Madagascar is definitely the poorest of the five African countries we've traveled in (Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa) - and the people here are lovely. Very basic mud huts with thatch roofs in most of the country side. Lots of crowds, markets, ladies carrying water cans on their heads and babies on their backs, dirty but happy kids playing in bare feet, goats, zebu (cows), garbage, etc.
Tons of rice paddies everywhere - we didn't expect that. Apparently the Malagasy people consume more rice per capita than the Chinese!