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Country Profile

Area: 587,040 sq km
Population: 21,926,221 (July 2011 est.)
Capital city: Antananarivo
People: Malagasy
Languages: Malagasy, French
Religion(s): Christianity (41%); indigenous beliefs; Islam (7%)
Currency: Ariary
Major political parties: Tiako I Madagasikara (TIM), , Association pour la renaissance de Madagascar (AREMA), Tanora Malagasy Vonona (TGV)
Head of State: President Marc Ravalomanana (in exile since March 2009 coup), “President of the High Transitional Authority” Andry Rajoelina, not recognised by the international community including the UK
Membership of International Groupings/Organisations: African Union (AU) - currently suspended, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Co-operation (IOR-ARC), Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) - currently suspended, and the Francophone Organisation (OIF).

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Basic economic facts

GDP: US$ 8 billion (2010 est.)
GDP per capita: US$392 (2010 est.)
Annual growth: -2.0 % (2010 est.)
Inflation: 9% (2010 est.)
Major industries: mining, fishing, paper, garment manufacturing, tourism, food, tobacco, chemicals, petrol refining, cement, metal work
Main Imports: machinery and transport equipment, mineral fuels, foodstuffs, consumer goods
Main Exports: coffee, shellfish, vanilla, fish, textiles/garments (Free Zone), cloves, pepper, cotton, chromite, graphite, sapphires
Main trading partners: France, China, India, South Africa, Mauritius, US
Exchange rate: Ariary (MGA): 1GBP = 3209.70 MGA (August 2011)
Madagascar is rich in mineral resources, with sapphires, emeralds, ilmenite, graphite, chrome, gold, tar sands and nickel. However, agriculture dominates the Malagasy economy, accounting for a third of GDP, though manufacturing is of growing importance. Although traditional crops of coffee, vanilla, cloves, pepper and sisal continue to make up a large part of agricultural exports, fish - particularly prawns - have moved up the list.

According to the World Bank, for over three decades Madagascar recorded the fifth-lowest rate of GDP growth in the world (0.5% per annum). Things improved for a short period in the late 2000s, due in part to economic liberalisation and the establishment of a Free Zone, concentrating mainly on garment manufacture. But the 2009 coup and subsequent political turmoil have meant that any gains have now been lost.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) (

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Although Madagascar is geographically close to mainland Africa, its history and culture are distinct. The first settlers are believed to have arrived from the area of Indonesia in about the 5th century. The forebears of the present population were from South-East Asia and from East Africa in equal measure, with the Asian element predominant in the highlands, and the African (and Arab) element predominant in the coastal areas. While people and culture represent a unique blend, the nearest relation to the Malagasy language, which bears few African traces, is today spoken only in southern Borneo. In contrast to most African countries where linguistic diversity is the rule, Madagascar has a single common language.

A strong independent Merina monarchy developed on the central plateau from the 18th century. It conquered the whole island in the 19th century, with British help, developed links with the British royal family and concluded an anti-slaving treaty with Britain. Protestantism brought by the London Missionary Society (LMS) was adopted as the official religion. The LMS created a written language and, together with French and other missionaries, developed the educational system and introduced industrialisation. The last Queen, Ranavalona III, was exiled in 1895 when France imposed protectorate status.

In 1942, British and Commonwealth forces ousted the Vichy French. Following the return to French control at the end of World War II, there was a serious uprising against French colonialism in 1947 in which 15-20,000 Malagasy were killed and many more died of starvation in the eastern forests.

Madagascar became independent in 1960. Its recent history has been marked by coups in spite of a theoretically democratic constitution; Madagascar has never had a constitutional change of government. Moving from a socialist regime through to a parliamentary structure, Madagascar now has a Presidential system concentrating power in “strongman” leaders. Most recently, Ravalomanana was overthrown by a coup d’état, backed by mutinous elements from the military, in March 2009.

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The political crisis of 2009 has blighted Madagascar's links with other African countries. It has been suspended from the Africa Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Madagascar is a founder member of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) and hosted the third IOC Summit in Antananarivo on 22 July 2005, and the Summit of the Organisation of Francophone Countries (OIF) in November 2005. Madagascar was due to host the AU Summit in July 2009, but its suspension from the AU resulted in the Summit being held in Libya instead.

Malagasy relations with the US and EU have become strained as a result of the 2009 political crisis. Asian economic and trading partners like China, Japan, and Thailand (from which it imports rice) have also declined to recognise the new “Authority”. Special links with Indonesia derive from cultural and linguistic affinities.

African Union (
Southern Africa Development Community (

Madagascar's Relations with the UK

Anglo-Malagasy relations have historically been good, though they have been affected by the 2009 coup. There is warmth towards Britain for historical reasons (church links remain strong), and a growing interest in learning English. The English Speaking Union's Madagascar Office was inaugurated in April 2003.

Diplomatic Representation

The British High Commission in Mauritius is responsible for British interests in Madagascar. There is a British Interests Section in the German Embassy in Antananarivo, run by a locally engaged member of staff which opened in November 2008. There are two British Honorary Consuls based in Antananarivo and Toamasina. The Foreign Secretary announced in May 2011 that the UK intends to re-open our Embassy in Madagascar and appoint an Ambassador once the political conditions are right.

Madagascar covers the UK from its Embassy in Paris. (

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The world's fourth largest island, about 2.5 times the size of the UK, Madagascar lies in the south west Indian Ocean some 400km off the coast of Mozambique. Climatically sub-tropical, temperatures vary; daytime temperatures on the high central plateau are 31C in January and 15C in July. Most of the country has adequate rainfall except the south, the poorest and driest region. Regular cyclones cause extensive flooding and damage.

Madagascar is known for its bio-diversity and high proportion of endemic species. But, because of slash and burn agriculture and poor management, only 26% of the land is forested

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Trade and Investment with the UK

There are no official services delivered on behalf of UKTI in this market to help British companies who wish to export or invest here. British companies receive assistance on a case-by-case basis, but for example we cannot normally approach “Ministers” in the unrecognised “Authority”.

The value of direct British exports to Madagascar in goods and services in 2009 was £13 million. The value of imports from Madagascar was £27 million. A major ilmenite mining venture representing a US$1 billion investment by Rio Tinto began production in the south of the country, near Fort Dauphin, in 2009. However, the current political crisis is having an impact on investment.


About a quarter of Madagascar's 22m people live in urban areas, but most of the population depends on subsistence farming, based on rice and cattle. The population growth rate is about 3%.

The mountainous terrain, bisected by deep river valleys, has hindered the development of adequate communications in the interior while along the coast infrastructure is prone to cyclone damage. The island also suffers deforestation and severe soil erosion.

The UK makes a substantial contribution to the development of Madagascar through multilateral programmes run by the European Union (EU) (development assistance is currently suspended, although humanitarian and emergency assistance is unaffected), IMF, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), UN and African Development Bank (AfDB) multilateral aid programmes In 2009 the UK’s contribution was £55m.

International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) (,,menuPK:3046081~pagePK:64168427~piPK:64168435~theSitePK:3046012,00.html)

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (

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Following two months of political demonstrations and tensions, President Marc Ravalomanana was overthrown in March 2009 by Andry Rajoelina, Mayor of Antananarivo, in a coup backed by mutinous elements of the military. On 17 March 2009, Ravalomanana resigned and transferred power to a military directorate. In turn power was almost immediately transferred to Rajoelina, conferring on him the functions of President. Following the coup, Rajoelina set up a High Transitional Authority (HAT). The AU and SADC condemned the coup d’état and suspended Madagascar. The UK, US and EU condemned the events.

The international community, under the aegis of the AU and more recently SADC, supported by an International Contact Group (ICG) which brings together the UN, Francophonie, P5 and EU, continue to lead mediation efforts to find a solution to the crisis. On several occasions, the ICG has brought together Rajoelina and Ravalomanana, as well as two other former Malagasy Presidents Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy (all four lead a political movement in Madagascar). Those meetings produced the Maputo agreements of August 2009, and the Addis Ababa Additional Act of November 2009. They detailed a roadmap for a consensual transitional government leading to inclusive and transparent elections monitored by the international community. However the agreements broke down in December 2009, with Rajoelina unilaterally announcing plans to replace the previously agreed transitional leadership with his own nominees, and hold parliamentary elections.

As a result, in March 2010 the AU announced targeted sanctions on a number of political figures in Madgascar, including all the members of the HAT. In June 2010, the EU formally suspended its development partnership with Madagascar, but continues to provide humanitarian assistance.

After further additional failed mediation attempts, the HAT took a unilateral path when they held a referendum on a revised constitution in November 2010, which was not recognised by the international community. In January 2011, the lead SADC mediator, and former President of Mozambique, Mr Joaquim Chissano, put forward a proposed roadmap towards elections. Eight out of eleven Malagasy parties signed up to it, but it has so far received no support from Ravalomanana, Ratsiraka or Zafy. SADC continue to lead efforts to find a consensual solution to the political impasse.

BBC News: Africa (
BBC News Country Profile: Madagascar (

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Madagascar has signed or ratified five of the six principal international human rights treaties. The death penalty remains in force, but it has not been invoked for over 40 years. Prison conditions are harsh. The UK has provided funds in support of prison reform in the past. The current human rights situation gives several causes for concern, and with the current political crisis appears to be declining. This includes the current prohibitions on peaceful protest and assembly and evidence that the judiciary is not independent.

Human Rights Annual Report 2009 (

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Last Updated: September 2011

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