About  |   Contact  |  Mongabay on Facebook  |  Mongabay on Twitter  |  Subscribe
Rainforests | Tropical fish | Environmental news | For kids | Madagascar | Photos


Mongabay.com seeks to raise interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife, while examining the impact of emerging trends in climate, technology, economics, and finance on conservation and development (more)


Madagascar Index

The Malagasy language--spoken throughout Madagascar by the entire population--is the only one in the African region that belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian language family. Linguists believe that it shares a common origin with, and is most closely related to Maanyan, a language spoken in southeast Borneo. Both Malagasy and Maanyan bear a close affinity with the languages of the western Indonesian archipelago, such as Malay, Javanese, Balinese, and the Minangkabau language of Sumatra.

The origins of the Malagasy language in southeast Asia are clearly demonstrated by common words and meanings shared with several of the Indonesian languages. For example, the Malagasy term antalaotra (people of the sea) echoes the Malay laut (sea). Even more geographically widespread and interesting affinities have been discovered. Vahiny means "stranger" in Malagasy, while vahini means "girl" in Tahitian Polynesian. Scholars suggest that the two words (assuming they share a common origin) reveal that the first Malayo-Indonesian settlers along the African coast, or Madagascar itself, were male and that women came later as guests or strangers to settlements already established.

Although different regional dialects of Malagasy exist, these are mutually intelligible, and the language is a significant basis of cultural unity. Words are formed from roots with basic meanings, which are combined with prefixes or suffixes to create derivatives. Many Malagasy words, particularly names (such as that of the Merina king, Andrianampoinimerina), are very long, but certain syllables, particularly the last, are lightly accented or not at all.

A number of foreign words are found in the Malagasy vocabulary. The names of the days of the week and the months of the year are taken from Arabic, and the names of animals are taken from a Swahili dialect of East Africa. A number of English and French words also entered the language in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Before the nineteenth century, the only Malagasy people with a written language were the Antaimoro, keepers of the sorabe. By 1824-25, a written form of Malagasy using Roman characters was developed by members of the London Missionary Society working under the patronage of Merina King Radama I. The result was an almost perfectly consistent phonetic language that continues to be used throughout the country; the consonants are pronounced as in English and the vowels as in French, a compromise apparently promoted by Radama I. The completion of the alphabet enabled the missionaries to publish a Malagasy Bible and other books for their schools, and the possession of a written language was to prove decisive to the development of the Merinadominated portion of Madagascar.

The colonial period witnessed the emergence of French as the dominant language of the island, and Malagasy was relegated to an inferior position, particularly in official and academic circles. Although the First Republic adopted an official policy of bilingualism (French and Malagasy), French continued to dominate until the inauguration of Ratsiraka and his promulgation of an official policy of Malagachization. Originally conceived by nationalists as the promotion of education in the national language, Malagachization also ultimately included the more radical denunciation of French culture and influence over the national economy and political system. Malagachization further entailed the creation of a common Malagasy language that partook of dialects from all the regions and peoples of the island rather than being primarily a Merina dialect, as remains the case with official Malagasy today. After 1982 the drive toward Malagachization increasingly faltered in favor of a continuing trend toward reembracing the concept of Madagascar's inclusion in the international francophone community. Indeed, French remains important, largely because of its international status and the fact that most of the leadership has been educated in French. Both Malagasy and French are used in official government publications.

Data as of August 1994

BackgroundFormerly 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 due to increasing restrictions on opposition press and activities resulted in RAVALOMANANA stepping down and the presidency was conferred to the mayor of Antananarivo, Andry RAJOELINA. Following negotiations in July and August of 2009, a power-sharing agreement with a 15-month transitional period was established, but has not yet been implemented.
LocationSouthern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Mozambique
Area(sq km)total: 587,041 sq km
land: 581,540 sq km
water: 5,501 sq km
Geographic coordinates20 00 S, 47 00 E
Land boundaries(km)0 km

Coastline(km)4,828 km

Climatetropical along coast, temperate inland, arid in south

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Maromokotro 2,876 m
Natural resourcesgraphite, chromite, coal, bauxite, salt, quartz, tar sands, semiprecious stones, mica, fish, hydropower
Land use(%)arable land: 5.03%
permanent crops: 1.02%
other: 93.95% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)10,860 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)337 cu km (1984)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 14.96 cu km/yr (3%/2%/96%)
per capita: 804 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazardsperiodic cyclones; drought; and locust infestation
Environment - current issuessoil 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
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - noteworld's fourth-largest island; strategic location along Mozambique Channel
Population20,653,556 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 43.5% (male 4,523,033/female 4,460,473)
15-64 years: 53.5% (male 5,483,684/female 5,557,098)
65 years and over: 3% (male 280,677/female 348,591) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 18 years
male: 17.8 years
female: 18.2 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)3% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)38.14 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)8.14 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)NA (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 29% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 3.8% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.8 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 54.2 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 59.12 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 49.13 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 62.89 years
male: 60.93 years
female: 64.91 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)5.14 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Malagasy (singular and plural)
adjective: Malagasy
Ethnic groups(%)Malayo-Indonesian (Merina and related Betsileo), Cotiers (mixed African, Malayo-Indonesian, and Arab ancestry - Betsimisaraka, Tsimihety, Antaisaka, Sakalava), French, Indian, Creole, Comoran

Religions(%)indigenous beliefs 52%, Christian 41%, Muslim 7%
Languages(%)English (official), French (official), Malagasy (official)

Country nameconventional 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
Government typerepublic
Capitalname: Antananarivo
geographic coordinates: 18 55 S, 47 31 E
time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions6 provinces (faritany); Antananarivo, Antsiranana, Fianarantsoa, Mahajanga, Toamasina, Toliara
Constitutionpassed by referendum 19 August 1992

Legal systembased on French civil law system and traditional Malagasy law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations

Suffrage18 years of age; universal
Executive branchchief of state: President Andry RAJOELINA (since 18 March 2009)
head of government: Prime Minister Albert Camille VITAL (since 18 December 2009)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 3 December 2006 (next to be held in October 2011); prime minister appointed by the president
election results: percent of vote - Marc RAVALOMANANA 54.8%, Jean LAHINIRIKO 11.7%, Roland RATSIRAKA 10.1%, Herizo RAZAFIMAHALEO 9.1%, Norbert RATSIRAHONANA 4.2%, Ny Hasina ANDRIAMANJATO 4.2%, Elia RAVELOMANANTSOA 2.6%, Pety RAKOTONIAINA 1.7%, other 1.6%; note - RAVALOMANANA stepped down on 17 March 2009
note:: on 17 March 2009, democratically elected President Marc RAVALOMANANA stepped down handing the government over to the military, which in turn conferred the presidency on opposition leader and Antananarivo mayor Andry RAJOELINA, who will head the High Transition Authority; a power-sharing agreement reached in August 2009 established a 15-month transition period, concluding in general elections in 2010; as of December 2009 the agreement had not been fully implemented
Legislative branchbicameral legislature consists of a Senate or Senat (100 seats; two-thirds of the seats filled by regional assemblies; the remaining one-third of seats appointed by the president; to serve four-year terms) and a National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale (127 seats - reduced from 160 seats by an April 2007 national referendum; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: National Assembly - last held 23 September 2007 (next to be held in late 2010); note - a power-sharing agreement in the summer of 2009 established a 15-month transition, concluding in general elections
election results: National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - TIM 106, LEADER/Fanilo 1, independents 20

Judicial branchSupreme Court or Cour Supreme; High Constitutional Court or Haute Cour Constitutionnelle

Political pressure groups and leadersCommittee for the Defense of Truth and Justice or KMMR; Committee for National Reconciliation or CRN [Albert Zafy]; National Council of Christian Churches or FFKM
Flag descriptiontwo equal horizontal bands of red (top) and green with a vertical white band of the same width on hoist side

Economy - overviewHaving discarded past socialist economic policies, Madagascar has since the mid 1990s followed a World Bank- and IMF-led policy of privatization and liberalization. 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 have boomed in recent years primarily due to duty-free access to the US. Deforestation and erosion, aggravated by the use of firewood as the primary source of fuel, are serious concerns. President RAVALOMANANA has worked aggressively to revive the economy following the 2002 political crisis, which triggered a 12% drop in GDP that year. Poverty reduction and combating corruption will be the centerpieces of economic policy for the next few years.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$20.18 billion (2008 est.)
$18.86 billion (2007 est.)
$17.76 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$9.463 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)7% (2008 est.)
6.2% (2007 est.)
5% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$1,000 (2008 est.)
$1,000 (2007 est.)
$900 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 26.2%
industry: 15.2%
services: 58.5% (2008 est.)
Labor force9.504 million (2007)

Population below poverty line(%)50% (2004 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: 2.6%
highest 10%: 41.5% (2005)
Distribution of family income - Gini index47.5 (2001)
38.1 (1999)
Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)26.6% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $1.612 billion
expenditures: $2.05 billion (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)9.2% (2008 est.)
10.3% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$1.217 billion (31 December 2008)
$1.161 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money$667.2 million (31 December 2008)
$577.4 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$820.3 million (31 December 2008)
$767.5 million (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares$NA
Economic aid - recipient$929.2 million (2005)

Agriculture - productscoffee, vanilla, sugarcane, cloves, cocoa, rice, cassava (tapioca), beans, bananas, peanuts; livestock products
Industriesmeat processing, seafood, soap, breweries, tanneries, sugar, textiles, glassware, cement, automobile assembly plant, paper, petroleum, tourism

Industrial production growth rate(%)3% (2008 est.)

Current account balance-$1.03 billion (2008 est.)
-$807 million (2007 est.)
Exports$1.254 billion (2008 est.)
$1.095 billion (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)coffee, vanilla, shellfish, sugar, cotton cloth, chromite, petroleum products
Exports - partners(%)France 38.9%, US 20.3%, Germany 5% (2008)
Imports$2.419 billion (2008 est.)
$1.944 billion (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)capital goods, petroleum, consumer goods, food
Imports - partners(%)China 20.1%, Bahrain 8.7%, France 6.3%, South Africa 5.7%, US 4.9%, India 4.4% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$982.3 million (31 December 2008 est.)
$846.7 million (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$2.023 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$4.6 billion (2002)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home$NA
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad$NA
Exchange ratesMalagasy ariary (MGA) per US dollar - 1,654.78 (2008 est.), 1,880 (2007), 2,161.4 (2006), 2,003 (2005), 1,868.9 (2004)

Currency (code)ariary (MGA)

Telephones - main lines in use164,900 (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular4.835 million (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: system is above average for the region; Antananarivo's main telephone exchange modernized in the late 1990s, but the rest of the analogue-based telephone system is poorly developed; have added new fixed lines since 2005
domestic: combined fixed-line and mobile telephone density about 25 per 100 persons
international: country code - 261; submarine cable to Bahrain; satellite earth stations - 2 (1 Intelsat - Indian Ocean, 1 Intersputnik - Atlantic Ocean region) (2008)
Internet country code.mg
Internet users316,100 (2008)
Airports89 (2009)
Roadways(km)total: 65,663 km
paved: 7,617 km
unpaved: 58,046 km (2003)

Ports and terminalsAntsiranana, Mahajanga, Toamasina, Toliara
Military branchesPeople's Armed Forces: Intervention Force, Development Force, and Aeronaval Force (navy and air); National Gendarmerie
Military service age and obligation(years of age)18-25 years of age for male-only compulsory military service; 18-month conscript service obligation (either military or equivalent civil service); 20-30 years of age for National Gendarmerie recruits (35 years of age for those with military experience) (2008)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 4,443,341
females age 16-49: 4,441,124 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 3,150,043
females age 16-49: 3,404,988 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 236,500
female: 235,994 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)1% of GDP (2006)
Disputes - internationalclaims Bassas da India, Europa Island, Glorioso Islands, and Juan de Nova Island (all administered by France)

Electricity - production(kWh)1.045 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 36.1%
hydro: 63.9%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)971.4 million kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)84.57 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)20,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)364.9 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)16,940 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves(bbl)0 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)0.1% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS14,000 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deathsfewer than 1,000 (2007 est.)
Major infectious diseasesdegree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: chikungunya, malaria, and plague
water contact disease: schistosomiasis (2009)
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 68.9%
male: 75.5%
female: 62.5% (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 9 years
male: 10 years
female: 9 years (2006)
Education expenditures(% of GDP)3.1% of GDP (2006)

Copyright mongabay 2000-2013