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Info Africa - MADAGASCAR

The Island of Madagascar is the largest in the Indian Ocean. It lies in Southern Africa, east of Mozambique. It is the world’s fourth largest island, following New Guinea, Borneo and Greenland. It used to be an independent Kingdom before the French colonized it in 1896. This island gained its independence in 1960. The people of Madagascar, the Malagasy, are mixed peoples with African, Indian, Arab and Indonesian heritage. This mixture has created an amazing variety of cultures as a result of its long history as a trading hub and migratory destination of peoples from Indonesia, Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. To-date, Madagascar is home to over 20 ethnic groups. All these groups are linked together through the common

Malagasy culture and language, creating “unity amongst diversity.” The capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, is French in many ways. French is widely spoken here and some city signs are written in French. Must-see places of this beautiful city include the ruins of the Queen’s Palace and the President’s Palace. The market of Analakely and the Zoma Market are some of Antananarivo’s busiest spots. Many consider Madagascar the heaven of biodiversity. A high percentage of its mammals, plants and birds are only found on this island and nowhere else in the world. This is a direct result of Madagascar geographical isolation. To this present day, Madagascar has sound relations with France. It also maintains cultural and economic ties with French-speaking West Africa.
CATEGORIES: Demographics - Quick Facts - Economy - Communications - Health Issues
Country Flag: Madagascar's Flag

Two equal horizontal bands of red (top) and green with a vertical white band of the same width on hoist side

Nationality: Malagasy

Capital: Antananarivo

Population: 18,595,469 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

  • 0-14 years: 44.8%
  • 15-64 years: 52.2%
  • 65 years and over: 3% (2006 est.)  

Population growth rate: 3.03% (2006 est.)

Literacy rate:

  • ages 15 and above can read and write.
  • 68.9% of the population is literate (male: 75.5%, female: 62.5%) (2003 est.)

Major religions: Indigenous beliefs 52%, Christian 41%, Muslim 7%

Languages: French (official), Malagasy (official)

Quick Facts
  • total: 587,040 sq km
  • land: 581,540 sq km
  • water: 5,500 sq km

Area comparative to Canadian province:
half the size of Ontario

Natural resources: graphite, chromite, coal, bauxite, salt, quartz, tar sands, semiprecious stones, mica, fish, hydropower

Environmental Issues: soil erosion from deforestation and overgrazing; desertification; surface water contaminated with raw sewage and other organic wastes; several endangered species of flora and fauna unique to the island


The Madagascar economy is mainly agricultural, with fishing and forestry included. It accounts for more than one-fourth of GPD and employs 80% of the population. Deforestation and erosion as a result of the increasing usage of firewood as fuel are causing significant concerns, not only for the economy, but for the environment as well. Clothing exports have flourished recently because of duty-free access to the United States. Since the mid 1990s, Madagascar has adopted the World Bank- and IMF- led policy of liberalization and privatization. The country’s current president, Ravalomanana, has been active in revitalizing the economy after the 2002 political crisis. Fighting corruption and poverty reduction will remain an integral part of Madagascar’s economic policy in the years to come.

Major industries:

  • meat processing
  • soap
  • breweries
  • tanneries
  • sugar
  • textiles
  • glassware
  • cement
  • automobile assembly plant
  • paper
  • petroleum
  • tourism

Agricultural products:

  • coffee
  • vanilla
  • sugarcane
  • cloves
  • cocoa
  • rice
  • cassava (tapioca)
  • beans
  • bananas
  • peanuts
  • livestock products

Oil production: 89.27 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Railways: 732 km

Road map: 49,827 km (paved: 5,780 km, unpaved: 44,047 km)

Currency: Madagascar ariary


Telephone lines in use: 58,700 (2004)

Cellular lines in use: 333,900 (2004)

Television Stations: 1 (plus 36 repeaters) (2001)

Radio Stations: AM 2 (plus a number of repeater stations), FM 9, shortwave 6 (2001)

Internet users: 90,000 (2005)

Health Issues

HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate: 1.7% (2003 est.)

People living with HIV/AIDS: 140,000 (2003 est.)

More Information

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