Madagascar originally Republic of Madagascar is an island nation in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa. The main island, also called Madagascar, is the fourth-largest island in the world, and is home to 5% of the world's plant and animal species, of which more than 80% are endemic to Madagascar. They include the lemur infraorder of primates, the carnivorous fossa, three bird families and six baobab species.

Background History

Formerly an independent kingdom, Madagascar became a French colony in 1896 but regained independence in 1960. During 1992-93, free presidential and National Assembly elections were held ending 17 years of single-party rule. In 1997, in the second presidential race, Didier Ratsiraka, the leader during the 1970s and 1980s, was returned to the presidency. The 2001 presidential election was contested between the followers of Didier Ratsiraka and Marc Ravalomanana, nearly causing secession of half of the country. In April 2002, the High Constitutional Court announced Ravalomanana the winner. Ravalomanana achieved a second term following a landslide victory in the generally free and fair presidential elections of 2006. In early 2009, protests over increasing restrictions on opposition press and activities resulted in Ravalomanana stepping down and the presidency was conferred to the mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina. Numerous attempts have been made by regional and international organizations to resolve the subsequent political gridlock by forming a power-sharing government. As of late 2011, a Rajoelina has appointed a new cabinet, and the country appears to be moving towards new elections sometime in 2012.


Country Name:

  • conventional long form: Republic of Madagascar
  • conventional short form: Madagascar
  • local long form: Republique de Madagascar/Repoblikan'i Madagasikara
  • local short form: Madagascar/Madagasikara
  • former: Malagasy Republic


  • name: Antananarivo
  • population: 1,816,000
  • geographic coordinates: 18 55 S, 47 31 E
  • time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)


  • 26 June 1960 (from France)

Government Type:

  • republic

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: President Andry Rajoelina (since 18 March 2009)
  • head of government: Prime Minister Jean Omer Beriziky (since 2 November 2011)
  • elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 3 December 2006 (next to be held in March 2012); prime minister appointed by the president

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: bicameral Parliament consists the Senate and the National Assembly

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Supreme Court; High Constitutional Court

People & Society


  • 22,585,517 (global rank: 52)
  • growth rate: 2.952% (global rank: 13)


  • noun: Malagasy (singular and plural)
  • adjective: Malagasy

Major Cities:

  • Antananarivo (capital) 1.816 million

Ethnic Groups:

  • Malayo-Indonesian (Merina and related Betsileo), Cotiers (mixed African, Malayo-Indonesian, and Arab ancestry - Betsimisaraka, Tsimihety, Antaisaka, Sakalava), French, Indian, Creole, Comoran


  • indigenous beliefs 52%, Christian 41%, Muslim 7%


  • French (official), Malagasy (official), English

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 64 years (global rank: 172)
  • male: 61.97 years
  • female: 66.1 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 50.09 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 44)
  • male: 54.8 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 45.24 deaths/1,000 live births

HIV/AIDS (2009 est.):

  • adult prevalence rate: 0.2% (global rank: 92)
  • people living with AIDS: 24,000 (global rank: 73)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 68.9%
  • male: 75.5%
  • female: 62.5%


After discarding socialist economic policies in the mid-1990s, Madagascar followed a World Bank- and IMF-led policy of privatization and liberalization that has been undermined since the start of the political crisis. This strategy placed the country on a slow and steady growth path from an extremely low level. Agriculture, including fishing and forestry, is a mainstay of the economy, accounting for more than one-fourth of GDP and employing 80% of the population. Exports of apparel boomed in recent years primarily due to duty-free access to the US, however, Madagascar's failure to comply with the requirements of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) led to the termination of the country's duty-free access in January 2010 and a sharp fall in textile production. Deforestation and erosion, aggravated by the use of firewood as the primary source of fuel, are serious concerns. The current political crisis, which began in early 2009, has dealt additional blows to the economy. Tourism dropped more than 50% in 2009 compared with the previous year, and many investors are wary of entering the uncertain investment environment. GDP grew by less than 1% per year in 2010-11.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $20.6 billion (global rank: 126)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $900 (global rank: 216)
  • real growth rate: 1% (global rank: 185)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 28.8%, industry: 16.6%, services: 54.6%


  • currency: Malagasy Ariary (MGA)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 1,950


  • population below poverty line: 50%

Agricultural Products:

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


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

Export Commodities:

  • coffee, vanilla, shellfish, sugar, cotton cloth, chromite, petroleum products

Import Commodities:

  • capital goods, petroleum, consumer goods, food



  • Southern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Mozambique


  • total: 587,041 sq km (global rank: 47)
  • land: 581,540 sq km
  • water: 5,501 sq km
  • comparative: slightly less than twice the size of Arizona


  • tropical along coast, temperate inland, arid in south

Land Use:

  • arable land: 5.03%
  • permanent crops: 1.02%
  • other: 93.95%

Natural Resources:

  • graphite, chromite, coal, bauxite, rare earth elements, salt, quartz, tar sands, semiprecious stones, mica, fish, hydropower

Current Environmental Issues:

  • soil erosion results 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

Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: claims Bassas da India, Europa Island, Glorioso Islands, and Juan de Nova Island (all administered by France); the vegetated drying cays of Banc du Geyser, which were claimed by Madagascar in 1976, also fall within the EEZ claims of the Comoros and France (Glorioso Islands, part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands)
  • human trafficking: Madagascar is a source country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; sex and labor trafficking have increased, particularly due to a lack of economic development and a decline in the rule of law during the current political crisis, which began in March 2009; children, mostly from rural areas, are subjected to domestic servitude, commercial sexual exploitation, and forced labor in mining, fishing, and agriculture within the country
  • illicit drugs: illicit producer of cannabis (cultivated and wild varieties) used mostly for domestic consumption; transshipment point for heroin

Published: Monday, September 08, 2008