c15 August 2013


Sarah Nicholas

Freelance journalist and friend of Gong, Emilie Filou has set herself a challenge: to tackle the chronic under-reporting of Madagascar in the Anglophone press.

Madagascar sits between the African mainland, Indonesia, and the Indian sub-continent. While its neighbours tell a startling story of growth and attract ever increasing media interest, the fourth largest island in the world is often overlooked by the English-language press. Is the country an awkward anomaly in the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative, or a final frontier market waiting to sky rocket like its Asian neighbours across the Indian Ocean?

A quick search for ‘Madagascar’ throws up talking cartoon zebras and the occasional lemur, but next to nothing about the political vacuum of a country which has spent the past four years without a functioning government. Nor is there any mention of the huge potential of the island’s textile, mining, agriculture and tourism industries.

Emilie wants this radio silence to end.

She has launched a Kickstarter project to crowd-fund her way to Madagascar and report back in words and photographs, producing a series of dispatches to tell the world what is really happening:

When she came to see the Gong team this week Emilie told us, “After four and half years of political vacuum, Madagascar is now the second poorest country in the world. The economy has stalled because of international sanctions; foreign direct investment has all but dried up; and tourism has slumped. This is all the more tragic because the country has everything it needs to succeed: a young population, a wealth of natural resources (minerals, oil), a relatively well-educated workforce, unique biodiversity and outstanding natural beauty, and huge tracts of fertile agricultural land.

“I need your help to finance the trip – I work freelance and don’t have the support of a big news organisation. Kickstarter funding will allow me to travel to Madagascar for three weeks in September to gather material needed to shine a light on the plight of the Malagasy people and the fantastic potential of the country.”

Emilie wrote the Lonely Planet Guide to Madagascar and since her last trip there in 2011 has written regularly about the country for The Economist, BBC Travel and the Africa Report. She has now exhausted what can be done remotely. This fresh batch of articles will be published in the Anglophone press over the course of the autumn; any unpublished material will go on Emilie’s website.

You can pledge your support via Kickstarter, in return for reports, insights and photos from Emilie: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1624070979/shining-a-light-on-madagascar