|THE SYCHELLES COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Seychelles within the continent of Africa
Map of Seychelles
Flag Description of Seychelles: five oblique bands of blue (hoist side), yellow, red, white, and green (bottom) radiating from the bottom of the hoist side; the oblique bands are meant to symbolize a dynamic new country moving into the future; blue represents sky and sea, yellow the sun giving light and life, red the peoples' determination to work for the future in unity and love, white social justice and harmony, green the land and natural environment
Official name Repiblik Sesel (Creole); République des Seychelles (French); Republic of Seychelles (English)
Form of government multiparty republic with one legislative house (National Assembly )
Head of state and government President: James Michel
Official languages none1
Official religion none
Monetary unit Seychelles rupee (roupi; SR)
Population (2013 est.) 86,900COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 174
Total area (sq km) 452
- Urban: (2011) 54%
- Rural: (2011) 46%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2010) 69.7 years
- Female: (2010) 77.4 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2010) 91.4%
- Female: (2010) 92.3%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2013) 12,530
1Creole, English, and French are all national languages per constitution.
A lengthy struggle between France and Great Britain for the islands ended in 1814, when they were ceded to the latter. Independence came in 1976. Socialist rule was brought to a close with a new constitution and free elections in 1993. President France-Albert RENE, who had served since 1977, was re-elected in 2001, but stepped down in 2004. Vice President James MICHEL took over the presidency and in July 2006 was elected to a new five-year term; he was reelected in May 2011.
Syychelles, island republic in the western Indian Ocean, comprising about 115 islands. The islands are home to lush tropical vegetation, beautiful beaches, and a wide variety of marine life. Situated between latitudes 4° and 11° S and longitudes 46° and 56° E, the major islands of Seychelles are located about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) east of Kenya and about 700 miles (1,100 km) northeast of Madagascar. The capital, Victoria, is situated on the island of Mahé.
Geography of Seychelles
- Relief and climate
Seychelles, one of the world’s smallest countries, is composed of two main island groups: the Mahé group of more than 40 central, mountainous granitic islands and a second group of more than 70 outer, flat, coralline islands. The islands of the Mahé group are rocky and typically have a narrow coastal strip and a central range of hills. The overall aspect of those islands, with their lush tropical vegetation, is that of high hanging gardens overlooking silver-white beaches and clear lagoons. The highest point in Seychelles, Morne Seychellois (2,969 feet [905 metres]), situated on Mahé, is located within this mountainous island group. The coralline islands, rising only a few feet above sea level, are flat with elevated coral reefs at different stages of formation. These islands are largely waterless, and very few have a resident population.
The climate is tropical oceanic, with little temperature variation during the year. Daily temperatures rise to the mid-80s F (low 30s C) in the afternoon and fall to the low 70s F (low 20s C) at night. Precipitation levels vary greatly from island to island; on Mahé, annual precipitation ranges from 90 inches (2,300 mm) at sea level to 140 inches (3,560 mm) on the mountain slopes. Humidity is persistently high but is ameliorated somewhat in locations windward of the prevailing southeast trade winds.
- Plant and animal life
Of the roughly 200 plant species found in Seychelles, some 80 are unique to the islands, including screw pines (see pandanus), several varieties of jellyfish trees, latanier palms, the bois rouge, the bois de fer, Wright’s gardenia, and the most famous, the coco de mer. The coco de mer—which is found on only two islands—produces a fruit that is one of the largest and heaviest known and is valued by a number of Asian cultures for believed aphrodisiac, medicinal, mystic, and other properties. The Seychellois government closely monitors the quantity and status of the trees, and, although commerce is regulated to prevent overharvesting, poaching is a concern.
Wildlife includes a remarkably diverse array of marine life, including more than 900 identified species of fish; green sea turtles and giant tortoises also inhabit the islands. Endemic species include birds such as Seychelles bulbuls and cave-dwelling Seychelles swiftlets; several species of local tree frogs, snails, and wormlike caecilians; Seychelles wolf snakes and house snakes; tiger chameleons; and others. Endemic mammals are few; both fruit bats (Pteropus seychellensis) and Seychelles sheath-tailed bats (Coleura seychellensis) are endemic to the islands. Indian mynahs, barn owls, and tenrecs (small shrewlike or hedgehoglike mammals introduced from Madagascar) are also found.
Considerable efforts have been made to preserve the islands’ marked biodiversity. Seychelles’ government has established several nature preserves and marine parks, including the Aldabra Islands and Vallée de Mai National Park, both UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Aldabra Islands, a large atoll, are the site of a preserve inhabited by tens of thousands of giant tortoises, the world’s oldest living creatures, which government conservation efforts have helped rescue from the brink of extinction. Vallée de Mai National Park is the only place where all six of the palm species endemic to Seychelles, including the coco de mer, may be found together. Cousin Island is home to a sanctuary for land birds, many endemic to the islands, including the Seychelles sunbird (a type of hummingbird) and the Seychelles brush warbler. The nearby Cousine Island is part private resort and part nature preserve, noted for its sea turtles, giant tortoises, and assorted land birds. Bird Island is the breeding ground for millions of terns, turtle doves, shearwaters, frigate birds, and other seabirds that flock there each year.
Demography of Seychelles
Ethnic groups, languages, and religion The original French colonists on the previously uninhabited islands, along with their black slaves, were joined in the 19th century by deportees from France. Asians from China, India, and Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) arrived later in smaller numbers. Widespread intermarriage has resulted in a population of mixed descent.
Creole, also called Seselwa, is the mother tongue of most Seychellois. Under the constitution, Creole, English, and French are recognized as national languages.
More than four-fifths of the population are Roman Catholics. There are also Anglicans, Christians of other denominations, Hindus, and Muslims. Settlement patterns and demographic trends More than four-fifths of the population live on Mahé, many of them in the capital city, Victoria. The birth and death rates, as well as the annual population growth rate, are below the global average. Some one-fourth of the population are younger than age 15, and about one-half are under age 30. Life expectancy for both men and women is significantly higher than the global average.
Economy of Seychelles
since independence in 1976, per capita output in this Indian Ocean archipelago has expanded to roughly seven times the pre-independence, near-subsistence level, moving the island into the upper-middle-income group of countries. Growth has been led by the tourist sector, which employs about 30% of the labor force and provides more than 70% of hard currency earnings, and by tuna fishing. In recent years, the government has encouraged foreign investment to upgrade hotels and other services. At the same time, the government has moved to reduce the dependence on tourism by promoting the development of farming, fishing, and small-scale manufacturing.
In July 2008 the government defaulted on a Euro amortizing note worth roughly US$80 million, leading to a downgrading of Seychelles credit rating. In an effort to obtain loans to service its debt, Seychelles in November 2008 signed a standby arrangement with the IMF that mandated floating the exchange rate, removing foreign exchange controls, cutting government spending, and tightening monetary policy. In response to Seychelles' successful implementation of these policies, the IMF upgraded Seychelles to a three-year extended fund facility (EFF) of $31 million in December 2009. In 2008, GDP fell more than 1% due to declining tourism and the initial effects of liberalization, but the economy recovered in 2010-11 after the reforms took hold and tourism increased.
Growth slowed again in 2012 with flagging tourism from Russia and the United Arab Emirates. Seychelles is attempting to implement further structural reforms, including overhauling the tax system, reorganizing of state enterprises, and deregulating the finance and communications sectors.
Government and Society of Seychelles
- Constitutional framework and local government
Under the 1993 constitution, Seychelles is a republic. The head of state and government is the president, who is directly elected by popular vote and may hold office for up to three consecutive five-year terms. Members of the National Assembly serve five-year terms. A majority of the available National Assembly seats are filled by direct election; a smaller portion are distributed on a proportional basis to those parties that win a minimum of one-tenth of the vote. The president appoints a Council of Ministers, which acts as an advisory body. The country is divided into more than 20 administrative divisions.
- Justice and political process
The Seychellois judiciary includes a Court of Appeal, a Supreme Court, and Magistrates’ Courts; the Constitutional Court is a branch of the Supreme Court.
Suffrage is universal; Seychellois are eligible to vote at age 17. Women participate actively in the government of the country and have held numerous posts, including positions in the cabinet and a proportion of seats in the National Assembly.
The People’s Party (formerly the Seychelles People’s Progressive Front) was the sole legal party from 1978 until 1991. It is still the country’s primary political party, but other parties are also active in Seychellois politics, including the New Democratic Party (formerly the Seychelles Democratic Party), the Seychelles National Party, and the Seychelles Movement for Democracy.
- Security, housing, and education
Seychelles’ defense forces are made up of an army, a coast guard (including naval and airborne wings), and a national guard. There is no conscription; military service is voluntary, and individuals are generally eligible at age 18 (although younger individuals may serve with parental consent).
In general, homes play a highly visible part in maintaining traditional Seychellois life. Many old colonial houses are well preserved, although corrugated iron roofs have generally replaced the indigenous palm thatch. Groups tend to gather on the verandahs of their houses, which are generally recognized as social centres.
The basis of the school system is a free, compulsory, 10-year public school education. Education standards have risen steadily, and nearly all children of primary-school age attend school. The country’s first university, the University of Seychelles, began accepting students in 2009. The literacy rate in Seychelles is significantly higher than the regional and global averages for both men and women.
Culture Life of Seychelles
Seychellois culture has been shaped by a combination of European, African, and Asian influences. The main European influence is French, recognizable in Seselwa, the Creole language that is the lingua franca of the islands, and in Seychellois food and religion; the French introduced Roman Catholicism, the religion of the majority of the islanders. African influence is revealed in local music and dance as well as in Seselwa. Asian elements are evident in the islands’ cuisine but are particularly dominant in business and trade.
Holidays observed in Seychelles include Liberation Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the 1977 coup, on June 5; National Day, June 18; Independence Day, June 29; the Feast of the Assumption, August 15; All Saints’ Day, November 1; the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8; and Christmas, December 25.
Because of the exorbitant expense of the large and lavish wedding receptions that are part of Seychellois tradition, many couples never marry; instead, they may choose to live en ménage, achieving a de facto union by cohabitating without marriage. There is little or no social stigma related to living en ménage, and the arrangement is recognized by the couple’s family and friends. The instance of couples living en ménage increases particularly among lower income groups.
Dance plays an important role in Seychellois society. Both the séga and the moutya, two of the most famous dances performed in Seychelles, mirror traditional African customs. The sensual dances blend religion and social relations, two elements central to African life. The complicated and compelling dance movements were traditionally carried out under moonlight to the beat of African drums. Dances were once regular events in village halls, but these have largely died out in recent years; now dances take place in modern nightclubs.
- Sports and recreation
Seychellois enjoy participating in and watching several team sports. The national stadium, located in Victoria, offers a year-round program of events. Men’s and women’s volleyball are popular, and several Seychellois players and referees participate at the international level. Football (soccer) is also a favourite, and Seychellois teams frequently travel to East Africa and India to play in exhibition matches and tournaments. The Seychelles national Olympic committee was established in 1979 and was recognized that year by the International Olympic Committee. The country made its official Olympic debut at the 1980 Moscow Games, but its first Olympic athlete was Henri Dauban de Silhouette, who competed for Great Britain in the javelin throw at the 1924 Paris Games.
- Media and publishing
Much of the country’s radio, television, and print media is under government control. There are several independent publications, including Seychelles Weekly and Vizyon.
History of Seychelles
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.
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