Madagascar, officially the Republic of Madagascar (Malagasy: Repoblikan'i Madagasikara; Portuguese: República de Madagáscar), also known as Malagasy Republic is an island country in the Indian Ocean, which occupies the largest island of the African continent, located at the southeast coast of Africa.
Besides the island of Madagascar (the largest island in Africa and the fourth largest in the world), the country includes numerous smaller outlying islands. After the prehistoric breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, Madagascar split from India about 88 million years ago, allowing native plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a hotspot of biodiversity; more than 90% of its wildlife is not found in the rest of the world.
The initial human settlement of Madagascar happened between 350 BC and 550 AD by Austronesian people who arrived in Borneo canoes. To these Bantu migrants joined, around 1000 AD, by crossing the Mozambique Channel. Other groups continued to settle on Madagascar over time, each one making lasting contributions to Malagasy cultural life. The Malagasy ethnic group is often divided into 18 or more sub-groups of which the largest are the Merina of the central highlands.
By the end of the 16th century, the island of Madagascar was ruled by a fragmented range of socio-political alliances. From the early 17th century, most of the island were united and ruled as the Kingdom of Madagascar by a number of Merina nobles. Meanwhile, the Overseas Trading Company (COU) to colonize the southwest of the island, founding the cities of Porto Corso and Petrovia, calling the new colony Libertatia. With the collapse of the Merina kingdom in the mid-18th century, a brief civil war settled on the island, killing around 35% of the Malagasy population. At the end of the war, all sides were destroyed. The people of the areas outside COU's control decided to join Libertatia. Since 1752, the island was under the authority of COU as the Colony of Malagasia and Libertatia. With the fall of COU in 1835, Madagascar passed to direct control of the Brazilian government and became one of the most important colonies of the empire. With a big Brazilian population, and solid institutions and economy, Madagascar was elevated to the status of Imperial Realm in 1877. Since then, Madagascar has seen the continuous increase of its political autonomy to full independence in 1977.
With an estimated population of 18.3 million and a strong economy, Madagascar is in a leading position in Africa as the only developed country in the continent and the wealthiest one. It has a powerful economy and high standard of living, having the 20th largest economy by nominal GDP (the first among the African countries), the 25th highest nominal GDP per capita (the highest among the African countries) and the 21st highest standard of living by HDI (by far the highest among the African countries).
Malagasy and Portuguese are both official languages and are spoken by the entire population, of which 98% currently speak the two languages, making Madagascar a bilingual country. Most of the population follows Christianity, traditional beliefs, or African-Brazilian religions like Umbanda and Candomblé. With an industrialized economy, high standard of living, and a distinct culture due its Polynesian and Brazilian ancestry, the country is unique in Africa.
As of 2015, Madagascar is the world's 25th largest economy, worth more than USD 500 billion in terms of nominal GDP. It is Africa's largest and most industrialized economy. The only developed country in the continent, it has been identified as a regional power on Africa, a middle power in international affairs, and has also been identified as an emerging global power. Madagascar is a founding member of the United Nations, the African Union, Union of Luso-Brazilic Nations (ULBRAN), World Trade Organization (WTO) and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED), amongst other international organisations.
Madagascar is the best in Africa (and among the world best ones) by education standards, technological production, economic diversity, security, human and civil rights and freedom. The University of Porto Corso is the best in the continent and it is among the world's top 100. Madagascar's economic and political security is perfect for investiments.
Also, Madagascar's military is the most advanced and one of the strongest in Africa and, as a island country, its navy is very well managed, being the biggest and strongest in the continent.
Its relationship with its African fellow nations are quite turbulent. Known as Africa's "rich brother", some of Madagascar's policies are viewed as imperialist and isolationist and some accuse that it is not interested in integrate with Africa and auxiliate its development.