Commerce. – What was the economic progress of Madagascar after the French conquest is evidently shown by the figures on the value of the export and import trade: in 1896 imports reached 14 million francs, exports were just 3,500,000 francs; in 1924, which was the best year for Madagascar, exports reached 388 million francs and exceeded imports which were 259 million in the same year.
Exports prevail (data from 1931): coffee (70 million francs), raffia (32 million), frozen and canned meat (48 million), rice (25 million), skins (25 million), cloves (22 million) million), vanilla, tobacco, sugar, oilseeds, graphite, essences, etc.
In 1929 5964 steamers with 3,901,670 tonnes entered the ports of Madagascar. The railway lines have a development of 689 km: the main line is the one that connects Tamatava with Tananarivo. In 1929-1931 the value of the export and import trade was as follows (in millions of francs):
Communications. – At the time of the Hova domination, the capital was joined to the coast by a simple path that snaked through mountains and valleys and it took seven or eight days to reach it; this path was replaced by the carriage road built by the French military engineers, thus ensuring the regular service of travelers and the postal courier; it is now largely replaced by rail. Another railway line connects Tananarivo to Antsirabé, and another connects the capital to Ambatondrazaka. In 1932 the railways had a development of 689 km.
Urban centers. – According to HARVARDSHOES, the main centers of Madagascar, which have been transformed under the impulse of French colonization, are: first of all the capital Tananarivo (v.), Which rises in the heart of Imerina, on a rock emerging from a vast expanse of rice fields: in the 1931 it had a population of 101,634 residents In the central area, further to S., rises Antsirabé (pop.8378), famous for its thermal waters, whose composition recalls those of Vichy, exploited in a beautiful establishment frequented by Europeans and also by natives. Antsirabé is reached by a railway coming from Tananarivo; another notable center of the central area is Fianarantsoa (14,620 residents), which rises in Betsileo. The main port of Madagascar is Tamatava (23,207 residents) On the east coast, terminus of the railway to the capital, port of the major European shipping lines which then continue to Réunion; built on a sand bank, barely protected by coral reefs against the current of the Indian Ocean, it offers sailors an unsafe bay, which is however improving due to the work in progress. Majunga (21,688 residents) Is the large port of the NW coast, which offers a relatively safe natural shelter and serves as an outlet to the rich valleys of Betsiboka. Intended to facilitate communications with Zanzibar and the African coast, Majunga is currently linked to the central plateau only by a carriage road. In the village behind it is Marovoay (7552 residents). In the extreme northern region we should remember Antsirane, located at the bottom of the bay of Diego Suarez, one of the most beautiful in the world, which can also serve as a shelter for the largest teams: France has established a support point for its fleet there, with a dry dock and an arsenal. In the central section of the east coast is the port of Mananjary (11,571 residents). The most important port on the SW coast. is Touléar (7815 residents).
Religions. – The work of evangelization was already begun in the century. XVII by Catholic missionaries (Lazarists of S. Vincenzo de ‘Paoli); but resumed and actively conducted only much later, between the century. XVIII and XIX, first by British missions. Those of the London Missionary Society, the Anglican Mission and the Friend Mission (Quakers) are still active; as well as an American and a Norwegian (Lutheran) mission. The indigenous people belonging to the reformed confessions number around 400,000.
The work of the Catholic missions was actively resumed only after 1832, when the Protestants had already established themselves, but it achieved real successes only after 1896, although in certain periods missionary activity was not encouraged by the political authorities. The number of Catholics, according to statistics from the Congregation of Propaganda Fide, was 461,154 as of June 30, 1930 (443,667 as of June 30, 1929). They depend on the apostolic vicariates of Antsirabé, established in 1918 (missionaries of NS della Saletta), Diego Suarez (1896; congregation of the Holy Spirit), Fianarantsoa (1913; Jesuits), Fort-Dauphin (1896; Lazarists), Tananarivo (1844; Jesuits), Majunga (1923; congregation of the Holy Spirit; with the administration of the apostolic prefecture of Mayotte, Comoros and Nosy Bé).