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The Republic of Madagascar is an island off the coast of East Africa. Situated in the Indian Ocean, the island country is east of Mozambique and west of French Réunion Island and Mauritius.

The country is made up of Madagascar Island, the fourth-largest in the world, and several smaller islands.

About 5% of the plant and animal species in the world are found only on Madagascar. The island is known for its lemurs, endemic to Madagascar, but the island contains several other unique creatures, such as a cat-like predator known as the fossa, related to the mongoose family. Madagascar is also home to some colorful chameleons, frogs of various colors, and some strange insects. Madagascar also has some interesting plants, such as the baobab, of which six of its nine species are native to the island.

On the island of Madagascar, rainforests can be found less than 200 miles from a desert. There are sandstone canyons, limestone plateaus, mountains, hills, rice paddies, and varied forests. As an island, the sea is never far away.

The earliest evidence of a human presence on the island was about 2000 BC, although it is believed that the island was not settled before 350 BC, and possibly not until 550 AD. Its first inhabitants came from Southeast Asia, and were soon joined by people from the African mainland.

Up until the 1700s, Madagascar was controlled by shifting alliances. By the early 1800s, most of the island was ruled by one power, referred to as the Kingdom of Madagascar, but its unity was unable to long resist the onslaught of European aggression.

Madagascar came under the rule of the French in 1896, and remained under French control until 1960. Madagascar's independence movement, which began in the 1930s, was successful in 1960, largely due to France's own disunity during World War II and the anti-imperialist attitudes that followed.

Like many new governments, particularly in Africa, independence proved not to be a smooth process. Since 1960, Madagascar has experienced four constitutional crises. Originally a republic, the country has been a constitutional democracy since 1992. Madagascar has been thrust from one violently ousted leader to another, although its 2003 presidential election was considered to have been fair by international observers, and the winner of this election was still in power as of 2017.

The administrative capital of Madagascar is Antananarivo, which is also the country's largest city, centrally located in the highlands region of the island. Antananarivo has been Madagascar's capital city since the early 1600s. The next largest cities on the island are Antsirabe, Toamasina, and Mahajanga, each of which have populations above 400,000.

Corruption in Madagascar has decreased since the 2013 elections, by all reports, although political arrests and a degree of corruption within the country's military and law enforcement personnel are not unheard of, and the independent media have come under varying degrees of pressure, with some media outlets forced to close. Nevertheless, high-level officials have been successfully prosecuted by the government's anti-corruption bureau.

Madagascar has been burdened by a large international debt for years, and nearly 70% of its population is below the established poverty line threshold of one dollar a day. There has been some growth in its economy in the past five years, but this has been largely eaten up by public works programs and a growth in its service sector. Agriculture, fishing, and forestry are important factors in the country's economy, and tourism has increased since the island has enjoyed relative stability in the past few years.

Madagascar roads are undeveloped, and in poor repair, mostly unpaved, many of which are impassable during the rainy season. The island has several railroad lines, and seaports in Toamasina, Ehoala, Mahajanga, and Antsiranana. There are several regional airports, served by Air Madagascar.

A government service provider supplies water and electricity to the island, although it is unable to service the entire population. In 2010, fewer than 10% of the population had access to electric services provided by the government, and even fewer had running water. Much of the population is dependent on diesel generators for electricity. Mobile telephone and Internet access is common in urban areas, but rare in the rural sections of the island. Radio broadcasts are the primary means of information for the Madagascar population.

More than 90% of the population are of the Malagasy ethnic group. Populations of Chinese, Indian, Comoran, and French are present on Madagascar, although its European population has declined considerably since independence. More than 50% of the population practice traditional religions, while just over 40% are Christian, and Islam is a significant minority religion.


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