Currency: Ariary (formerly Malagasy Franc)
Language: Malagasy, French
Population: 25 million
Exports: Vanilla, cloves
A brief introduction to Madagascar
The fourth largest island in the world. Located in the Indian Ocean, “that blob of land in the sea hanging off the bottom corner of Africa”. However never try to tell a Malagasy person that they are African...
Contrary to what you’d imagine from the geography, most of Madagascar’s cultural roots in fact come not from Africa but from Indonesia. The first settlers in Madagascar came across the Indian Ocean from Indonesia, and so the language and physical characteristics of the people reflect this. There were later settlers from Africa as well and so Madagascar is increasingly a mixture of African and Indonesian people and heritage / culture.
Currently no official president. In 2009 a political coup took place where the former president, Marc Ravalomanana, was ousted by the capital city’s former mayor, Andry Rajoelina. Rajoelina was too young to become president; according to Madagascar’s constitution, presidents must be over the age of 40. Rajoelina promised quick democratic elections, however over 3 years later and the population of Madagascar are still waiting for these elections. Meanwhile, the Madagascar constitution has been changed so that those over the age of 30, rather than 40, can stand for president... As has happened many times over the past 3 years, yet another date has been mooted for elections, May 2013 – but whether that will happen or not is anyone’s guess.
Flora and Fauna
This is why Madagascar is famous. Most plants and animals (I think the figure stands at abut 80%) are found nowhere else on earth. Madagascar is particularly well known for its lemurs, particularly the Aye-Aye and the Indri-Indri. The Baobab trees can live to be more than 500 years old.
•Madagascar is very prone to cyclones from Dec to March every year.
•Contrary to what is suggested in the famous films bearing the same name as the country, Madagascar has no lions / elephants / giraffes / zebras.
•80% of Madagascar’s population live in rural villages.
•More than one in ten children will die before their fifth birthday
•The Malagasy people eat rice as their staple food, 3 times per day, and most Malagasy are subsistence farmers.
•Try to get into a taxi in Madagascar and you’ll most likely find that at least one of the windscreen, roof, floor, door, petrol tank... is missing, and that the driver is usually hotwiring the car. Have a safe trip!!