He has his work cut out for him. Antananarivo suffers from dire poverty, shoddy infrastructure, thick pollution, heavy traffic and poor sanitation. Six years ago, flooding caused a cholera outbreak in the city.

But the mayor is chipping away at all of these problems and pursuing an ambitious urban renewal policy built on a vision of creating sustainable development.

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Elected in December 2003, Mr Ramiaramanana has a doctorate in chemistry from Düsseldorf University in Germany and held managerial positions in business before joining the municipal government as an inspector in 2002.

Eager to promote his city globally and exchange best practice with other municipalities, he has been active internationally, too, participating in forums such as the Cités et Gouvernements Locaux Unis, the Association Internationale des Maires Francophones, and Metropolis. Last year, he was elected vice-president of the African region representing African countries in Metropolis.

fDi magazine is not the only entity to recognise the mayor’s achievements: he was named Man of the Year 2003 in a local contest, received the Metropolis Award at the organisation’s conference in Berlin last May, and was a finalist in the 2005 World Mayor awards.