This profile is also available in French here.
To download a pdf version of the full 2019 Comoros country profile, click here.
The Union of Comoros comprises of three islands and several islets, and is located off the East African coast. The country’s population in 2019 was estimated at 855 552, with approximately 29 percent of this population living in urban areas. The country has a predominantly youthful population, with nearly half its population being under the age of 20. Comoros is ranked among the world’s poorest countries, with a GDP per capita of CF392 024(US$874) in 2018. The country’s economy relies mainly on foreign aid, remittances and tourism, with majority of the population relying mainly on subsistence agriculture and fishing.
Comoros’s banking and finance sector comprises of 10 institutions which are approved and supervised by the Central Bank of Comoros. These include four banks, three decentralizes financial institutions (microfinance institutions) and three financial intermediaries.
The country’s financial sector is however relatively small and underdeveloped. Some of the obstacles facing the sector include poor financial infrastructure and distribution channels, high fees applied by financial institutions, and limited financial education. The Central Bank of Comoros is however implementing reforms aimed at consolidating the banking system, reducing risk through guarantee systems, and mobilising medium and long term resources to support the sector.
Approximately 65 percent of all housing units in Comoros are self-built, constructed using local materials. Nearly 90 percent of housing units are owner-occupied, 3 percent are rented and 3 percent occupied rent free. Due to high levels of poverty, the development of the housing sector in Comoros has been hampered. Housing finance is mainly dependent on the private sector, and through this, some housing loans have been developed. These are however only affordable to residents of major cities, private sector employees, and senior civil servants. The administration of the housing sector is managed by the Ministry of Energy, Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment, Regional Planning and Urban Planning.
Some of the key priorities of the Government in Comoros are the provision of stable and affordable energy supply. This is expected to drive economic development and enable the supply of water, hospitals, schools, housing, and transport. There have also been initiatives to promote investments in the country through the establishment of a National Agency for Investment Promotion, and through the strengthening of regulatory and supervisory frameworks in the country. The Comorian government aspires to increase competitiveness and growth in the manufacturing, agri-food, craft and construction sectors. These, in addition to policy initiatives aimed at improving the country’s business environment, could engender long-term growth prospects.
Find out more information on the housing finance sector of Comoros, including key stakeholders, important policies and housing affordability:
- Access to Finance
- Housing Supply
- Property Markets
- Policy and Regulations
- Availability of data on housing finance
- Additional sources
Each year, CAHF publishes its Housing Finance in Africa Yearbook. The profile above is from the 2019 edition, which has up-to-date profiles for 55 African countries.Download yearbook
The Union of Comoros (Comoros) is an archipelago of three islands and several islets in the Western Indian Ocean, just south of the Equator and less than 322km off the East African coast. Comoros lies approximately halfway between the island of Madagascar and northern Mozambique at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel. The population was estimated at 855 552 as of mid-2019, a slight increase from the 2018 estimate of 832 322. The United Nations estimated that approximately 29 percent of the population lived in urban areas in 2018. Urban areas in the country include Moroni, Mutsamudu, Fomboni and Domoni, these also serve as the four municipalities in the country. Moroni is both the capital and the largest city in Comoros, and it is located on the semi-autonomous island Grande Comore.
Formerly a French colony, Comoros became independent in 1975. It comprises three islands (Anjouan, Moheli and Grande Comore). A fourth island (Mayotte) in the archipelago is still a French territory. More than 20 coups or attempted coups and a long period of political and institutional instability characterise the political history of Comoros. In 2001, the Fomboni Accord led to the adoption of a new constitution, establishing the Union of the Comoros with broad autonomy for the islands. A secession attempt in 2008, which required military intervention from the international community, resulted in an amendment to the constitution in 2009 limiting presidential terms to a non-renewable five years. The president is assisted by three vice presidents, one from each of the three islands and the number of ministers is set constitutionally at 10. The national congress convened in February 2018 to assess conditions after 42 years of independence and recommended an overhaul of the system of a rotating presidency among the islands through potential constitutional reforms. As a result, a constitutional referendum which suspended the rotating presidency of the three islands until 2030 was held in July 2018.
Comoros is one of the poorest countries in the world with a GDP per capita of CF392 024(US$874) in 2018 and most of its population rely on subsistence agriculture and fishing for sustenance. The Comoros economy is highly dependent on foreign aid, remittances and tourism. Cassava, sweet potatoes, rice and bananas are the staple crops along with yams, coconuts and maize. Meat, rice and vegetables are leading imports. Comoros is the world’s second-largest producer of vanilla, with one-third of exports going to France, and the world’s leading producer of ylang-ylang, a perfume oil. Cloves and copra are also exported. The fishing industry has potential for growth, but it is still mainly undeveloped.
With approximately 457 inhabitants per square kilometre, Comoros is densely populated. Over half of its population is under the age of 20, with the median age in the country estimated at 20. The last household survey conducted in 2014 revealed that almost 18 percent of the population live under the international poverty line of CF853 (US$1.9) per capita a day. The most recent Gini index measure of inequality available rated Comoros 45.3 in 2013. Comoros was ranked at 165 out of 189 economies on the United Nation’s Human Development Index in 2017 and the country continues to suffer hunger and malnutrition. The high levels of poverty and developmental challenges in Comoros have restricted the progress of the housing sector, including social housing. Comoros receives a considerable amount of foreign aid, including for housing.
In 2018, real economic growth remained stable at an estimated 2.8 percent, close to the 2.7 percent in 2017. Real GDP growth is projected to reach 2.8 percent in 2019 and 2.9 percent in 2020, almost unchanged from 2018. From the supply side, growth was driven mainly by improved access to electricity, increased telecommunications activity, and diaspora remittances. From the demand side, growth was driven by public investment and exports, boosted by rising vanilla prices. External debt, an estimated 26.5 percent of GDP in 2018, and down from 30.1 percent in 2017, is considered sustainable. In 2018 inflation was an estimated at 2 percent, up from 1 percent in 2017. The current account deficit was an estimated 6 percent of GDP in 2018, up from 4.3 percent of GDP in 2017. The economic outlook is expected to be more favourable due to a gradual improvement in the electricity sector and to the commitment to a major development program, with the gross investment rate expected to increase from 22.5 percent in 2017 to 25.1 percent in 2019. The World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report ranks Comoros at 164 out of 190 countries surveyed in ease of doing business compared to 158 in 2018.
Comoros is regularly ranked in the group of countries whose performance is inadequate in terms of accountability, political stability, absence of violence, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law and control of corruption. However, some progress has been made in most of the indicators over the years. The Comorian economy is structurally dominated by the public sector. This is reflected in the size of the wage bill of the civil service. The wage bill, approximately 8 percent of the GDP in 2017, or similar services, annually absorb most of the government budget and leave little for public investment. The IMF noted that following reforms the nominal wage bill was stable but fell markedly as a percentage of revenues.
The main feature of the public sector in the economy is the predominance of government shareholding in the country’s main strategic enterprises such as communications, water and electricity, and the Hydrocarbons Company of Comoros, as well as financial institutions. This has had the effect of limiting government spending for social housing.
 United Nations Population Division. (2019). World Population Prospects 2019. https://population.un.org/wpp/Download/Files/1_Indicators%20(Standard)/excel_files/1_population/wpp2019_pop_f01_1_total_population_both_sexes.xlsx (Accessed 29 September 2019).
 United Nations Population Division. (2019). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision. https://population.un.org/wup/Download/Files/WUP2018-F01-Total_Urban_Rural.xls (Accessed 29 September 2019).
 African Development Bank. (2019). African Economic Outlook 2019. https://www.afdb.org/en/documents/african-economic-outlook-aeo-2019-english-version (Accessed 29 September 2019). Pg. 142.
 The World Bank (2019). The Worldwide Governance Indicators. https://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi/Home/downLoadFile?fileName=wgidataset.xlsx (Accessed 29 September 2018).
 The World Bank (2017). Report on Comoros Economic Governance Reform. 15 December 2017. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/151281514405727345/pdf/Comoros-Economic-Governance-Reform-Grant-P131688-ICRR-12152017.pdf (Accessed 30 July 2018).
Access to Finance
Comoros has a relatively small and underdeveloped financial sector. The banking and finance sector comprises 10 institutions approved and supervised by the Central Bank of Comoros: four banks, three decentralised financial institutions or microfinance institutions and three financial intermediaries. The four banks are La Banque pour l’Industrie et le Commerce, La Banque Fédérale de Commerce, Exim Bank and La Banque de Développement des Comores. The three microfinance networks are L’Union des Meck, L’Union des Sanduk d’Anjouan and L’Union des Sanduk de Mohéli. Financial postal services are conducted through La Société Nationale des Postes et des Services Financiers.
The main obstacles faced by the population of Comoros in accessing financial services include poor financial infrastructure and distribution channels; costs and fees applied by financial institutions; and a low level of financial education. To combat these barriers to accessing financial services, the Central Bank of Comoros has started a vast project of consolidation of the banking system, particularly on the specific aspect of outstanding debts, to reduce the bank risk by adopting new guarantee systems, and to support private and banking sectors in mobilising medium- and long-term resources.
At the end of 2018 Comoros had 137 bank branches and 25 ATMs. The microfinance institution (MFI) sector has not grown. There were only four MFIs in 2018. However, intermediation activity has slightly increased during this period. The number of customers grew by 10.7 percent from 321 203 in 2017 to 355 544 in 2018. Growth in deposits is estimated at 7.1 percent and outstanding credit -2.5 percent between 2017 and 2018. In Comoros the postal financial services have played an important role in basic financial intermediation (deposits, sending and receiving funds) because of they are close to the population. Thus, they continue to actively participate in the collection of savings, despite its 15 percent decline to CF18.5 billion (US$41 million) in 2018 against CF18.8 billion (US$42 million) in 2017.
Financial inclusion in Comoros is characterised by limited access to, and low use of, financial products by households. The number of borrowers per 1 000 adults is only 11. Financial inclusion is particularly low among the poor, those with low levels of education and young people, many of whom live in rural areas. Most households in Comoros tend to save money to cope with daily needs as they arise and save by using informal financial networks (hoarding or tontines) instead of formal financial systems. Out of 1 000 adults only 130 use formal institutions to make deposits (lower than the Sub-Saharan average) and in 2018 most credit in the country was distributed outside the formal financial sector. Credit is often obtained from relatives, friends or through loans granted by stores or shops in the community.
The rate of banking is high in big cities such as Mutsamudu, Bambao, and Fomboni as it is much more profitable for institutions to serve customers in urban areas. However, the steep costs and fees charged by formal institutions have led to the exclusion of many in the urban areas, with deposit fees varying between 3 percent and 1.75 percent a year and loan rates often exceeding the ceiling of 14 percent set by the Ministry of Finance since 2009. Development of distribution channels is hampered by unsuitable locations, inadequate security indispensable for new service points, and the lack of electricity and communication infrastructure, especially in remote areas.
The IMF has welcomed the steps taken to modernise the monetary policy framework and encouraged the government to carefully sequence the envisaged reforms. Although the financial sector is well capitalised and liquid, growing financial sector vulnerabilities, including the high level of nonperforming loans (NPLs), persist and must be tackled to ensure credit growth and private sector development. The banking sector lacks dynamism and private lending for private construction for middle- and low-income groups is limited. Since 2015, credit to the private sector has been decreasing due to lending risks from persistently high NPLs and high excess liquidity. A recent illustration of this is that outstanding loans to the economy, including credit to the private sector, decreased by 4.1 percent from CF78.1 billion (US$173.1 million) at the end of December 2018 to CF74.9 billion (US$166 million) at the end of March 2019.
The World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report ranks Comoros at 124 for accessing credit (up from 122 in 2018 and 118 in 2017). Comoros is 168th for resolving insolvency, the same position it was in 2018. The country has no stock exchange or primary or secondary fixed-income markets for government or commercial debt. Government financing is mostly undertaken in the form of direct credit from domestic commercial banks, and liquidity levels are controlled through the modification of reserve requirements only. The main source of inflow for the Comorian economy is remittances, which totalled CF62.4 billion (US$138.4 million) in 2017 (21.3 percent of GDP) compared to CF58.9 billion (Us$130.6 million) in 2016 (21.2 percent of GDP).
 Central Bank of the Comoros. (2019) Quarterly Bulletin: 1st Quarter 2019. http://www.banque-comores.km/DOCUMENTS/Bulletin_BCC_n22_mars_2019.pdf (Accessed 29 September 2019).
 International Monetary Fund (June 2018). IMF Country Report No 18/189 Union of the Comoros 2018 Article IV Consultation. http://www.imf.org/~/media/Files/Publications/CR/2018/cr18189.ashx (Accessed 29 September 2019).
 Central Bank of the Comoros. (2019) Quarterly Bulletin: 1st Quarter 2019.
Adequate housing has become increasingly inaccessible to the urban population in the last 20 years as domestic public funding for housing is only for public servants. Before independence, no attempt was made to solve the housing problem. Population growth, recurring socio-politico-economic crises and the global financial crisis have led to housing finance being mostly dependent on the private sector. There has been a timid emergence of housing loans by financial institutions, but these are mostly available to residents of major cities.
At present, mostly private sector employees and senior civil servants can obtain housing loans. However, the financial institutions are aiming to offer housing loans at lower costs. To this effect, it was recommended that mechanisms of financing be put in place to partly make up for the insufficiency of public resources, and also to mobilise all the partnerships likely to facilitate access to housing for more people, for example by creating a solidarity fund.
Approximately 65 percent of all housing units in Comoros are made of straw with roofs made from cocoa leaves, and are privately owned. Approximately 25 percent are built with durable materials, including stone, brick, or concrete. Of all the housing units, nearly 90 percent are owner-occupied, 3 percent are rented and 3 percent occupied rent free. Around 98 percent of the population have access to improved sanitation systems and safe water. The housing survey conducted in 2014 by the government of Comoros in collaboration with United Nations Children’s Fund noted that 69 percent of households had electricity while 27 percent had an earth floor.
Housing in Comoros varies from two-room structures covered with palm leaves to multilevel buildings made of stone and coral. The part of the house at street level often serves as a shop or warehouse. Western-style houses, with indoor bathrooms and kitchens, also exist. Because of the practice of “matrilocality” – a social custom where the offspring of a family reside with their mother – women often remain part of their mother’s household, even after marriage. This is due in part to the practice of polygamy, as well as the traditional need for Comorian men to travel away from their communities in search of work. The family home can be expanded, or a separate structure can be built for a woman to inhabit with her children. As at 2015, more than 70 percent of the urban population lived in extremely difficult sanitary conditions and the average housing area did not exceed 30m2. Three quarters of the population lived in two-room houses with a surface area of 20m2 or less.
Companies in the construction sector are more focused on the construction of private homes in urban areas than public works. An important part of housing construction, especially in rural areas, is self-construction. New construction methods have been proposed which favour the use of available local materials while protecting the environment and ensuring sustainable development. To this end, the UN Habitat Project was facilitated through building terracotta brick factories on the three islands. This has led to the creation of jobs and the training of masons in basic construction techniques, supported by China and Tanzania.
In the absence of the market supplying affordable dwellings, a consortium from Iran in 2014 proposed to build 5 000 housing units throughout the three islands over a period of four years as a follow-up to the UN Habitat Project.
 Ministère des Finances, du Budget et du Plan. Direction Nationale du Recensement (2007). Analyse des données du Recensement des Comores 2003. 14 volumes.
 Government of Comoros, Vice President in charge of the Ministry of Territory Development, of Infrastructures, Urbanization and Housing (2015). Habitat III 2016 Country Report. http://habitat3.org/wp-content/uploads/National-Reports-Comoros-English.pdf (Accessed 30 July 2018).
Poverty levels in both rural and urban areas have fallen, though much more in urban areas. In 2014, 42.4 percent of the population, or approximately 316 000 people, were living below the poverty line. Nevertheless, the demand for up-market properties has been growing, mainly due to the increasing demand created by the presence of foreigners in Comoros. Further, several factors, including international aid, increased tourism, and the nation’s relationship with France, Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf allies, have contributed to the growth in residential and commercial property ownership. The purchase price of an average 3-bedroom semi-detached house in Comoros ranges from CF59 095 905 (US$131 000) to CF315 779 643 (US$700 000).
Rental of a 3-bedroom apartment ranges between CF451 114 (US$1 000) and CF676 671 (US$1 500) a month. Foreigners who make a substantial investment in the country are eligible to apply for Comorian nationality under the Economic Citizenship Act, passed in 2008. This allows the few property dealers in Comoros to engage in speculative strategies on the market.
The World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report ranks Comoros at 114 for registering property compared to 111 in 2018. The process entails four procedures and takes approximately 30 business days to complete. The process will cost approximately 8 percent of the property value. Comoros is better than the average for Sub-Saharan Africa in the number of procedures and the number of days required. However, the cost of registration as a percentage of the property value is higher for Comoros, and the quality of land administration is weaker. On dealing with construction permits, Comoros is ranked at 85 and the process takes 10 procedures but entails a waiting period of approximately 108 days.
 The World Bank. (2018). Latest Report on Poverty in the Comoros. https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/comoros/publication/latest-report-on-poverty-in-the-comoros (Accessed 29 September 2019).
 The World Bank Group. (2019). Doing Business 2019.
Policy and Regulations
Currently, the Ministry of Energy, Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment, Regional Planning and Urban Planning handles overall administration of housing and related issues. Previously, housing was the responsibility of the Ministry of Territorial Management, Urbanisation, Housing and Energy. One of the main priorities of the government is the stable supply of energy at a reasonable cost and which is accessible to all. Energy is considered indispensable for economic development and for supplying water, hospitals, schools, housing, and transport. The present institutional set-up for urban land management involves the ministries responsible for finance, development planning and housing, and municipalities. The absence of a cadastre did not enable secure land rights; as such the “direction du cadastre et de la topographie” was created after 2015 to aid land administration.
Even though the credit market is in its infancy, the Central Bank of Comoros has put in place prudential norms. In its 2015 report, the Central Bank reported that, following on-site inspection, compliance with Bank Prudential Ratios were well respected by the financial institutions, although the internal audit function needed to be reinforced. In its 2016 annual report, the Central Bank emphasised that the inspection of the financial institutions revealed some shortcomings in governance, in particular for credit granted to managers, staff and board members.
In recent years, the government has undertaken several measures to enhance financial intermediation and strengthen the country’s banking and financial sectors. Such efforts include easing the entry of foreign banks, reforms to the investment code in 2007, and setting up a National Agency for Investment Promotion. The government has, in collaboration with the Central Bank of Tanzania, the Central African Banking Commission, the French Prudential supervisory authority and the IMF, strengthened regulatory and supervisory frameworks to expand the scope of prudential regulations and increase the effectiveness of control procedures. In line with the credit risk management, doubtful or contentious debts with a maturity of more than three years will have to be fully provisioned.
Comoros continues to faces, among other problems: (i) weak institutional capacities, which hamper the effectiveness of macroeconomic and sector management; (ii) a lack of basic infrastructure, whose poor quality hinders economic transformation; (iii) vulnerability to external shocks and heavy dependence on external aid. However, the significant amount of foreign aid Comoros receives has helped bring some improvement in credit for households and house ownership, and reduced the poverty rate slightly.
The low overall competitiveness of the private sector has only fuelled the high level of unemployment, which is particularly high among young people. Past political conflicts have led to the loss of many jobs, particularly in the urban areas where unemployment is rife. Among the explanations for this is that many unemployed people have turned to the informal sector for work. This has had the effect of increasing the percentage of the unbanked population and those without access to credit.
Overcoming its physical and human capital constraints, particularly in basic infrastructure such as roads and electricity, will improve the business climate in Comoros as well as engender long-term growth prospects.
The ambition of the Comorian government is to increase the competitiveness of manufacturing, agri-food, craft and construction. Also planned is a set of construction companies that will significantly increase production capacity in housing and road building. Implementing this plan will create further opportunities for housing construction and social housing. As the economy progresses, enormous scope for housing and housing financing, with an emphasis on social housing, could be created.
 International Monetary Fund (2018). IMF Country Report No 18/189 Union of the Comoros 2018 Article IV Consultation.
Availability of data on housing finance
Information on the financial sector is published on an annual basis by the Central Bank of Comoros. Given that Comoros is not an English-speaking country, access to data on housing finance is often hampered by language barriers. Further, up-to-date information is rarely available and information that is easily accessible is often outdated. This is the case with information on the housing sector, as the only surveys that have been published were conducted in 2008 and 2014.
African Development Bank Group (2016). Comoros Country Strategic Paper 2016-2020. https://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Project-and-Operations/COMOROS_-_2016-2020_Country_Strategy_Paper.pdf (Accessed 20 July 2018).
Comores-infos (2014). Construction de 5000 logements sociaux aux Comoros. 18 March 2014. http://www.comores-infos.net/construction-de-5000-logements-sociaux-aux-comores (Accessed 21 Sept 2018).
Making Finance Work for Africa (2018). Comoros Financial Sector Profile. https://www.mfw4a.org/index.php?id=394 (Accessed 12 Sept 2018).
Mo Ibrahim Foundation (2018). 2017 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, Index Report. http://s.mo.ibrahim.foundation/u/2017/11/21165610/2017-IIAG-Report.pdf?_ga=2.253668937.1942901850.1517602704-502629705.1517602704 (Accessed 22 July 2018).
INSEED Institut National de la Statistique e des etudes Economiques et Demographiques http://www.inseed.km/
Banque Centrale des Comores http://www.banque-comores.km