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 handing over power to the military, which then conferred the presidency on the mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina, in what amounted to a coup d'etat. Following a lengthy mediation process led by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Madagascar held UN-supported presidential and parliamentary elections in 2013. Former de facto finance minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina defeated Rajaonarimampianina's favored candidate Jean-Louis Robinson in a presidential runoff and was inaugurated in January 2014. Most international observers, while noting some irregularities, declared polls to be a credible reflection of the Malagasy public's will.



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
  • 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 Hery Martial Rajaonarimampianina Rakotoarimana (since 25 January 2014)
  • head of government: Prime Minister Roger Laurent Christophe Kolo, M.D. (since 11 April 2014)
  • elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 20 December 2013 (next to be held in 2018); prime minister nominated by the National Assembly and appointed by the president

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: bicameral legislature consists of a Senate and a National Assembly

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Supreme Court; High Constitutional Court


People & Society


  • 23,201,926 (global rank: 53)
  • growth rate: 2.62% (global rank: 25)


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

Major Cities:

  • Antananarivo (capital) 1.987 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: 65.2 years (global rank: 174)
  • male: 63.77 years
  • female: 66.67 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 44.88 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 48)
  • male: 48.86 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 40.78 deaths/1,000 live births


  • adult prevalence rate: 0.5% (global rank: 73)
  • people living with AIDS: 58,800 (global rank: 57)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 64.5%
  • male: 67.4%
  • female: 61.6%



Overview: 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. Growth was slow during 2010 to 2013 although expansion in mining and agricultural sectors is expected to contribute to more growth in 2014. International organizations and foreign donors are expected to resume development aid to Madagascar once Rajaonarimampianina appoints a new government.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $22.03 billion (global rank: 129)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $1,000 (global rank: 220)
  • real growth rate: 2.6% (global rank: 126)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 27.3%, industry: 16.4%, services: 56.3%


  • currency: Malagasy Ariary (MGA)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 2,227.8


  • 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: 5.96%
  • permanent crops: 1.02%
  • other: 93.02%

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 men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and women and children subjected to sex trafficking; poor Malagasy women hired as domestic workers in Lebanon and Kuwait are vulnerable to abuse by recruitment agencies and employers; an increasing number of Malagasy men were victimized by labor trafficking abroad in 2012; Malagasy children are subjected to domestic servitude, prostitution, forced begging, and forced labor within the country, often with the complicity of family members; coastal cities have child sex tourism trades, with Malagasy men being the main clients
  • illicit drugs: illicit producer of cannabis (cultivated and wild varieties) used mostly for domestic consumption; transshipment point for heroin

Published: Wednesday, April 1, 2015