São Tomé and Príncipe
São Tomé and Príncipe
Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe
República Democrática de São Tomé e Príncipe
CAPITAL: São Tomé
FLAG: The flag consists of three unequal horizontal stripes of green, yellow, and green; there is a red triangle at the hoist, and two black stars on the yellow stripe.
ANTHEM: Independéncia Total (Total Independence).
MONETARY UNIT: The dobra (Db) is equal to 100 centimos. There are coins of 50 centimos and 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20 dobras, and notes of 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 dobras. Db1 = $0.00010 (or $1 = Db10,414.2) as of 2005.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is used.
HOLIDAYS: New Year’s Day, 1 January; Martyrs’ Day, 4 February; Labor Day, 1 May; Independence Day, 12 July; Armed Forces Day, first week in September; Farmers’ Day, 30 September. The principal Christian holidays also are observed.
São Tomé and Príncipe, the smallest country in Africa, lies in the Gulf of Guinea off the west coast of Gabon.
The nation has an area of 1,001 square kilometers (386 square miles). Comparatively, the nation’s combined area is slightly less than 5.5 times the size of Washington, D.C.
The combined coastline of the nation is 209 kilometers (130 miles). The capital city, São Tomé, is located on the northeast coast of the island of São Tomé.
The islands form part of a chain of extinct volcanoes and are both quite mountainous. Pico de São Tomé, the highest peak on São Tomé, is 2,024 meters (6,640 feet) above sea level. Most other peaks rise to only a little more than half that height. Príncipe’s plateau area, extending along the northwestern coast, is larger than that of São Tomé. Pico de Príncipe is Príncipe’s tallest mountain, reaching 927 meters (3,041 feet) above sea level. The lowest point is at sea level (Atlantic Ocean).
Area: 1,001 sq km (386 sq mi)
Size ranking: 171 of 194
Highest elevation: 2,024 meters (6,640 feet) at Pico de São Tomé
Lowest elevation: Sea level at the Atlantic Ocean
Arable land: 8%
Permanent crops: 49%
Average annual precipitation: 87.2 centimeters (34.3 inches)
Average temperature in January: 27°c (81°f)
Average temperature in July: 23.8°c (74.8°f)
* Arable Land: Land used for temporary crops, like meadows for mowing or pasture, gardens, and greenhouses.
Permanent crops: Land cultivated with crops that occupy its use for long periods, such as cocoa, coffee, rubber, fruit and nut orchards, and vineyards.
Other: Any land not specified, including built-on areas, roads, and barren land.
** The measurements for precipitation and average temperatures were taken at weather stations closest to the country’s largest city.
Precipitation and average temperature can vary significantly within a country, due to factors such as latitude, altitude, coastal proximity, and wind patterns.
Coastal temperatures average 27°c (81°f) in January and 23.8°c (74.8°f) in June. Temperatures in the mountain regions are cooler, averaging only 20°c (68°f). During the rainy season of October to May, the northern regions receive between 100 and 150 centimeters (40 to 60 inches) of rain while the southern regions receive about 380 to 510 centimeters (150 to 200 inches).
Except for the coastal flatlands, where cocoa and coffee plantations predominate, São Tomé and Príncipe are dominated by forestland. Above an elevation of 1,370 meters (4,500 feet), the tropical rain forest changes to cloud-mountain forest. There is little livestock, but domestic fowl are abundant.
Water and land pollution are the most significant problems in the country. The purity of the nation’s water supply is questionable due to the lack of adequate water treatment systems. The nation’s forests are also threatened due to overuse and there is currently no regulatory policy to regulate their preservation. The nation’s cities are threatened by inadequate sewage treatment. Soil erosion and soil exhaustion are other major environmental problems.
In 2006, threatened species include 3 types of mammals, 10 species of birds, 1 type of reptile, 7 species of fish, and 35 species of plants. Rare or threatened species include two birds, the São Tomé short-tail and São Tomé sunbird.
In 2005, the estimated population of São Tomé and Príncipe was 153,000, the majority of whom were living on São Tomé. The estimated population density was 159 persons per square kilometer (413 persons per square mile). The projected population for 2025 was 225,000. The capital city, São Tomé, had an estimated 54,000 inhabitants in 2005.
Historically, São Tomé and Príncipe received a substantial flow of temporary immigration in the form of contract labor. The serviçais, as the workers were called, came largely from Angola and Mozambique to work on the cocoa plantations; however, many of them never returned to their own countries. More recently, plantation labor has come from drought-stricken Cape Verde. In 2000, there were 7,000 migrants in the country. In 2005, the estimated net migration rate was -2.51 migrants per 1,000 population.
Most São Toméans are Fôrros, descendants of the Portuguese colonists and their African slaves, who came from Gabon and the Guinea coast. Along the southeast coast of São Tomé lives a group called the Angolares, the descendants of Angolan slaves, who established independent fishing communities after being shipwrecked in the 16th century. Other groups include the mestiço (mixed race), serviçais (contract laborers from Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde), tongas (children of serviçais born on the islands), and Europeans, primarily Portuguese.
Portuguese, the official language, is spoken in a Creole dialect that reveals the heavy influence of African Bantu languages.
Christianity is the dominant religion, with Roman Catholics constituting an estimated 80% of the total population and Protestants constituting about 15%. Approximately 3% of the population is Muslim. About 2% is atheist. A very small number of people practice forms of witchcraft, but this is considered more of a custom than a religion. Many witchcraft practitioners also participate in one of the other major religions.
There were approximately 320 kilometers (199 miles) of roadways in 2002. Surfaced roads—about 218 kilometers (135 miles)—serve principally to bring export crops to the port towns. São Tomé and Santo António are the main ports; in 2005, the merchant marine reported 15 ships totaling 79,490 gross registered tons (GRT). In 2004, there were two airports, both with paved runways. In 2001, 35,100 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.
São Tomé and Príncipe were probably uninhabited volcanic islands when the Portuguese landed there in 1471. They were declared a concession (a grant of land in exchange for services) of Portugal in 1485. The islands were completely taken over by the Portuguese crown in 1522 and 1573. By the mid-16th century, the islands were Africa’s leading exporter of sugar. By 1908 São Tomé had become the world’s largest producer of cocoa. Plantation slavery or slavelike contract labor remained the basis of island labor for hundreds of years, even after slavery formally ended.
The Committee for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe (later renamed the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe—MLSTP) was formed in 1960 and recognized by Portugal in 1974 as the sole legitimate representative of the people of São Tomé and Príncipe. On 12 July 1975, the islands achieved full independence. On the same day, Manuel Pinto da Costa, the secretary-general of the MLSTP, became the country’s first president. In 1979, Prime Minister Miguel dos Anjos da Cunha Lisboa Trovoada was arrested and charged with attempting to seize power. By 1985, São Tomé and Príncipe had begun to establish closer ties with the West.
In 1990, a new policy of abertura, or political and economic “opening,” led to the legalization of opposition parties and direct elections with secret balloting. A number of groups united as the Party of Democratic Convergence-Group of Reflection (PDC-GR), led by former prime minister Miguel Trovoada, who was elected president on 3 March 1991 (and again in 1996). In 1992, the government began a strict program to strengthen the economy. Gasoline prices increased, and the currency was devalued by 40%. The measures prompted massive demonstrations and calls for the dissolution of the government. The parliament appointed Norberto Alegre prime minister, who then formed a new government.
The PDC-GR continued to dominate the central government in 1993, but opposition grew as the PDC-GR was increasingly seen as corrupt and complacent. In August 1995, five army officers led a bloodless coup, but the elected government was reinstated after its members promised to institute reforms and bring opposition members into the government.
The MLSTP won the November 1998 election, taking 31 of the 55 parliamentary seats. The new prime minister, Guilherme Posser da Costa, announced an austerity program to help relaunch the economy and vowed to fight corruption.
In September 2001, a relatively unknown wealthy businessman, Fradique de Menezes, became head of state as a result of free and fair elections. Legislative elections in 2002 resulted in a divided parliament, with no party winning a majority of the votes. The unity government that was expected to form proved to be weak and efforts to strip the president of some of his powers were unsuccessful. A decision to have new legislative elections in 2003 was reneged upon, causing protests and riots. On 16 July 2003, a military coup took place while President de Menezes was out of the country. Senior members of the government were arrested. However, the president and cabinet were reinstalled with the help of international pressure and an agreement was made that a new government would be formed and that government affairs would be overseen by an international committee.
In July 2005, President de Menezes called for a referendum on the country’s constitutional form of government, but the motion was rejected by the National Assembly. Tome Vera Cruz became the prime minister on 21 April 2006.
Under the 1990 constitution, the president is elected to serve a maximum of two five-year terms. The 55 members of the single-chamber National Assembly are elected to four-year terms. The prime minister is chosen by the National Assembly and approved by the president. Under the country’s system, the president must form a
government with the opposition party. Voting is universal at age 18.
São Tomé and Príncipe is divided into two provinces, corresponding to the two islands, and seven counties, of which six are on São Tomé. The island of Príncipe was granted autonomy, which it has exercised since 29 April 1995.
On 15 October 1974, the government of Portugal recognized the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe (Movimento de Libertação de São Tomé e Príncipe—MLSTP) as the sole legitimate representative for the islands. After independence, the MLSTP became the only political party. With the legalization of opposition party activity, Miguel Trovoada, an MLSTP founder who had been exiled, formed the Democratic Convergence Party-Group of Reflection (PDC-GR). Other parties include
Name: Fradique de Menezes
Position: President of a republic
Took Office: 3 September 2001, reelected 2006
Birthplace: São Tomé
Birthdate: 21 March 1942
Education: Studied in Portugal and Belgium
Of interest: De Menezes is also a businessman with interests in cocoa and cement.
The Democratic Opposition Coalition (CODO) and the Christian Democratic Front (FDC).
In the 2006 elections, the Force for Change Democratic Movement (MDFM) and the Party for Democratic Convergence (PCD) formed an alliance to win 23 seats in the legislature. The MLSTP won 19 seats and the Independent Democratic Action Party (ADI) won 12 seats.
The highest court is the Supreme Court, which is appointed by and responsible to the National Assembly. The constitution affords parties in civil cases the right to a fair public trial and a right to appeal. The constitution also affords criminal defendants a public trial before a judge as well as legal representation.
A small citizen’s army was formed in 1975 by the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP) government after Portuguese troops were withdrawn. There are also Angolan troops in the country.
São Tomé and Príncipe is one of the poorest countries in the world. The economy is based on cocoa-producing plantation agriculture, but the fall of cocoa prices since the early 1980s has created serious problems for the government, which abandoned socialist-style economic policies in favor of free-market policies.
Offshore oil production, the diversification of agriculture, and promotion of tourism were the government’s goals for economic growth in 2006.
In 2005, gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $214 million, or $1,200 per person. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 6% in 2004. The average inflation rate in 2002 was 15.1%.
São Tomé has very little industry. Light construction materials, soap, textiles, beer, fish, bread, and palm oil are produced on the islands. In 2005, industry accounted for about 15% of gross domestic product (GDP).
Agriculture and fishing support most of the population. Laborers for the plantation sector come from mainland Africa and Cape Verde on a contract basis. Workers may organize and bargain collectively. Unemployment can reach upwards of 50% because of the unpopularity of plantation work.
While the minimum age for employment is legally set at 18, children occasionally do work, especially on state-run plantations. The minimum wage is legally set at $14 per month.
Components of the Economy
This pie chart shows how much of the country’s economy is devoted to agriculture (including forestry, hunting, and fishing), industry, or services.
The production of cocoa, which is the major export crop, was about 3,500 tons in 2004. Coconuts are the second most important crop, with production in 2004 at about 28,500 tons. Other agricultural products in 2004 were palm kernels (2,000 tons), bananas (27,900 tons), cassava (5,800 tons), and cinnamon (30 tons). Agriculture accounted for 17% of gross domestic product (GDP).
The livestock sector, mostly pigs, was plagued by African swine fever in 1992, causing the destruction of the entire herd of some 30,000 animals. Disease also severely affected chicken and egg production in 1993. In 2005, there were an estimated 4,600 head of cattle, 3,000 sheep, 5,000 goats, and 2,500 pigs.
The Angolares (descendants of shipwrecked Angolan slaves) are the primary fishermen in the country. In 2003, the catch was 3,280 tons. European Union (EU) vessels catch tuna in island waters under license. There are also fishing agreements with Angola and Portugal.
About 27% of the total land area is covered with primary, though inaccessible, forest. Wood is used on the plantations for fuel to dry cocoa beans and elsewhere as a building material. Reforestation has been enforced to avoid further loss. In 2004, roundwood removals were estimated at 9,000 cubic meters (317,700 cubic feet).
The mineral industry is not significant in the islands and mineral wealth remains largely unexplored. Lime deposits are exploited for the local market and small clay and stone open-pit operations supply the construction industry.
São Tomé and Príncipe’s trade balance depends on price levels for cocoa. Copra (dried coconut meat used to produce coconut oil) is another export. The leading imports are machinery and electrical equipment, food and, petroleum products.
Primary export partners include the Netherlands, China, Belgium, and Germany. Primary import partners include Portugal, Germany, the United States, and the Netherlands.
Yearly Balance of Trade
The balance of trade is the difference between what a country sells to other countries (its exports) and what it buys (its imports). If a country imports more than it exports, it has a negative balance of trade (a trade deficit). If exports exceed imports there is a positive balance of trade (a trade surplus).
About 60% of São Tomé’s 14 million kilowatt-hours of electric power in 2002 were produced by hydroelectricity; the rest was thermal. Only 25% of the nation’s households have electricity. The country has no proven reserves of oil, natural gas, or coal.
Old-age, disability, and survivorship benefits are paid to all employed persons. There are also sickness and maternity benefits, worker’s compensation, and a voluntary program for the self-employed.
The constitution provides equality for women and men, but women in general are limited to a subordinate role by the traditional culture.
Selected Social Indicators
The statistics below are the most recent estimates available as of 2006. For comparison purposes, data for the United States and averages for low-income countries and high-income countries are also given. About 15% of the world’s 6.5 billion people live in high-income countries, while 37% live in low-income countries.
|Indicator||São Tomé and Príncipe||Low-income countries||High-income countries||United States|
|sources: World Bank. World Development Indicators. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2006; Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2006; World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.|
|Per capita gross national income (GNI)*||$1,200||$2,258||$31,009||$39,820|
|Population growth rate||3.2%||2%||0.8%||1.2%|
|People per square kilometer of land||159||80||30||32|
|Life expectancy in years: male||66||58||76||75|
|Number of physicians per 1,000 people||0.5||0.4||3.7||2.3|
|Number of pupils per teacher (primary school)||n.a.||43||16||15|
|Literacy rate (15 years and older)||84.9%||65%||>95%||99%|
|Television sets per 1,000 people||125||84||735||938|
|Internet users per 1,000 people||122||28||538||630|
|Energy consumed per capita (kg of oil equivalent)||n.a.||501||5,410||7,843|
|CO2 emissions per capita (metric tons)||0.63||0.85||12.97||19.92|
|* The GNI is the total of all goods and services produced by the residents of a country in a year. The per capita GNI is calculated by dividing a country’s GNI by its population and adjusting for relative purchasing power.|
|n.a.: data not available >: greater than <: less than|
In 2004, there were an estimated 47 physicians, 127 nurses, 30 midwives, and 5 dentists for every 100,000 people. Malnutrition has been a major health concern for the nation. Tuberculosis is also a concern. In 2005, life expectancy was about 66 years for men and 69 years for women. Infant mortality that year was estimated at 43 per 1,000 live births.
Housing on the islands varies greatly, from the estate houses of the plantation headquarters to the thatch huts of the plantation laborers. Some town buildings are wooden; others are mud-block with timber, as are plantation-labor dormitories. At the 2001 census, there were 33,887 occupied dwellings. OF these, about 35% were built in 1975 or earlier.
Schooling is compulsory for four years. Primary education is for four years and secondary schools have two stages of five years and two years. In 2003, about 98.5% of all age-eligible students were enrolled in primary school and 28.9% of age-eligible students were enrolled in secondary school.
The Polytechnic Institute of São Tomé and Príncipe is a public institution established in 1997. There was also one private university established in 1993. The adult literacy rate has been estimated at 84.9%, and is higher for men than women.
In 2003, there were about 7,000 mainline telephones in use, with an additional 4,800 mobile phone subscribers. In 2002, there were one AM and five FM radio stations and two television stations. In 1997, there were about 38,000 radios and 23,000 television sets in use throughout the country. In 2003, there were 1,069 Internet hosts were serving about 15,000 subscribers; by 2004, an estimated 122 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.
In 2004, there were two government-owned newspapers. The Diario da Republica (1995 circulation: 500) is published weekly by the government. Noticias São Tomé e Príncipe is also a weekly, with a 1995 circulation of 900.
São Tomé and Príncipe’s scenic beauty, wildlife, and unique historic architecture have the potential to attract tourists, but tourist facilities are minimal. The first tourist hotel opened in 1986. The country has beautiful white sand beaches and a number of coffee and cocoa plantations to explore. In 1997, some 4,924 tourists visited São Tomé, with more than 3,000 of the visitors coming from Europe.
Rei Amador (d. 1596), who rebelled against the Portuguese, is a national hero. Alda de Espírito Santo (1926) is a poet and nationalist leader. Manuel Pinto da Costa (1937–) became the country’s first president on 12 July 1975. Fradique de Menezes (1942–) began his presidency in 2001.
Shaw, Caroline S. São Tomé and Príncipe. Santa Barbara, CA: Clio Press, 1994.
Warne, Sophie. Gabon, São Tomé & Princípe. Bucks, UK: Bradt Travel Guide: 2003.
Country Pages. www.state.gov/p/af/ci/tp/. (accessed on January 15, 2007).