The Republic of Madagascar (Repoblikan'i Madagasikara in Malagasy) or Madagascar for short is a beautiful Island in the southern part of Africa (in the Indian Ocean) located at the east of the Republic of Mozambique. Madagascar is the fourth largest Island in the world with a total land area of about 592,800 squared kilometers. Madagascar has a population of about 22 million people with the population growth rate around 3%.
Madagascar is divided into six provinces (called faritany); Antananarivo (the capital of Madagascar), Antsiranana (in the North), Fianarantsoa, Mahajanga (Mahajanga is mostly an uninhabited area on the west coast), Toamasina, and Toliara. The capital of Madagascar Antananarivo (meaning 'The City of Thousands' in Malagasy) contains about 2.5 million people.
The Republic of Madagascar (previously known as the Malagasy Republic) is a culturally rich Island containing several different ethnic and racial groups. Cotiers, Creole, Comoran, Malayo-Indonesian, French, Indian, etc. are some of the major ethnic and racial groups living in Madagascar today. Madagascar was first inhabitted by continental Africans who travelled in boats about 2000 years ago. Madagascar gained its independence from France and became a republic on June 26, 1960. French and Malagasy remain the two official languages used in Madagascar today.
Unlike in most other African countries where Christianity and Islam reign supreme, indigenous beliefs reign supreme in Madagascar helping preserve some of our culture and traditions.
In terms of plants and animal species, there is no place like Madagascar. Madagascar is a little paradise on its own unlike any other place on earth. Madagascar has the most beautiful blend of several plants and animal species found nowhere else in the world. For example, there are about 10,000 plant species native to Madagascar 90% of which is found nowhere else in the world but Madagascar.
Besides the rich plants and animal species, Madagascar or the Republic of Madagascar is also blessed with abundance of natural resources such as graphite, chromite, coal, bauxite, salt, quartz, tar sands, mica, fish, hydropower, rare earth elements, semiprecious stones, etc.
Despite the beauty of Madagascar, Madagascar just like most African countries today faces so many challenges. Madagascar has a literacy rate of 68% (total population) which implies about 68% of the total population of Madagascar above the age 15 can read and write. Madagascar also has a female literacy rate of around 62.5% which is far better than in countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Equatorial Guinea, etc. However, this literacy rate falls below expectations compared to countries like Botswana, Kenya, Ghana, and even Zimbabwe.
Despite the abundance of natural resources in Madagascar today, about 50% of the total population of Madagascar lives below poverty line according to a recent UNDP Human development multidimensional poverty index.
Madagascar is mostly tropical and the majority of the Malagasy population are into agriculture. Some grow cash crops such as coffee, cocoa, sugar cane, and regular crops such as Cassava or tapioca, rice, beans, peanuts, etc. and rear animals just to feed themselves and their families. However, natural hazards such as periodic cyclones, drought, locust infestation, etc. sometimes put many farming communities in absolute poverty.
Madagascar has a low HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate of about 0.2% which is far better than in most other African countries. Meanwhile, about 24000 people were living with HIV/AIDS in 2009 with about 1700 deaths recorded.
Besides HIV/AIDS, several other diseases such as chikungunya, malaria, plague, bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever continue to threaten the entire Malagasy population.
Poor governance and corruption are other major problems facing the people of Madagascar today. Like in most other African countries today, corruption levels remain at all time high in Madagascar. Madagascar has all it takes to be one of the most properous countries in the world today but poor leadership, illiteracy, and rampant corruption continue to keep the majority of the Malagasy population in absolute poverty.