Madagascar , officially the Republic of Madagascar ( French : République de Madagascar ), formerly known as the Republic of Malagash, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean , about 250 miles (400 km) off the coast of East Africa . The country consists of the island of Madagascar (the fourth largest island in the world) and several small islands. After the disintegration of the great continent of Gondwana in prehistoric times, Madagascar split from the Indian subcontinent some 88 million years ago, allowing local flora and fauna to develop in relative isolation. Madagascar is therefore a center of biodiversity; it is estimated that about 90% of Madagascar's wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth. The island's diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are threatened by rapidly increasing human encroachment and other environmental threats.
Archaeological evidence of the oldest human research activity on food in Madagascar could date back to 10,000 years.The first human settlement in Madagascar was formed between 350 BC and 550 AD by the Austronesian peoples , which were brought aboard boats from Borneo . They were joined around the 9th century by Bantuyan migrants who crossed the Mozambique canal from East Africa. Other groups continued to settle in Madagascar over time, each of which contributed and created an impact on the cultural life of Madagascar. Malagasy ethnic groups are often divided into 18 or more subgroups, the largest of which is Marina in the central highlands.
Until the late 18th century, Madagascar was governed by a variety of changing social and political alliances. Beginning in the early 19th century, most of the island was united and ruled as the Kingdom of Madagascar by a series of Mirina nobles . The monarchy ended in 1897 when the island was annexed to the French colonial empire , from which the island did not become independent until 1960. The Autonomous State of Madagascar has since gone through four major constitutional periods or republics. Since 1992, the state has been officially ruled as a constitutional democracy from its capital, Antananarivo . However, in a popular uprising in 2009, President Marc Ravalomanana resigned and presidential power was transferred in March 2009 to Andrei Rajoelina . Constitutional rule was restored in January 2014, when Herri Rajaunarambinina was appointed president after the 2013 elections that the international community considered fair and transparent. Madagascar is a member of the United Nations, the African Union , the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the International Organization of la Francophonie .
Madagascar belongs to the group of least develope Malagasy and French are the official languages of the state. The majority of the population adheres to Malagasy traditional beliefs, Christianity , or a combination of both. Ecotourism and agriculture, combined with greater investments in education, health and private institutions, are key elements of Madagascar's development strategy. During the Ravalomanana era, these investments produced remarkable economic growth, but the benefits were not evenly distributed to the entire population, leading to tensions over increased living costs and low living standards among the poor and some segments of the middle class. As of 2017 , the economy has become weaker due to the political crisis between 2009-2013, and the standard of living remains low for the majority of Madagascar's population.