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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #28 of 54: Libya | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #30 of 54: Malawi »

July 07, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #29 of 54: Madagascar

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) ---
Flag of Madagascar

Formal Name: Republic of Madagascar.

Term for Citizens: Malagasy.

Capital: Antananarivo. Population: 1,689,000.

Date of Independence: June 25, 1960 from France.

Major Cities: Antananarivo.


Madagascar is an island off the coast of East Africa, in the Indian Ocean. The nearest mainland African countries to Madagascar are Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa. Madagascar encompasses about 226,657 square miles. There are volcanic mountains in the north, broad plains in the west, and plateau in the southwest. The country broadly has two seasons: hot and rainy from November to April and cool, and dry season from May to October.

Society: The estimated population is 17, 404,000.

Ethnic groups: An estimated twenty ethnic groups exist in the country, the principal ones are: Merina, Betsileo, and Cotiers-mixed Arab, African and Malayo-Indonesian ancestry. Others are Comorans, French, Indo-Pakistanis, and Chinese.

Languages: The dominant language is Malagasy, which belongs to Malayo-Polynesian language family. The educated elements also tend to speak French.

Religion: About 50% practice indigenous religions and 45% Christians and 5% Muslim.

Education: There is free and compulsory elementary education. Literacy rate is estimated at 68.9%.

Economy: Agriculture is the larger part of the economy. Most exports are to France. GDP estimate: $12.6 billion; Per Capita GDP: $760. Monetary Unit: Malagasy Franc (MGF)

History and Government:

Madagascar is a confluence of African and Asian peoples. Malayan-Indonesian people settled on the Island 2000 years ago and ruled it until the 19th century when the French took over. When Independence was achieved in 1960, Madagascar adopted the French form of parliamentary democracy, with a president governing through a prime minister, who is in charge of the day-to-day affairs of governance. The three branches of government are formally separated, with strong political party activities. The president is elected every five years. He appoints a prime minister from the party with majority in the national Assembly. There is a bicameral legislature and an independent judiciary. The country is divided into 6 provinces.


Madagascar is composed of Malays, Africans, Polynesians, Arabs and, lately, Europeans. The people reflect their mixed racial and cultural heritage, and it is difficult to ascertain whether they are Africans or Asians.

Arabs came calling buying African slaves and selling them in the Middle East. During the fifteenth century, the Portuguese came calling, too. When Britain outlawed slave trade its war ships patrolled the Indian Ocean checking Arab slavers. The British momentarily took control of Madagascar; at least, the coastal parts of it but eventually traded it with the French for the tiny island of Zanzibar, the hub of Arab slave trading. Thus in 1885, the French made Madagascar their protectorate. Madagascar was ruled by France until after the end of the Second World War. In 1960, Madagascar was given independence by France.

The politics of Madagascar has been the politics of competition by a few well known personalities for who would rule the country. Ratsiraka, Ravalomanana and Albert Zafy jostle for who would be the president and whichever comes to power alters the constitution to serve him.

The government itself is modeled after the French government; with a National Assembly and Senate, a Prime Minister who is appointed from the National Assembly by the executive President, a council of ministers nominated by the prime minister and approved by the president, and a supposedly independent judiciary.

The country is divided into six provinces, and further divided into regions, departments and communes.

The economy of Madagascar is based on the production and selling of crops like vanilla. The price of these produce is subject to fluctuations in the international market. Vanilla, for example, is a specialty crop that if those who use it, such as soft drink manufactures and ice cream manufactures, do not desire it in great quantity, little is sold and Madagascar’s economy goes into a tizzy. Madagascar has borrowed rather extensively and like other third world countries had been subjected to World Bank, IMF structural readjustment plans. This means being told to privatize her economy, sell off government owned corporations and tighten public spending.

President Ravalomanana is negotiating all these arrangements with his foreign creditors and little money is left for economic development of the country.

Posted by Administrator at July 7, 2006 07:26 AM


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