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Africa’s Island nations also have rich histories and cultures. Madagascar is by far the largest of the islands. It is, at 595,000 square miles, nearly the size of Texas, and has a population estimated at nearly 23 million people. Surrounded by the Indian Ocean, its closest neighbor, Mozambique, is 300 miles away.

Madagascar has cultural roots in Africa, Indonesia, Polynesia, and Arabia. The principle ethnic group, the Merinas, constitute about half of the population. Despite the fact that there are 18 major ethnic groups, they all share or understand a complex common language known as Malagasy. Fifty-three percent of the inhabitants are Christian, others practice traditional African religions and Islam. Its chief commercial products are coffee, vanilla, sisal, sugar, tobacco and cloves. Its principle cities are Antananarivo, Toamasina, Mahajanga, and Toliara.

Mauritius is nearly 1,900 square miles, and was formed by volcanic activity. It is located 550 miles east of Madagascar. It has become a major tourist attraction.The island was uninhabited when the Dutch arrived in 1598 and named the island after one of their princes. They remained there for over a century but left when sugar crops became unprofitable. The French arrived  there in 1715, and brought a number of Africans with them with whom they later intermarried, creating a Creole population that remains today. The principle city of Mauritius is Port Louis, and the official language is English.

The Comoros group consists of four mountainous islands lying between Tanzania and Madagascar. Their area totals 2,170 square miles and they have a population of nearly 800,000. Located near Mozambique, they declared independence from France in 1975. Most of its population is Muslim.

The population of Cape Verde, ten islands located 400 miles off the coast of Senegal in West Africa are predominantly Portuguese-speaking and Christian. Earlier in their history, these islands were an important staging area in the Atlantic slave trade, a period of Black history also called the Maafa whose numbers are hotly debated. Today the population exceeds 500,000.

The Seychelles are 92 small islands off the coast of Kenya in East Africa, that have become a favorite tourist site.

Sao Tome and Principe are located in the Atlantic 275 miles off the coast of Gabon. They have a population of approximately 200,000 Portuguese speaking citizens.