- The Indian Ocean island of Madagascar has applied to join the Southern African Development Community (SADC). SADC is now assessing the probable future membership of the country.
The move comes at a time when another Indian Ocean island state, the Seychelles will be leaving the 14-member organisation in July and the process for admitting new members has been tightened.
SADC executive secretary Prega Ramsamy told a news briefing in the Batswana capital, Gaborone, on 20 May that Madagascar would be assessed to determine whether it qualified for membership.
New members are expected to share SADC's aspirations with regard to macro-economic convergence, good governance, commitment to agreed decisions and to carrying out its responsibilities.
Prospective members of the bloc are placed on a one-year probationary period, during which they are critically assessed and at the same time allowed to learn more about the organisation and determine whether they fit.
Mr Ramsamy observed that SADC was a big organisation and smaller countries such as the Seychelles may realise that they were not benefiting as much as they had anticipated.
Also, SADC "expects full participation of members" in its activities and that the financial commitment to the organisation could be huge.
The executive secretary informed the meeting that the structure of membership contributions has changed from being equal payment to one based on a member's gross domestic product (GDP). Consequently, members contribute between five per cent and 20 per cent of their GDP.
Formerly an independent kingdom, Madagascar became a French colony in 1886, but regained its independence in 1960. Headed by President Marc Ravalomanana since 6 May 2002, it is located east of Mozambique.
It has a population of close to 17 million people. The official languages are French and Malagasy, while its capital city is Antananarivo.
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