Danny Faure has been President of Seychelles since 2016, previously having served as the country’s vice president, finance minister and governor of the IMF, the World Bank and the African Development Bank. With a strong fiscal policy underpinning his administration, the island nation’s charismatic leader is guiding Seychelles through a time of growth while maintaining a harmonious balance between the country’s precious environment and the needs of the people. Calling Seychelles’ relationship with China “excellent,” he is conscious of the mutual benefits to be derived from increased exchanges between the two nations and the forging of new relationships on individual as well as governmental levels
How would you describe your leadership style and personal goals for the country?
My presidency is about serving the people of Seychelles to the fullest of my abilities. It is a life dedicated to service, and this service is about the wellbeing of the Seychellois people. I believe that the country needs to follow a path of robust and sound macroeconomic policies that will allow the economy to grow and give us the opportunity to better plan for the future of our population. Strong fiscal policies are the backbone. We will also continue to play a leadership role in terms of how we care about our environment. People come to our country because of its beauty, and we should not take this beauty for granted. We need to nurture it, preserve it and continuously educate our citizens about caring for the country. This is why the policy of development is also heavily based on our environment. Our development will be sustainable, but we are also very pragmatic about it. It’s about striking the balance in everything we do. As president, the questions I always consider are how a decision or project will enhance the quality of life of our citizens; how it will affect the environment; and how it will help the development of the country.
Economic growth in the Seychelles has been positive over the past decade, and last year the economy expanded by 5.2 percent. Seychelles is also the only African nation classified as a high-income country and was the first in the Indian Ocean. What are the main factors contributing to this economic performance?
There are several factors. First of all, we saw a 16-percent growth in tourism numbers last year. Those numbers have continued to grow because we’ve had an open-skies policy and our islands are increasingly connected by air. Another key factor is that we have achieved a level of political stability. Our economy is being built off a good, stable base, and is backed by strong institutions. There is rule of law in the country. Likewise, we take care of our environment – we have high-quality water and air. These factors also inspire tourists to come. We have a good, comprehensive health system anchored in prevention and we’ve tackled the diseases that affect the main continent of Africa. Furthermore, there is a very strong telecommunications network, so people are able to be connected to their places of work and families. These are all very good indicators. It’s a functioning and dynamic country. People are on the move, the economy is buoyant, and this is Seychelles. Things are going well.
When you were first sworn in, Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message saying that China attaches great importance to its relations with Seychelles and pledged to push bilateral relations to new levels for the benefit of both peoples. How would you evaluate of the state of relations between the countries now?
I can say that we are consolidating this relationship. The relationship between Seychelles and China is excellent. We value the support that China has provided us in the social and economic development of our country. Be it in the health system, the education system, the building of our parliamentary house or judicial system, the Chinese government has been very faithful to the development of Seychelles. It is an interesting partnership. China has the biggest population in the world today and Seychelles has the smallest population in Africa. But this shows it’s a relationship based on solidarity and friendship that has been built over the years. When we talk about enhancing our bilateral relationship with China, it also has to do with people-to-people contact. We have seen an increase in the number of Chinese tourists coming to our islands, which is excellent. I welcome the Chinese to visit our islands. Seychelles can also be used as a gateway to enter continental Africa. The Chinese can also make use of our financial services, and we can increase commerce and trade. Infrastructure is also a huge new area for growth and creates the possibility for more increased government-to-government cooperation with China. For Seychelles to sustain its level of growth and for us to unlock new areas, we are putting a lot of effort into infrastructure development, both in building new infrastructure and upgrading what already exists. We have already announced several new land reclamation projects.
You have confirmed your attendance at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit, which will be held in Beijing in September 2018. What are your expectations for the event?
I would like to continue discussions in the area of infrastructure. That will be my main focus for the next development phase of the country over the next 25 years. The new land reclamation projects will create more land for development and Chinese expertise is welcome. And I think this will go well with increasing regional trade. Africa is going to be one of the biggest free trade zones in the world, and the African Union just passed a resolution to create the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Basically, all economies are looking towards integration, which is why I’m looking at a platform whereby we can attract foreign direct investment to enhance Seychelles’ position as a hub.
What can Seychelles offer that is unique to attract more Chinese business and investment?
It is a question of consistency and reliability. We’ve got the policies in place, and I think we have proven that we can take care of our own environment and our own people. This shows that we also respect investment. We are investment friendly, trustworthy, credible and offer security. Investors are in good hands in Seychelles, and we have strong institutions that protect investments.
Seychelles tourism industry is also aiming to leverage the Belt and Road initiative to target 30,000 Chinese tourists by 2020. What can Seychelles offer to Chinese visitors?
The quality of the air that we breathe is number one. It’s also the tranquillity, such that you will not find in another place in the world. Here you can have a whole beach for yourself. This isn’t mass tourism – so if you decide to come to Seychelles you know you will have space to yourself. Beyond that, we respect the privacy of visitors. This is another good thing about the Seychellois people: we are very friendly, but there is no trespassing. We respect boundaries and don’t intrude. I think this is a guarantee. We want visitors to really enjoy this country. I think that today, in a world which is rapidly changing, everyone is busier than ever. But after a day or two of being in Seychelles, you are able to really recharge. This is the specialty of the country. You need to experience it. I always say, we have not yet found the right vocabulary to describe my islands, the country that I come from. We have yet to invent the words, but when you come, you will know what I mean. If you dream of a paradise, this is it.