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Madagascar General information

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Madagascar General information

Madagascar is the world's fourth largest island. Ringed by golden beaches and palm trees, it has an interior that is resplendent in its variety, from grassy plateaus to volcanoes and opaque forests and natural reserves. Since it split from the mainland 165 million years ago, many species that are unique to the island have evolved, including 3,000 indigenous species of butterfly.
The Hauts Plateaux divides the country geographically, climatically and culturally. The coastal strip east of this chain of high mountains is heavily forested, while the west is mainly savannah.
According to local legend, the island was first inhabited by the Vazimba, a race of white pygmies. These people, if they existed, were displaced by successive waves of Polynesian migrants from the Malayo-Indonesian archipelago, from as early as the sixth century. In the ninth century, Madagascar was a major trading power in the western Indian Ocean. Moreover, ancient ruins indicate an extensive Arab presence on the island around that time. Bantu tribes from mainland Africa later settled on the west coast. The first Europeans arrived in the mid-17th century.
The levels of poverty and the enormous gap between rich and poor may deter some but Madagascar still dazzles with its rich wildlife, much of which can be found nowhere else on Earth.

Country

  • Formal Country Name: Repoblikan'I Madagasikara (English - Republic of Madagascar; French - Republique de Madagascar)
  • Short Country Name: Madagasikara (English/French - Madagascar)
  • Capital: Antananarivo (English/French - Tananarive)
  • Date of Independence: June 26, 1960 (from being a French colony)
  • Government Type: Republic
  • Government: Constitution approved August 19, 1992 by national referendum and mandates the separation of powers among executive, legislative, and judicial branches; multiparty political system; and protection of human rights and freedom of speech. President elected by universal suffrage for five-year period with two-term limit. Prime minister nominated by bicameral parliament composed of Senate and National Assembly, and approved by president. Supreme Court has eleven members and forms apex of other judicial bodies. Local government consists of twenty-eight regions with decentralized powers in economic field.
  • Geography
    • Total Area: 587,040.00 sq km (226,657.41 sq mi)
    • Topography: East coast has lowlands leading to steep bluffs and central highlands; Tsaratanana Massif in north with volcanic mountains; west coast with many protected harbors and broad plains; southwest with plateau and desert region.
    • Climate: Two seasons: hot, rainy from November to April; cooler, dry season from May to October; southeastern trade winds dominate; occasional cyclones.
  • People
    • Population: 1994 estimate 13,427,758; 2001 estimate 15,982,563; 2050 estimate 65,460,246.
    • Languages: French (official); Malagasy (official).
    • Literacy: 1990 estimate 80.0% total, 88.0% male, 73% female.
    • Ethnic Groups: Approximately twenty ethnic groups of mixed Arab, African, and MalayoIndonesian ancestry. Other groups are Comorans, French, IndoPakistanis, and Chinese.
    • Religions: Indigenous beliefs 52-55%; Christian (Roman Catholics and Protestants) 40-41%; Muslim 5-7%.

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