French people in Madagascar

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French people in Madagascar

Les Français à Madagascar
Total population
(123,954 (0.618% of total population))
Regions with significant populations
 Madagascar:Antananarivo, Toamasina, Mahajanga, Antsiranana
mostly French, a minority of creole, Malagasy, Plateau Malagasy and Betsimisaraka Malagasy speakers
Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
French people, Franco-Mauritian, Franco-Seychellois, White African

There is a small but recognizable community of French people in Madagascar, of whom the vast majority are born in Madagascar and are descended from former settlers and colonists from France who settled in Madagascar during the 19th and 20th centuries.[1] They constitute a minority ethnic group of Madagascar.


Several early attempts were made by French settlers to colonize portions of the island, to little lasting effect. The French established a greater foothold in Madagascar in the 1840s, when the French established a protectorate over the northwest part of Madagascar following intense negotiations with the Sakalava. By 1894, the entire island of Madagascar was under French rule and in 1896, it was declared a French colony. Many French settlers and colonists then settled in Madagascar, mostly as farmers or political figures. This soon led to financial, political influence and dominance of the colony.

The small French community of settlers continued to dominate and held the majority of the colony's early wealth. However, in 1914, French authorities allowed the government to provide the Malagasy people with their first representative figure and voice in the political sector, despite much uproar and controversy among the French in Madagascar at the time.[2]

French economic aspirations at the time were strained by external and internal forces, particularly the fluctuating economy. The French struggled in many labor sectors. The labor demands from the Malagasy conflicted with labor requirements for Europeans. In 1926, the French were granted access to a government scheme, SMOTIG, a public works scheme.

Another setback to French settlers at the time was the climate. French farmers particularly faced the brunt of this. Several cyclones destroyed crops, placing affected French farmers in much financial trouble.

During the depression of the 1930s, the colonial administration favored coffee over cash crops. From 1932, European farmers had access to 21 Agricultural Credit associations containing several thousand members.

In 1947 and 1948, the French colonial administration came under siege from the Democratic Movement for Malasy Reform (MDRM), as rebel bands attacked French colonial administration buildings and properties. This developed into a war, killing 550 French people. Several thousand of the French people in Madagascar at the time emigrated to France fear of their safety.

Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s during Madagascar's transition to an independent nation, the majority of the French population emigrated, primarily to France, as increased oppression weighed down heavily on the French population at the time. In the early 1970s, no more than 105,000 French people remained in Madagascar. This number levelled off and now the French population in Madagascar numbers approximately 124,000, of which 18,000 are French born.[3][4]


Religious affiliation[edit]

87% of the French population in Madagascar are Christian adherents. The vast majority of French Christian adherents in Madagascar are Roman Catholic. A small number are Protestant. The remainder of French people residing in Madagascar are mostly non-religious, but a small minority are Jews.


The majority of the French population in Madagascar speak French as their first language. However, some also speak various local languages, such as Malagasy, or dialects such as Plateau Malagasy and Betsimisaraka Malagasy.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ethnologue, 'Languages of Madagascar',, Accessed: 28 July 2009
  2. ^ Country Studies US, 'Colonial Era, 1894–1960',, Accessed: 27 July 2009
  3. ^ Kevin Shillington, Encyclopedia of African History, CRC Press, 2005, pp. 878–883
  4. ^ Country Studies US, 'Minorities',, Accessed: 27 July 2009

External links[edit]