• H.E. Hery Martial Rajaonarimampianina

  • President

  • “We must learn to better preserve our natural resources and optimally draw economic benefits from them. We must also more effectively distribute income and profits, build durable infrastructure, better prepare to limit the risk of disasters, and transform the stakes of climate change into development opportunities.”
Full name Republic of Madagascar
Capital Antananarivo
Area 587,041 km2
Location Southern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Mozambique
Geographic coordinates 20 00 S, 47 00 E
Population 23,812,681
Languages
  • French (official)
  • Malagasy (official)
  • English
Religion
  • Christian
  • indigenous believer
  • Muslim
Demonym Malagasy (singular and plural)
Currency Malagasy ariary (MGA)
Country code +261
Internet code .mg
Industry Meat processing, soap, breweries, tanneries
Agriculture Coffee, vanilla, sugarcane, cloves, livestock products
Exports Coffee, vanilla, shellfish, sugar, cotton cloth, chromite, petroleum products
Government website www.primature.gov.mg

Source: CIA World Factbook & National Geographic

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Introduction

Lemurs, baobabs, rainforest, desert, trekking and diving: Madagascar is a dream destination for outdoor lovers – and half the fun is getting to all these incredible attractions.

Historically, Madagascar has been populated by successive waves of migrants from various corners of the Indian Ocean. This cultural melting pot has evolved into an intricate set of beliefs and rituals that revere ancestors’ spirits. For travellers, attending a famadihana (traditional exhumation and reburial when relatives can communicate with their forebears) can be the highlight of a trip. There is much history to discover, too, from Antananarivo's sacred hills to the pirate history of Île Sainte Marie.

The first humans to settle in Madagascar came from the island of Borneo which is now divided between the countries of Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. They arrived between 350 BCE and 550 CE in canoes, and weren’t joined by mainland Africans until almost 500 years later. Over time, other African, Asian and European settler groups arrived, each bringing their own unique contributions to the culture of the island.

Economy

In 2015, Madagascar consolidated the institutions set up the previous year, adopted a decentralisation policy, held elections for local councils and for the senate, convened talks on national reconciliation attended by former presidents, launched a national consultation on public-security reform, and swore in the second government since the transition. Economic growth is still driven by the secondary sector (export processing zones, agro-industry, and the metal and wood industries) and the services sector (banking, tourism, insurance and construction).

In terms of the outlook for the future, a calmer political environment with better governance and the recovery of public and private investment should allow economic growth to reach 4.0% in 2016 and 4.5% in 2017, driven by agriculture, production in export processing zones, new information and communications technology, transport, tourism and construction. This economic growth should alleviate poverty and unemployment.

Ecology

Madagascar is unique: 5% of all known animal and plant species can be found here, and here alone. The island's signature animal is the lemur, but there are many more peculiar and wonderful creatures: the eerie-looking fossa (a cat-like predator), colourful and camouflaged chameleons, oddly shaped insects, vivid frogs, graceful rays and turtles, several species of sharks, and humpback whales during the winter months. Trees and plants are just as impressive, be they the distinctively shaped baobabs, the fanning ravinala (travellers' palm), the hundreds of orchids or the spiny forests of the desert south.

The remarkable fauna and flora is matched by epic landscapes of an incredible diversity. You can go from rainforest to desert in just 300km. Few places on Earth offer such an intense kaleidoscope of nature. There are sandstone canyons, limestone karsts, mountains, fertile hills cascading with terraced rice paddies, forests of every kind – rain, dry, spiny – and a laterite-rich soil that gave the country its nickname of 'Red Island'. With 5000km of coastline, the turquoise and idyllic seas are never very far.

Successes

Over the past two decades, the percentage of Malagasy children enrolled in primary school has risen from 64.7% in 1991 to near universal enrolment in 2008. Completion rates have also improved.

In addition, the under-five mortality rate in the country has been reduced from 167 per 1,000 live births in 1991 to 58 per 1,000 in 2009.