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The highland/ côtier division can be understood in terms of the historical domination by the Merina Empire, which was originally centered on Imerina (the current capital Antananarivo).
There are some common cultural practices that all Malagasy share.
The Betsimisaraka, the second largest ethnic group, is the most numerous group pursuing trading, seafaring, fishing, and cultivation.
The Southwest is defined by the Ivakoany Massif to the east and by the Isala Roiniforme Massif to the north and includes the Mahafaly Plateau and the desert region.
In terms of international politics, they see themselves as Malagasy unless they are recent immigrants or members of one of the minority populations (i.e., Chinese, Indo-Pakistani, and Comorian).
Domestically, however, in the political arena, there is a significant degree of regionalism that is loosely based on ethnicity.
The arid southwest is inhabited by Antandroy and Mahafaly who pursue cattle raising and limited cultivation.
It is defined by an escarpment along the east coast and a more gradual slope along the west coast.The fertility rate is 5.76 children born per woman.The average population density is 36 inhabitants per square mile.Both Malagasy and Ma'anyan are similar to languages spoken on the western Indonesian archipelago. Many of the dialects borrow from Bantu languages, Swahili, Arabic, English, and French.The government claims that all Malagasy can speak the Standard dialect because that is what is taught in schools.