Madagascar had 25,045,161 inhabitants in July 2017. The population density is approximately 43 inhabitants per km2. In the west, 2 inhabitants per km2 is no exception. The average growth of the population is about 2.5% per year. This means that the population doubles about once every 25 years. This high growth rate is due to the fact that the average mother has many children and families with more than 10 children are quite normal. The average life expectancy is not very high, more than 66 years. Almost 63% of the population still lives in the countryside; around 37% live in the cities. However, the migration to the big cities is great.

The capital Antananarivo currently has 3 million inhabitants. The entire agglomeration has about 4 million inhabitants. Other large cities are Toamasina, Fianarantsoa, Antsirabe, Mahajanga and Antsiranana.

The Madagascans are predominantly of Malay-Indonesian descent and to a much lesser extent there are black and Arab groups. About 1% of the population consists mainly of French, Comorese, Indians, Pakistanis and Chinese. The traditional Madagascan population is divided into 18 tribes, based mainly on the boundaries of the former kingdoms rather than on ethnic characteristics. While some tribes are of distinctly Asian or African descent, the Madagascan population is generally a mix of the following tribes:

Small tribe. Name means "those who live in the sand". Farafangara region on the east coast.

Name means "she of the coastal region". Manakara region on the east coast. Related to the Arabs.

Small tribe. Name means "she from Sakalava land". Split from the Sakalava tribe. Southeast coast region.

Very small Muslim tribe. Name means "she of the cliffs". Ankàrana region in the far north. Fishermen and shepherds.

Name means "she of the community". Mananjary region in the southeast. Adhere to Islamic traditions.

Semi-nomadic tribe. Name means "she of the thorns". Poor tribe in the arid south. Income from charcoal sales. Many flee to other regions due to miserable circumstances.

Name means "she of the island". Southeast region.

Origin name unknown; probably from Bantu language. Clearly of African descent. Shepherds.

Name means "the invisible" "Region Fianarantsoa. Woodworkers and farmers. Subgroup are the Zafimaniry. Region east of Ambositra. Renowned woodworkers.

Second largest tribe in Madagascar. Name means "those who are inseparable". Central and northeast coast region. Mainly farmers, growing coffee, sugar cane and cloves.

Small tribe. Name means "she with many little braids" after the Afro hairstyle. Region between Merina and Betsimisaraka, mountainous rainforest.

Name means "makers of taboos". South-southwest region. Only arrived in Madagascar about 900 years ago. Farmers.

Largest tribe. Name means "she of the highlands". Of Asian descent with Madagascar's lightest complexion. Region around the capital Antananarivo. Population is divided into three castes: andriana = nobility, hova = free, andevo = workers (in fact slaves).

Name means "she of the long valleys". Populate the largest area: West Madagascar region. Dark skin colour. Two subgroups, Makoa descended from African slaves and Vezo, mainly fishermen.

Name means "those who roam the swamps". Fishermen and rice farmers. Lowland region around Lake Alaotra.

Name means "she of the forest". Mountain region of the eastern rainforests.

Name means "those who do not cut their hair". Northwest region. Shepherds and rice farmers.

Small tribe. Origin name unknown. Same region as the Antaifasy; Farafangana on the east coast.


Bradt, H. / Madagascar

Greenway, P. / Madagascar & Comoros
Lonely Planet

Lanting, F. / Madagascar : een wereld verdwaald in de tijd

Rozeboom, A. / Madagaskar: mensen, politiek, economie, cultuur, milieu
Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen/Novib

Stevens, R. / Madagascar
Chelsea House Publishers

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated September 2020
Copyright: Team Landenweb