To some, Madagascar may seem like a far-away, exotic place. But to recent University of Maryland graduate Pactole Alison, Madagascar is home and a country badly in need of a fresh start. That’s why Alison hopes to use his new master’s degree in applied economics to usher in a new beginning by running to become Madagascar’s next president in 2018.
“Madagascar is not a fantasy island. It is [a] real [place] with real people – 25 million inhabitants,” Alison said. “Poverty is an extreme in most areas in spite of the country’s vast natural resources and its status as the world’s largest vanilla producer. The country needs help getting the resources it needs to jumpstart the economy.”
This realization came not only from Alison’s own childhood experiences, but also from his collegiate studies.
In 2007, Alison came to the U.S. to be with his wife, whom he met during her volunteer service with the Peace Corps. He enrolled in the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School to improve his English speaking skills and completed the highest-level ESL course in 2009.
Shortly afterward, Alison went on to the University of the District of Columbia in 2010 and graduated with an associate’s degree in business technology. Next, Alison transferred to Georgetown, where he double majored in finance and international business and, after graduating in 2014, pursued and completed a master’s degree in applied economics at the University of Maryland.
“[During my time at UMD] I was very interested in ‘time series analysis and forecasting’ at the macro level,” Alison, who was able to study and write a paper on rice production, consumption and import in Madagascar, said. “Rice is the main staple food for the Malagasy people…so a shortness in supply, for instance, could have devastating social and political consequences. My understanding of such dynamics allows me to get heavily involved in shaping a policy that would make our rice producers, consumers and importers winners.”
When asked why he pursued said path, Alison said, “When you learn about how the world’s economic systems and financial institutions work, understanding the pathways to economic prosperity become less complex. Simply extracting and then selling natural resources such as mineral deposits and gold is not enough to help the country progress. Economic development is a complex process that requires a well-thought-out plan and collaboration at many levels.”
“Upon my graduation, my understanding of economics has been greatly enhanced not only conceptually, but with practical tools,” Alison went on. “I am now able to make informed decisions on economic policy that work for everyone—not just those at the top, [but] especially in countries like mine where people still struggle to buy their daily necessities.”
Alison has been thinking about running for president of Madagascar since the 2008-2009 coup led by Andry Rajoelina, a disc jockey turned politician who overcame then-president Marc Ravalomanana with help from a small army.
“Madagascar has been a place of desperation for more than three decades,” Alison explained. “I want it to become a nation of hope once again because we, the Malagasy people, deserve better.”
After Christmas this year, Alison will spend several weeks in Europe hoping to garner support for his campaign before moving to Madagascar. According to Madagascar law, to be considered for the presidential ballot, Alison must live in Madagascar for at least six months leading up to the first round of elections in October 2018. Alison’s wife and daughter (who will be starting fourth grade next year) plan on staying in their Takoma Park home.
Currently, Alison is working to raise financial support for his campaign. His top three opponents include current president Hery Rajaonarimampianina, Ravalomanana and Rajoelina.