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Country Profile

Area: 1,862 sq km (excluding Mayotte)
Population: 660,000 (2008; IMF estimate, excluding Mayotte)
Capital City: Moroni (Ngazidja)
People: Comoran
Languages: French, Arabic, Comorian (derived from Swahili and Arabic)
Religion(s): Islam (state religion), with a very small (less than 0.5%) Roman Catholic minority.
Currency: Comoros Franc (pegged to the euro).
Major Political Parties: The Baobab Party of current President Dhoinine presently controls parliament and two of the three Island Councils.
In general, the islands have a large number of political parties, many of them based on personal loyalties.
Head of State & Federal President: Ikililou Dhoinine
Membership of International Groupings/Organisations: African Union (AU); League of Arab States; Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC); Indian Ocean Commission (IOC); Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA).

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Basic Economic Facts

GDP: US$1 billion (2010 est.)
Annual growth: 2.1% (2010 est.)
Annual inflation: 2.6% (2010 est)
Major industries: agriculture, fishing, forestry
Main imports: rice, petroleum products
Main exports: vanilla, cloves, ylang-ylang (perfume oil), copra
Major trading partners: exports - France, Turkey, Greece, Brazil and Algeria; imports - France, China, India, UAE and Italy.
Exchange rate: GBP = 589.44 Comoros Francs (KMF). The Comoran franc is pegged at 491.9677 Francs per Euro.

The main export crops are vanilla, cloves, and ylang-ylang (used in perfume manufacture). Agriculture, fishing and forestry account for 50% of GDP, services 38% and manufacturing 4%. Economic growth has been stalling in the past few years, mainly as a result of political instability and general lack of infrastructure. The prospect of renewed political stability following the presidential elections of December 2010 is expected to facilitate a rise in investment inflows in 2011, particularly from the Middle East, and possibly resulting in debt relief. Economic growth is therefore forecast to rise marginally to 2.5% in 2011. There is a small fishing industry, a minimal industrial base devoted mainly to processing vanilla, and a fledgling tourism industry. France is Comoros' main trading partner, providing almost 15% of imports and taking a third of its exports.

IMF Country Reports - Comoros (

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The earliest inhabitants were probably of Malay-Polynesian origin. Later settlers came from mainland Africa, Madagascar and the Arab world. The Shirazis from Persia became dominant in the 15th-16th century, establishing sultanates in the Comoros linked to their trading settlements in Kilwa (on the coast of present day Tanzania) and Zanzibar, and dealing in spices and slaves to the Middle East. Comoros became known for Islamic learning and exported teachers to Zanzibar.

France established protectorates over Ngazidja, Nzwani and Mwali in 1886 and declared the Comoros a French Colony in 1912, administered from Madagascar. In 1947, the Comoros became a separate French Overseas Territory, gaining a degree of internal autonomy in 1961.

In a referendum held in December 1974, 96% of Comorans on Ngazidja, Nzwani and Mwali voted for independence from France, but a majority on the island of Mayotte (64%) voted against. Political tensions grew until, on 6 July 1975, the Comoros declared independence unilaterally, Ahmed Abdallah becoming its first President. France retained control of Mayotte, but recognised the independence of the other islands. Later in 1975 President Abdallah was deposed in a coup, to be replaced in 1976 by President Ali Soilih, who was in turn overthrown in 1978 by a group of French and Belgian mercenaries led by 'Colonel' Bob Denard. Abdallah, who had helped finance the coup, returned from exile in France to be re-elected President, but remained dependent on a mercenary-trained Presidential Guard. He was killed in unclear circumstances during a meeting with Denard on 26 November 1989. At the request of the Interim President, French warships arrived offshore. Denard handed over control of the islands and later returned to France. Political tensions and instability continued through the 1990s. On 30 April 1999 the army seized power in a bloodless coup (the 18th coup or attempted coup in Comoros since independence in 1975). Army Chief of Staff, Col Azali Assoumane, assumed power at the head of a transitional executive.

The Union has been relatively politically stable over the last decade, apart from the refusal by Mohamed Bacar to step down as Island President of Anjouan in 2007 and his ensuing attempt to launch a secessionist movement. Bacar was eventually forced into exile when the AU deployed over 100 peacekeepers to keep the movement in check.

There were fears of renewed political instability after President Sambi announced in 2010 that he wanted his mandate to be extended beyond the original deadline of May 2010 but a national consensus emerged and elections were organised in December 2010 to elect his successor.

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Successive governments have lobbied for the return of Mayotte to Comoran control. But the Mahorais (people of Mayotte) remain firmly against such a move. In March 2009, 95% of the people on Mayotte voted in favour of it becoming an integral French Department in 2011. As a result, relations with France are at times frosty.

The islands' Islamic history and culture, and membership of the League of Arab States and OIC, underpin the existing close links with the Gulf (and Libya). China has maintained a resident Embassy in the Comoros ever since independence; in November 2005 China wrote off all Comoros’ US$5 million debt.

UK Diplomatic Representation

UK representation to Comoros is managed from the British High Commission in Port Louis, Mauritius.

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Geographically, the Comoros comprises four islands, but politically it comprises three: Mayotte is not a member of the Union but is an overseas Department of France. The archipelago itself lies nearly 500km equidistant from the northern tip of Madagascar and the Mozambican coast. The largest island is Ngazidja (Grande Comore), followed by Nzwani (Anjouan); Mwali (Mohéli) is the smallest of the group. All are mountainous. The climate is tropical, and temperatures average 25C (coastal) and 22C (highlands). The hot and rainy season is from November-April. Regular cyclones can cause extensive damage. Karthala volcano on Ngazidja erupted in August 2003, in April 2005, and again in November 2005.

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Trade and Investment with the UK

There are no official services delivered on behalf of UKTI in this market to help British companies who wish to export or invest here. However, lobbying on behalf of British companies may be carried out on a case-by-case basis.

Britain has minimal trade links with Comoros.

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Comoros (


In general, economic progress and development have been undermined by political instability. The economy depends largely on remittances from the 70,000-strong Comoran diaspora in France to offset deficits, and on French and European Union (EU) aid. In recent years, fellow members of the Arab League like Libya or Iran have provided significant amount of funds and technical assistance.

European Commission Development Directorate - Comoros (

World Bank (
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) - Comoros (

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Each of the three islands has an individual governor and a council which are elected directly. The Union has a legislative assembly with 33 members: 9 nominated by the island councils (3 each) and 24 by universal suffrage. Ahmed Abdallah Sambi won the presidential elections of May 2006 marking the first time that the ‘Tournante’ Presidential System of the 2000 Fomboni Accord had been applied. Ikililou Dhoinine, from the island of Moheli and outgoing vice-president, was elected in December 2010 to succeed President Sambi and was sworn into office on 26 May 2011.

Dhoinine was elected after a period of uncertainty over President Sambi’s intentions to remain in office. His mandate was due to expire on 26 May 2010 but he expressed the wish to remain in office longer to oversee a number of constitutional amendments aiming at harmonising a costly electoral calendar. This was rejected by the opposition and the population of Mohéli but successive victories in the referendum of May 2009 and parliamentary elections of December 2009 boosted Sambi’s claims and a vote by a congress of all elected members of parliament and the island councils in March 2010 extended his mandate by 18 months. However, the Constitutional Court overturned this decision in May 2010. A national consensus finally decided that Sambi would remain in office for a transition period and elections were organised. The first round, where only the island of Mohéli voted, was held on 7 November 2010. The three leading Mohélian candidates then faced a national vote in a second round on 26 December 2010. The elections were considered free and fair despite some initial protests by the opposition and Mr Ikililou Dhoinine was declared the winner by the Constitutional Court on 13 January 2011.

Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) - Africa (

BBC News: Africa (
BBC News Country Profile: Comoros (

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According to the 2010 US State Department Country Report on Human Rights, the Comoros Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, although there were some areas of concern. Problem included poor prison conditions; restrictions on freedom of movement, press, and religion; official corruption; discrimination against women; child abuse; and child labour.

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Last Updated: September 2011

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