Madagascar, in long-form the republic of Madagascar, in Malagasy; Madagasikara, or Repoblikan'i Madagasikara, is an island state located in the Indian Ocean and geographically attached to the African continent, from which it is separated by the Mozambique Channel. It is the fifth-largest island in the world after Australia, Greenland, New Guinea, and Borneo. 1,580 km long and 580 km wide, Madagascar covers an area of 587,000 km2. Its capital is Antananarivo and the country's currency is the ariary. Its inhabitants, the Malagasy, are an Austronesian people speaking a Malayo-Polynesian language: Malagasy. The country is surrounded by other islands and archipelagos including Mauritius, Seychelles, Mayotte, Comoros, and Reunion.
The first Malagasy autonomous government saw the light again on October 10, 1958, when the republic of Madagascar was proclaimed on the territory of the former protectorate (territory of the former Merina Kingdom and the former French establishments of Diego Suarez, Nosy Be, and the 'Île Sainte-Marie). In 1960, the Malagasy Republic gained independence, which made the country one of the first to become independent in this area of the Indian Ocean.
The country is divided into six historical provinces (faritany), with the same name as that of their capitals: Antananarivo (or Tananarive), Antsiranana (or Diego-Suarez), Fianarantsoa, Mahajanga (or Majunga), Toamasina (or Tamatave), and Toliara (or Tulear).
For twenty centuries, Madagascar has been shaped by peoples from various backgrounds (Africa, South-East Asia (Indonesia), the Middle East, Europe, etc.) to create the current multicultural Malagasy society. This country of over 24 million people is culturally diverse and has 18 distinct ethnicities (foko), or indigenous nations, speaking Austronesian languages, and three more recently arrived minorities, the Karanes, Sinoa, and Vazahas. Madagascar belongs to the group of least developed countries according to the UN.
Madagascar's economy is mainly based on agriculture. It has started up again since the 2001 crisis and the 2009 crisis. Madagascar is ranked 154th out of 188 countries, according to the UNDP's annual human development indicator (HDI) (2014 figure). Natural disasters (cyclones and floods) and cyclical political crises linked to corruption and poor governance are the causes of poverty and development backwardness.
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