The Biggest Industries In Madagascar

A cart loaded with cassava in Madagascar.
A cart loaded with cassava in Madagascar.

Madagascar has a market economy with agriculture, textile, mining, and tourism industries contributing significantly to the economy. The biggest industries in the country according to their annual output are the seafood industry, glassware, sugar, textiles, cement, tourism, paper, petroleum, and mining. Fishing, mining, and tourism make up the three pillars of the Malagasy economy.

Agriculture, Forestry, And Fishing

The Agriculture industry, inclusive of forestry and fishing is Madagascar’s largest contributor to the GDP, and it employs 80% of the country’s workforce. Madagascar has a wide range of climate that ranges from tropical along the coasts to arid in the south. Tropical crops such as cassava rice, bananas, and beans do well on the island. Madagascar is the second largest producer of vanilla in the world. Rice is the main produce and export in the country with most of the farms being small-scale. The major cash crops in the country include coffee, cotton, vanilla, pepper, tobacco, litchi, groundnuts, sisal, sugarcane, and cloves.

Since Madagascar is an island, fishing has been one of the industries contributing to the island’s economy. Shrimp and shrimp produce make up the major export in Madagascar’s seafood sector. Due to the high prices, shrimp has a low demand locally with the locals preferring to purchase the small and medium-sized fish from small fish shops. Around 33,000 tonnes of shrimp are exported from the island in a year with 50% of the export going to the European market. Shellfish also makes one of the major fish exports. Fish farming in the rice paddies has become common in the island.

Some of the major trees in the island's forests include rosewood, mahogany, and ebony. Forests in the island are under threat due to deforestation. The island has several forests, and the trees are cut down for timber used in construction and fuel. The trees are also used in the paper industry to produce pulp to make papers.


Some of the mineral deposits in Madagascar include ilmenite, coal, oil and natural gas and chromite. Ilmenite mining is one of the growing sectors in the mining industry. Ilmenite is an oxide mineral containing titanium and iron that is steel and gray or black and is magnetic. The mineral is the most important titanium ore. Ilmenite mines in Madagascar are located near Fort Dauphin and Tulear. The Rio Tinto Group started mining the mineral at Fort Dauphin in 2009, though the mining has been faced with controversies from environmentalists who argue the mines are a threat to the environment. Gemstone mining is another significant sector of the mining industry. Some of the gemstones that have been discovered in Madagascar include; aqua, sapphire, ruby, hessonite, emerald, quartz, tourmalines, beryl, and limestone. The gemstone industry is spread around the island. The mining of Sapphires in corridor Ankeniheny-Zahamena, a protected area, raised a lot of concerns among Madagascar’s population. Sapphires discovered in the area were said to be of high quality and this led to an influx of miners in the area which environmentalist felt was a threat to the rainforests of the area. According to the Natural Sapphire Company, a company in the US, nearly half of the world's best sapphires come from Madagascar. Nickel is also one of the country’s resources; nickel exports raked in $397.9 million in 2016. The Ambatovy nickel mine is the largest nickel producer in the country. Madagascar has oil fields at Bemolanga and Tsimiroro. Madagascar Oil manages Tsimiroro while Total S.A manages the Bemolanga field. The coal and natural gas deposits are yet to be explored. Petroleum and petroleum products are used locally and also exported. The Madagascar Long Cimenterie, SANCA Madagascar, and LafargeHolcim (Madagascar) S.A are the companies running cement plants in Madagascar. Two of the three cement plants are located in Antananarivo while the other is in Antsirabe City.


The textile industry is one of the biggest industries in Madagascar with export processing zones in Antsibare and Antananarivo contributing to a large percentage of the textile exports. Most of the textiles from Madagascar are exempt from customs restrictions in the European Union and the US, and the exemptions have led to the growth of the country's textile industry. The restriction exemptions are covered under the Everything But Arms agreement in the European Union and the African Growth and Opportunity Act in the US.


Madagascar’s biodiversity and its beaches make up the major tourist attractions on the island. 5% of the global plant and animal species can be found in Madagascar with 80% of these indigenous to the island. The 50 known Lemur species are native to Madagascar. A majority of the tourists to the island are French due to island’s past connection to France as a French colony. People interested in the island's birds, lemur and botany also make up a large number of the tourists. The tourism in Madagascar is a high cost, low volume tourism. In 2007, the tourism industry accounted for 6.3% of the island's GDP. Some of the popular tourist sites in the island include; Avenue of the Baobabs which is a dirt road from Morondava to Belon'i Tsiribiina lined with baobab trees. Isalo National Park, Ranomafana National Park, Amber Mountain National Park, Ankarafantsika National Park, Rova of Antananarivo, Berenty Reserve, which was founded to protect Lemurs. Nosy Mangabe, Marojejy National Park, Lemur’s Park, Botanical and Zoological Garden of Tsimbazaza, Andohahela National Park, Pirate Museum and several other sites.

Other Industries

Madagascar has three local automobile assembly plants. Karenjy is one of the assembly plants, and it is based in Fianarantsoa. The company operated from 1985 to 1995 when it was dissolved, and it was re-established in 2009. The Three Horses Beer is the highest selling beer in Madagascar, and it has also been produced for the export market. The beer has been exported to Reunion Island, France, Mayotte and Comoros as from 2005. There are two breweries, one in Antsiranana and another in Antsirabe that produce the Three Horse Beer. The economy of Madagascar had been fast growing until 2009 when the island had a political crisis which the international community termed as an illegal coup, and the country went into an economic decline. After the elections in 2014, foreign investments in the country resumed thus boosting the economy to experience a positive growth in 2016.


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