Useful country information
Total area: 226,656 sq mi (587,040 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 23,201,926 (growth rate: 2.62%); birth rate: 33.12/1000; infant mortality rate: 44.88/1000; life expectancy: 65.2
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Antananarivo, 1.987 million
Monetary unit: Malagasy franc
National name: Repoblikan'i Madagasikara
Languages: Malagasy and French (both official), English
Ethnicity/race: Malayo-Indonesian (Merina and related Betsileo), Ctiers (mixed African, Malayo-Indonesian, and Arab ancestry: Betsimisaraka, Tsimihety, Antaisaka, Sakalava), French, Indian, Creole, Comoran
Religions: indigenous beliefs 52%, Christian 41%, Islam 7%
National Holiday: Independence Day, June 26
Literacy rate: 64.5% (2009 est.)
Madagascar is inhabited by various ethnic groups of Malayo-Indonesian, mixed African and Malayo-Indonesian, and Arab ancestry. Five centuries before the Europeans discovered the island Malayo-Indonesian seafarers arrived in roughly the first century A.D., the Arabs followed in the 6th century to establish trading posts.
Since the 16th century French and British influence left its mark.
In October 1958 the Malagasy Republic was proclaimed as an autonomous state within the French Community and gained full independence in June 1960.
Like many former colonial countries Madagascar went through various political states like uprisings, provisional governments, single-party rule, socialist economic policies, and threat of secession.
Today the country is on a slow and steady economical and political growth path from an extremely low level.
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