The Republic of Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world with an area of 587,295 square kilometers, is an independent republic which lies in the western Indian Ocean and is separated from the African continent by the Mozambique Channel, with a minimum distance of 400 kilometers. Its capital, Antananarivo, is situated on the high plateau; other important towns are Antsiranana, Mahajanga Toamasina, Fianarantsoa and Toliara. The official languages are Malagasy and French. The population is approximately 26 million. The currency is the Ariary (Ar or MGA) (1 Euro = 3978 Ariary and 1 Dollar = 3441 Ariary on 1st October 2018).
The terrain comprises a fairly broad coastal plain in the west, rising to a high plateau and mountains in the center of the island, whilst the east coast has a narrow strip of lowlands leading to steep bluffs and thence to the central highlands. The west coast has many protected harbours. The highest point is Mt. Tsaratanana at 2,887m. The climate ranges from tropical along the coast to temperate on the plateau, whilst the southern part of the island is arid. The eastern or windward side of the island supports tropical rain-forests as opposed to the western and southern sides, which, lying in the rain shadow of the central highlands, support tropical dry forests, thorn forests and desert shrub-land. Madagascar experiences periodic cyclones and droughts.
Madagascar is home to an abundance of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth. Approximately 90% of all plant and animal species found in Madagascar are endemic, including lemurs, the carnivorous fossa and many birds. The island has been classified by Conservation International as a biodiversity hot-spot.
More than 80 percent of Madagascar's 14,883 plant species are found nowhere else in the world, including six of the world's nine baobab species. The island is home to around 170 palm species, three times as many as on all of mainland Africa; 165 of them are endemic. This exceptional originality is particularly due to its isolated location in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Madagascar is subdivided into 22 regions (faritra). The regions are further subdivided into 119 districts, 1,579 communes, and 17,485 fokontany.
Apart from the richness of its fauna and flora, Malagasy culture is fascinating, with a mixture of Asian, African and Arabic origins represented.
Numerous cultural events punctuate the life of the eighteen ethnic groups that populate the island, which is endowed with an interesting architectural heritage comprising monuments, squares, museums and palaces of ancient Malagasy rulers.
The Malagasy population is predominantly Christian, though many still practice ancestral rites. Islam is present, but in a minority of about 5%.
Craftsmanship, in all its forms, is an important economic activity. These include embroidery, the production of natural and wild silk, basketry and tin-smithing, not to mention the wood carving which is a specificity of the island.
Malagasy cuisine has some traditional dishes, including rice and zebu which are important symbols of Malagasy culture.
Madagascar has gained international recognition in the field of music, thanks in part to its many ambassadors of traditional genres, as well as contemporary artists merging traditional and modern styles.
Brief Political History
Madagascar was an independent kingdom ruled by the Merina monarchy until it became a French protectorate in 1885 and a French colony in 1896 with the abolition of the Merina monarchy. Madagascar gained full independence on June 26th 1960. Following almost 30 years of socialist economic policies, more liberal policies were introduced together with the ending of press censorship and the introduction of some private-sector reforms when free elections were held in 1992- 1993. These elections ended 17 years of single-party rule and saw Albert Zafy sworn in as president, replacing Didier Ratsiraka, in 1997, the latter being mayor of Antananarivo, with Ravalomanana eventually being declared president. In the December 2002 elections President Ravalomanana soundly defeated the opposition, thus demonstrating the legitimacy of his position, whereupon he obtained a substantial amount of aid from the World Bank and France.
The government has put in place several measures to improve the economic situation, many of these have been effective and Madagascar has seen a significant improvement in the economy. It is also taking a strong position in tackling corruption. The head of government is Prime Minister Jacques Sylla, who appoints the Cabinet Ministers. In early 2009, the president, Marc Ravalomanana, was unconstitutionally removed from power by mass protests led by Andry Rajoelina, the then-Mayor of Antananarivo. He was declared President of the High Transitional Authority, an interim governing body responsible for moving the country towards presidential elections. In 2010, a new constitution was adopted by referendum, establishing the Fourth Republic, which sustains the democratic, multi-party structure established in the previous constitution. Executive power is in the hands of the government whilst the legislative power is shared between the government and the two chambers of parliament. The judiciary is independent of the first two.
In December 2018 Andry Rajoelina was announced as the winner of the most recent presidential elections.
The agricultural sector, which includes forestry and fishing, is the main stay of the Malagasy economy, generating some 28% of GDP and employing approximately 80% of the population. It has seen a steady growth since the 1990s following plans put forward by the World Bank and IMF. The need for agricultural land and the use of wood for fuel has caused large scale deforestation, which in turn has caused serious erosion and reduced the areas of forests, home to much of Madagascar’s wildlife, which has become established as a major source of revenue as the tourism industry grows. The major agricultural products are coffee, vanilla (of which Madagascar is responsible for approximately 80% of the world’s supply), sugarcane, cloves, cocoa, rice, beans, bananas, peanuts and livestock products.
15% of GDP comes from the industrial sector, which includes meat processing, soap production, breweries, tanneries, sugar production, textile manufacturing, automotive assembly, paper manufacturing and tourism.
The GDP per capita is 424 dollars and the GDP for the country is 11.16 billion dollars.
Madagascar has deposits of chromite, coal, bauxite, salt, quartz sands and semi-precious stones, as well as tar sands and heavy oil onshore. Madagascar currently provides half the world’s supply of sapphires, following a discovery near Llakaka in the late 1990s. Hydropower provides the majority of Madagascar’s energy requirements.
Madagascar’s main exports are coffee, cocoa, vanilla, clove, shellfish, sugar, lychees, cotton cloth, ilmenite, Nickel, Cobalt and chromite.
The annual inflation rate is about 6.7%.
The Petroleum Sector
The Petroleum Sector is managed by the Office des Mines Nationales et des Industries Strategiques (OMNIS) which is a state-owned agency created in 1976 and is under the supervision of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum. Its main mission is to implement the National Policy for Hydrocarbon Exploration and Exploitation.
OMNIS is responsible for:
The Petroleum Law and an unofficial English translation, together with a copy of Decree No. 97-740 and an unofficial English translation are available here.
In accordance with Article 47 of the Petroleum Code, Companies engaged in upstream petroleum activities are subject to:
There are approximately 50,000 kilometers of roadways of which some 6,000 kilometers are paved. Narrow, 1.00meter gauge railways total 732 kilometers. There are 126 aerodromes, 56 open for public air traffic, 45 for private use and 25 for limited use.
Many international airlines provide flights to Antananarivo including Air Madagascar, South Africa Airways, Air France, Turkish airlines, Mauritius Airlines, Air Austral, Air Seychelles, Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines. Direct flights from Paris to Antananarivo are operated by Air France on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays arriving the same day, and Air Madagascar on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays arriving the following day. Antsiranana, Mahajanga, Toamasina and Toliara are the major ports and terminals.