The island of Madagascar covers an area of 587,000 square kilometers and its population is around 23 million. The official languages of the country are Malagasy and French.
The first settlers in Madagascar are thought to have come from Borneo over 2,000 years ago. In 1894, it was invaded by France, who colonized the island in 1896. It remained a French colony until 1960, when Madagascar gained its independence.
The local Malagasy population did not prosper under French colonization and although there have been some periods of development following independence, overall, the country has remained poor. It is hoped that the democratically elected government established in 2014 will bring greater stability to the country and the opportunity for new development and investment.
As the fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar enjoys a range of climates, with an arid desert area in the south, a temperate climate in the center of the island, and a tropical climate in the coastal regions. This diversity of climate allows a wide range of crops to be grown, from apples, pears, and grapes to coffee, sisal, and the vanilla orchid.
Cyclones can cause disruption for those living in Madagascar, particularly during the rainy season between December and April. Average rainfall varies by region; tropical coastal areas do not have a completely dry season and annual precipitation can reach up to 300cm in these areas.
Madagascar has a large number of small regional airports as well as Ivato International Airport, which is located close to the capital Antananarivo. Most major airports in the US and Europe do not have direct flights to Madagascar, but you may find services operating from/to Paris, Marseilles, and Milan. Otherwise, a flight to Madagascar would entail a stopover at an airport such as Johannesburg, Nairobi, or Mauritius.
The country’s airline Air Madagascar has a variable reputation, with some of its aircraft having been denied permission to operate on routes in the EU due to safety concerns. Expatriates are advised to consider this when making flight reservations. Other airlines operating services to Madagascar include Air France and Corsair.