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Last Updated: Friday, 1 December 2006, 10:40 GMT
Country profile: Madagascar
Map of Madagascar
Madagascar is the world's fourth biggest island after Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo. Because of its isolation most of its mammals, half its birds, and most of its plants exist nowhere else on earth.

The island is heavily exposed to tropical cyclones which bring torrential rains and destructive floods, such as the ones in 2000 and 2004, which left thousands homeless.



The Malagasy are thought to be descendents of Africans and Indonesians who settled on the island more than 2,000 years ago. Malagasy pay a lot of attention to their dead and spend much effort on ancestral tombs, which are opened from time to time so the remains can be carried in procession, before being rewrapped in fresh shrouds.

Forest, near Andratamarna, Madagascar
Politics: President Ravalomanana is to stand for re-election in December 2006. He took office in 2002 after a six-month power struggle with his rival Didier Ratsiraka, who refused to relinquish the presidency after disputed polls
Economy: Many areas suffer food shortages. Madagascar is to benefit from a G8 commitment to write off debts of 18 poor countries
International: Plans by Rio Tinto to start coastal strip mining in the south-east has drawn the attention of environmentalists
After sometimes harsh French colonial rule, which included the bloody suppression of an uprising in 1947, Madagascar gained independence in 1960. The military seized power in the early 1970s with the aim of achieving a socialist paradise.

This did not materialise. The economy went into decline and by 1982 the authorities were forced to adopt a structural adjustment programme imposed by the International Monetary Fund.

The World Bank has estimated that 70% of Malagasy live on less than $1 per day. Poverty and the competition for agricultural land have put pressure on the island's dwindling forests, home to much of Madagascar's unique wildlife and key to its emerging tourist industry.

The island has strong ties with France as well as economic and cultural links with French-speaking West Africa.



  • Full name: Republic of Madagascar
  • Population: 18.4 million (UN, 2005)
  • Capital: Antananarivo
  • Area: 587,041 sq km (226,658 sq miles)
  • Major languages: Malagasy (official), French
  • Major religions: Indigenous beliefs, Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 54 years (men), 57 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: Ariary
  • Main exports: Vanilla, coffee, seafood, cloves, petroleum products, chromium, fabrics
  • GNI per capita: US $290 (World Bank, 2006)
  • Internet domain: .mg
  • International dialling code: +261



President: Marc Ravalomanana

Millionaire businessman Marc Ravalomanana has pursued free-market reforms which have been welcomed by donors and investors. Aid has increased and foreign debt has been cancelled. But poverty remains endemic and protesters have taken to the streets over rising prices.

Madagascan president
President Marc Ravalomanana, a free-market reformer
When Mr Ravalomanana claimed victory in presidential elections in December 2001 a bitter six-month struggle for power with his predecessor, veteran leader Didier Ratsiraka, ensued.

After the US and France recognised Mr Ravalomanana as the legitimate leader, Didier Ratsiraka flew to France and his forces on the island switched sides.

Mr Ravalomanana promised to tackle poverty and unemployment, but he inherited an economy which was suffering after months of economic disruption and political violence.

Marc Ravalomanana was born in the village of Imerikasina, near Antananarivo. In true rags-to-riches fashion, he began his working life selling home-made yogurt off the back of a bicycle.

His dairy and oil products business is now the largest non-foreign-owned company on the island.

He took to the political stage in 1999 and gained a huge following in Antananarivo. As mayor of the capital he was credited with instigating a major clean-up of the city.

  • Prime minister: Jacques Sylla
  • Foreign minister: Marcel Ranjeva
  • Finance minister: Radavidson Andriamparany



    National state radio and TV came under the control of presidential contender Marc Ravalomanana in March 2002 during the power struggle with veteran leader Didier Ratsiraka.

    Mr Ravalomanana also owns the private Malagasy Broadcasting System, which operates the MBS TV and Radio MBS networks. Many private radio stations in the capital are owned by pro-Ravalomanana politicians.

    A boom in privately-owned FM radio stations and more critical political reporting by the print media followed 1990's law on press freedom.

    Although nationwide radio and TV broadcasting remain the monopoly of the state, there are hundreds of private local radio and TV stations.

    The press

  • Midi-Madagasikara- privately-owned Antananarivo daily
  • Madagascar-Tribune - privately-owned Antananarivo daily
  • L'Express - privately-owned Antananarivo daily
  • La Gazette de la Grande Ile - Antananarivo daily
  • Lakroa (Cross) - Roman Catholic weekly
  • Dans Les Media Demain - privately-owned, Antananarivo weekly
  • Feon'ny Merina (Voice of the Merina) - privately-owned weekly for Merina people of Malay origin
  • Jureco - privately-owned, monthly
  • Revue de l'Ocean Indien - privately-owned, monthly, also covering other Indian Ocean islands


  • Television Malagasy (TVM) - state-owned
  • Radio-Television Analamanga (RTA) - privately-run, Antananarivo
  • Madagascar TV (MATV) - privately-run, Antananarivo
  • MBS TV - commercial, owned by Ravalomanana


  • Malagasy National Radio (RNM) - state-owned
  • Radio Don Bosco - Roman Catholic FM station in capital
  • Radio MBS - commercial network owned by Ravalomanana
  • Radio Feon'ny Merina - privately-owned, Antananarivo, promotes interests of Merina people of Malay origin
  • Radio Tsioka Vao - privately-owned, Antananarivo
  • Radio Lazan' Iarivo (RLI) (Glory of Iarivo) - privately-owned
  • Radio Korail - privately-owned, Antananarivo
  • Radio Antsiva - privately-owned, Antananarivo

    The Malagasy national anthem


    Compiled by BBC Monitoring

    Q & A: Madagascar election
    01 Dec 06 |  Africa
    Malagasy mine brings Aids threat
    02 Nov 05 |  Crossing Continents
    Getting Madagascar back on track
    31 Mar 05 |  Africa
    Down to business in Madagascar
    25 Mar 05 |  Africa


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