Madagascar Currency Guide: The Ariary

The Malagasy Ariary is the official currency of the African island nation of Madagascar. It is subdivided into five iraimbilanja, making it one of only two non-decimal currencies remaining in the world. Its international currency code is MGA and its symbol is Ar.

The ariary was not made the official currency of Madagascar until January 1, 2005. From 1925 to 2005, the official currency had been the Malagasy franc (except for the period of 1945-1963, during which the official currency was the French colonial currency known as the CFA Franc). Madagascar gained its independence from France in 1960 and reissued the Malagasy franc in 1963. The ariary, which translates literally as ‘silver dollar,’ was introduced as a unit of measurement equivalent to five Malagasy francs. The reinstated Malagasy franc was pegged to the French franc until 1994, when it was allowed to float freely after a series of devaluations that began in 1982.

When the Madagascar government made the ariary the official currency in 2005, they declared the Malagasy franc equal to one iraimbilanja or 1/5 of an ariary. Banknotes and some coins continue to be denominated in both ariary and Malagasy francs, although the franc amount is usually in much smaller print.