Madagascar Country Facts

By | June 21, 2024
Capital city Antananarivo
Surface 587,041 km²
Population 24,895,000
Road network length 5,781 km
Length of highway network 0 km
First highway
Motorway name
Traffic drives Right
License plate code RM

Madagascar (Malagasy: Madagasikara), formally the Republic of Madagascar (Repoblikan’i Madagasikara) is a large island in the Indian Ocean, which belongs to the continent of Africa. The country is approximately 15 times the size of the Netherlands and has 24 million inhabitants. The capital is Antananarivo.


Madagascar is a very large island in the Indian Ocean east of Africa. The island is located 400 kilometers off the coast of Mozambique. Several small island nations lie in the area, such as Mayotte, Comoros, Reunion, and Mauritius. The island measures 1550 kilometers from north to south and a maximum of 600 kilometers from east to west. The capital Antananarivo is centrally located on the island.

The interior of Madagascar consists of highlands, largely a plateau at 700 to 1500 meters above sea level, but also with higher mountain ranges with peaks above 2500 meters. The 2876 meter high Maromokotro is the highest point of the island. The east coast is located lower and has a large part of the remaining tropical rainforest. The west coast is also lowland but drier and less forested. Because of its isolated location, Madagascar has many flora and fauna endemic to the island, which are not found elsewhere in the world.

The island has a dry and wet season. Precipitation usually comes from the east, where it pushes up against the mountains. As a result, the east is much wetter than the west. The west has a dry climate. The country is prone to tropical cyclones. Average maximum temperatures in the capital Antananarivo range from 21°C in winter to 27°C in summer. Due to the high elevation, high temperatures are relatively rare, rarely exceeding 32°C. Precipitation falls in the period from October to April, with a peak in the period from December to February, when 300 mm falls per month. However, there is almost no precipitation from May to September.


Madagascar has seen rapid population growth in the 20th century, from just 2.2 million inhabitants in 1900 to more than 25 million today. However, only twice since independence has been census, so population data is not very accurate. The greatest population density is in eastern Madagascar, both along the coast and in the highlands. The west is sparsely populated. The population of Madagascar is relatively rural, the capital Antananarivo is the only major city with 1.4 million inhabitants, in addition there are 9 cities with between 50,000 and 200,000 inhabitants.

In Madagascar live several ethnic groups that are grouped as the Malagasy. They make up 90% of the population. They speak Malagasy, a language that is understood throughout the island. No official languages ​​have been established in Madagascar, but Malagasy is the national language. French is spoken as a second language, mainly in the larger towns.


Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a GDP of just $400 per capita. About two-thirds of the population lives in poverty. A large part of the population works in agriculture for their own food supply. In addition, there is some industry, especially the textile industry, which are Madagascar’s main exports. The country has potential to mine raw materials, but these are not yet exploited to a large extent. A problem for the development of the economy is the limited infrastructure.


The island was only inhabited for the first time in ancient times, the first by people from Borneo who crossed the Indian Ocean by canoe. In the 9th century, Bantu tribes followed who crossed the Mozambique Channel from the African mainland to Madagascar. Until the end of the 18th century, there were various alliances and powerful tribes on the island, which were united as a kingdom in the early 19th century. In 1897, the kingdom ended after Madagascar became part of the French Empire. During the French colonial period, agriculture was developed and Antananarivo became a relatively modern city. The French introduced education, and the first infrastructure was built, such as roads and various railway lines, mainly to connect the capital Antananarivo with the coastal towns.

Madagascar gained independence from France in 1960. Initially, Madagascar maintained strong ties with France and many important positions were filled by the French. However, this was considered neo-colonial and the government had to resign in 1972. In the period 1975-1993 Madagascar was a socialist country on a Marxist basis and mainly maintained ties with the Eastern Bloc. The standard of living in Madagascar fell sharply and the country went bankrupt in 1979. The country became more democratic after 1993, but economic development lagged behind.

Road Network

Madagascar’s road network is not very extensive and largely in poor condition, partly due to lack of maintenance and tropical weather conditions. A large part of the nearly 6,000 kilometers of paved road is in poor condition. A north-south axis runs across the center of the island from Antsiranana in the far north via Antananarivo to Tôlanaro in the south. This road has various branches and here and there north-south routes along the coast. A large part of the main roads can be called secondary. Important branches are the route to Morondava and Toliara on the west coast, and to Toamasina and Mananjary on the east coast. There are no through north-south routes along the west coast, but there are some fragments. In theory there is a north-south route along the east coast, but it is often not paved.

The road network in the capital Antananarivo is also not very developed, with some 2×2 roads in poor condition. There is no bypass, although there is a partial west and east bypass. A kind of ring road runs around the center. Relatively many roads in the capital are paved, as are most streets. Jovenna is the main gas station chain in Madagascar.

Autoroute Antananarivo – Toamasina

An autoroute is planned from Antananarivo to the eastern coastal city of Toamasina. This motorway should reduce travel time from 10 to 3 hours. In 2016, the government and China agreed to build the highway, but this plan failed. It was originally planned to run the highway through Moramanga, where the current N2 main road also runs. In 2020, a new route was announced that would run considerably further north via Ambatondrazaka. They then sought support and knowledge of Egypt. One speaks of a length of 260 kilometers.

Road numbering

Madagascar’s main road network consists of N roads, with most single-digit roads starting from, or branching off from, the capital Antananarivo. When the road consists of fragments, shorter segments are given the suffix a or b.


  • N1 Antananarivo – Tsioanomandidy: 220 km
  • N2 Antananarivo – Toamasina: 360 km
  • N3 Antananarivo – Andilamena – Sambava (segments): 370 km
  • N4 Antananarivo – Mahajanga: 550 km
  • N5 Toamasina – Maroantsetra – Ambilobe (segments): 800 km
  • N6 Ambondodromamy – Antsohihy – Antsiranana: 730 km
  • N7 Antananarivo – Antsirabe – Fianarantsoa – Toliara: 1,030 km
  • N8 ?
  • N9 Toliara – Mandabe: 400 km
  • N10 Andranovory – Ambovombe: 440 km
  • N11 Mananjary – Ranomafana (segments): 230 km
  • N12 Irondro – Vangaindrano – Tôlanaro (segments): 400 km
  • N13 Ihosy – Tolanaro: 500 km


Signage is sparse. Road numbers are rarely indicated on signs, but they are on French-style kilometer markers.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *