Mauritius officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) off the southeast coast of the African continent. The country includes the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues, 560 kilometres (350 mi) east of Mauritius, and the outer islands (Agaléga, St. Brandon and two disputed territories). The islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues form part of the Mascarene Islands, along with nearby Réunion, a French overseas department. The area of the country is 2,040 km2 (790 sq mi). The capital and largest city is Port Louis. It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and the African Union. Formerly a Dutch colony (1638–1710) and a French colony (1715–1810), Mauritius became a British colonial possession in 1810 and remained so until 1968, the year in which it attained independence. The British crown colony of Mauritius once included the current territories of Mauritius, Rodrigues, the outer islands of Agaléga, St. Brandon, Chagos Archipelago, and Seychelles. The people of Mauritius are multiethnic, multi-religious, multicultural and multilingual. The island's government is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system, and Mauritius is highly ranked for democracy and for economic and political freedom. The Human Development Index of Mauritius is the highest in Africa. Along with the other Mascarene Islands, Mauritius is known for its varied flora and fauna, with many species endemic to the island. The island is widely known as the only known home of the dodo, which, along with several other avian species, was made extinct by human activities relatively shortly after the island's settlement. Mauritius is the only country in Africa where Hinduism is the largest religion. The administration uses English as its main language. Seychelles officially the Republic of Seychellesis an archipelago and sovereign state in the Indian Ocean. The 115-island country, whose capital is Victoria, lies 1,500 kilometres (932 mi) east of mainland East Africa. Other nearby island countries and territories include Comoros, Mayotte (region of France), Madagascar, Réunion (region of France) and Mauritius to the south. With a population of roughly 94,228, it has the smallest population of any sovereign African country. Seychelles is a member of the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the United Nations. After proclamation of independence from the United Kingdom in 1976, Seychelles has developed from a largely agricultural society to a market-based diversified economy, with agriculture being supplanted by rapidly rising service and public sectors as well as tourism. Since 1976, nominal GDP output has increased nearly sevenfold and the purchasing power parity nearly sixteenfold. In recent years, the government has encouraged foreign investment in order to upgrade these sectors. Today, Seychelles boasts the highest nominal per capita GDP in Africa, excluding the French regions. It is one of only a handful of countries in Africa with a high Human Development Index. Despite the country's newfound economic prosperity, poverty remains widespread due to a high level of income inequality, one of the highest in the world, and unequal wealth distribution.