The Seychelles has come a long way since independence, and it prides itself on having attained stability and a certain prosperity. Standards of health, education and housing have steadily improved, and the country enjoys the highest annual per-capita income in Africa. After years of communist rule, the Seychelles has evolved towards a free-market economy in order to attract foreign investors. For all the stability, the winds of (peaceful) political change are in the air, while environmental issues loom large.

Winds of Change

The Seychelles continues to be one of Africa's star economic performers. Annual economic growth consistently hovers around 5% – it reached 5.3% in 2017 – while annual GDP per capita sat at a very respectable US$29,300 in 2017, higher than in Russia, Greece and Croatia. All of which should add up to a good news story for a popular government, right? Not quite. In presidential elections held in December 2015, incumbent James Michel held on by the barest of margins (a mere 193 votes, winning just 50.02% of the popular vote). Any suggestion that the result was a blip in the ruling party's popularity came crashing down 10 months later, in September 2016, when the opposition coalition, the LDS, won 19 out of 33 parliamentary seats in elections for the National Assembly. It was the Seychelles' equivalent of a political earthquake, representing as it did the first defeat in four decades for the ruling party. With the next presidential elections just around the corner in 2020, the Seychelles could be on the cusp of a whole new era. That these changes have occurred peacefully, through the ballot box, is widely seen as a sign of the country's political maturity and should augur well for the future.

A Fragile Environment

Like so many island nations, the Seychelles has a particular interest in the impact of climate change. With 85% of its population and tourism developments occurring along the country's coastline, the Seychelles is particularly susceptible to rising sea levels caused by global warming. A leading scientific study published in the journal Science Advances in 2018 named the Seychelles alongside the Maldives and Hawaii as islands where fresh groundwater supplies could be under serious threat by 2050. Check out http://globalfloodmap.org/Seychelles for an idea of the impact of rising waters on the Seychelles – an 18-inch rise, for example, would flood nearly a quarter of the country's population. To its credit, the Seychelles government has been active in advocating for change in international forums; they even have their own climate change ambassador. And in February 2018, the Seychelles announced the creation of a marine reserve in return for the forgiveness of a portion of its national debt, a move seen as a model for conservation projects elsewhere. Still, even optimists in Seychelles understand that their future is not entirely in their own hands.