President: Hery Rajaonarimampianina (2014)
Prime Minister: Jean Ravelonarivo (2015)
Land area: 224,533 sq mi (581,540 sq km); 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
Madagascar lies in the Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa opposite Mozambique. The world's fourth-largest island, it is twice the size of Arizona. The country's low-lying coastal area gives way to a central plateau. The once densely wooded interior has largely been cut down.
The Malagasy are of mixed Malayo-Indonesian and African-Arab ancestry. Indonesians are believed to have migrated to the island about 700. King Andrianampoinimerina (1787–1810) ruled the major kingdom on the island, and his son, Radama I (1810–1828), unified much of the island. The French made the island a protectorate in 1885, and then, in 1894–1895, ended the monarchy, exiling Queen Rànavàlona III to Algiers. A colonial administration was set up, to which the Comoro Islands were attached in 1908, and other territories later. In World War II, the British occupied Madagascar, which retained ties to Vichy France.