979 and 1989, while services were growing at an average annual rate of 2.8 percent. Services accounted for 68 percent of GDP in 1999, however, and employed 57 percent of the population in 1998. During the 1990s, the agricultural sector experienced a gradual decline and by 1999 contributed only 3.2 percent of GDP. Large investments into expansion of the manufacturing and other sectors led to considerable balance-of-payment deficits and foreign-exchange shortages.


Agriculture and forestry have limited importance for the Seychelles, accounting for just 3.2 percent of GDP in 1999 and providing employment for 7 percent of the labor force (including fisheries). The country produces copra, cinnamon bark, and tea for export in very small quantities and depends on the world prices on these products. The country exported 214 tons of cinnamon bark and 236 tons of green leaf tea in 1999. However, it has to import cereals and some other foodstuff in order to meet the consumer needs of the local population and tourists. During the last few years there was an attempt to expand fruit and vegetable production for the local market. The government has also invested considerably in forestry in order to increase the country's lumber resources for domestic consumption.

Fishing is an important sector of the Seychelles economy. The country's exclusive economic zone extends 320 kilometers (200 miles) beyond its coastal area, which provides control of over 1 million square kilometers (386,100 square miles) of the Indian Ocean. The local population is engaged in catching fish for local consumption and for export while the government benefits from licensing fishing in its territorial waters and from payments by foreign vessels. In 1987 the first tuna-canning factory was opened in the country. Exports of canned tuna have been growing steadily, from SRe169 million in 1996 to SRe541.5 million (US$102 million) in 1999. The prawn-producing sector expanded rapidly in the early 1990s with its exports reaching SRe34.1 million (US$6.5 million) by 1998. Liberalization and opening of the country's economy attracted some foreign investments in the 1990s. In 1995 the U.S.-based H. J. Heinz Company established control over the tuna-processing plant and pledged US$15.4 million in investments and 900 jobs.


The industrial sector in the Seychelles is small and domestically oriented, accounting for 28.8 percent of the GDP and providing employment for 23 percent of the labor force in 1999, according to Seychelles in Figures 2000. During the 1980s the government heavily invested in the manufacturing sector, and by 1999 the country was producing beer (6,000 tons), soft drinks (10,500 tons), cigarettes (70 million), and some other consumer products.

Mining has played an insignificant role in the national economy, although some experts believe that the seabed around the Seychelles is rich in various natural resources. However, the current development technologies do not allow exploration or extraction of these natural resources that could yield commercially viable profits.



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.


The Seychelles' international trade has fluctuated considerably after the country achieved independence in 1976 due to its sensitivity to world prices and economic conditions in main trade-partner countries. The country incurs trade deficits because it imports all machinery and

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Seychelles
Exports Imports
1975 .006 .032
1980 .021 .099
1985 .028 .099
1990 .056 .186
1995 .053 .233
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

equipment, and a wide range of consumer goods , including foodstuffs, and fuel. The government addresses the problem by imposing certain restrictions on imports through the Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB) and by promoting self-sufficiency.

The country's economy is so small that the construction of even a single plant or hotel might significantly improve the country's statistics: the opening of a tuna-canning plant in 1987 boosted exports by 160 percent. Britain is the Seychelles' traditional primary trading partner, followed by France, Germany, and South Africa. In 1998 exports reached US$91 million, while imports reached US$403 million. The trade balance deficit was US$312 million. The Seychelles' government is working to improve the current-account balance deficit with assistance from the IMF.


The Seychelles rupee has been remarkably stable since 1979, when it was linked to the IMF's special drawing rights (SDR). This fixed link was abandoned only in 1997 in favor of a free exchange rate . The exchange rate for the Seychelles rupee rose slowly from 4.762 per U.S. dollar in 1995 to Sre5.306 in 1999. The average rate of consumer inflation was around 6.5 percent in 1999, compared to 2.6 percent in 1998.

Exchange rates: Seychelles
Seychelles rupees (SRe) per US$1
Nov 2000 6.0397
2000 5.6009
1999 5.3426
1998 5.2622
1997 5.0263
1996 4.9700
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].
GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Seychelles 3,600 4,882 4,957 6,297 7,192
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
South Africa 4,574 4,620 4,229 4,113 3,918
Mauritius 1,531 1,802 2,151 2,955 4,034
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.


The Seychelles has one of the highest standards of living when it is compared to countries in continental Africa. In 1999 the GDP per capita was equivalent to US$7,500 (estimated at purchasing power parity ). During the first 2 decades after independence in 1976, the government attempted to reduce social polarization through state control over economic activities and by creation of the parastatals. Education has been accessible to the majority of the population, and the literacy rate is 84.2 percent. However, since the middle of the 1990s there has emerged evidence of increasing diversification of incomes and social polarization.


In 1999 the Seychelles labor force consisted of 30,786 people, according to Seychelles in Figures 2000, and the unemployment rate was around 11.0 percent. The labor market is heavily regulated, which requires all those working or seeking work to register with the government. Permission from the National Workers' Union is required for all dismissals or changing of jobs. In recent years, however, there has been some liberalization of the labor market, especially in conjunction with the opening of the Seychelles International Trade Zone in 1995. The government-controlled parastatals traditionally provided employment for almost half of the economically active population, although their role decreased in the late 1990s. Independent trade unions have been allowed since November 1993.


1756. France takes over the uninhabited islands.

1814. Great Britain establishes control, administering from Mauritius.

1903. The Seychelles become a Crown Colony.

1964. The socialist-oriented Seychelles People's United Party (SPUP) is established.

1976. Republic of Seychelles declares its independence within the Commonwealth. The first constitution is introduced.

1976. Sir James Mancham of the right-center Seychelles Democratic Party (SDP) becomes president.

1977. France Albert Rene stages a coup.

1977. The SPUP is renamed the Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF).

1979. Second constitution is introduced, making the Seychelles a one-party political system; Rene is elected president; Seychelles rupee is linked to the IMF's special drawing right (SDR).

1981. Attempted overthrow of socialist government by mercenaries disguised as tourists.

1985. The first 5-year National Development Plan (NDP One) is introduced.

1986. Attempted coup by former Minister of Defense.

1991. Return to multiparty political system.

1993. Third constitution is adopted; Mancham returns from exile after legislative elections.

1995. Economic Development Act (EDA) introduced in attempt to attract offshore financial services; establishment of the Seychelles International Trade Zone (SITZ).

1997. Abandonment of the fixed link between the Seychelles rupee and the IMF's special drawing right (SDR).

1998. Rene and his supporters win in legislative elections.


Despite the steady economic growth since the 1970s, and the contributions of tourism to revenues, the economic future of the Seychelles is far from certain. As a niche market in the tourism industry, it has to compete with neighboring Mauritius, Madagascar, and Comoros, which offer cheaper tourist services. Decay of the barrier reefs due to global warming might lead to the erosion of many small islands. The country needs to further diversify its economy by reducing its over-dependence on the tourism sector while preserving its standards of living and its political stability.


Seychelles has no territories or colonies.


Gabbay, Rony, and Robin N. Ghosh. Economic Development in a Small Island Economy: A Study of the Seychelles Marketing Board. Perth (Australia): Academic Press International, 1992.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report: Seychelles. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, November 2000.

Scarr, Deryck. Seychelles since 1770: History of a Slave and Post-Slavery Society. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2000.

Seychelles International Business Authority. Seychelles: Your International Business Centre. <>. Accessed July 2001.

Statistics and Database Administration Section MISD. Seychelles in Figures 2000. <>. Accessed July 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook, 2000. <>. Accessed June 2001.

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.


US$590 million (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$91 million (f.o.b., 1998). Imports: US$403 million (c.i.f., 1998).

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Official name: Republic of Seychelles

Area: 455 square kilometers (176 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Seychelles (Morne Seychellois) (912 meters/2,992 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Southern and Eastern

Time zone: 4 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 27 kilometers (17 miles) from north to south; 11 kilometers (7 miles) from east to west; stretching 1,200 kilometers (100 miles) from northeast to southwest

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 491 kilometers (305 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Seychelles is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, off the eastern coast of Africa and northeast of Madagascar. With an area of about 455 square kilometers (176 square miles), the country is about two-and-one-half times the size of Washington, D.C. Seychelles is divided into twenty-three districts.


Seychelles has no outside territories or dependencies.


Despite lying close to the equator, trade winds keep the country's climate temperate. Coastal temperatures remain fairly constant at 27°C (81°F) throughout the year. Temperatures are generally lower at the higher altitudes, especially at night. Humidity tends to be high, particularly in the coastal regions.

Average annual rainfall varies markedly across the islands of the Seychelles. The coastal regions on Mahé experience an annual rainfall of 236 centimeters (93 inches), while the areas at higher elevations receive about 356 centimeters (140 inches). The coral islands of the southwest, such as Aldabra and Assumption, experience much less rainfall, averaging about 50 centimeters (20 inches) annually.

Generally, the period from May through October is slightly drier, although southeast-erly winds bring brief rains every two to three days even during these months of the year. The northeasterly winds prevail from December through March, bringing heavier and more frequent rains.


There are more than one hundred islands that make up the country of Seychelles. Generally they fall into two categories: the core group of high-rising granite islands, and a group of low coralline atolls in the southwest part of the country. Seychelles is located on the African Tectonic Plate.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

The Seychelles archipelago is spread over approximately 388,498 square kilometers (150,000 square miles) of the Indian Ocean east of Africa. Surrounding the islands are coral reefs.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Baie Ternay and Port Launay, both on Mahé Island, are adjacent marine parks edged in stunning coral reefs.

Islands and Archipelagos

The total number of islands varies depending upon what is considered an island. Some are merely sand cays and shoals barely above the high tide mark. There are thirty-two granitic Seychelles islands; the remaining seventy to ninety islands are coralline. The total land area of the granitic group is about 259 square kilometers (100 square miles).

The largest granitic island is Mahé (144 square kilometers/56 square miles). It is surrounded by coral reefs and ringed by beaches featuring fine white sand. Praslin, the second-largest island, is located northeast of Mahé. The United Nations' Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated Vallée de Mai near the center of the island as a World Heritage Site. It is the only place in the world where the coco-de-mer palm tree is found. It is also home to three of the world's rarest birds: the Seychelles bulbul, the fruit pigeon, and the black parrot.

Other inhabited (or tourist destination) islands include La Digue (east of Praslin); Frigate (directly east of Mahé and south of La Digue); and Silhouette (northwest of Mahé). The most northerly of the granitic islands is Aride, home to a bird sanctuary.

The Cosmoledo Group makes up the most southwesterly of the Seychelles. The coralline Aldabra, part of the Aldabra Group (Groupe d'Aldabra), is the world's largest atoll. The group includes a ring of four islands with a central lagoon that fills and empties twice each day through four channels. The diversity of wildlife, including giant tortoises and the Aldabran Rail (a species of flightless bird), have also earned the island a designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Coastal Features

White, sandy beaches surround the granitic islands with flats of corals and shells behind them. Tar balls have washed up on the beaches for decades, indicating the possibility of undersea oil reserves.


There are no major lakes in Seychelles, but there are small ponds and marshes on some of the islands.


There are no major rivers in Seychelles. There are, however, many small streams that drain the mountain slopes.


There are no desert regions in Seychelles.


Seychelles has no permanent pastures and only 13 percent of its land is used for crops. Only 11 percent of Seychelles is considered forest land. Primary forests exist only on Praslin and Curieuse Islands, both of which lie north of Mahé. These native forests of the coco-de-mer palm tree are now protected in small reserves. Coconut plantations have virtually replaced all broadleaf evergreen rain forests. Other native tree species on Seychelles have adapted to the local conditions. Many forests are planted with fruit and spice plants, making good use of scarce land resources.


The Mascarene Ridge, a granite ridge that runs from north to south mostly underwater in the Indian Ocean, formed most of the islands of the Seychelles. On Mahé, Mount Seychelles (Morne Seychellois) reaches the highest point in the nation at 912 meters (2,992 feet). The mountainous characteristics of the granitic islands are among the notable characteristics that appeal to tourists.


There are no major land caves in Seychelles. Several underwater caves surround the coastlines of the islands, however; these provide homes to a variety of marine life.


There are no major plateau regions in Seychelles.


There are no major man-made structures affecting the geography of Seychelles.



Carpin, Sarah. Seychelles. Chicago: Passport Books, 1997.

Journey through Seychelles. Edison, NJ: Hunter Publishing Co, 1994.

Ozanne, J.A.F. Coconuts and Créoles. London: P. Allan & Co., 1936.

Travis, William. Beyond the Reefs. New York: Dutton, 1959.

Vine, Peter. Seychelles. London: Immel Publishing, 1992.

Web Sites

Seychelles: Islands and Parks. (accessed April 15, 2003).

Seychelles Nation. (accessed April 15, 2003).

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Seychelles
Region: Africa
Population: 79,326
Language(s): English, French, Creole
Literacy Rate: 58%

Seychelles is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean made up of about 115 islands, most of which are uninhabited. With an area of 455 square kilometers, Seychelles is about 2.5 times the size of Washington, DC, and is the second smallest country in Africa. The country has a population of approximately 80,000 people with an average life expectancy of nearly 70.5 years. The inhabitants are Seychellois, which is a mixture of Asians, Africans, and Europeans. Approximately 90 percent of the people are Roman Catholics. The predominant languages are English, French, and Creole. In 1995, the literacy rate for the population was 85 percent, with the definition of literacy being age 15 and over who can read and write. The country has a legal system based on English common law, French civil law, and customary law.

In 1985, The Ministry of Education produced a new version of education titled "Education for a new Society," which laid the groundwork for many changes in the education system. In 1990, the country's president announced a number of wide-ranging improvements to education, later called "1991 Education Reform." In 1994, the Education Management Division in the Ministry of Education initiated the "School Improvement Programme Project," and in 1999 the policy of Education Reform was begun. The purpose of these reforms in Seychelles has been to improve access and quality of education through a coherent and comprehensive system. As a result of the 1999 Education Reform, a new section of management has been established in the Principal Secretary's office. This section, called The Education Planning Council, functions to make policies, coordinate improvements, and monitor the country's educational plan. Between 1990 and 1997, a major school reconstruction project was completed. The major purpose of the project was to bring all schools in Seychelles up to minimum standard levels in physical structures, materials, resources, equipment, and textbooks.

Formal education in Seychelles began in the mid-1800s with the opening of Roman Catholic and Anglican mission schools staffed by foreign teachers. The government assumed responsibility for these schools in 1944. When the government opened a technical college in 1970, the country had a supply of locally trained teachers and was able to establish more schools. A system of free and compulsory education was established in 1981 for children in grades one through nine.

Students are taught to read and write in Creole until grade three, when they are taught in English in some subjects. Education in French begins in grade six. When students finish their compulsory education, they are given the opportunity to attend a National Youth Service (NYS) program where they receive training in academics and in life skills. In 1991, the enrollment in NYS was 1,394 students. Students who do not attend NYS can volunteer for a six-month government work program in which they are paid a small stipend while training.

Education for students is free and compulsory from ages 5 to 16 in primary and secondary schools. Prior to age five, schools called creches provide preprimary education. All creches have formally organized early childhood care and development. Although creche education is not compulsory, it is operated and funded by the government. Creches have their own curriculum and are staffed by teachers specializing in early childhood education. The creches operate under the schools section of the Ministry of Education, and each is attached to the closest primary school. In 1999, enrollment in early childhood programs totaled 3,212 students.

Primary education is designated as grades one through six and secondary education continues for another five years. However, only three years of secondary are compulsory. Special education is also provided within the spectrum of primary and secondary education. In 2000, the total number of students enrolled in Seychelles' schools was 22,651. Of that number, 3,065 were in creches, 10,026 were in primary, and 7,742 were in secondary. In addition, 1,818 students were enrolled in postsecondary schools. The total number of teachers for 2000 was 1,644, which produced a student/teacher ratio of 13.8:1. The number of students and teachers has remained fairly steady since 1997. Government's cost to educate its students was more than 8.5 percent of total expenditures in 1998.

Students who complete their secondary education can attend Seychelles Polytechnic College where they are able to receive pre-university training in teacher education, business, humanities and science, and hotels/tourism. Since no university exists in Seychelles, further education is usually done through scholarship programs of other countries.

The government has established an adult literacy program, which is administered by the Ministry of Education. The basic components of the adult education program match those of the other education programs. The major goal of adult education is to reach a literacy rate of 90 percent.

Education reforms, budget expenditures, and emphasis on educational equity for all are evidence of Seychelles' dedication to its inhabitants. The government stresses accountability, productivity, and technology mastery as elements to ensure the success of its education system as the method to prepare its inhabitants to operate confidently in this modern world.


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Factbook 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from

The Europa World Yearbook 2000. London: Europa Publications Limited.

MISD. "Statistics and Database Administration Section." Seychelles in Figures, 2000. Available from

UNESCO. EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports-Seychelles. Available from

United States Library of Congress. Seychelles-A Country Study, August 1994. Available from

Linda K. Clemmer

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Seychelles (sāshĕlz´), officially Republic of Seychelles, republic (2005 est. pop. 81,000), c.110 sq mi (285 sq km), comprising approximately 100 islands in the Indian Ocean, c.600 mi (970 km) N of Madagascar and c.1,000 mi (1,600 km) E of Mombasa, Kenya. The capital and only urban center and port is Victoria, located on the largest island, Mahé (c.55 sq mi/140 sq km), where about 90% of the population lives.

Land and People

Mahé and the other principal islands (Praslin, La Digue, Silhouette, and Curieuse) are granitic; there are also around 50 coralline islands. The population is mainly of mixed French, African, South Asian, Chinese, and Arab descent. Over 80% of the population is Roman Catholic, but there are other Christian, Hindu, and Muslim minorities. Most of the inhabitants speak a creole language, although English is the official language.


Coconuts, cinammon, vanilla, sweet potatoes, cassava, and bananas are grown. Tourism, which has expanded greatly since the 1970s, provides the bulk of the country's hard currency earnings. Fishing, agricultural processing, and boat building are the other important industries. Processed fish, cinnamon bark, copra, and vanilla are exported. Machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum products, and chemicals are imported. Spain, Great Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa are important trading partners.


The Seychelles is governed under the constitution of 1993. The president, who is both head of state and head of government, is popularly elected for a five-year term and is eligible for two more terms. The unicameral legislature consists of the 34-seat National Assembly. Twenty-five members are elected by popular vote, and nine are chosen proportionally by parties winning at least 10% of the vote. All serve five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 23 districts.


Probably known earlier to the Arabs, the Seychelles were explored by Vasco da Gama in 1502. In 1756 the French claimed the islands, and colonization by French planters and their slaves from Mauritius (Île de France) began in 1768. Britain took possession of the Seychelles in 1794 and gained permanent control of them by the Treaty of Paris (1814). The islands were administered as part of Mauritius until 1903, when they were constituted a crown colony. The first elections to a legislative council were held in 1948.

The Seychelles became self-governing in 1975 and gained independence within the Commonwealth of Nations in 1976. The first president, James Mancham, was overthrown in a bloodless coup in 1977 and replaced by Albert René, the head of the Seychelles People's Progressive Front. René suspended the existing constitution and in 1979 established a presidential government and one-party rule. He also introduced significant social reforms, maintained ties with Western nations, and fostered economic diversification. A multiparty democracy was reestablished in the Seychelles under the new constitution of 1993; René won reelection in 1993, 1998, and 2001. He retired in 2004, and was succeeded by his vice president, James Michel. In 2006, Michel was elected president in his own right; he was reelected in 2011. In late 2008 the government sought financial rescue package from the International Monetary Fund as the world financial crisis and recession and the islands' high international debt strained the country's finances; as a result the government was forced to adopt austerity measures and fiscal reforms.


See M. Franda, The Seychelles (1982).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Seychelles
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 79,326
Language(s): English, French, Creole
Literacy rate: 58%

The Seychelles, located in the Indian Ocean northeast of Madagascar, served as a home base for pirates in the early seventeenth century. Claimed by France in 1754, in 1770 the first boats of settlers began to arrive. Britain soon took an interest in the islands, and ownership changed hands 12 times before Britain took over for good after the Napoleonic Wars. The country declared independence in 1976.

English and French are the official languages, but Creole also is spoken. The population is around 80,000, and the literacy rate is 58 percent. A president serves as both chief of state and head of government. The legislative body is a 34-seat National Assembly. The most important sector of the economy is tourism, followed by tuna fishing. The government is trying to diversify into farming, fishing and light manufacturing because of the instability of the tourism industry.

The Seychelles' constitution guarantees press freedom on the condition that the reputation, rights, and liberties of privacy are protected in the interest of national defense, public security, public morality and health. As a result of this caveat, the government has been called the most repressive regime for press freedom. For example, a newspaper affiliated with the opposition political party has been forced to pay the president and other government officials more than 3,000 Eurosa huge fine for such a small publicationfor criticizing the vice president's purchase of a luxury home, allegedly with public funds. The state also has a de facto monopoly on radio and television stations. The country's only daily is Seychelles Nation, which publishes Monday through Friday in print and online. The print version appears in English and Creole, but online content is primarily English. The People and Regar, published weekly by opposing political parties, print in English, French and Creole. Regar ap-pears on Friday, and its headlines appear online.

There are three radio stations, one AM and two FM, serving around 42,000 radios. Two television stations broadcast to about 11,000 televisions. There is one Internet service provider.


Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). "Seychelles." In The World Fact Book 2001. Available from .

News Headlines from REGAR. ATLAS Seychelles, Ltd. (n.d.). Available from http:/ .

"Seychelles History." Lonely Planet. (2002.). Available from .

Seychelles: Independent newspaper to pay exorbitant damages. Human Rights Education Association. (n.d.). Available from .

Seychelles NATION. (n.d.). Available from .

Small Islands Voice. UNESCO. (n.d.). Available from .

Jenny B. Davis

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Seychelles Republic consisting of more than 100 islands in the Indian Ocean, c.970km (600mi) n of Madagascar. Seychelles comprises two geologically distinct island groups: the volcanic, Granitic group are to the ne, and include the three main, inhabited islands of Mahé, Praslin, and La Digue. Mahé is home to more than 80% of the republic's people; Seychelles' capital, Victoria, lies on its ne coast. To the sw lie the Outer group of coral islands. In 1502, Vasco da Gama explored the islands and named them the ‘Seven Sisters’. The French colonized the islands in 1756, establishing spice plantations worked by slaves from Mauritius. The British captured the archipelago (1794) during the Napoleonic Wars and, in 1814, it became a dependency of Mauritius. In 1903, the Seychelles became a separate Crown Colony. In 1976, they achieved full independence within the Commonwealth. In 1977, a coup established Albert René as president. In 1981, South African mercenaries attempted to overthrow the government. Continued civil unrest and another failed coup in 1987, led to the first multiparty elections in 1991. In 1998 elections, Albert René secured a fifth consecutive term. Creole is the widest spoken language. Tourism is the largest industry; exports include coconuts and tuna. Area: 453sq km (175sq mi). Pop. (2000) 75,000.

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Culture Name



Identification. The name "Seychelles" derives from the 1756 French expedition that led to the annexation of the islands. The commander of the expedition named the islands Séchelles after the controller of finance, Vicomte Moreau des Séchelles.

Location and Geography. Located in the Indian Ocean south of the equator, with a land area of 118 square miles (455 square kilometers), the Seychelles is technically the smallest continent. The central islands have a continental shelf and are granitic, while the outlying ones are flat coral islands. The granitic islands are mountainous. The capital, Victoria, is on the main island, Mahé, at a spot where the island of Saint Anne creates natural harbor. The country has a large number of native species, especially birds and plants.

Demography. The population was 79,164 in 1999 and is growing slowly as a result of out-migration.

Linguistic Affiliation. The official languages are Seychelles Creole, French, and English. Seychelles Creole has a strong resemblance to the Creoles of Mauritius and Reunion and those of the Caribbean. There has been disagreement about the use of French versus English and the extent to which Creole should be used. Most people speak Creole at home. The English-French divide occurs in debates about how new words should be integrated into Creole.

Symbolism. The flag consists of wedges or rays emanating from the lower left corner. The colors are yellow, red, white, and green, with a blue wedge at the upper left. The flag symbolizes the ocean, the link to Africa, and the multicolored nature of the population. The government that gained power through a coup in 1977 had Marxist leanings and used rhetoric appropriate to that ideology. The country has used a national rhetoric of development and the pioneering spirit, especially in regard to the development of the outer islands.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The country was not inhabited when Europeans discovered and settled the islands. While the French originally settled in 1770, the British took control during the Napoleonic Wars, but without throwing out the French upper class. The settlers brought slaves, and the society featured white domination and black slavery. After the British prohibited slavery in 1835, the influx of African workers did not end because British warships captured Arab slavers and forced the liberated slaves to work on plantations as "apprentices" without pay. The Gran'bla ("big whites") of French origin dominated the economy and political life, with a British colonial administration that at times was supportive but was often hostile to them. The administration did not permit the importation of Indian indentured laborers. Therefore, the Indian component of the population is small and, like a similar minority of Chinese, is confined to a merchant class.

The country became independent from Britain in 1976, with the exception of the islands retained as the British Indian Ocean Territory. This included Diego Garcia, which was developed as U.S. military base.

National Identity. Independence brought public debate about issues of national identity and allegiance. The winner of the first election for the presidency, James Mancham, favored integration or close ties with Britain; his main opponent, France Albert René, saw this as a danger to the national identity, which he considered African. He also had strong socialist leanings. The Gran'bla wanted to reestablish ties with France. René toppled the first elected government in a coup in 1977 and established a one-party state that lasted until 1992. However, his party, the Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF), remained in power after the election of 1992, and René won the presidential election of 1993 and has been president since.

Ethnic Relations. The Indian and Chinese merchants form two distinct ethnic communities, as do the gran'bla. Those that were evicted from Diego Garcia when the U.S. military base was established are called Illois. They are also found in Mauritius and regard themselves as distinct from Seychellois although they historically and culturally belong to the mobile plantation worker class in Seychelles. Ethnic relations are mainly relations of class in Seychelles.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Traditional architecture had two distinct forms: plantations and town houses. The plantation was focused on a lakou (courtyard with an owner's or manager's house), the kalorife (drying oven for copra), and storage houses. Separate from the courtyard were the workers' houses with thatched roofs, and on some plantations also with walls made from coconut leaves. The workers' houses often were divided into two parts: a sleeping room and a living room. The living room often was filled with furniture and seldom was used, as most social life took place outdoors. The kitchen was usually in a separate house. The typical town house had a general Victorian form, but both the roof and the walls might be made of corrugated iron sheets. With the decline of the plantation sector and agriculture in general the traditional lay out of the courtyards are disappearing. New houses are often constructed in an architecture common to many former British colonies, such that there is often a flat roof with a slight slope and windows with many horizontally arranged panes that can be tilted in order to allow easy circulation of air.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The staple is curry and rice, which may be eaten two or three times a day. The curry may be based on fish or meat. Coconut milk often is used in the curry. Upper-class Creoles eat meals that consist of both fish and meat. Alcoholism has been prevalent, partly because the plantations used drinks as payments and incentives. Among the working classes drinking tended to be solitary. A typical drink is palm wine, fermented sap tapped from coconut palm fronds.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. There are no specific foods for ceremonial occasions, but meat is preferred.

Basic Economy. In a land-based plantation economy, copra and in some periods cinnamon and vanilla were the main exports. In 1960, about a third of the economically active population worked on plantations, and about 20 percent in the public sector. After the opening of the international airport in 1971, tourism became important. Segmentation of the economy into the tourism and plantation sectors developed. Wages were much higher in the tourism sector. There was little scope for expansion of the plantation economy or for increases in wages, since the wage-paying potential was fixed by international prices of plantation crops. The plantation sector declined, and agriculture now accounts for about 4 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and less than 10 percent of the workforce. Although Seychelles copra is of very high quality, it is likely that the plantation sector will disappear completely. Tourism now employs 30 percent of the labor force and accounts for 13 percent of GDP and 60 percent of foreign exchange earnings. Although the country is now classified as an upper-middle-income economy by the World Bank, it has retained an unequal income distribution, and in 1992, about 7 percent of the population was considered poor. The Seychelles Rupee (SRS) is the national currency. There is approximately 5 SRS to the USD.

Land Tenure and Property. While historically the gran'bla owned nearly the all land, the postindependence period saw the sale of land being to outsiders. In 1960, fifty-six landowners held two-thirds of the agricultural land. In 1976, 56 percent was held by foreigners.

Major Industries. Tourism is focused on the upper part of the market. Tuna fishing and canning are becoming increasingly important, as is aquaculture. A small manufacturing sector is linked to the establishment of an international trade zone. The country also offers registration facilities for foreign companies.

Trade. Apart from the export oriented manufacturing, tuna and plantation crops, trade is limited to locally produced fish and vegetables and imported manufactured goods. Souvenirs are produced and sold to tourists.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Social stratification is symbolized largely by skin color and ethnic origin. There is hierarchy of color terms, from ble ("blue") to bla-rose ("white-pink") that coincides with the historical continuum of status from plantation worker to landowner. Seychellois use the color terms to identify the people they are talking about. The degree to which color and class determine the social order is a contested issue.

Symbols of Social Stratification. There are no particular symbols of social stratification apart from skin color and complexion.

Political Life

Government. Since 1992, the Republic of Seychelles has been a multiparty state. The present constitution was adopted in 1993 and stipulates that the head of government is also the chief of state and appoints the council of ministers. A direct election of the president is held every five years, as are elections for the unicameral thirty-five-seat National Assembly. The president appoints the members of the supreme court and appeals court. Civil law and commercial law derive from the French, while the penal code is influenced by the British model.

Leadership and Political Officials. The SPPF is the dominant party. Other parties include the Democratic Party, United Opposition Party, Seychelles Party, Seychelles Liberal Party, and Seychelles Democratic Movement.

Social Problems and Control. The main social problems recognized by the government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are domestic violence, sexual abuse of children and alcoholism.

Military Activity. The country has never fought in a war. There is little emphasis on fighting prowess or martial arts. Seychellois participated in World War II in the British Army. The coup in 1977 and a subsequent attempted countercoup led to the establishment of military forces; there is also a coast guard.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Several Seychelles-based nongovernmental organizations exist. Among these are several organizations that address social problems such as CAREDA (Committee on Awareness, Resilience and Education against Drugs and Alcohol) and the Association for the Promotion of Solid Humane Families. The important National Council for Children is a semigovernmental organization. There are two human rights NGOs that both were established in 1998: the Center for Rights and Development, and the Friends for a Democratic Society. There are also a number of NGOs focusing on natural preservation or the study of nature.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. There are no strict norms for the division of labor by gender, but several statistical tendencies. In particular, women rarely fish. In the plantation economy, both men and women worked as wage laborers. The tourism industry also employs women, although the labor force participation of women relative to men has been reduced by the decline of the plantation economy. Female employment is about 40 percent of that of males in administration and 14 percent in clerical and professional jobs.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Women generally have a high status in the working class, but not in other social strata. Women control economic resources within the family and often pursue economic careers. Traditionally, violence between spouses has been a problem, usually with women as the victims.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Consensual unions are common but less so among the gran'bla and the Indian and Chinese communities. Polygamy is not practiced, but unions are unstable and divorce or breakup is common. Fifty to 60 percent of births are to women who are not married and often are not acknowledged by the child's father. The partners generally arrange the marriage. There is a strong contractual aspect to marriage, with a clear division of responsibilities between men and women. Among working-class people, the man gives his spouse his wages, which are used for daily expenditures for food, clothes, and the children. Women use their own income for durables, which they keep if the union dissolves. To a large extent, marriages occur within the same social and color strata.

Domestic Unit. The form of the domestic unit varies with class. The ideal gran'bla family is nuclear. Among plantation workers, serial monogamy is prevalent, with the woman as the stable center of a domestic unit that consists of herself, her husband (married or in a consensual union), her children regardless of their father, and fostered children. Plantation workers developed a highly regulated system of fosterage in which firstborn children were given to the maternal grandmother or an aunt. A young women who gave away a child early would receive children later from her daughters or younger sisters. This fostering occurred in all classes. The nature of the system differed with the relative social class of the child giver and the child recipient: with large asymmetry in favor of the recipient, this became a system of domestic child work. With the sharp reduction in fertility rates in recent years, the system has been impossible to maintain. Each member of a household is assigned his or her own tasks.

Inheritance. Inheritance is bilateral, with men and women having equal rights.

Kin Groups. Descent is generally bilateral and no descent groups are formed. However, descent has a strong matrilateral bias, especially in the working class. That and the practice of fostering children create networks of women that resemble kin groups. Gran'bla families were formed in the same manner as European families, with an emphasis on patrilineal succession to a name and attempts to keep property within the family.


Infant Care. Infants sleep with their parents, especially the mother. Toddlers have freedom to roam but often are watched by older siblings. They are given small tasks from an early age in accordance with the precise assignment of tasks within the household.

Child Rearing and Education. Early initiation to an active sexual life has been considered a problem by health authorities. The number of children born to women below age twenty is high. Enrollment in primary education is universal but drops off at the secondary stage. Girls enroll as often as boys. The post-1997 revolutionary regime established a National Youth Service (NYS) along socialist lines. The NYS was replaced in 1999 with the fifth grade of secondary school.

Higher Education. Those who want higher education attend schools and universities overseas. No higher education is available domestically except for polytechnic training, including teacher training, nursing, tourism, and arts.


Seychellois are usually described as laid-back and easygoing. Dress codes are relaxed, and formal clothing is seldom worn. Interpersonal distance is somewhat greater than it is in Europe. Complimentary statements to or about other persons, especially children, are avoided because they may bring misfortune. Greetings are simple.


Religious Beliefs. Most of the people are Roman Catholic (90 percent) or Anglican (8 percent). What the priests teach is somewhat different from the beliefs and practices of the layperson. Seychellois traditionally had a strong belief in spirits (nam ) and sorcery (gri-gri ). Some sorcerers were very influential.

Religious Practitioners. Religious practitioners are priests of the various churches as well as the healers/sorcerers.

Rituals and Holy Places. There are no religious rituals specific to the Seychellois, and the Christian religious feasts are celebrated.

Death and the Afterlife. In general, people follow Christian conceptions of death and the afterlife. Linked to ideas about sorcery was the belief that the spirit of a person prematurely killed by sorcery could be made to serve the sorcerer for the duration of that person's natural life span.

Medicine and Health Care

Major tropical diseases such as malaria have never established in the islands. The primary health care system is well established. Advanced care is not available, but there is a hospital in the capital. The nature of current beliefs and practices involving traditional medicine is not documented. Sorcerers traditionally were involved in healing through the use of medicinal plants.

Secular Celebrations

The national day is celebrated on 18 June to commemorate the adoption of the constitution in 1993. On 5 June Liberation Day is celebrated in remembrance of the 1977 coup, and on 29 June Independence Day is observed. Labor Day is on 1 May. New Year is celebrated on 1 and 2 January. Christian holidays that are also public holidays include All Saints Day (1 November), Immaculate Conception (8 December), and Christmas Day (25 December).

The Arts and Humanities

Literature. Seychelles Creole is a written language and the only daily newspaper, the Nation publishes partly in Creole. Apart from folk tales which have been published in Creole there is no literature.

Graphic Arts. There are few arts and crafts in Seychelles that derive from a Seychellois tradition. There is a small crafts industry in conjunction with tourism.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

There is not much research either in physical or social sciences based in Seychelles. A journal that covers the sciences in general appears sporadically. Seychelles has nevertheless been the focus of research, in particular marine biology, ornithology, botany, and geology because of the uniqueness of the islands.


Benedict, Burton. People of the Seychelles, 1966.

. "The Equality of the Sexes in Seychelles." In M. Freedman, ed. Social Organization, 1967.

Benedict, Marion, and Burton Benedict. Men, Women and Money in Seychelles, 1982.

Berge, Gunnvor. Hierarchy, Equality and Social Change: Exchange Processes on a Seychelles Plantation, 1987.

Pedersen, Jon. The Social Construction of Fertility: Population Processes on a Plantation in the Seychelles, 1985.

. "Plantation Women and Children: Wage Labor, Adoption and Fertility in the Seychelles." Ethnology 26 (1): 5161, 1987.

Scarr, Deryck. Seychelles since 1770: History of a Slave and Post-Slavery Society, 1999.

Jon Pedersen

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SEYCHELLES. A country of the western Indian Ocean and member of the COMMONWEALTH, made up of over 100 islands. Languages: CREOLE or Seychellois (French-based and spoken by around 95% of the population), English, and FRENCH (all official). The islands were a French colony from 1768, a British colony from 1814, and became independent in 1976. The Seychellois are largely descended from French colonists and their freed African slaves, with smaller numbers of British, Chinese, and Indians.

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The people of the Seychelles are called Seychellois. The people represent intermarriage of African, French, and Asian ancestors.

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Seychelles •Casals • Charles •Dardanelles, Seychelles, Wells •Hales, Swales, Wales •entrails • telesales • cat-o'-nine-tails •Hills, Mills, Sills, Wills •Giles, Miles, Smiles, Stiles •hols • consols •balls, Rawls, Walls •Fowles •Bowles, Coles, Rolls •gules, Jules •collywobbles • Gorbals • Mumbles •Goebbels • Needles • oodles • Raffles •Engels • Gleneagles • Eccles • Pickles •Naples • Brussels • battels • Beatles •bristols • measles

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