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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Chinese people in Madagascar
Total population
c. 40,000 - 60,000[1][2]
Regions with significant populations
Toamasina, Antananarivo[1]

Chinese (primarily Cantonese and Mandarin), Malagasy, French

Related ethnic groups

Sino-Mauritians[3 ]

Chinese people in Madagascar form Africa's third largest overseas Chinese population.[4] As of 2007, roughly 40,000 to 60,000 lived on the island.[1][5]



The first Chinese migrant to Madagascar arrived in the east coast port of Tamatave (now renamed Toamasina) in 1862, where he opened a shop, and later married a local Malagasy woman.[6] Six others came to Nosy Be off the northwestern coast in 1866, then three more in 1872. Fourteen were noted at Majunga (Mahajanga), also in the northwest, in 1894. Then, a contingent of five hundred arrived at Tamatave in 1896.[7] The following year, three thousand Chinese more labourers were brought in at the initiative of the French general Joseph Gallieni to work on the construction of the railway.[8] Contract workers, intending to return home after their stint on the island, often became ill while working on the construction of the railway; though they survived to board ships back to China, many died en route.[9] In absolute terms the resident population remained quite small: 452 in 1904, with 76 in the north, 31 in the west, 24 in the centre, 315 in the east, and 6 in the south. The vast majority were men.[10] They had grown slightly by the time of the 1911 census, which found 649 Chinese in the country, making up about 3% of the country's foreign population and a minute fraction of the total population of 3.2 million.[11]

The initial migrants came from Guangxi, but were later supplemented by Cantonese-speakers, both those who came directly from Guangdong and those who had been driven out of Mauritius by increasing competition from Hakka-speakers.[12] Upon arrival, the Cantonese speakers colluded to prevent any Hakka migration to Madagascar.[3 ] As a result, the Chinese population remained largely homogenous; 98% traced their origins not just to Guangdong, but specifically to the Shunde district.[1]

Chinese came not just as indentured labourers, but as free migrants too.[13] Often, a Sino-Mauritian would bring his relatives over from China to Mauritius for a period of apprenticeship in his business; after they had gained sufficient familiarity with commercial practises and life in a colonial society, he would send them onwards with letters of introduction, lending them his own capital to start up businesses in neighbouring countries, including Madagascar.[14] Import-export was one popular business, with products such as coffee, cloves, vanilla beans, and sea cucumbers flowing outwards.[15] Intermarriage between Chinese men and native Malagasy women was not uncommon.[16]

1957 official statistics showed 7,349 Chinese living in Madagascar, in forty-eight of the country's fifty-eight districts.[17] By 2006, that number had grown to roughly forty thousand, composed of thirty thousand of the original migrants and their descendants, as well as ten thousand new expatriates from the People's Republic of China, and another hundred from the Republic of China on Taiwan. The recent migrants trace their origins to a more diverse set of provinces, including Fujian and Zhejiang. Half lived in either Toamasina or Antananarivo, with a further one-eighth in the Diana Region; the remainder were distributed among the other provinces.[1]


Most of the Chinese in Madagascar are engaged in retail business. In the 1990s, they controlled half of the alcoholic beverages and textiles industries; by the mid-2000s, their share of the alcoholic beverages industry had fallen to one-fifth, while that of the textiles industry had increased to 90%.[1] Others operated cake shops and ice-cream parlours, somewhat along the lines of coffee shops, where customers could sit down and enjoy a dessert; they controlled about 10% of this industry.[1][18] Popular resentment at the influx of Chinese small traders, whose prices undercut those of their Malagasy competitors, has strained relations with the People's Republic of China.[19]


Chinese-language education in Madagascar began in the late 1920s; with the 1937 onset of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Chinese parents could no longer send their children back to China for their schooling, which fueled the expansion of local Chinese education.[20] Two of the most well-known schools, the Kuomintang-run Ecole Franco-Chinoise (兴文学校) in Fenerive, and the co-educational Ecole Chinoise Mixte (华体学校) in Toamasina, were both established the following year.[21][22] By 1946, the island boasted eleven Chinese schools. However, after the end of World War II, and especially in the 1980s, parents began shifting their children towards French-language education instead. As a result, the number of schools decreased, and the ones which remained decreased the number of class hours devoted to Chinese-language teaching. Of eight schools in 1972, three disappeared by the mid-1980s; the Ecole Franco-Chinoise, which at its peak had enrolled 629 students, was forced to merge with the Ecole Chinoise Mixte to form the Collège de la Congrégation Chinoise (华侨学校).[20][23]

By 1995, only two schools remained, in Fianarantsoa and Toamasina. The one in Toamasina, the Collège de la Congrégation Chinoise, enrolled 398 students at the kindergarten through lower secondary levels as of 2008; it continues teaching both Cantonese and Mandarin.[20][24] The school in Fianarantsoa had about 100 students, including mixed-race children of Chinese and Malagasy descent, as well as non-Chinese children.[20]

The Confucius Institute opened a branch in Antananarivo in 2008.

See also





Further reading

External links


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