History, Physiography, Culture & Government
Madagascar is located in the Indian Ocean off the eastern
coast of southern Africa, separated from the mainland by the
Madagascar Channel. It is the fourth largest island in the
world, approximately 1600km in length and 500km in width,
comprising some 590,000 square kilometre’s; approximately
equivalent to the size of the state of New South Wales,
Due to its size, Madagascar is comprised of several distinct
geographic regions, a high central plateau, largely deforested
tropical east coast, scrubby savannah lowlands along the west
coast, and desert in the south. The topography is generally
hilly, the thick jungle regrowth of the east coast providing a
logistically difficult environment in which to operate.
The Tropic of Capricorn passes across the south of the
island; hence it is subject to frequent cyclonic weather in the
December to June period, particularly along the east coast.
Madagascar has an ethnically diverse population of
approximately 18 million people, comprising peoples of
Indo-Asian, African, Arab, Indian and Portuguese origin. The
dominant ethnicity within Madagascar are the Merina people,
a group predominantly of Indonesian origin. They comprise
the highlanders, occupying the central highland plateau of
Madagascar, with people of African descent occupying the
coastal parts of the country; Arabian and Portuguese in the
extreme north. Additionally, Indians are ubiquitous throughout
Madagascar is officially bilingual; French being the language
of government, business and the educated elite, with
Malagasy comprising the official ‘local’ language. English is
taught in schools but is not widely spoken outside of business
and government circles. The average official literacy rate is
The capital of Madagascar is Antananarivo (‘Tana’ /
‘Tananarive’) a city of approximately 1,500,000 people
located in the central eastern area of the island. The name
means ‘a thousand towns’ and the city layout resembles a
‘growing together’ of numerous smaller population centres.
Located approximately 150 kilometres inland from the central
– eastern coast of Madagascar, Antananarivo lies at an
elevation of just over 4000 ft above sea level.
Subsequent to 65 years of French colonial rule, Madagascar
gained its independence in 1960. Despite an ongoing
association with the former Soviet Union during the following
two decades, the French maintained a reasonably strong
presence that continues to this day. Madagascar is governed
under a unitary, bicameral system comprising a National
Assembly (Lower House) and a Senate, overseen by an
Executive branch comprising a directly elected President and
a Prime Minister and PM-appointed Cabinet. The current
President is Marc Ravalomanana, a successful businessman
who has put a priority on integrating Madagascar into
the international community. Having decisively won the
most recent national election in December 2006, Mr
Ravalomanana is well positioned to continue with his
progressive reform programme.
Mineral Sector & Legal Framework
The minerals sector and mining law generally are currently
well advanced on a programme of comprehensive
restructuring, a process likely to be ongoing for some time.
The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank
have previously proposed a USD38.65M programme, the
‘Mineral Resources Governance Project’, to facilitate reform
of the Malagasy minerals sector. This programme is farreaching, encompassing significant taxation reform, geologic,
geochemical and geophysical mapping programmes and
promotion of private investment in the Malagasy mining sector.
At the instigation of the World Bank, a new mining code was
promulgated in 1999, followed in 2000 by a decree on the
conditions of application. In conjunction with this step, the
‘Bureau du Cadastre Minière de Madagascar’ (also known as
the ‘Mining Cadastre Registry’); was established in May 2000.
The Mining Cadastre Registry is designed to serve as a ‘onestop tenement office’ for mining operators.
The mineral tenement database has successfully been
upgraded to a fully computerised database. The tenement
research and application regime is now quite transparent
and largely free from much of the opacity and associated
uncertainties of the previous system.
A detailed discussion of the regulations and application of
mineral tenure in Madagascar is included in this document at