Part of Africa ? .... Madagascar split from Africa (the Gondwana supercontinent) around 135 million years ago (though this estimate varies from 120 million to as high as 200 million). It remained joined to India until 88 million years ago.
Uninhabited ? ..... it was thought that humans only settled in Madagascar between 200 BC and 500 AD , but more recent research is now suggesting that the first human arrival on the island was only around 1,200 years ago. (Much research is currently being undertaken in this area, and definite dates for human migration vary widely) What is agreed on is that the first settlers were from the Indonesian Archipelago. The first European to set foot on the island was a Portuguese (Diogo Dias) in 1500 AD.
Colonization..... Historically, Malagasy kingdoms dominated the island. British Missionaries came to the island in the 1800's. The British, Portuguese, Dutch and French never were able to claim any territory due to fierce local Malagasy resistance. True colonization only took place when the French invaded in 1883, and Madagascar was declared a French Colony in 1896. There were two major uprisings against the French (1918 and 1947), but it wasn't until June 26, 1960 that Madagascar gained independence.
Ethnic Groups: There are 18 separate traditional groups in Madagascar deriving from Malayo-Indonesian, and mixed African/Malayo-Indonesian. Historically they have blended with Arab, French, Indian, Creole and Comoran migrations.
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Religions: A mix of Indigenous beliefs 52%, Christian 41%, Muslim 7%.
Natural resources: Graphite, chromite, coal, bauxite, salt, quartz, tar sands, semiprecious stones, mica, fish, hydro-electric power.
Agriculture products: Coffee, vanilla, sugarcane, cloves, cocoa, rice, cassava (tapioca), beans, bananas, peanuts and livestock products.
Industries: Meat processing, soap, breweries, tanneries, sugar, textiles, glassware, cement, automobile assembly plant, paper, petroleum, tourism.
Exports - commodities: coffee, vanilla, shellfish, sugar, cotton cloth, clothing, chromite, petroleum products