Demographics of Madagascar

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This article is about the demographic features of the population of Madagascar, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.

Madagascar's population is predominantly of mixed Austronesian and East African origin.



Recent research suggests that the island was uninhabited until Malay seafarers arrived around the first century A.D., probably by way of southern India and East Africa. Other historians believe that the Malays crossed the Indian Ocean and only reached the African mainland after having established durable communities on Madagascar. Subsequent migrations from both the Malay Archipelago and Africa further consolidated this original mixture, and 18 separate tribal groups emerged. Malay features are most predominant in the central highlands people, the Merina (3 million) and the Betsileo (2 million); the remaining 16 tribal groupings are coastal peoples (côtiers) who are predominantly of East African origin, with various Malay, Arab, European and Indian admixtures. The largest coastal groups are the Betsimisaraka (1.5 million) and the Tsimihety and Sakalava (700,000 each). Malagasy society has long been polarized between the politically and economically advantaged highlanders of the central plateaux and the côtiers along the coast. For example in the 1970s there was widespread opposition among côtiers against the policy of Malgachisation which intended to phase out the use of the French language in public life in favour of a more prominent position for the Malagasy language, whose orthography is based on the Merina dialect. Identity politics were also at the core of the brief civil unrest during 2002.

The Malagasy language is of Malayo-Polynesian origin and is spoken throughout the island. French also is spoken among the educated population of this former French colony, primarily as a prestigious second language.

Indians in Madagascar descend mostly from traders who arrived in the newly-independent nation looking for better opportunities. The majority of them came from the west coast of India known as Karana (Muslim) and Banian (Hindu). The majority speak Hindi or Gujarati, and though some other Indian dialects also exist. Nowadays the younger generations speak at least three languages, including French, Gujarati and Malagasy. A large number of the Indians in Madagascar have a high level of education, particularly the younger generation.[citation needed]

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