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Central Antananarivo, including Lake Anosy
Central Antananarivo, including Lake Anosy
Coat of arms of Antananarivo
Coat of arms
Nickname(s): Tana
Antananarivo is located in Madagascar
Location of Antananarivo in Madagascar
Coordinates: 18°56′S 47°31′E / 18.933°S 47.517°E / -18.933; 47.517
Country  Madagascar
Province Antananarivo Province
Founded 1625
 • President of the Special Delegation Ny Hasina Andriamanjato
 • Total 88 km2 (34 sq mi)
Elevation 1,276 m (4,186 ft)
Population (2005 est.)
 • Total 1,613,375[1]
Time zone East Africa Time (UTC+3)
Area code(s) (+261) 023
Website (French)

Antananarivo (/ˌæntəˌnænəˈrv/ or /ˌɑːntəˌnɑːnəˈrv/;[2] Malagasy pronunciation: [antananaˈrivʷ]), formerly French Tananarive (/təˌnænəˈrv/[3] or /ˌtænənəˈrv/;[4] French pronunciation: ​[tananaʁiv]), also known by its French colonial shorthand form Tana, is the capital and largest city in Madagascar. The larger urban area surrounding the city, known as Antananarivo-Renivohitra ("Antananarivo-Mother Hill" or "Antananarivo-Capital"), is the capital of Analamanga region. The city is located 1,280 m (4,199 ft)|above sea level in the center of the island, and has been the island's largest population center since at least the 18th century. Antananarivo was historically the capital of the Merina people, who continue to form the majority of the city's estimated 2.1 million (2013) inhabitants. All 18 Malagasy ethnic groups, as well as residents of Chinese, Indian, European and other origins, are well represented in the city. Antananarivo is the political, economic, educational and cultural heart of Madagascar. The Presidency, National Assembly, Senate and Supreme Court are located here, as are 21 diplomatic missions and the headquarters of many national and international businesses and NGOs. Antananarivo also hosts the largest number of universities, nightclubs, art venues, medical services and other social service institutions of any city on the island. Several national and local sports teams, including the championship-winning national rugby team, the Makis, and several basketball and football teams, are based in Antananarivo.

Antananarivo was founded in about 1625, when the Merina king Andrianjaka (1612–1630) expelled the Vazimba inhabitants of the village of Analamanga at the highest meeting point of two forested ridges rising above the surrounding highland plains. Declaring it the site of his capital, Andrianjaka built a rova (fortified royal dwelling) that expanded to become the royal palaces of the Kingdom of Imerina. According to oral history, he deployed a garrison of 1,000 soldiers to capture and guard the site; the hill and its city retained the name Analamanga until the reign of King Andriamasinavalona (1675–1710), who renamed it Antananarivo ("City of the Thousand") in honor of Andrianjaka's soldiers. The city served as the capital of the Kingdom of Imerina from 1625 until 1710, when Imerina split into four warring quadrants. Antananarivo was declared the capital of the southern quadrant; it remained thus until King Andrianampoinimerina of Ambohimanga captured the province and restored its role as capital of a united Kingdom of Imerina in 1794. His diplomatic and military successes extended Imerina far beyond its traditional borders, bringing the lands of neighboring ethnic groups under Merina control. These conquests were continued under his son, Radama I, whose control ultimately extended over two thirds of the island, leading him to be considered the King of Madagascar by European diplomats, with Antananarivo as the island's capital. Antananarivo remained the island's capital after Madagascar was colonized by the French in 1897 and remained thus after independence in 1960,

Antananarivo has expanded gradually from the royal palaces at its center, which dominate every view from their location at the peak of a curving ridge 200 m (660 ft) above the surrounding Betsimitatatra plains. In the 17th century, the plains were transformed into paddy fields to meet the population's need for rice; they were covered with housing developments as the city's population grew rapidly in the 20th century. Around the palaces, which were destroyed in a 1995 fire but have since been partially reconstructed, lies the historic district that was formerly populated by members of the andriana (noble class); many of their homes are preserved. The Analakely valley at the base of the ridge was the site of a Friday market established in the 18th century that, until being discontinued in 1997 due to traffic congestion, was considered the largest open air market in the world. This neighborhood was further developed under French rule and continues to serve as the capital's economic heart. The city is managed by the Commune Urbaine d'Antananarivo (CUA) under the direction of its President of the Special Delegation, Ny Havana Andriamanjato, appointed in March 2014. Limited funds and mismanagement have hampered consecutive CUA efforts to manage overcrowding and traffic, waste management, pollution, security, public water and electricity, and other challenges linked to explosive population growth. Major historic landmarks and attractions in the city include the reconstructed royal palaces and the Andafiavaratra Palace, the tomb of Rainiharo, Tsimbazaza Zoo, Mahamasina Stadium, Lake Anosy, four 19th century martyr cathedrals, and the Museum of Art and Archaeology.


Antananarivo was originally the site of a town called Analamanga, meaning "Blue Forest" in the central highlands dialect of the Malagasy language.[5] Analamanga was established by a community of Vazimba, the island's first occupants. Andrianjaka (1612–1630), king of the Merina people who migrated to the region from the southeast coast, seized the location as the site of his capital city. According to oral history, he deployed a garrison of 1,000 soldiers to successfully capture and guard the site.[5] The hill and its city retained the name Analamanga until the reign of King Andriamasinavalona (1675–1710), who renamed it Antananarivo ("City of the Thousand") in honor of Andrianjaka's soldiers.[6]


Antananarivo is situated approximately 1,280 m (4,199 ft) above sea level in the central highlands region of Madagascar, at 18.55' South and 47.32' East.[7] The city is located centrally along the north-south axis of the country, and east of center along the east-west axis. It is 160 km (99 mi) from the east coast and 330 km (210 mi) from the west coast. The city occupies a commanding position on the summit and slopes of a long, narrow, rocky ridge extending north and south for about 4 km (2 mi) and rises at to about 200 m (660 ft) at its summit above the extensive rice fields to the west.[5]


Kingdom of Imerina[edit]

Unlike most capital cities in southern Africa, Antananarivo was already a major city before the colonial era. After expelling the Vazimba who inhabited the town at the peak of Analamanga hill, Andrianjaka chose the site for his rova (fortified royal compound), which expanded over time to enclose the royal palaces and the tombs of Merina royalty.[8] Early Merina kings used fanampoana (statute labor) to construct a massive system of irrigated paddy fields and dikes around the city to provide adequate rice for the growing population. These paddy fields, of which the largest is called the Betsimitatatra, continue to produce rice.[9]

Sovereigns addressed the public at the historic town square of Andohalo.

Successive Merina sovereigns ruled over the Kingdom of Imerina from Analamanga through King Andriamasinavalona's reign. This sovereign gave the growing city its current name; he established the Andohalo town square outside the town gate, where all successive sovereigns delivered their royal speeches and announcements to the public, and assigned the names of numerous locations within the city based on the names of similar sites in the nearby village of Antananarivokely.[6] Andriamasinavalona designated specific territories for the hova (commoners) and each andriana (noble) subcaste, both within the neighborhoods of Antananarivo and in the countryside surrounding the capital. These territorial divisions were strictly enforced; members of subcastes were required to live within their designated territories and were not authorized to stay for extended periods in the territories reserved for others.[10] Numerous fady (taboos), including injunctions against the construction of wooden houses by non-nobles[11] and the presence of swine within the city limits, were imposed.[12]

Upon Andriamasinavalona's death in 1710, Imerina split into four warring quadrants and Antananarivo was made the capital of the southern district.[13] During the 77-year civil war that followed, the eastern district's capital at Ambohimanga rose in prominence.[14] The last king of Ambohimanga, Andrianampoinimerina, successfully conquered Antananarivo in 1793;[15] he reunited the provinces of Imerina, ending the civil war. He moved the kingdom's political capital back to Antananarivo in 1794,[16] and declared Ambohimanga the kingdom's spiritual capital, a role it still maintains.[17] Andrianampoinimerina created a large marketplace in Analakely, establishing the city's economic center.[18]

Kingdom of Madagascar[edit]

Lake Anosy was created in the 19th century to provide hydraulic power to industrial factories.

By the time Andrianampoinimerina's son Radama I had inherited the throne upon his father's death in 1810, Antananarivo was by far the largest and most economically important city on the island, with a population of over 80,000 inhabitants.[19] Radama opened the city to the first European settlers, artisan missionaries of the London Missionary Society (LMS) who arrived in 1820 and opened the city's first public schools.[20] James Cameron introduced brick making to the island and also created the artificial Lake Anosy to generate hydraulic power for industrial manufacturing.[21] Radama established a military training ground on a flat plain called Mahamasina, at the base of Analamanga near the artificial lake. Radama's subjugation of other Malagasy ethnic groups brought nearly two thirds of the island under his control. The British diplomats who concluded trade treaties with Radama recognized him as the "ruler of Madagascar", a position that he and his successors claimed despite never managing to impose their authority over the larger portion of the island's south. The Merina sovereigns thereafter declared Antananarivo the capital of the entire island.[22]

Ranavalona I built the staircases connecting the market at Analakely to Antaninarenina (pictured) and Ambondrona in 1832.[23]

Radama's successor Ranavalona I invited a shipwrecked craftsman named Jean Laborde to construct the tomb of Prime Minister Rainiharo, and Manjakamiadana (built 1839–1841), the largest palace at the Rova. Laborde also produced a wide range of industrial products at factories in the highland village of Mantasoa and a foundry in the Antananarivo neighborhood of Isoraka.[24] Ranavalona oversaw improvements to the city's infrastructure, including the construction of the city's two largest staircases at Antaninarenina and Ambondrona, which connect the la ville moyenne ("middle town") to the central marketplace at Analakely.[23] In 1867, following a series of fires in the capital, Queen Ranavalona II issued a royal decree that permitted the use of stone and brick construction to be expanded from tombs to other types of buildings.[21] LMS missionaries' first brick house, built in 1869 and bearing a blend of English, Creole and Malagasy design, served as a model for a new style of house that rapidly spread throughout the capital and across the highlands. Termed the trano gasy ("Malagasy house"), it is typically two stories high, built of brick, and features four columns on the front that support a wooden veranda. Over the latter third of the 19th century, these houses quickly replaced most of the traditional wooden houses of the city's aristocratic class.[25] The growing number of Christians in Imerina also prompted the construction of stone churches throughout the highlands, as well as four memorial cathedrals on key sites of martyrdom among early Malagasy Christians under the reign of Ranavalona I.[26]

Andafiavaratra Palace was the home of Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony (1864–1894).

Until the mid 19th century, the city remained largely concentrated around the Rova of Antananarivo on the highest peak, an area today referred to as la haute ville or la haute ("upper town"). As the population grew, the city expanded to the west; by the late 19th century, the city extended to the northern hilltop neighborhood of Andohalo, an area of low prestige until British missionaries made it their preferred residential district and constructed one of the city's memorial churches here from 1863 to 1872.[5] From 1864 to 1894, Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony governed Madagascar alongside three successive queens, Rasoherina, Ranavalona II and Ranavalona III, affecting policies that further transformed the city. In 1881 he reinstated mandatory universal education first introduced in 1820 under Radama I, requiring the construction of numerous schools and colleges, including teacher training colleges staffed by missionaries and the nation's first pharmacy (1862), medical college and modern hospital (1865).[27] Rainilaiarivony built the Andafiavaratra Palace in 1873 as his residence and office at a site near the royal palace.[28]

French Madagascar[edit]

The colonial French Residency serves today as a presidential office and has been renamed the Ambohitsorohitra Palace.

The French military invaded Antananarivo in September 1894, prompting the queen's surrender after a cannon shell blasted a hole through a building at the Rova, causing major casualties; the damage was never repaired. Andohalo square was remodeled to feature a gazebo, walkways and planted landscaping. Claiming the island as their colony, the French administration retained Antananarivo as its capital (transcribing its name as Tananarive)[29] and chose Antaninarenina as the site for the French Governor General's Residency, which was renamed Ambohitsorohitra Palace upon independence and transformed into presidential offices. Under the French, tunnels were constructed through two of the city's largest hills, connecting disparate districts and facilitating expansion of the town. Streets were increasingly laid with cobblestones and later paved; sewer systems and electricity infrastructure were introduced. Water, previously obtained from springs at the foot of the hill, was brought from the Ikopa River.[30]

This period saw a major expansion of la ville moyenne, which spread along the lower hilltops and slopes of the city centered around the French Residency. Modern urban planning was applied in la ville basse ("lower town"), which expanded from the base of the city's central hills into the surrounding rice fields. Major boulevards like Avenue de l'Indépendance were constructed, as well as planned commercial areas such as the arcades lining either side of the Avenue, large parks, city squares and other landmark features.[30] A railway system was established in 1897 that connects Soarano station at one end of the Avenue de l'Indépendance in Antananarive to Toamasina and Fianarantsoa.[31] Beyond the edges of these planned spaces, neighborhoods densely populated by working class Malagasy expanded without state oversight or control.[30]

Jacarandas planted during the French colonial period bloom in October around Lake Anosy.

The city expanded rapidly after World War II,[30] and by 1950 the population of Antananarivo had grown to 175,000. The roads connecting Antananarivo to surrounding towns were expanded and increasingly paved. The first international airport was constructed at Arivonimamo, some 45 kilometres (28 miles) outside of Antananarivo, replaced in 1967 with the Ivato International Airport approximately 15 kilometres (9 miles) from the center of the city. The University of Antananarivo was constructed in the Ankatso neighborhood, and the Museum of Ethnology and Paleontology was also built. A city plan written in 1956 created suburban zones where large houses and gardens were established for the wealthy. Severe floods in la ville basse in 1959 prompted large scale embankment operations along the edges of the Betsimitatatra rice fields and the establishment of new ministerial complexes on newly drained land in the Anosy neighborhood.[30]


Senate building

After independence in 1960 the pace of growth increased still further. The city's population reached 1.4 million by the end of the 20th century; in 2013, the population was estimated at nearly 2.1 million.[1] Uncontrolled urban sprawl has challenged the city's infrastructure, producing shortages of clean water and electricity, sanitation and public health problems, and heavy traffic congestion.[30] There are more than 5,000 church buildings in the city and its suburbs, including an Anglican and a Roman Catholic cathedral; Antananarivo is the see city of Madagascar's Roman Catholic Archdiocese). The city has repeatedly been the site of large demonstrations and violent political clashes, such as during the 1972 rotaka that brought down president Philibert Tsiranana, or during the 2009 Malagasy political crisis, which resulted in Andry Rajoelina replacing Marc Ravalomanana as head of state.[32]


The official boundaries of the city of Antananarivo encompass an urban area of approximately 86.4 km (53.7 mi) squared.[7] It was founded 1,480 meters above sea level at the apex of three hill ranges that converge in a Y form. The city gradually spread out from this central point 200 meters above the surrounding Betsimitatatra paddy fields and the grassy plains beyond, first covering the hillsides and, by the late 19th century, expanding to the flat terrain at the base of the hills 200 meters below. These plains are susceptible to floods during the rainy season and are drained by the Ikopa River, which skirts the capital to the south and west. The western slopes and plains, being best protected from cyclone winds originating over the Indian Ocean, were settled before those to the east.[5]

Greater Antananarivo is a continuously urbanized area spreading beyond the city's official boundaries for a distance of nine kilometers north to south between Ambohimanarina and Ankadimbahoaka, and six kilometers west to east between the Ikopa River dike and Tsiadana.[33] The population of the greater Antananarivo area was estimated in 2012 at three million people, and is expected to rise to six million by 2030.[34]


Under the Köppen-Geiger climate classification system, Antananarivo has a subtropical highland climate (Cwb)[35] characterized by mild, dry winters and warm and rainy summers.[7] The city receives practically all of its average annual rainfall between November and April. Frosts are rare and more common at higher elevations. Means range from 20.5 °C (68.9 °F) to 14.1 °C (57.4 °F).

Climate data for Antananarivo
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 33
Average high °C (°F) 26.4
Daily mean °C (°F) 20.5
Average low °C (°F) 16.6
Record low °C (°F) 12
Precipitation mm (inches) 274.0
Avg. rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm) 15 15 12 5 2 2 2 1 1 6 12 17 90
 % humidity 80.5 81.5 80.5 79.5 78.5 77.5 77 74.5 70.5 67 70 76.5 76.13
Mean monthly sunshine hours 210.5 178.0 199.1 220.5 228.8 206.1 213.9 235.0 249.5 251.0 232.7 201.1 2,626.2
Source #1: NOAA[36]
Source #2: BBC Weather for records, and humidity[37]


The royal palace is built on the peak of Analamanga, the city's highest hill, which dominates its skyline.

The city of Antananarivo spreads out around a trio of ridges that intersect at their highest point. Built at the summit of these hills, the Manjakamiadana royal palace is visible from every part of the city and the other major hills that ring the capital. The Manjakamiadina was the largest structures within the rova of Antananarivo and its stone casing was the only remnant of the royal residences to survive a 1995 fire at the site. For 25 years, the roofless stone shell dominated the skyline, with its west wall collapsed since 2004;[38] as of 2009, the stone casing has been fully restored and the building has been re-roofed, and is illuminated at night. Conservation and reconstruction efforts at the site are ongoing.[39] The city skyline is a jumble of colorful historic houses and churches, while more recent residential and commercial buildings and family rice fields occupy lower terrain throughout the capital. The Betsimitatatra and other vast rice fields ring the city in all directions.[40]

The city's neighborhoods emerge from historic ethnic, religious and caste divisions. The assignment of certain neighborhoods to particular noble sub-castes under the Kingdom of Imerina established initial divisions, with the highest ranking nobles typically assigned to neighborhoods closest to the royal palace and all being required to settle on higher elevation portions of the city.[41] During and after French colonization, expansion of the city continued to reflect these divisions. Today, the calm and quiet haute ville is primarily residential and viewed as a prestigious area to live; many of the city's wealthiest and most influential Malagasy families live here.[41] The part of la haute closest to the Rova contains much of the city's pre-colonial heritage and is considered the historic part of the city.[42] In addition to the royal palace, it includes Andafiavaratra Palace, the former residence of Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony; Andohalo, the principal town square until 1897; a cathedral built near Andohalo to commemorate early Malagasy Christian martyrs; the city's most intact historic entrance gate; and the 19th-century houses of Merina nobles.[40]

Under the Kingdom of Madagascar, the commoner class (hova) settled at the periphery of the noble districts,[41] gradually spreading along the slopes of the lower hills over the later 19th century. This ville moyenne became increasingly populous under French colonial authority, which targeted them for redesign and development. Today, the neighborhoods in the ville moyenne are densely populated and lively, containing a mix of residences, historic sites and businesses. The neighborhood of Antaninarenina contains the historic Hôtel Colbert, numerous jewelers' shops and other luxury goods stores, and many administrative offices. In addition to Antaninarenina, the principal neighborhoods of la ville moyenne are Ankadifotsy on the eastern range of hills, and Ambatonakanga and Isoraka to the west, all of which are largely residential.[42] Isoraka has developed lively nightlife, with numerous houses converted to upscale restaurants and inns, and also houses the tomb of Prime Minister Rainiharo (1833–1852), whose sons and later Prime Ministers Rainivoninahitriniony and Rainilaiarivony are buried with him.[43] Bordering these neighborhoods are the more commercial areas of Besarety and Andravoahangy.[42]

The city's historic Zoma market, established by King Andrianampoinimerina (1787-1810), was disbanded in 1997.

The commercial center of town, Analakely, is nestled on the valley floor between these two ville moyenne hill ranges.[42] King Andrianampoinimerina established the city's first marketplace[18] on the grounds today occupied by the market's tile-roofed pavilions, constructed in the 1930s.[38] Andrianampoinimerina decreed Friday (Zoma) as market day,[18] when merchants would come to Analakely to erect stalls shaded with traditional white parasols. This sea of parasols extended throughout the valley, forming what has been called the largest open air marketplace in the world.[44] Traffic congestion and safety hazards caused by the ever-growing Zoma market prompted government officials to split up and relocate the Friday merchants to several other districts in 1997.[45] The city's other main commercial and administrative neighborhoods, which spread out from Analakely and extend into the adjacent plain, were established by the French, who drained and filled in the extant rice fields and swampland to create much of the area's current design and infrastructure. From the gardens of Ambohijatovo south of the market pavilions, the Avenue de l'Indépendance runs through Analakely to its terminus at Soarano, location of the city's train station. To the west of Soarano lies the dense commercial district of Tsaralalana, the only one to be built on a grid[42] and the heart of the city's South Asian community.[46] Behoririka, to the east of Soarano, is built around a lake of the same name and abuts the sprawling Andravoahangy district at the eastern edge of the city; Antanimena borders Soarano and Behoririka to the north. A tunnel constructed in the early 20th century by the French cuts through the hillside to connect Ambohijatovo to Ambanidia and other peaceful residential quarters on the southern side of the city.[42]

Since pre-colonial times the lower classes, including those descended from the slave class (andevo) and rural migrants, have occupied the flood-prone lower districts bordering the Betsimitatatra rice fields surrounding the city to the west.[41] This area is connected to Analakely by a tunnel constructed by the French in the early 20th century. The tunnel opens toward Lake Anosy and the national Supreme Court buildings, and provides access to the residential neighborhood of Mahamasina and its stadium. The bordering neighborhood of Anosy was developed in the 1950s to house most of the national ministries as well as the Senate.[42] Anosy, together with the planned residential district of Soixante-Sept Hectares (often abbreviated to "67") and the neighborhood of Isotry are among the most densely populated, crime ridden and impoverished neighborhoods.[47] Approximately 40 percent of inhabitants with electricity in their homes in the ville basse obtain it illegally by splicing into city power lines. In these areas, houses are more vulnerable to fires, flooding and landslides often triggered by the annual cyclone season.[48]


Nineteenth century trano gasy houses predominate in the historic haute ville.

Prior to the mid-19th century, all houses and marketplaces in Antananarivo, like elsewhere throughout the island, were constructed of woods, grasses, reeds and other plant-based materials, viewed as appropriate for structures used by the living. Only family tombs were built from stone, an inert material viewed as the appropriate in use for the dead. British missionaries introduced the technique of brick making in the 1820s, and French industrialist Jean Laborde used stone and brick for the construction of his factories over the next several decades, but it was not until the royal edict on construction material was lifted in the 1860s that stone was used to encase the royal palace. This example, in combination with the brick two-story houses with wrapped verandas and divided interior spaces built by British missionaries residing in Antananarivo, inspired many aristocrats to copy the British model for their own large homes in the haute ville. The model, known as trano gasy ("Malagasy house"), rapidly spread throughout the central highlands of Madagascar where it remains the predominant house construction style.[49]

Since 1993, the Commune urbaine d'Antananarivo (CUA) has increasingly sought to protect and restore the architectural and cultural heritage of the city. In 2005 CUA authorities partnered with the city planners of the Ile-de-France to develop the Plan Vert - Plan Bleu strategy for creating a classification system for Zones de Protection du Patrimoine Architectural, Urbain et Paysager, areas of the city benefitting from legal protection and financial support for the historic and cultural heritage they contain. The plan, which is being implemented by the Institut des Métiers de la Ville, prevents the destruction of historic buildings and other structures and establishes construction codes that ensure new structures follow historic aesthetics. It also provides for awareness raising campaigns among the inhabitants of Antananarivo in favor of historic preservation, and undertakes projects to restore dilapidated historic buildings and sites. Under this plan, such 19th century sites as the Ambatondrafandrana tribunal and the second residence of Rainilaiarivony have been renovated.[34]


Antananarivo has been the largest city on the island since at least the late 18th century, when its population was estimated at 15,000 inhabitants.[29] By 1810, the population had grown to 80,000 before declining dramatically between 1829 and 1842 during the reigns of Radama I and especially Ranavalona I. A combination of war, forced labor, disease and harsh measures of justice produced a population drop from 750,000 to 130,000 in Imerina during this period.[19] In the final years of the Kingdom of Imerina, the population had rebounded to around 50-75,000, with the majority of the population being slaves who were largely captured in the provincial military campaigns.[29] In 1950, around 175,000 people resided in Antananarivo.[30] By the late 1990s the population had reached 1.4 million, climbing to almost 2.1 million in 2013.[1] The city is home to 10 percent of the island's residents. Rural migration to the capital propels this growth; the number of inhabitants of Antananarivo exceeds the population of the five provincial capitals combined.[29]

As the historic capital of the Kingdom of Imerina, Antananarivo is centrally located in the homeland of the Merina people, who at approximately 24 percent of the population form the largest Malagasy ethnic group. The city's history as the island's major center for politics, culture and trade have nonetheless ensured a cosmopolitan mix of ethnic groups from across the island and overseas.[29] The large majority of Antananarivo residents have strong ties to their tanindrazana (ancestral village), where the extended family and typically a family tomb or burial place is located; many older residents leave the city upon retirement to return to their rural area of origin.[50]


Despite ongoing efforts by the Ministry of Domestic Security, crime has worsened in Antananarivo since 2009. In the period from 1994 to 1998, the city had an average of 8 to 12 police officers for every 10,000 inhabitants; large cities should typically have closer to 15.[48] Under the mayorship of Marc Ravalomanana (1998–2001), street lights were installed or repaired throughout the city to improve nighttime safety. He also increased the number of police officers on the streets, leading to a drop in crime.[51] As of 2012, the city lacks a comprehensive strategy for the fight against crime. The recent worsening of crime and inadequate response from the CUA has prompted the growth of private security firms in the city.[48]


L'Avenue de l'Indépendance, the city's main thoroughfare, is bordered on both sides by shopping arcades built by the French in the 1930s.

Agriculture is the mainstay of the Malagasy economy, and land is used for the cultivation of rice and other crops, raising of zebu and other livestock, the fabrication of bricks, and other traditional livelihoods. In Antananarivo, access to land is guaranteed and protected by law for every resident of the city. The CUA manages requests to lease or purchase land, but demand dramatically outstrips supply and much of the unallocated land fails to meet the requisite criteria for parceling, such as land where floodwater runoff is diverted. Much of this land has nonetheless been illegally occupied and developed by land-seeking residents, creating shantytown slums in pockets throughout the lower portions of the city. This uncontrolled development poses sanitation and safety risks to residents who settle in these areas.[7]

Industry, which forms approximately 13 percent of Madagascar's gross domestic product (GDP), is largely concentrated in Antananarivo. Key industries include soap production, food and tobacco processing, brewing, textiles, and leather manufacturing, providing employment to around 5.5 percent of the workforce.[41] The city's extensive infrastructure and its role as the economic center of the country makes it ideal as a locale for larger businesses. Business owners are direct and indirect drivers of growth for the city; in 2010 60 percent of all new buildings constructed in the country were located in Antananarivo, with the majority built for commercial purposes. Unemployment and poverty are nonetheless increasing, fueled in part by an inadequately skilled and unprofessional workforce and the lack of a comprehensive national strategy for economic development since 2009. [48] Formal sector job growth has not kept pace with the booming population growth, and many residents earn their livelihood in the informal sector as street vendors and laborers.[52] Under Ravalomanana, construction in the capital increased sharply, with twelve new supermarkets constructed in two years.[51]

The residents of urban areas and Antananarivo in particular have been hardest hit by economic downturns and economic policy shifts. The national economic crisis from the mid 1970s to the early 1980s and the World Bank imposition of a structural adjustment program lowered living standards for the average resident of the city, with the end of state subsidies, rapid inflation and higher taxes; widespread impoverishment of the population and the decline of the middle class were especially evident in Antananarivo, as was the growing wealth of a tiny political and economic elite residing in the city.[41] In 2007, two thirds of Antananarivo residents had access to electricity,[53] while ten percent of households owned a scooter, car or other motor vehicle.[54] Running water was installed in fewer than 25 percent of homes and smaller restaurants and businesses in 2007, necessitating the collection of water from household wells or neighborhood pumps[53] and the use an outdoor pit latrine detached from the main building, with 60 percent of households using shared public latrines.[55] Most homes use charcoal for daily cooking and keep stocks of charcoal and rice in the kitchen.[56] The average city household spends just under 50 percent of its budget on the purchase of food.[57] Owing to its increasingly high cost, meat consumption by residents of Antananarivo has sharply declined since the 1970s and is eaten on holidays only once or twice a year among the urban poor.[58]


In Antananarivo and throughout the highlands, Merina and Betsileo families practice an ancestor reburial ceremony termed the famadihana. This ceremony typically occurs seven years after the death of a relative and is celebrated by removing the relative's lamba-wrapped remains from the family tomb, rewrapping it with fresh silk shrouds and returning it to the tomb. Relatives, friends and neighbors are invited to take part in the music, dancing and feasting that accompanies the event. The famadihana is costly, and many families in Antananarivo sacrifice higher living standards to set aside money for the ceremony.[59]

Historic sites and museums[edit]

Andohalo cathedral, built on a cliff where Queen Ranavalona I had early Malagasy Christian martyrs executed

The tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Antananarivo is extensive and highly significant to regional and national populations alike. The city possesses numerous monuments, historic buildings, sites of significance and traditions related to the customs and history of the central highlands people.[48] The city skyline is dominated by the Rova of Antananarivo, which was destroyed in a 1995 fire but are undergoing reconstruction. The nearby Andafiavaratra Palace was the home of 19th century Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony and currently contains a museum featuring historic artifacts of the Kingdom of Imerina, including items saved from the fire at the Rova. Downhill from the palaces is Andohalo square, where Merina kings and queens delivered speeches to the public. Tsimbazaza Zoo displays many of the island's unique animal species, as well as a complete skeleton of the now-extinct elephant bird. Other historic buildings include the Ambatondrafandrana tribunal where Ranavalona I dispensed judgement, the second residence of Rainilaiarivony with its indigenous medicinal plant garden,[34] the recently renovated Soarano train station, four memorial churches that were built in the late 19th century to commemorate early Malagasy Christian martyrs, the tomb of Prime Minister Rainiharo, and the early 20th century pavilions of the Analakely market. Newer and larger open air markets include Le Pochard and the artisan market at Andravoahangy. The Museum of Art and Archaeology, located in the Isoraka neighborhood, features exhibits on the history and cultures of Madagascar's diverse ethnic groups.[60]


Cinemas Rex and Ritz

The arts scene in Antananarivo is the largest and most vibrant in the country. Madagascar's diverse music scene is reflected in the many concerts, cabarets, dance clubs and other musical venues throughout Antananarivo. In the dry season, outdoor concerts are regularly held in such venues as the Antsahamanitra amphitheater and Mahamasina Stadium.[61] Concerts and night clubs are primarily attended by young people of the middle to upper classes who are able to afford the entrance fees.[61] More affordable are performances of traditional vakindrazana or Malagasy operettas at Isotry Theater, and hira gasy at the city's outdoor cheminots theater or Alliance française, although these performances are a more popular pastime among older and rural audiences than among urban youth.[62] Nightlife is the most animated in the ville moyenne neighborhoods of Antaninarenina, Tsaralalana, Behoririka, Mahamasina and Andohalo.[63]

The Palais des Sports in the Mahamasina neighborhood of Antananarivo is the country's only indoor performance space built to international norms. Built in 1995 by the Government of China, the venue regularly hosts concerts, dance and other arts performances, expositions, and novelty events like monster truck rallies. The city lacks a dedicated classical music performance space, and concerts by international artists are infrequent. Instead, the performance of classical, jazz and other foreign musical genres, modern and contemporary dance, theater and other arts are frequently organized at cultural arts centers that are funded by foreign governments or private entities. Among the most well known are the Centre Culturel Albert Camus and Alliance française d'Antananarivo, both funded by the French government;[61] the Cercle Germano-Malgache, a branch of the Goethe-Institut funded by the German government;[64] and the American Center, funded by the United States government.[65] Antananarivo has two dedicated cinemas, the Rex and the Ritz. Both were built in the colonial era. These venues do not show standard international releases, but instead occasionally screen Malagasy films or are used for private events and religious services.[61]


Rugby is considered the national sport of Madagascar.[66] The national rugby team, called the Makis after the local word for the indigenous ring-tailed lemur, trains and plays domestic matches at Maki Stadium in Antananarivo. Constructed in 2012, the stadium has a capacity of 15,000 and houses a gym and administrative offices for the team. It replaces their former home, Malacam Stadium, which had a capacity of approximately 3,000 that was regularly exceeded by triple the number of attendees.[67] Several soccer teams are also based in Antananarivo: AS Adema Analamanga and Ajesaia, both associated with the Analamanga region; USCA Foot, associated with the CUA; and the AS Saint Michel, affiliated since 1948 with the historic secondary school of the same name. All four teams train and play local games in Mahamasina Stadium, the largest sporting venue in the country. The men's basketball teams Challenger and SOE (Équipe du Stade olympique de l'Emyrne) are based in Antananarivo and play in the Palais des Sports at Mahamasina.[68]


The new Hôtel de Ville was completed in 2009 and replaced the original town hall burned in the 1972 rotaka protests.

Antananarivo is the capital of Madagascar and the federal governance structures are housed here, including the Senate, National Assembly and the Supreme Court, as well as a presidential office, although the main presidential offices are located 15 kilometers south of the city. The nationwide move toward decentralization beginning in the mid-1990s produced several laws, including the Loi no. 94-009 of 26 April 1995 and the Decret 96-168 of 6 March 1996, which provided Antananarivo with a distinctive status. They also defined additional governance roles for the city, making it the administrative seat of the Analamanga region, the district of Antananarivo-Renivohitra and the Commune Urbaine d'Antananarivo (CUA, Antananarivo city proper).[7] The city also hosts the diplomatic missions of 21 countries.[69]

The CUA, which is divided into six numbered arrondissements (administrative sub-districts), has historically been administered by an elected mayor and associated staff.[7] Since the 2009 political crisis in which the former mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina, unconstitutionally seized power as head of state, the CUA has been administered by a délégation spéciale (special delegation) composed of a president and de facto mayor, with the support of two vice presidents, all of whom are named by the President.[70] The position of President of the Special Delegation has been held by Ny Havana Andriamanjato since March 2014.[71]

The mayoral administration of the CUA is empowered to govern the city with de jure autonomy and a wide range of mechanisms have been established to facilitate governance, although they are of limited effectiveness. An urban master plan guides major policies for city management but personnel within the mayoral office commonly lack the urban planning and management ability to effectively implement the plan in response to long-term and immediate needs. This challenge is compounded by the high turnover rate of mayors and staff that produces frequent disruptions to initiatives set in motion by previous CUA administrations.[7] A mayor under former president Didier Ratsiraka created "red zones", areas where public gathering and protests were prohibited. On 28 June 2001, Ravalomanana eliminated these areas, liberalizing freedom of assembly.[72]

Antananarivo has struggled from debt and mismanagement. The CUA estimated in 2012 that the cost of running the city to international standards would reach as high as $100 million annually, while annual revenues average around $12 million. In good years, the CUA is able to reserve $1-2 million for investment in city improvement projects.[34] By 2008 the city's treasury had accumulated 8.2 billion Malagasy ariary (approximately 4.6 million U.S. dollars) in debts under previous mayors.[73] In 2008, water was cut off at public pumps and there were regular brownouts of city's street lights due to 3.3 million ariary of unpaid debts to the Jirama public utilities company by the City of Antananarivo. In response, then-mayor Rajoelina undertook an audit that identified and sought to address long-standing procedural irregularities and issues of corruption within the city's administration.[74] The CUA continues to be challenged by a shortage of revenues relative to its expenses, caused by the high cost of retaining the large number of CUA personnel, weak structures for managing revenues generated by public rents, and inadequate collection of tax revenues from city residents and businesses.[7]

Twin towns – Sister cities[edit]

Antananarivo has established sister city agreements with four cities. The city was twinned with Yerevan, Armenia in 1981.[75] The city is also twinned with Vorkuta, Russia;[76] Suzhou, China;[77] and Montreal, Canada.[78] A sister city relationship between Antananarivo and Nice, France, established in 1962, is not currently active.[79]


The University of Antananarivo was founded in 1958.

The majority of the country's public and private universities are clustered in Antananarivo.[80] This includes its oldest higher education institute, the College of Medicine, which was established under the Merina monarchy, and the University of Antananarivo, established under the French colonial administration. The city hosts a vast array of private pre-primary, primary and secondary schools in addition to the national network of public schools.[81] The nation's most prestigious dance school, K'art Antanimena, is located in Antananarivo. Other major dance schools are also based here and include Le Club de Danse de l'Université Catholique de Madagascar, Club de danse Kera arts'space à Antanimena and Le Club Mills.[68]

Health and sanitation[edit]

In general, availability and quality of health care is better in Antananarivo than anywhere else in Madagascar, although it remains inadequate across the country relative to more developed parts of the world. One of the nation's two medical schools is located in Antananarivo, and the majority of medical technicians and specialists are trained here.[82] Neonatal[83] and antenatal care is significantly better in Antananarivo than elsewhere on the island.[84] Despite the presence of facilities and trained personnel, the high cost of health care places it beyond the reach of most residents of Antananarivo. Pharmaceuticals are imported from abroad, making them particularly unaffordable; traditional herbal medicines remain popular and are readily available in local markets frequented by the majority of the population.[85]

The large population size in Antananarivo and the high density of its residential zones pose challenges to public health, including sanitation and access to clean drinking water. Industrial and residential waste disposal and processing is inadequate, waste water is often dumped directly into the city's waterways, and air pollution from vehicle exhaust, residential coal-burning stoves and other sources is worsening.[48] While the city has set up clean water pumps, they remain inadequate and are not distributed according to population density, worsening access in the poorest and most populous parts of the city.[48] Antananarivo is one of the two urban areas in Madagascar where plague is endemic.[86]

These problems were improved but not eliminated under the mayoral administration of Marc Ravalomanana, who prioritized sanitation, security and public administration in the capital city. He obtained funds from international donors to establish garbage collection and disposal systems, restore dilapidated infrastructure such as roads and marketplaces, and replant public gardens.[87] To improve sanitation conditions in the city, he constructed public latrines in densely populated or highly frequented areas.[88]

Transport and communications[edit]

The Soarano train station is located at the end of L'Avenue de l'Indépendance.

The majority of the city's residents move about Antananarivo on foot. The CUA sets and enforces rules that govern a system of 2,400 franchised private minibuses running along 82 numbered routes throughout the city. An additional 2,000 minibuses, managed by the Ministry of Transportation, run along 8 lines into the neighboring suburbs. Together, these interlinked bus systems served a total of 700,000 passengers each day.[34] These minibuses often fail to meet safety standards or air quality requirements and are typically overcrowded with passengers and their cargo. Police and gendarmes assist in regulating traffic at peak periods in the morning and evening or around special events and holidays. Private licensed and unlicensed taxis are common, and most vehicles are older Renaults or Citroens; newer vehicles congregate near hotels and other locales frequented by foreigners willing or able to pay higher prices for better services.[34]

The city is encircled by a ring road and connected by direct routes nationales (national highways) to Mahajanga, Toliara, Antsirabe, Fianarantsoa and Toamasina, with branches and feeder roads from these major highways connecting the city to the larger national road network. It is connected by train to Toamasina to the east, and Manakara to the southeast via Antsirabe and Fianarantsoa; the principal railway station in the city is centrally located at Soarano at one end of the Avenue de l'Indépendance. Ivato International Airport, located approximately 15 kilometres (9 miles) from the center of the city, connects Antananarivo by air to all national airports. Ivato is the hub of the national airline, Air Madagascar,[30] and is the only airport on the island hosting long-haul carriers, with direct flights connecting Antananarivo to cities in South Africa, Europe and Asia.[89]

Newspaper vendor

Government television and radio broadcasting centers are located in Antananarivo, as are the headquarters of numerous private stations. Eighty percent of households in Antananarivo own a radio, and the media is widely popular across social classes. Such stations as Fenon'ny Merina appeal to Merina listeners across generations by playing traditional and contemporary music of the highlands region. Youth-oriented stations play a blend of Western artists and Malagasy performers of Western genres, as well as fusion and coastal musical styles; evangelical broadcasts and daily international and local news are also available in Malagasy, French and English.[90] Forty percent of Antananarivo residents own a television.[91] All major Malagasy newspapers are printed here and are widely available. Communications services in Antananarivo are the best in the country. Internet and mobile phone networks are readily available and affordable, although disruptions in service occur periodically. The national postal service is headquartered in Antananarivo, and private international shipping companies like FedEx, DHL Express and United Parcel Service provide service to the city.[92]


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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 18°56′S 47°31′E / 18.933°S 47.517°E / -18.933; 47.517