São Tomé and Príncipe

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São Tomé and Príncipe is located in the Gulf of Guinea 290 kilometers (180 miles) west of Gabon, which is located on the western edge of Africa. The 2 mountainous main islands of the republic are São Tomé and Príncipe; other rocky islets include Caroco, Pedras, and Tinhosas off Príncipe Island, and Rolas off São Tomé Island. The islands are the tips of an extinct volcanic mountain range and make up one of Africa's smallest countries. The country has an area of 1,001 square kilometers (386.5 square miles). The coast line is 209 kilometers (130 miles). Comparatively the area of São Tomé is more than 5 times of the size of Washington, D.C. The capital city of the country, São Tomé, is located on the northeastern coast of the island of São Tomé.


The population of São Tomé and Príncipe was estimated at 159,883 in July 2000. In 2000, the birth rate stood at 42.98 per 1,000, which is quite high. The death rate in the same year was 7.76 per 1,000, giving an annual average population growth rate of 3.16 percent. The life expectancy at birth is 65.25 years for total population, 63.84 years for males and 66.7 years for females. The population density in 1997 was 135.5 per square kilometers Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe
República Democrática de São Tomé e
Príncipe (351 per square mile). Ninety-five percent of the country's population lives on the island of São Tomé and 46 percent of the population lived in urban areas in 1996. São Tomé and Príncipe is a country of young people with 48 percent of the population below the age of 14, and just 4 percent of the population older than 65.

The country's population is very diverse and represents mainly descendants from different parts of the African continent. Ethnic groups include mestico, ango-lares (descendants of Angolan slaves); forros (descendants of freed slaves); servicais (contract laborers from Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde); tongas (children of servicais born on the island); and Europeans (primarily Portuguese). Roughly 80 percent of the islanders are Christians, with representatives of the Roman Catholic, Seventh-Day Adventist, and Evangelical Protestant faiths. The official language of the republic is Portuguese; however, Lungwa São Tomé (a Portuguese creole) and Fang (a Bantu language) are widely used as well.


Presently São Tomé and Príncipe is in the process of diversifying its economy, which was dependent on cocoa production since the 19th century. After achieving independence in 1975 the nation adopted a socialist economy, imposing state control over major sectors of economy. The islands were mainly producing cocoa on the state-owned farms, and cocoa remains the main export commodity. Fishing and forestry are also important economic activities of São Toméans. The islands have no mineral resources with the exception of oil discovered in its territorial waters in 1998. The manufacturing sector is mainly limited to production of textiles, beer, soft drinks, and soap to cover the local demand. The country imports up to 90 percent of its food requirements, machinery, and petroleum products.

In the early 1980s São Tomé and Príncipe proclaimed itself a non-aligned state and started establishing trade links with non-socialist countries. In attempting to diversify its economy in the early 1990s, São Tomé requested international financial assistance. This economic development assistance was offered to the republic under conditions of economic liberalization , privatization , administrative reforms, and changes in the financial sector. During the 1990s the government increasingly relied on external sources to finance its liberalization program designed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

According to a World Bank report, in 1999 São Toméan outstanding debt reached US$296 million, compared to US$135 million in 1989. This made about US$1,851 of debt per person, including infants, in 1999. The country is one of the largest recipients of aid per capita in the world; nonetheless, corruption and mismanagement undermined the administration of aid. The country sees its economic future in the development of offshore oil reserves and the expansion of tourism, which is not yet fully established. Beginning in 1993 the nation also sought to establish free trade zones to attract foreign investors and further develop the country's shipping and manufacturing sectors.


São Tomé and Príncipe became a colony of Portugal in 1522 and was administered by Portugal for the next several hundred years. A liberation movement emerged in the 1960s, resulting in the creation of the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP) in 1972. Based in Gabon and led by Dr. Manuel Pinto da Costa, the MLSTP led the country to independence following a military coup in Portugal in 1974. The new Portuguese administration oversaw the peaceful transition to independence over the course of the next year.

After declaring independence on 12 July 1975, Dr. Manuel da Costa became the country's first president. The ruling MLSTP party adopted a socialist economic program, providing state ownership and direction of all the islands' industries. There were several unsuccessful coups and attempts to overthrow the regime of President da Costa, yet da Costa maintained close links with the communist bloc countries amid worsening economic conditions.

The severe drought of 1982 prompted President da Costa to change his priorities in international relations. In 1984 the president proclaimed São Tomé and Príncipe a nonaligned state. This meant that the government adopted a strategic and political position of neutrality towards the major powers aligned with the United States and the U.S.S.R. Most of the Soviet, Cuban, and Angolan advisers had to leave the country. New international links were established with neighboring African states and Portugal. The initial attempts to reduce state control over the economy halted after the minister of Planning and Commerce and the minister of Foreign Affairs and Co-Operation were dismissed.

In August 1990 a referendum indicated that 72 percent of the electorate (90.7 percent of participating voters) favored a newly drafted constitution. The new constitution declared the republic as a sovereign, independent, unitary, and democratic state. The MLSTP lost its dominating role as the new constitution allowed a multi-party system. At new National Assembly elections on 20 January 1991 the MLSTP was defeated. It obtained only 21 seats in the 55-seat unicameral National Assembly, while the opposition Party for Democratic Convergence (PCD) secured 33 seats. The remaining seat was won by the Partido Democratico de São Tomé e PríncipeColigacao Democratico de Oposicao (PDSTP-CODO). Miguel Trovoada of the PCD was chosen as president and retained that role in elections in 1996.

Members of the National Assembly are elected for 5-year terms in free and fair multi-party elections. The president of the republic is elected to a 5-year term by direct election. The president names the prime minister from a name submitted by the party holding a majority in the National Assembly. The prime minister then names the 14 members of the cabinet. In 2001 Miguel Trovoada was the president and Guilherma Posser da Costa was the prime minister. The next presidential election will be held in July of 2001 and the next legislative election will be held in 2003.

There are 4 types of taxes imposed by the government on imported goods: an 8 percent transaction tax; import duties ranging from 0 percent on basic foodstuff and pharmaceuticals to between 6 and 50 percent on alcoholic drinks and 10 and 66 percent on petroleum products; a 3.5 percent customs duty; and a consumption excise tax , which varies significantly on different types of goods (from 0 percent on basic foodstuff to 250 percent on tobacco) and is levied on the after-tax value on goods.

In the late 1980s, the new government requested international assistance in order to improve the economic situation. The new economic policy included economic liberalization, currency devaluation , price liberalization, and privatization. Drastic economic measures imposed by the IMF and the World Bank as part of the economic recovery programs led to a significant decline in the living standards of people. According to the EIU Country Report, inflation ballooned from 35.5 percent in 1996 to 68.5 percent in 1997. However, the annual inflation rate was reduced to 10.5 percent in 1999, and the annual GDP growth rate grew from 1.0 percent in 1997 to 3.0 percent in 2000.


São Tomé and Príncipe have a limited network of 320 kilometers (198 miles) of roads, two-thirds (218 kilometers, or 135 miles) of which is paved. There were 4,581 light vehicles registered in 1994, 561 heavy vehicles, 299 tractors, and 815 motorcycles. There is no public transportation on the islands and no rail network.

There are 2 main seaports: 1 at São Tomé city and another at Santo Antonio on Príncipe island. The republic has 10 ships, but Dutch and Portuguese ships serve the links with Gabon, Portugal, and the Netherlands. The seaports are managed by the state. Although the seaports have been modernized, the maritime shipping of goods is irregular and total shipping traffic is limited due to the absence of a deep-water seaport. In 2000, there were plans to build a deep-water seaport at Agulhas Bay on Príncipe island.

There are 2 main airports, in São Tomé and Santo Antonio. Both have been recently modernized. The US$16 million modernization of the international airport in São Tomé was financed by the African Bank of Development and was completed in 1992. The airports are owned jointly by the government (35 percent), Portugal (40 percent), and France (25 percent). Domestic and regional lines are served by Portugal, Angola, and Gabon. The country's lone airline, Air São Tomé e Príncipe, owns only 1 airplane.

CountryTelephones aTelephones, Mobile/Cellular aRadio Stations bRadios aTV Stations aTelevisions aInternet Service Providers cInternet Users c
São Tomé & Príncipe3,0006,942AM 2; FM 4;shortwave 038,000223,0002500
United States194 M69.209 M (1998)AM 4,762; FM 5,542;shortwave 18575 M1,500219 M7,800148 M
Nigeria500,000 (2000)26,700AM 82; FM 35;shortwave 1123.5 M2 (1999)6.9 M11100,000
Equatorial Guinea4,000 (1996)N/AAM 0; FM 2;shortwave 4180,00014,0001500
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

Electricity production in 1998 of 15 million kilowatt hours (kWh) comes from 2 main sources, imported fossil fuel (which generates up to 47 percent of total power) and hydroelectric power (up to 53 percent) generated from the nation's abundant water supply. However, only 53 percent of households have electricity and there are regular power cuts.

Local telephone service is served by the former state-owned Companhia Santomense de Telecomunicacoes (CST), over half of which has been sold to Radio Marconi of Portugal. There were 3,000 telephones lines in 1995. The international lines were improved with international financial assistance. CST tried to compete with Swedish Bahnhof Internet in providing Internet services in the country. In July 1999 Bahnhof Internet became the owner of the country's top Internet domain and it planned to introduce a satellite connection to the Internet. In 1997 the island nation had 2 television stations serving some 23,000 sets.


The São Toméan economic sectors are influenced by its size and geographical position. The agricultural sector is mainly export-oriented and devoted to cocoa production, so that the country relies heavily on imports of food. Agricultural production is extremely sensitive to weather and prices in the international market; therefore, part of the government's policy of economic diversification is further development of fishing and tourism. Tourism is a growing sector and has been considered a priority for future development. The industrial sector is very limited. All told, agriculture contributes 23 percent of GDP in 1997, industry contributed 19 percent, and services contributed 58 percent.


São Tomé and Príncipe is an agricultural country. According to the World Bank, in 1997 the agricultural sector contributed 23.3 percent of the GDP and provided employment for 39.6 percent of the economically active population. The agricultural sector mainly produces cocoa, which constituted 86 percent of export revenues in 1997. It also produces coffee, copra, coconuts, and palm oil. Since almost all agricultural production of the country is export-oriented, it has to import foodstuff. By the mid-1990s it imported almost 90 percent of its food requirements. The government accepted a program to develop smallholder farms since 1993 in order to diversify agricultural production. However, inadequate training, poor road quality, and limited access to markets hinder this development.


Fishing is another important economic activity of São Toméans. The annual total catch of fish is estimated at about 3,000 tons. About 90 percent of the total local catch is provided by 2,300 fishermen. The country's 160,000 square kilometer Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has a potential to produce about 12,000 tons of fish per year. The EEZcreated by the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea and completed in 1982allows coastal nations to claim a territorial sea of up to 12 nautical miles and an exclusive economic zone of up to 200 nautical miles. The government uses this potential to receive its second largest source of foreign exchange by issuing fishing licenses to foreign fishing fleets. The government has prioritized the development of this sector as part of its economic diversification policy, but awaits significant foreign investments for development to be realized.


The country had considerable forest resources, but these are in the process of being depleted. In 1995 São Toméans produced 8,500 cubic meters of trunks and 3,150 cubic meters of processed timber. Severe deforestation of the country speaks for itself: the rain forest cover dropped to 28 percent of the land area and about 30 percent of the rain forest is secondary forest. New legislation was introduced in the 1990s to protect the rain forest. The government also plans to create national parks to protect the land, which should contribute to plans to boost tourism.


São Toméan industry is very small. It includes manufacturing, power generation, and light construction. In 1997 this sector contributed 18.7 percent of the GDP and employed 15.8 percent of economically active population. There are no mineral resources on the island except the discovery of oil in the territorial waters (in the Gulf of Guinea) in 1998, the development of which will depend on agreements with Gabon, Nigeria, and Equatorial Guinea.

Small manufacturing plants that produce only items for local consumption such as beer, textiles, soap, and bread represent the manufacturing sector. Most of the enterprises were under state control in the 1970s and 1980s. While the state would like to privatize these and all other industries, it is awaiting significant investments of capital and management expertise before it can relinquish control.


The services sector contributed about 58 percent of the GDP and employed 33.6 percent of economically active population in 1997. The banking system in the republic is underdeveloped and notorious for its corruption scandals. In 1999 there were several arrests in Belgium when some individuals tried to cash in false bonds. After the arrests the government was forced to dismiss the governor of the Banco Central de São Tomé e Príncipe, the bank's administrator, and its administrative board.


A big potential for the country lies within the fast-growing tourism sector. Fantastic mountain scenery, breathtaking beaches, and unique species of flora and fauna are big attractions for tourists. However, high airfares, the extreme isolation of the islands, and underdeveloped infrastructure discourage potential tourists, although there were considerable improvements in telecommunications and hotel accommodations in recent years. This sector attracts the largest portion of foreign investments. While in the early 1980s there was only 1 hotel, in 1996 there were already 9 hotels and 9 guest-houses with a total of 520 beds. In 1996, 2,000 tourists visited the country bringing US$2 million in revenue; in 1998 there were about 6,000 foreign visitors who brought US$4 million.


São Toméan international trade relies mostly on the export of cocoa that gives up to 86 percent of the earnings. According to The CIA World Factbook, it also exports copra, coffee, and palm oil to the Netherlands (51 percent), Portugal (6 percent), and Germany (6 percent). Exports totaled US$4.9 million in 1999.

The country depends heavily on food imports, mainly from Portugal. It also imports machinery, electrical equipment, and petroleum products. The main import partners are Portugal (26 percent), France (18 percent), Angola, Belgium, and Japan. Angola is the main source of petroleum products. Imports in 1999 totaled US$19.5 million.

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): São Tomé & Príncipe
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.
Exchange rates: São Tomé and Príncipe
dobras (Db) per US$1
Dec 20002390.04
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].


The value of the São Toméan dobra has decreased steadily against the U.S. dollar with the implementation of the economic adjustment program and the devaluation of currency. Throughout the late 1990s the dobra collapsed 5-fold within 4 years. In 1995 US$1 was equal to 1,420.3 dobras; by 1999 that figure rose to 7,200 dobras. Though the diminishing value of the dobra was meant to spur exports, it also caused high inflation in the country, which translated in a higher cost of goods for São Toméans. Before the start of economic reforms in the 1990 the inflation rate was about 44.8 percent (1989); it went down to 27.4 percent in 1992 and up again to 68.2 percent in 1997.


São Tomé and Príncipe is an agricultural country with the majority of its population living in rural areas and plantations with poor quality roads, no electricity, and little access to medical help and education. The deeply indebted government of São Tomé and Príncipe cannot afford to spend more on health and education for its people. Spending on health declined over the years and constitutes slightly more than 10 percent of total expenditures. In 1992 all São Toméan hospitals and medical centers had 556 beds and 66 practicing doctors. Although the life

GDP per Capita (US$)
São Tomé and PríncipeN/AN/AN/A365337
United States19,36421,52923,20025,36329,683
Equatorial GuineaN/AN/A3523331,049
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

expectancy is relatively high for an African country, there are about 40,000 cases of malaria infection per year as well as numerous cases of respiratory and diarrheal diseases. There were also 32 registered AIDS cases, although it is estimated that the actual figure is higher.

The education sector receives about 10-15 percent of total budget expenditures. There were 69 primary and 10 secondary schools in 1997. Although the average adult literacy rate was 73 percent in 1991, one-third of the population between the ages of 6 and 20 never went to school. The network of secondary and tertiary institutions is inadequate; there are also shortages of school equipment, textbooks, and properly trained teachers. Although there is some foreign financial assistance directed into education, it cannot cover all of the problems.


The crawling growth of wages for workers could not keep up with the growing inflation, and the real value of wages has plummeted significantly since 1987. Constant demonstrations of angry people prompted the government to increase the wages in spite of criticism from the IMF. The public-sector wages were increased by 200-300 percent in 1997 and the teachers' wages were up by 100 percent in 1998. A threat of a strike came from the civil servants' union (Sindicato da Funcao Publica), who demanded an increase in minimum monthly wages from 40,000 dobras ($6) to 350,000 dobras ($52.50). Just finding a job in the country is difficult, however, for estimates of unemployment run as high as 50 percent.


c. 1471. Portuguese explorers discover uninhabited islands of São Tomé and Príncipe.

1522. The islands become a Portuguese colony, and are eventually populated with slave labor from the African continent.

1800s. Two cash crops cocoa and coffeeare introduced to the islands.

1876. Slavery is officially abolished.

1951. São Tomé and Príncipe become an overseas province of Portugal.

1975. São Tomé and Príncipe achieve independence from Portugal and select Manuel Pinto da Costa as president.

1984. São Tomé is proclaimed a nonaligned state, ending its special relationship with other socialist states.

1987. The constitution is amended to allow universal adult voting.

1990. A new constitution is approved by referendum and allows multi-party politics.

1991. First multi-party elections.

1994. Príncipe is granted political and administrative autonomy.


São Tomé has a history of coups, demonstrations, and strikes by people whose expectations for economic improvement are crushed by economic stagnation, high inflation, low salaries, and constant disagreements between the legislature and the president. The government's attempts to attract international financial aid in the 1990s resulted in accepting a "shock therapy" approach to economic reorganization, which led to the further deterioration of the quality of life in the country. However, IMF projections on poverty reduction efforts suggest that inflation may be reduced to 3 percent annually and that GDP may grow by 4 percent as early as 2001. Should these projections prove true, and should the government succeed in its 2 great economic projectsoffshore oil extraction and the expansion of tourismit is possible that São Tomé and Príncipe may correct its longstanding economic woes. The single biggest question is whether the cash-poor country can attract enough foreign investment to allow it to realize its dreams.


São Tomé and Príncipe has no territories or colonies.


Assembleia Nacional São Tomé and Príncipe. <http://www.parlamento.st>. Accessed August 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: São Tomé and Príncipe. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.

Hodges, T., and M. Newitt. São Tomé and Príncipe: From Plantation Colony to Microstate. Boulder: Westview Press, 1998.

International Financial Statistics Yearbook, 1999. Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, 2000.

Siebert, Gerhard. Comrades, Clients and Cousins: Colonialism, Socialism and Democratization in São Tomé and Príncipe. Leiden, the Netherlands: Leiden University, 1999.

U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: São Tomé and Príncipe, March 1997.
<http://www.state.gov/www/background_notes/sao_tome_0397_bgn.html>. Accessed August 2001.

Alfia Abazova


São Tomé.


Dobra (Db). One dobra equals 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.


Cocoa, copra, coffee, palm oil.


Machinery and electrical equipment, food and live animals, petroleum products.


US$169 million (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$4.9 million (f.o.b., 1999 est.). Imports: US$19.5 million (f.o.b., 1999 est.).

São Tomé and Príncipe

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Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe

República Democrática de São Tomé e Príncipe


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, about 360 km (225 mi) off the west coast of Gabon. The nation has an area of 1,001 sq km (386 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by São Tomé and Príncipe is slightly less than 5.5 times the size of Washington, D.C. São Tomé extends about 49 km (30 mi) nnessw and 29 km (18 mi) esewnw. Príncipe has a length of approximately 21 km (13 mi) ssennw and a width of 15 km (9 mi) enewsw.

São Tomé and Príncipe's 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 m (6,640 ft) 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 948 m (3,109 ft) above sea level.


The islands are tropical, but temperature varies a good deal with altitude. Coastal temperatures average around 27°c (81°f), but the mountain regions average only 20°c (68°f). Seasons are distinguished more by a change in precipitation than by a change in temperature. From October to May, the northern regions of São Tomé and Príncipe receive between 100 and 150 cm (40 to 60 in) of rain. The southern portions receive about 380 to 510 cm (150 to 200 in).


Except for the coastal flatlands where cocoa and coffee plantations predominate, São Tomé and Príncipe are dominated by forestland. Above 1,370 m (4,500 ft), 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 São Tomé and Príncipe. 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 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.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 3 types of mammals, 10 species of birds, 1 type of reptile, 3 species of amphibians, 7 species of fish, 1 type of mollusk, 1 species of other invertebrate, and 35 species of plants. Threatened species include the São Tomé short-tail, São Tomé sunbird, the West African seahorse, and at least six species of sharks.


The population of São Tomé and Príncipe in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 153,000, which placed it at number 175 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 4% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 38% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 99 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 2.5%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The projected population for the year 2025 was 225,000. The overall population density was 159 per sq km (413 per sq mi), but about 94% of the total populace lives on São Tomé.

The UN estimated that 38% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.87%. The capital city, São Tomé, had a population of 54,000 in that year. Santo António is the largest town on Príncipe.


Historically, São Tomé and Príncipe received a substantial flow of what was allegedly temporary immigration in the form of contract labor. The serviçais, as they were called, came largely from Angola and Mozambique to work on the cocoa plantations; many were never repatriated. More recently, plantation labor has come from drought-stricken Cape Verde. Before 1974, Cape Verdeans were subsidized by the Portuguese government to settle on São Tomé and Príncipe in an effort to boost the islands' plantation economy. After the April 1974 revolution in Portugal and the coming of independence to the Portuguese territories, almost all the 3,0004,000 European settlers left, while several hundred Angolans fled to São Tomé. Subsequently, more than 10,000 São Toméan exiles returned from Angola, and most Cape Verdeans left São Tomé. In 2000 the number of migrants totaled 7,000. In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated -2.51 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


Most of the island's permanent residents 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, shipwrecked in the 16th century, who established independent fishing communities. Others include the mestiç o, serviç ais (contract laborers from Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde), tongas (children of serviç ais 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 about 80% of the total population and Protestants constituting about 15%. The primary Protestant groups are Evangelicals (about 3.4% of the population), New Apostolic (2%), and Seventh-Day Adventists (1.8%). Approximately 3% of the population are Muslim. About 2% are atheist. A very small number of people practice forms of witchcraft, but this is considered more of a custom than a religion and practitioners are often adherents of one of the other major religions. Certain Christian holidays are celebrated as national holidays. The constitution provides for religious freedom.


Transportation networks on São Tomé and Príncipe reflect the plantation economy. There were approximately 320 km (199 mi) of roadways in 2002. Surfaced roads, about 218 km (135 mi), serve principally to bring export crops to the port towns. Schooners are the main means of transportation for people living far from town. São Tomé and Santo António are the main ports; large freighters must be unloaded from their anchorage by barge because the ports are not deep enough to accommodate them. The Merchant Marine reported 15 ships of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 79,490 GRT in 2005.

In 2004, there were two airports, both with paved runways. The international airport at São Tomé is serviced principally by the Angolan airline Transportes Aéreos de Angola, although Transportes Aéreos Portugueses and Aeroflot make occasional stops. Equatorial Airline of São Tomé and Príncipe, a government joint venture with a private European airline, flies to Príncipe and Libreville, Gabon. In 2001 (the latest year for which data is available), 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. In 1485, São Tomé was made a donatário (concession) of João de Paiva; the donatário provided for de Paiva to administer and profit by his administration of São Tomé according to Portuguese law. Subsequently, São Tomé served as a slave station.

The islands were settled by a group of Europeans and their African slaves. In 1493, 2,000 Jewish children were taken to São Tomé in an effort to populate the islands and raise the children as Christians, but by 1532 only 50 or 60 were left. It was Portuguese policy to deport its criminals, degradados, and orphans to remote colonial areas, and many of São Tomé's earliest male settlers came in this fashion. Female settlers were more often African slave women, and from the ensuing marriages a large mestiço population developed. A third group, separate from the European and mestiço populations, consisted of Angolares, descendants of shipwrecked Angolan slaves.

By the mid-16th century, the islands were Africa's leading exporter of sugar. São Tomé and Príncipe were taken over by the Portuguese crown in 1522 and 1573, respectively. Eventually, sugar lost its commercial importance, but in the early 19th century, two new cash crops, coffee and cocoa, were introduced, and by 1908 São Tomé had become the world's largest producer of cocoa. Plantation slavery or slave-like contract labor remained the basis of island labor for hundreds of years, and even when slavery formally ended in 1869, the plantations employed laborers "recruited" on "contract" from other areas of Portuguese-speaking Africa. In 1906, Henry Nevinson published his book, A Modern Slavery, which exposed the use of involuntary recruits, unacceptably high labor mortality, and poor work conditions on the islands. The outcry resulted in a boycott of São Tomé cocoa. The scandal occasioned some reforms, but oppressive conditions continued. As late as 1953, the governor of São Tomé ordered Portuguese troops to open fire on striking plantation workers, leaving nearly 1,000 people dead, an action that aroused nationalist feeling.

A liberation group formed in the islands in 1960, but Portuguese control made it impossible to wage an effective guerrilla war. The organization, the Committee for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe (later renamed the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and PríncipeMLSTP), remained in exile in Gabon until it was recognized by Portugal in 1974 as the sole legitimate representative of the people of São Tomé and Príncipe.


An independence agreement was concluded between Portuguese and MLSTP negotiators on 26 November 1974, and a transitional government was installed on 21 December. On 12 July 1975, São Tomé and Príncipe achieved full independence. On the same day, Manuel Pinto da Costa, the secretary-general of the MLSTP, was inaugurated as the country's first president.

Following an alleged plot to overthrow the government, about 1,500 troops from Angola and Guinea-Bissau were stationed on the islands in 1978 at Pinto da Costa's request. Soviet, East European, and Cuban personnel were also reportedly on the islands. In 1979, Prime Minister Miguel dos Anjos da Cunha Lisboa Trouvoada was arrested and charged with attempting to seize power. His post was assumed by Pinto da Costa, and the MLSTP was reported to be seriously split. In the early 1980s there was unrest on Príncipe, apparently provoked by separatists. By 1985, São Tomé and Príncipe had begun to establish closer ties with the West.

Multiparty Democracy Launched

In 1990, a new policy of abertura, or political and economic "opening," was adopted. It led to the legalization of opposition parties and direct elections with secret balloting. The secret police were purged and freedom of association and press were encouraged. A number of groups, many led by politicians in exile, united as the Party of Democratic Convergence-Group of Reflection (PDC-GR) and were led by Miguel Trovoada. An independent labor movement was launched and strikes were legalized. Abertura was also reflected in the evolution of a market economy and the privatization of state farms and enterprises.

On 20 January 1991, the nation held its first multiparty legislative elections. The former ruling party (MLSTP) was defeated by the PDC-GR. PDC-GR got 54.4% (33 seats) of the vote, the MLSTP 30.5% (21 seats), and the Democratic Opposition Coalition (CODO) 5.2% (1 seat). In the presidential election on 3 March 1991, Trovoada was elected unopposed. In 1992, the government imposed a strict structural adjustment program at the behest of the IMF and the World Bank, which increased the price of gasoline and depreciated the value of the currency by 40%. The measures prompted massive demonstrations and calls for the dissolution of the government headed by Prime Minister Daniel Lima dos Santos Daio. The parliament then appointed Norberto Alegre prime minister, who then formed a new government.

In 1993, the PDC-GR continued to dominate the central government, but partisan activity accelerated. The president and the prime minister, both PDC-GR, also became involved in a dispute over interpretation of the constitution on the separation of powers. In November, a joint communique by four opposition parties accused government of "leading the country towards a social explosion" and denounced its "authoritarian and repressive attitude." By 1994, Trovoada was forced to again dissolve the government amid continued protests. The PDC-GR was increasingly seen as corrupt and complacent, but Trovoada was viewed with equal skepticism. After firing Alegre, Trovoada appointed a new prime minister from the PDC-GR, but the PDC-GR refused to acknowledge the president's right to do so, expelled the prime minister from the party, and refused to participate further with the government. In response, Trovoada announced new elections for 2 October 1994. The MLSTP won 27 seats; the PCD-GR, 14; and the Independent Democratic Action Party, 14. Carlos Alberto Monteiro Dias da Graça was appointed prime minister. Regional elections were held on Príncipe in March 1995, resulting in a commanding majority for the MLSTP.

A bloodless coup in August 1995 led by five Army officers temporarily disbanded the government, but international pressure reversed the coup and by year's end, a new government of national unity was created, headed by Prime Minister Armindo Vaz d'Almeida. In June 1996, Trovoada won presidential elections, taking 52% of the vote to (MLSTP) Manuel Pinto Costa's 48% in a rerun. The election was deemed generally free and fair by international observers, despite allegations of an unconstitutional modification of the voter lists between the first and second rounds. In September, the prime minister resigned and was replaced, after much infighting, by Raul Vagner de Conceição Bragança Neto. In March 1998 the civil service went on strike, the first since independence, demanding payment of six months of wage arrears, but government coffers were then said to be empty. Demobilized soldiers threatened to destabilize the country, demanding financial benefits provided for by a pact that ended the 1995 coup.

In the 8 November 1998 election, the MLSTP took 31 of the 55 parliamentary seats. The ADI won 16 and the PCD-GR, 8 seats. After Trovoada's veto of the first cabinet, Prime Minister Guilherme Posser da Costa formed a government in January 1999, announcing an austerity program to relaunch the economy and end corruption.

On 3 September 2001, a relatively unknown wealthy businessman, Fradique Melo Bandeira de Menezes, became São Tomé and Príncipe's third president as the result of free and fair elections held in July. Barred from seeking a third term, President Trovoada needed a successor who would protect his political and financial interests. It was widely speculated that Trovoada and his son Patrice believed they could control de Menezes from behind the scenes. De Menezes adopted a widely popular platform, ran a successful campaign, and gained enough votes on the first round to defeat Manuel Pinto da Costa, the candidate of the Movimento de Libertacao de São Tomé e Príncipe-Partido Social Democrata (MLSTP-PSD).

Despite de Menezes' efforts to clean up government and to eradicate poverty, instability and corruption continued to undermine social and economic progress in the period 20022006. Much of the instability could be attributed to the islands' inherently unstable governance structurethere have been seven prime ministers since 2001and to the intense political competition related to the discovery of oil, auctioning of oil blocks, and desire to control revenues.

In March 2002, legislative elections were held eight months ahead of schedule resulting in a divided parliament with no party winning a majority. The unity government formed afterwards, which had been agreed to prior to the election, proved fractious and weak. Efforts to strip the president of his powers including his right to renegotiate an oil agreement with Nigeria, were rebuffed. A decision to call for fresh legislative elections was reneged upon, and in April 2003, riots broke out resulting in one death and much damage to public property.

A military coup on 16 July 2003 led to the deposing of de Menezes, who was in Nigeria at the time, and the arrests of the senior members of government. However, the president and cabinet were reinstalled following international pressure and an agreement that a new government be formed with oversight over governmental affairs by an international committee. In October, the first oil licensing round was held, but only one block was awarded to a consortium of American and Norwegian companies.

In September 2004, de Menezes dismissed the government of Maria das Neves over a corruption scandal. The successor government became embroiled in a similar scandal involving embezzlement at the government's aid agency, Gabinete de Gestao da Ajuda. Five more oil blocks were awarded in April 2005, but the process was marred by allegations of corruption in the adjudication process. A public sector strike in June 2005 led to the resignation of Vaz de Almeida; central bank governor Maria do Carmo Silveira was appointed the new prime minister. In July, President de Menezes called for a referendum on the country's constitutional form of government. The referendum sparked controversy, but had been agreed to as a condition in a memorandum of understanding signed by the president and party representatives in 2003. Nevertheless, on 24 November the National Assembly rejected the motion for a referendum by 45 votes to 5. General elections were held March 2006, with the coalition of MDFM-PCD winning 37% of the vote and 23 seats in the National Assembly; Tome Vera Cruz became the prime minister on 21 April 2006. MDFM is the Force for Change Democratic Movement (MDFM) and PCD is the Party for Democratic Covergence.


On 12 July 1975, São Tomé and Príncipe, formerly considered overseas territories of Portugal, became an independent democratic republic. The constitution, drafted by a constituent assembly, took effect on 12 December 1975. The president was chief of state, elected by the 40-member National Assembly for a term of four years. The prime minister, who was elected to a five-year term by the National Assembly on the recommendation of the MLSTP, appointed and headed the cabinet. District popular assemblies elected in August 1985 chose the members of the National Assembly, which elected Pinto da Costa to a third term as president on 30 September 1985. The MLSTP had been the sole legal political party until 1990. A new constitution announced by da Costa in 1989, was adopted by the National Assembly in April 1990, approved in an August referendum, and went into force in September 1990.

Under the 1990 constitution, the president is elected for a maximum of two five-year terms, and is nominally in charge of foreign affairs and defense. The prime minister is chosen by the National Assembly and approved by the president. Members of the 55-member National Assembly serve a four-year term. Suffrage is universal at age 18. Parliamentary elections were held March 2006 with presidential elections scheduled for July 2006.

The power-sharing configuration of government presents a pattern for political conflict that appears to be well-established. Under the country's semi-presidential system, the president must form a government with the opposition. Both presidents Trovoada and de Menezes were embroiled in conflicts with parliament largely stemming from the vague constitutional separation of powers.


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 PríncipeMLSTP) as the sole legitimate representative for the islands. The party, formed in exile in 1960, at a Pan-African conference in Ghana, originally called itself the Committee for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe (Comité de Libertação de São Tomé e PríncipeCLSTP). In 1965, CLSTP publicly demanded independence and economic reforms for the islands. At a conference in Guinea in 1972, the CLSTP changed its name to the MLSTP and moved its headquarters to Gabon. Until the declaration of 15 October 1974, the MLSTP remained partially underground and in exile, expressing itself through a legal party, the Pro-Liberation Movement Association, led by the poet Alda de Espírito Santo. After independence, the MLSTP became the only political party. Until 1991, Manuel Pinto da Costa was secretary-general of MLSTP and president of the republic.

With the legalization of opposition party activity, several politicians returned from exile to organize their followers. Miguel Trovoada, an MLSTP founder who had been exiled after challenging da Costa's leadership, formed the Democratic Convergence Party-Group of Reflection (PCD-GR) and, in the 1991 elections, it captured control of the National Assembly and the presidency. The Democratic Opposition Coalition (CODO) and the Christian Democratic Front (FDC), and other parties together captured 15% of the vote for the legislature.

In December 1992, the MLSTP came back to score a series of landslide victories in municipal and regional elections. It took control of six of the eight regional governing bodies. In the 1994 elections, the MLSTP solidified its control, taking 27 of the 55 seats. The PDC-GR took 14, as did the Independent Democratic Action Party. Only 42% of registered voters turned up. There was a bloodless and short-lived coup amid massive popular unrest due to wage stagnation in 1995. The military leaders held power only briefly before returning the civilian government to power. In 1996, a government of national unity headed by Prime Minister Armindo Vaz d'Almeida was inaugurated.

Nine parties contested the 8 November 1998 parliamentary elections. The MLSTP further solidified it parliamentary grip to 31 seats. The Independent Democratic Action Party (ADI) increased its seats to 14, whereas the PCD-GR) got only 8 seats. São Tomé and Príncipe was one of 15 countries whose politicians formed the Union of African Parties for Democracy and Development (UAPDD) in Namibia in October 1998, aimed at promoting the interests of the continent.

In the July 2001 presidential elections, de Menezes benefited from the support of the Independent Democratic Action Party (ADI), the country's largest, but comparatively weak opposition, and five other political forces including the PCD, UNDP, Codo, PRD, and the PPP. Under the country's semi-presidential formula, the dominant parties in the parliament wield considerable powers. Therefore, although this coalition reflected the self-interests of the leaders of these political entities, it assured de Menezes of a constituency sufficient to score 56.3 % to 39 % of the vote over Pinto da Costa. Three other opposition figures took 5% of the vote.

On 3 March 2002, São Toméans went to the polls to elect a new parliament. The results ended in a deadlock for the MLSTP-PSD, which gained 39.6% of the vote, and Force for Change Democratic Movement (MDFM-PCD), which took 39.4% of the ballots. Ue-Kedadji coalition received 16.2%. The number of seats by party was: MLSTP-PSD 24, MDFM-PCD 23, Ue-Kedadji coalition 8.

In the run-up to the March 2006 elections, the two main opposition partiesthe Force for Change Democratic Movement (MDFM) and the Party for Democratic Convergence (Partido de Convergencia DemocráticaPCD) announced a renewal of their alliance. It remained to be seen whether smaller parties would join them. The Ue-Kedadji coalition (comprised of the ADI, PRD, Uniao Nacional para Democracia e ProgressoUNDP, Codo, and Partido Popular do ProgressoPPP remained split over the announcement by the ADI in October 2005 that it intended to contest the elections on its own. An outright victory by the MLSTPPSD, which had been predicted, and which would have ensured a more stable governance arrangement, was not realized in the March 2006 elections. Instead, the MDFM-PCD won 37% of the vote and 23 seats to MLSTP's 28.9% and 19 seats. ADI won 20% and 12 seats.


São Tomé and Príncipe is divided into two provinces, corresponding to the two islands, and seven counties, of which six are on São Tomé, each governed by its own assembly. Príncipe was granted political and administrative autonomy, which it has exercised since 29 April 1995.


The accord signed on 26 November 1974 between the Portuguese government and the MLSTP served as the legal code in the islands until 12 December 1975, when a new constitution was formally implemented.

The present legal system, based on Portuguese law and customary law, provides for an independent judiciary and affords litigants in civil cases the right to a fair public trial and a right to appeal. It affords criminal defendants a public trial before a judge as well as legal representation. A shortage of trained lawyers, however, makes implementing this right difficult. The highest court is the Supreme Court, which is appointed by and accountable to the National Assembly.


A small citizen's army was formed by the MLSTP government after Portuguese troops were withdrawn. There are also several hundred Angolan troops.


São Tomé and Príncipe, admitted to the United Nations on 16 September 1975, takes part in ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, the World Bank, the ILO, UNESCO, UNIDO, and the WHO. The nation is also a member of the ACP Group, the African Development Bank, G-77, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), and the African Union. The country has observer status in the WTO. São Tomé and Príncipe is part of the Nonaligned Movement. In environmental cooperation, the nation is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


São Tomé and Príncipe is one of the poorest countries in the world. It is not self-sufficient in food, and imports 90% of its supply. 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. One consequence of the price decline was the abandonment of postindependence socialist-style economic policies in favor of market-style policies.

Since 1987, economic policy was driven by a World Bank and IMF-sponsored structural adjustment program with the objective of weaning the economy of its dependence on cocoa exports and foodstuff imports. Since 1991, the government has imposed fiscal and economic austerity measures, continued to devalue the currency, reformed the banking sector, raised electricity and fuel prices, and continued to privatize the nonagricultural sector. In 2000, the country became eligible for $200 million in debt relief under the IMF/World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, and international donors pledged additional aid in 2001. The country was expected to benefit from another round of HIPC debt relief in 2006, to help bring down the $300 million debt burden. In 2005, the government signed on to a new three-year IMF Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) program worth $4.3 million.

Although the economy contracted in real terms in 1990 and 1991, slow growth resumed in 1992 and continued through the rest of the 1990s. It stood at 4% in 2001, and had risen to an estimated 6% by 2005. Offshore oil production, the diversification of agriculture, and the promotion of tourism were the government's goals for economic growth in 2006. The development of petroleum resources in its territorial waters in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea, in a 6040 split with Nigeria, leaves São Tomé and Príncipe optimistic about the future. The first production licenses were sold in 2004, although a dispute over licensing with Nigeria delayed São Tomé and Príncipe's receipt of more than $20 million in signing bonuses for almost a year.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 São Tomé and Príncipe's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $214.0 million. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $1,200. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 6%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 15.1%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 16.7% of GDP, industry 14.8%, and services 68.4%.

According to the World Bank, in 2002 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $1 million or about $6 per capita and accounted for approximately 2.0% of GDP.

It was estimated that in 2004 about 54% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


Agriculture and fishing support most of the population. Laborers for the plantation sector come from mainland Africa and Cape Verde on a contract basis; Angola, Mozambique, and Nigeria are the major sources of contract labor. Plantation laborers gained a 400% wage increase on the eve of independence. Soon after, labor disruptions and the reorganization of production reduced the output of plantation crops. There is no numerical data available as to the size of the country's workforce, its occupational breakdown, or the unemployment rate.

Unemployment can reach up to 50% of the workforce, largely because of the unpopularity of plantation work among the Fôrros. Unrelated to the former sole union (an affiliate of the MLSTP), or any political party, the Independent Union Federation (IUF) was formed in 1992 to take advantage of freedom of association provisions now in the constitution. Workers may organize and bargain collectively. However, the IUF has had little luck in organizing the workers on the large state-owned plantations. The government remains the primary mediator for labor, even though privatization has reduced the relative role of the government as an employer.

While the minimum age for employment is legally set at 18, children occasionally do work, especially on state-run plantations. Conditions on the largest state-owned plantationsthe nation's largest job sectorhave been described as "medieval." The free housing and medical care, which the workers are promised, are inadequate. Food and clothing, supposed to be provided at low cost in "company stores," are typically more expensive than on the open market. Safety and health regulations are ineffectually enforced. The minimum wage is legally set at $14 per month. The workweek is set at 40 hours, but this is only practiced in the modern economic sector.


Plantation agriculture has long dominated the economy of the islands. In 2003, there were 55,000 hectares (96,400 acres) of farmland planted with permanent and seasonal crops. Before nationalization in 1975, private companies owned more than 80% of the arable land. Their plantations were managed by São Tomé mestiços, Cape Verdeans, and São Tomé Europeans. The rest of the arable land was owned by about 11,000 small proprietors. The nationalization law limited the private holdings to 100 hectares (247 acres) and reorganized 29 plantations into 15 state companies. In 1985, however, the government began legally recognizing the right of individual families to cultivate land within the state plantations. The two largest plantations were leased to European management in 1986.

A variety of microclimates enables the cultivation of diverse tropical crops, but soils are especially suited for cocoa (introduced from Brazil in the late 19th century), which is the major export crop. About half of all cultivated land is used for cocoa production. Labor disruptions, a reduced workweek, inadequate investment in repair and maintenance, and the use of worktime to conduct management and cooperative training programs combined to lower the cocoa output from 10,000 tons in 1975 to 3,900 tons in 1987. Production of cocoa was about 3,500 tons in 2004. Cocoa exports accounted for about 90% of export earnings. Coconuts are the second most important crop; production in 2004 totaled 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.

Since 1990, economic policy has been driven by a World Bank and IMF-sponsored structural adjustment program aimed at diminishing the dependence on cocoa exports and food imports. The program called for fundamental land reform and accompanying measures to stimulate cultivation of food crops for local consumption.


The livestock sector, largely pigs, was plagued by African swine fever once in 1979 and again in 1992, necessitating the destruction of the entire herd of some 30,000 animals. Disease severely affected chicken and egg production in 1993. There is no tsetse-borne disease in São Tomé, but production is limited by tuberculosis. In 2005 there were an estimated 4,600 head of cattle, 3,000 sheep, 5,000 goats, and 2,500 pigs.


The Angolare community of São Tomé supplies fish to the domestic market. In 2003, the catch was 3,283 tons. Between 1976 and 1983, substantial investments were made in fishing by the government, but the investment has not significantly contributed to GDP; rather, it has exacerbated a nearly unsustainable debt service burden. European Union (EU) vessels catch tuna in island waters under license. There are also fishing agreements with Angola and Portugal. Foreign assistance has focused more recently on artisanal fishing.


About 27% of São Tomé and Príncipe 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. Unrestricted cutting has been the rule in spite of the legal sanctions against it. In 1993, new forest regulations were issued and guards were trained to enforce them. Reforestation and scientific foresting have been enforced to avoid further loss. Roundwood removals were estimated at 9,000 cu m (317,700 cu ft) in 2004.


The mineral industry was not significant in the islands, and mineral wealth remained largely unexplored. Lime deposits were exploited for the local market, and small clay and stone open-pit operations supplied the construction industry.


Hydroelectric facilities are on the Contador River on São Tomé. About 60% of São Tomé's 0.14 million kWh of electric power in 2002 were produced by hydroelectricity; the rest was thermal. Total installed capacity in the islands was 10,000 kW in 2002. Demand for electric power in 2002 totaled 0.013 million kWh. Most of São Tomé is electrified, but only a quarter of the nation's households have electricity.

São Tomé has no proven reserves of oil, natural gas, or coal, nor any refining capacity. All fossil fuel needs are met by imports of refined oil products. In 2002, imports and demand each averaged 630 barrels per day. Distillates and gasoline comprised the bulk of these imports, at 430 barrels per day and 140 barrels per day, respectively.


São Tomé has very little industry; the industrial sector constituted only 14.8% of the GDP in 2005. Light construction itemstextiles, soap, beer, fish, bread, and palm oilare produced on the islands. Manufacturing declined by two-thirds between 1987 and 1998, while industry as a whole grew. The development of oil resources in its territorial waters promises a new addition to the industrial sector. In January 2006, Chevron Corp. began exploration drilling in the Gulf of Guinea on a block jointly owned by São Tomé and Nigeria.


The Ministry of Agriculture maintains a library in São Tomé. The Center of Technical and Scientific Documentation, also in São Tomé, has an extensive library of specialized documents on agriculture and fisheries.


The landholding population of São Tomé and Príncipe grows some produce for the local market, but not on a large scale. Similarly, the Angolare population of São Tomé supplies fish to the local market. However, domestic agriculture and industry are not sufficient to fully supply local consumption, causing the country to rely heavily on imports for most goods. The port towns of São Tomé and Santo António are the principal commercial and distribution centers.

Business hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 am to 4:30 pm.


São Tomé and Príncipe's trade balance depends on price levels for cocoa, which accounts for about 90% of export earnings. Copra is also exported. The value of imports was four times that of exports in 2006. The leading imports are machinery and electrical equipment, food, and petroleum products.

In 2004, the country's primary export partners were: the Netherlands (37.3%); China (12.8%); Belgium (7.6%); Germany (6.6%); Poland (5.3%); France (5%); and Brazil (4.1%). The major

United States0.20.2
South Africa0.10.2-0.1
() data not available or not significant.

import partners were: Portugal (52.3%); Germany (9.5%); the United States (6%); the Netherlands (4.8%), South Africa (4.3%); and Belgium (4.1%).


Since the country cannot supply enough food and clothing for its own people, imports remain high, while export revenues vary according to world agricultural prices. There is also an outflow of remittances for workers employed under contract from abroad.

In 2005, exports were valued at an estimated $8 million, with imports valued at $38 million. That year, the current-account balance was estimated at -$19 million.


The Banco Nacional de São Tomé e Príncipe is the central bank and also handles commercial banking. The Caixa de Crédito is a government savings and loan institution serving industry, agriculture, and housing. There is also a postal savings bank. There is no stock exchange.

In mid-February 1997, the central bank announced it would circulate new banknotes and coins worth $29 million during the second quarter of 1997, with higher denominations. The new money has become necessary due to persistent high inflation. Inflation reached 20% in 1998. In 1999, several senior central bank officials were dismissed in connection with the embezzlement of $1 million. The bank governor himself was dismissed on suspicion of corruption, and a government investigation of the bank led to the resignation of a finance minister.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $10.8 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $17.8 million. The discount rate, the

Current Account-22.8
   Balance on goods-22.9
   Balance on services-0.0
   Balance on income-4.7
   Current transfers4.9
Capital Account12.1
Financial Account3.7
   Direct investment abroad
   Direct investment in São Tomé and Príncipe3.0
   Portfolio investment assets
   Portfolio investment liabilities
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets-0.3
   Other investment liabilities0.9
Net Errors and Omissions-0.0
Reserves and Related Items7.0
() data not available or not significant.

interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 15.5%.


A national insurance and reinsurance company was founded in 1980. There is also an insurance fund for civil servants.


In 1987, the government instituted an IMF structural adjustment program to encourage private sector growth. This goal has been the focus of economic reform since the early 90s. São Tomé and Príncipe has traditionally received foreign aid from the UN Development Program, the World Bank, the EU, Portugal, Taiwan, and the African Development Bank. In late 2000, the country qualified for enhanced debt relief through the IMF's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 São Tomé and Príncipe's central government took in revenues of approximately $26.3 million and had expenditures of $59.4 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$33.09 million. Total external debt was $318 million.


Export and import taxes, customs duties, and sales tax are the main sources of revenue from taxation. Income tax accounted for only 7% revenue in 1985. In 1997, the government began a program to improve tax collection. In 2002, remarkable increases in tax revenue were reported. A larger issue was the politics of allotting the country's offshore oil fields for development. Production was projected to begin in 2006 or 2007, bringing a new level of wealth. In July 2003, the military took over the government while the president was out of the country.


All imports require a license. Customs duties are levied, but recent information on rates and dutiable items is not available. In 1987, a state enterprise marketed all exports and imports of 12 basic commodities.


Since independence, investments have been minimal. An investment code adopted in 1986 allows free transfer of profits, dividends, and liquidated assets, as well as exemption from export duties. Some investors may qualify for tax and import-duty exemptions. As of 2005, investors had to pay 27.4% of gross profit in taxes.

In 1999, the government granted Island Oil Exploration Limited the right to develop an offshore logistics center and port to support future oil and gas operations. The government also hopes for investment in the tourism sector. From 1997 to 2000, annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow increased from $100,000 to $2.2 million. In 2001, FDI inflow declined to $1.1 million. FDI as a percentage of GDP rose from 8.17% in 2000 to 16.81% in 2003. In 2003, the total stock of inward FDI was $28 million.


With the help of the United Nations Development Programme, the government hopes to stabilize cocoa production through long-lease arrangements with private-sector management companies. A shift to black pepper and arabica coffee could revitalize the coffee sector. Food self-sufficiency depends on the success of the government's policy of turning fringe cocoa land over to mixed-agriculture family farmers. Projects to export plantains, cocoyam, and citrus fruits to Gabon are under study. The pork herds are to be reestablished. The fishing, forestry, and tourist industries are being revitalized. The government plans to promote the development of additional food-processing and construction material industries, as well as to improve the paved road network.

A three-year International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement approved in 2000 provided for the reduction of public service employees, the organization of ports and customs, and the privatization of government industry, in order to help alleviate the growing debt. Also in 2000, the country became eligible for $200 million in debt service relief under the IMF/World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. São Tomé expected to benefit from an addition round of HIPC debt relief in 2006. In 2005, the country signed on to a $4.3 million three-year IMF Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) program. Privatization of the state-owned agricultural and industrial sectors has been a government priority. The development of petroleum resources in the Gulf of Guinea began in 2004 with the sale of production licenses. In January 2006, Chevron Corp. began exploration drilling on a block jointly owned by São Tomé and Nigeria.


A national social security system was initially set up in 1979, and was amended in 1990. Old age, disability, and survivorship benefits are paid to all employed persons, including civil service and the military. There are also sickness and maternity benefits, worker's compensation, and a voluntary program for the self-employed. Retirement is set at age 62 for men and age 57 for women.

Women enjoy constitutional equality with men, and some have been government ministers, but in general they are limited to a subordinate role by the traditional culture. Female literacy is much lower than that of men, and women are underrepresented in the professions. Traditional views inhibit women from seeking redress for domestic abuse and violence. Economic opportunities are further limited to women due to a very high teenage pregnancy rate.

Human rights were generally well respected, although the country suffers from an inefficient judicial system and harsh prison conditions.


The government hopes that crop diversification will help alleviate malnutrition, which continues to plague the country. Tuberculosis is still present in the country. Approximately 57% of the country's children had been vaccinated against measles.

In 2004, there were an estimated 47 physicians, 127 nurses, 30 midwives, and 5 dentists per 100,000 people.

The mortality rate for children under five years old was 82 per 1,000 live births. The infant mortality rate was estimated at 43.11 per 1,000 live births in 2005 and life expectancy at 66.99 years. The total fertility rate was an estimated 5.9 children for each woman during her childbearing years. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 42.3 and 7.3 per 1,000 people.


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 about 33,887 occupied dwellings. Of these, about 35% were built in 1975 or earlier. Wood, cement, and zinc are the most common building materials for walls, floors, and roofs.


The school system before independence was basically the same as that of Portugal. Schooling is compulsory for four years only. Primary education is for four years and secondary has two stages: the first five years are followed by two more years. In 2001, about 25% of children between the ages of three and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 98.5% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 28.9% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 61% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 32:1 in 2003.

The Polytechnic Institute of São Tomé and Príncipe is a public institution, established in 1997. A private institution, Instituto Universitario de Contabilidade, Administracao e Informatica, was established in 1993. The adult literacy rate for has been estimated at about 79.3%, with 85% for men and 62% for women.


São Tomé maintains libraries at the Center for Technical and Scientific Documentation (45,000 volumes) and the national assembly (1,000 volumes). A general National Museum was founded in 1976 and located in the Fortress of Saint Sebastian, constructed in 1585. Its exhibits are mainly of African and religious art.


In 2003, there were about 7,000 mainline telephones in use, with an additional 4,800 cellular phone subscribers.

The national government operates radio and television broadcasts in Portuguese. There were no independent radio or television stations as of 2005, but there is no law forbidding them. The Voice of America, Radio International Portugal, and Radio France International all rebroadcast locally. In 2002, there were five FM and one AM 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 serving about 15,000 Internet subscribers.

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. There were six independent papers and newsletters in 2004, publishing monthly or bimonthly.

The constitution provides for the freedoms of speech and of the press and the government generally respects these rights in practice.


Cooperative movements sponsored by the MLSTP function as part of the government's economic development program. The Youth Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe is a major youth organization for youth ages 15 to 24. There are some sports associations, such as the São Tomé and Príncipe Athletic Federation (track and field) and the São Tomé and Príncipe Football Federation. There are YMCA/YWCA branches in the country. The Red Cross and Caritas also have national chapters.


São Tomé and Príncipe's scenic beauty, wildlife, and unique historic architecture have the potential to attract tourists, but even though the islands have been a port of call for voyagers for centuries. Tourist facilities are minimal and restricted largely to the port towns and their environs. The first tourist hotel opened in 1986 and the government has encouraged greater private investment in the tourist sector. Two sports facilities opened in 1992. São Tomé has beautiful white sand beaches and a number of coffee and cocoa plantations to explore. All visitors must have visas. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required if traveling from an infected area.


Rei Amador (d.1596), who rebelled against the Portuguese and almost overran the island in 1595, is a national hero. Alda de Espírito Santo (b.1926) is a poet and nationalist leader. Manuel Pinto da Costa (b.1937), the secretary-general of the MLSTP, became the country's first president on 12 July 1975, a post he held until his party was defeated in the elections of 1991. Miguel Trovoada (b.1936) succeeded Manuel Pinto da Costa as president; he served until 2001. Fradique de Menezes (b.1942) began his presidency in 2001.


São Tomé and Príncipe has no territories or colonies.


Garfield, Robert. A History of São Tomé and Príncipe Island, 14701655: The Key to Guinea. San Francisco: Mellen Research University Press, 1992.

Shaw, Caroline. São Tomé and Príncipe. Oxford: Clio, 1994.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

São Tomé and Príncipe

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Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe

Major City:
São Tomé


SÃO TOMÉ AND PRÍNCIPE is Africa's smallest country. The first successful settlement in São Tomé dates to 1493, under the Portuguese crown. By the mid-1500s, the Portuguese settlers, with slave labor, turned the islands into Africa's largest sugar producer. The farming technology and plantation system utilized by the Portuguese in São Tomé later served as the model used in Brazil and the Caribbean. During the 1600s, São Tomé's sugar industry declined as new colonies in the Americas were developed, and the island was only used as a port. The plantation system was used later to grow coffee and cocoa, and that system led to abuses against the African farm workers. Labor unrest continued well into the 20th century. Although slavery formally ended in 1869, in the early 1900s forced labor and poor work conditions were still common. In 1953, Portuguese soldiers fired upon striking plantation workers, killing 1,032. On July 12, 1975, after a period of transitional government, São Tomé and Príncipe achieved independence from Portugal. The country allied itself with the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and Cuba in the 1970s and early 1980s. In the 1990s, the government became more politically open and conducted direct multiparty elections.


São Tomé

São Tomé is the capital city, with a population of about 57,000. Most of the island's population lives in the capital area. In 1493, Álvaro da Caminha, a member of Portugal's royal household, was given generous privileges to help rejuvenate the ailing colony. He brought many settlers to the wide bay of Ana de Chaves where the city of São Tomé now stands. The city was founded in about 1500 and serves as the trading and shipping center for the country. São Tomé was used as a penal colony by Portugal until 1881.

Recreation and Entertainment

Two sports facilities opened in 1992. Sports have a cultural and patriotic importance to São Tomé. During the 1950s, many residents joined cultural and recreational associations such as the pro-nationalist Sporting Club do São Tomé.

São Tomé and Príncipe's scenic beauty, wildlife, and unique historic architecture have the potential to attract tourists, but tourist facilities are restricted largely to the port areas. The first tourist hotel opened in 1986.

The town center of São Tomé dates back to the late 19th century. At that time, rich plantation owners had many fancy buildings constructed. São Tomé's historical buildings follow one of two architectural styles: colonial, with verandas, high ceilings, colonnades, and courtyard gardens; and French, with mansard roofs and shutters. The Portuguese planters had stately mansions built, many of which are still in good condition (some are still well-maintained). Vista Alegre, Boa Entrada, São Nicolau, Água-Izé, and Nova Moca all have plantation houses. The most elegant is probably the Rio d'Ouru plantation house, which is controlled by Empresa Agrícola Agostinho Neto, São Tomé's largest agricultural plantation company. The plantation houses exhibit tropical colonial, oriental, and alpine architectural styles. Although São Tomé does not have a developed tourist industry, the pruned gardens, ornate architecture, and exotic scenery of the old plantation houses could become a tourist attraction.


Geography and Climate

São Tomé and Príncipe, the smallest country in Africa, lies in the Gulf of Guinea about 225 off the west coast of Gabon. The country's total area is 371 square miles, of which the island of São Tomé occupies 330 square miles and the island of Príncipe covers 42 square miles. The islands form part of a chain of extinct volcanos and are both very mountainous. São Tomé's highest peak is Pico de São Tomé, at 6,640 feet. Along the south coast of the island, there are dramatic geological features such as Cão Grande and Cão Pequeno, two precipitous towering spires of volcanic rock. São Tomé's rich vegetation tends to conceal some of its volcanic topography. The islands are tropical, but temperatures vary with altitude. Coastal temperatures average around 81° F, but the mountain regions average only 68° F. Seasons are distinguished more by a change in rainfall than by a change in temperature. Between May and October, the islands receive 150-200 inches of rain, most of it falling on the southern windward areas. Northern areas receive only 40-60 inches of rain.


São Tomé and Príncipe has an estimated population of 160,000, with about 94% of the total residing on the island of São Tomé. Most of the islands' permanent residents are mestiços, descendants of the Portuguese (colonists, deported criminals, and orphans) and the African slaves who came from Gabon and the Guinea coast. Along the southeast coast of São Tomé lives a group known as the Angolares, the descendants of Angolan slaves, shipwrecked in the 16th century, who established independent fishing communities. Other ethnic groups include the forros (descendants of freed slaves), servicais (contract laborers from Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde), tongas (children of servicais born on the islands), and Europeans (primarily Portuguese). During the persecution of Iberian Jews in 1492, 2,000 Jewish children were taken from their parents' custody and shipped off to São Tomé as settlers. By 1500, only 600 remained alive (and by 1532, only 50-60) and presumably came to form a unique element of the island's population. Today's forros population traces its origins to the resettled Portuguese convicts and the Jewish orphans of the 15th century. Roman Catholicism is the majority religion, with professing Catholics estimated at over 80% of the population. There are smaller numbers of Evangelical Protestants and Seventh-Day Adventists. São Tomé's population speaks a centuries-old dialect of Portuguese; the Creole dialect also reveals the heavy influence of African Bantu languages.


São Tomé became a Portuguese concession in 1485, and was taken over by the Portuguese crown in 1522 (Príncipe followed in 1573). Plantation slavery was the basis of island labor for centuries, and even when slavery ended in 1869, plantations used slavelike contract laborers from other areas of Portuguese-speaking Africa. In 1953, the governor of São Tomé ordered Portuguese troops to open fire on striking plantation workers, killing over 1,000. The massacre sparked a nationalist passion that gained momentum. A liberation group for São Tomé and Príncipe went into exile to Gabon in 1960 and remained there until 1974, when Portugal recognized it as the sole representative of the people of São Tomé and Príncipe. On July 12, 1975, São Tomé and Príncipe became an independent republic. Under the constitution adopted in 1990, a president is chosen by a multiparty election for a maximum of two five-year terms. The legislative body, known as the People's Assembly, is composed of 55 members elected to four-year terms. Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the People's Assembly. After a short-lived 1995 bloodless coup, in 1996 a government of national unity headed by Prime Minister Armindo Vaz d'Almeida was inaugurated. In elections in 2001, Fradique de Menzes was elected president. Manuel Pinto da Costa is the current prime minister.

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.

Arts, Science, Education

Schooling is compulsory for only four years; many children do not complete elementary school. Secondary education has two stages: the first four years are followed by three years.

Commerce and Industry

São Tomé and Príncipe has one of the poorest economies in the world. The country imports about 90% of its food, and is reliant on cocoa-producing plantations for its foreign earnings. Cocoa accounts for most of the country's foreign exchange earningschanges in the price of cocoa on the world market can create serious economic problems. Drought and mismanagement have caused cocoa production to decline in recent years, resulting in a poor balance of trade and increased foreign debt. The government has implemented businesslike fiscal and economic policies since 1991, which have slowly started to improve the economy. In December 2000, the country received $200 million in debt relief from the Highly Indebted Poor Countries program.


Roads on São Tomé and Príncipe reflect the plantation economy and serve principally to bring export crops to the port towns. Schooners are the main form of transport for people living too far from town. Although there are ports at São Tomé and Santo António, large freighters must be unloaded from their anchorage by barge because the ports are not deep enough to accommodate them. The international airport at São Tomé is serviced mainly by the Angolan airline Transportes Aéreos de Angola. Equatorial Airline of São Tomé and Príncipe flies to Príncipe and Libreville, Gabon.

National roads are limited but adequate. Public transportation and emergency road service are unavailable.


There is a national radio station that broadcasts in Portuguese, and a television station that broadcasts two days a week. Two weekly newspapers are published: Diario da República and Noticias São Tomé e Príncipe. There are over 3,000 telephones in use.


Malaria and outbreaks of smallpox were major health problems in São Tomé until the early 20th century. There have been problems with malnutrition, but the government has promoted crop diversification to help alleviate the circumstances.

Outbreaks of tuberculosis and measles have occurred in the 1990s.

Medical care in São Tomé and Príncipe are extremely limited. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide for payment of medical services outside of the United States. Travelers have found that supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas and medical evacuation coverage has proven useful. For additional health information, travelers can contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline, telephone (404) 332-4559. Internet address: http://www.cdc.gov.


Travelers should obtain latest information and details from the Permanent Mission of São Tomé and Príncipe, 122 East 42nd St., Suite 1604, New York, N.Y. 10168, telephone (212) 697-4211. Overseas, inquiries should be made to the nearest Sao Tomean diplomatic mission.

There is no U.S. Embassy in São Tomé and Príncipe. U.S. citizens in São Tomé and Príncipe needing assistance may contact the U.S. Embassy in Libreville, Gabon, located on the Boulevard de la Mer. The mailing address is b.p. 4000, Libreville, Gabon. The telephone is (241) 762003/4 or 743492.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Feb. 4 Martyrs' Day

May 1Labor Day

July 12 Independence Day

Sept. (first week) Armed Forces Day*

Sept. 30 Farmers' Day

Dec. 25 Christmas & Family Day



Hodges, Tony and Malyn Newitt.

São Tomé and Príncipe: From Plantation Colony to Microstate. Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 1988.

São Tomé and Príncipe

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São Tomé and Príncipe

Official name : Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe

Area: 1,001 square kilometers (386 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: São Tomé Peak (2,024 meters/6,640 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: Noon = noon GMT

Coastline: 209 kilometers (130 miles)

Longest distances: São Tomé: 49 kilometers (30 miles) from north-northeast to south-southwest; 29 kilometers (18 miles) from east-southeast to west-northwest. Príncipe: 21 kilometers (13 miles) from south-southeast to north-northwest, 15 kilometers (9 miles) from east-northeast to west-southwest

Land boundaries: None

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


São Tomé and Príncipe, the smallest country in Africa, is a group of islands located in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of Gabon, just barely north of the equator. With a total area of about 1,001 square kilometers (386 square miles), the country is about five times the size of Washington, D.C. São Tomé and Príncipe is divided into two provinces.


São Tomé and Príncipe has no territories or dependencies.


Lying near the equator, the islands' climate is tropical and temperatures vary with the different altitudes. Temperatures in the coastal regions average 27°C (81°F), while the mountain areas average 20°C (68°F). Precipitation changes differentiate the seasons, rather than temperature fluctuations.

The northern regions of São Tomé and Príncipe receive approximately 100 to 150 centimeters (40 to 60 inches) of rain during the rainy season from October through May, while most of the southern regions receive between 380 and 510 centimeters (150 and 200 inches). The dry season occurs from early June through September.


São Tomé and Príncipe is part of a chain of extinct volcanoes. The two main islands are São Tomé (855 square kilometers/330 square miles) and Príncipe (109 square kilometers/42 square miles). The country also includes the tiny Ilhéu Bombom, Ilhéu Caroço, and Ilhéu das Rôlas.

São Tomé and Príncipe's landscape is mostly mountainous. Rainforest covers other large areas of land, most of which give way to cloud forests at higher elevations. Most of the coastline is comprised of white sand beaches. Almost all of the population lives on the island of São Tomé. The islands of São Tomé and Príncipe are located on the African Tectonic Plate.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

São Tomé and Príncipe is surrounded by the Gulf of Guinea, an extension of the Atlantic Ocean that lies along the coast of West Africa.

Islands and Archipelagoes

São Tomé and Príncipe comprise an island nation. Small islets that lie around the two main islands include Ilhéu das Rôlas, straddling the equator off the southern tip of São Tomé; Ilhéu Caroço, off the southern tip of Príncipe; and Bombom, off the northern coast of Príncipe. In the waters between the two main islands are Tinhosa Peqeuna, Pedras Tinhosas, and Tinhosa Grande. These islets are uninhabited.

Coastal Features

Untouched white sand beaches line most of the coasts and the country is attempting to develop a tourist industry around them. São Tomé on the island of the same name and Santo António on Príncipe are the main ports.


There are no significant lakes on São Tomé and Príncipe.


The Contador River is located in the northwest of São Tomé and its river valley is possibly the deepest in the country. Several streams run down from the volcanic highlands into the Gulf of Guinea.


There are no deserts in São Tomé and Príncipe.


In the northern region of São Tomé, there is a dry area where the climate resembles that of savannah grasslands. Forest covers most of the islands. Tropical rainforest changes to cloud forest above elevations of 1,370 meters (4,500 feet). Cloud forests are so named because they tend to be continually covered in clouds throughout the entire year.


The islands of São Tomé and Príncipe were once part of a chain of ocean volcanoes that are now extinct. As a result, both São Tomé and Príncipe are mountainous. São Tomé's highest peaks are São Tomé Peak (Pico de São Tomé) at 2,024 meters (6,640 feet) and Kabumbé Peak (Pico Kabumbé) at 1,403 meters (4,630 feet). While there are ten peaks that rise over 1,067 meters (3,500 feet), many of the island's other peaks reach only a little more than half that height. Príncipe's highest elevation is Príncipe Peak (Pico de Príncipe) at 948 meters (3,109 feet).


There are no major caves or canyons in São Tomé and Príncipe.


Príncipe features a large plateau that extends along the northwestern coast at elevations that reach 948 meters (3,109 feet). The terrain of São Tomé also features a plateau, although it is smaller.


There are no major man-made structures affecting the geography of the country.



Hodges, Tony . São Tomé and Príncipe: From Plantation Colony to Microstate. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988.

Shaw, Caroline S. São Tomé and Príncipe. Santa Barbara, CA: Clio Press, 1994.

Web Sites

Iafrica.com. São Tomé and Príncipe. http://www.africa.iafrica.com/countryinfo/saotome/geography (Accessed June 12, 2003).

São Tomé and Príncipe

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SÃo TomÉ and PrÍncipe

Basic Data

Official Country Name:Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe
Region (Map name):Africa
Literacy rate:73%

Background & General Characteristics

São Tomé and Príncipe is a small-island nation, made up of two main islands and several small islets. It is located off the western coast of Africa, on the Gulf of Guinea, 125 miles off the coast of Gabon. The islands are of volcanic origin, with rich soil and vegetation. This nation occupies a small area of 386 square miles. It has about 160,000 inhabitants, 95 percent living on São Tomé. The population is formed of six ethnic groups: mestiços or mixed-blood descendants of African slaves; angolares, descendants of Angolan slaves; forros, descendants of freed slaves after slavery was abolished; serviçais, contracted laborers who live temporarily on the island; tongas, children from the serviçais; and Europeans, mainly Portuguese. The official language is Portuguese and Lungwa Santomé is the main dialect. The dialects are creole languages based on Portuguese. The major religion is Roman Catholic, but there are Evangelical Protestants and Seventh-Day Adventists as well.

São Tomé and Príncipe was discovered by the Portuguese in 1486. The colony's aspiration for independence was recognized after the 1974 coup in Portugal. The country gained independence in 1975. At first the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe was the country's sole political party, but in 1990 the constitution created a multiparty democracy. Manuel Pinto da Costa was elected president and served until 1991. Since then the country has struggled to improve the economy and conditions of life. It has had an established market economy since 1991. Miguel dos Anjos da Cunha Lisboa Trovoada became the first democratically elected president and served two five-year terms (1990-2001), the maximum allowed by the constitution. Since 2001, Fradique Melo Bandeira de Menezes was the country's third president. Fradique de Menezes was a wealthy cacao exporter and was elected with 65 percent of the votes. Among his main plans to assure the country's economy is the generation of revenues from new offshore oil fields, starting in 2003, that will be used to improve mainly the infrastructure of public services. Cocoa has been the main product, but has declined due to drought and mismanagement. Fuel, most manufactured goods, and food depend on imports. São Tomé benefited from US $200 million in debt relief in 2000 under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program.

The Press

The following weekly newspapers are published in São Tomé and Príncipe: Revolução, an official organ of the Ministry of Information, Diário da República and Tribuna, both of which are also online. The Diárioda República, with the aid of the Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda of Portugal, is the first official web-newspaper of a country with Portuguese as the official language. Povo is a weekend newspaper and magazine. Tela Non Diario can be accessed online.


The press and media systems are important vehicles for the ongoing economic activities and measures adopted by the government. Freedom of expression is protected constitutionally and respected in practice. Although the state controls a local press agency and radio and television stations, there are no laws forbidding independent broadcasting. Free airtime is granted to opposition parties. In June 1995 the police assumed control of the national radio station due to a strike by the employees of the station for salary increases. Further developments led to a coup attempt on August 15, 1995. The insurgents justified the coup as an alert to the population about corruption and political incompetence. This political situation ended with a "memorandum of understanding" and the promise of president Trovoada to restructure several governmental organizations. Newsletters and pamphlets with governmental criticism can circulate freely.

Broadcast & Electronic News Media

The country has a telecommunication infrastructure and full Internet services are being developed by the national telecom, the Companhia Santomense de Telecomunicações (CST), of which 51 percent is owned by Portugal Telecommunications International (PTI). Tecnologia de Sistemas Informático is the main enterprise of the local computer community and it is jointly administered with Bahnhof Internet AB of Sweden. National radio broadcasting is done by Radio Nacional de São Tomé and Príncipe, which is a state-operated radio service. There are two AM radio broadcast stations and four FM. There are 38,000 radios in the country and 23,000 television sets (1997 statistics), two Internet service providers with about 670 Internet host sites, and 500 Internet users (2000 statistics). Television broadcasting is done by TVSTelevisão Sãotomense, also a state-operated broadcasting agency.


Ewing, Debra, Robert C. Kelly, and Denise Youngblood, eds. São Tomé and Príncipe Country Review 1999/2000.http://www.cia.gov, 1999.

Hodges, Tony. São Tomé and Príncipe. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988.

Mata, Inocência. Diálogo com as ilhas: sobre cultura e literatura de São Tomé e Príncipe

. Lisboa: Edições Colibri, 1998.

São Tomé and Príncipe Country Study Guide (World Foregin Policy and Government Library). International Business Publications, 2nd ed., 2001.

Shaw, Caroline S. São Tomé and Príncipe. Santa Barbara, California: Clio Press, 1995.

STPinfo Notícias. June 2002. Available from

São Tomé e Príncipe Homepage. 2002. Available fromwww.stome.com.

Monica Rector

Sao Tome and Principe

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Sao Tome and Principe

Basic Data
Official Country Name:Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe
Literacy Rate:73%

The small island of Sao Tome was discovered between 1469 and 1472, along with its smaller sister island Principe, by Portuguese navigators. However, Principe was first successfully settled in 1500. As settlers discovered the great abundance of sugar, the Portuguese crown soon took over in 1522.

The Portuguese then started to bring many African slaves to the plantations. As two new cash crops, coffee and cocoa, were discovered, the need for more workers increased. Although slavery was abolished in the 1800s, the Portuguese continued to bring Africans to the island and make them work under harsh conditions, so these workers grew angry and began to revolt. In 1953, Portuguese troops killed hundreds of these workers; this famous event is called the Batepa massacre.

Soon the people of Principe were demanding an end to Portuguese rule and, on July 12, 1975, along with Sao Tome, they gained their independence. During this time they made many changes, including a new constitution. The country was now a republic electing a new president ever five years. A very important issue for the new independent country was education. The government made it a "top priority to extend education, invest in new schools, and launch an adult literacy campaign" (United Nations House 1998).

Prior to the independence, only 20 percent of the population was literate. In 2001, some 62.1 percent of women and 85.2 percent of mencould read and write. By law, children are required to complete elementary school, but many do not; a rare few progress to high school. Sao Tome and Principe had 13 preprimary schools with 3,446 students in 1989; 69 primary schools (grades 1-4) with 20,502 students in 1997, and 10 secondary schools (5-9) with 12,280 children. There is one vocational training center and, in 1997, a teacher training college was completed; however, it teaches pre-university level education and is located in Sao Tome City. The island of Principe comprises only 5 percent of the country's population; therefore, they have only one technical school and three secondary schools. Information is limited to education only in Principe.

The staff of the schools is primarily foreigners who are insufficiently trained and poorly paid. There is a shortage of classrooms, so these teachers are forced to teach as many as 70 students per class. The enrollment rate had been rising since 1975, but it decreased in 1993. According to the United Nations House, it may be because of the suspension of the feeding program. The program is supposed to restart in the 1999-2000 school year.

Under the newest constitution passed by the National Assembly in April of 1990, multiparty elections are allowed, which means that the country is more of a democracy now. Approximately 18.8 percent of total government expenditure is on education, and statistics in 1995 show that 21.2 percent of the public investment program was spent on education. Rusa Misericordia, the minister of education in 2001, expected that education will improve. Funding remains dependent on outside funds, but Sao Tome and Principe is doing much to improve education.


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Factbook 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from http://www.cia.gov.

The Europa World Year Book, 41st Ed., Vol.11. London: Europa Publications, 2000.

Spotlight on Education in Portuguese-Speaking Africa, 1998. Available from http://www.unesco.org/iiep/news.

United Nations House. Sao Tome and Principe, 1998. Available from http://www.uns.st/uns/country.html.

Deanna Edens

São Tomé

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São Tomé

São Tomé, an island with a population of 132,000 (1994 estimate), 190 miles off the west coast of Africa. São Tomé was uninhabited when the first Portuguese navigators arrived in the early 1470s. It became a base for trade with the adjacent coast of west and central Africa and a plantation colony. Its original colonists were convicts and exiled Jews from Portugal as well as enslaved Africans. By the mid-sixteenth century it had become a leading producer of sugar. The hostile climate of the island made it difficult for Europeans to settle there, and the sugar planters were largely the racially mixed offspring of Portuguese settlers and African women (mestizos) and free Africans, some of noble birth and others who had obtained freedom and became prominent. São Tomé was unusual in the Portuguese Empire in that local official positions were not subject to a color bar. However, it did experience a major slave revolt at the end of the sixteenth century and the establishment of a maroon community (the Angolars) in the mountains.

Although its role as a sugar producer was soon surpassed by Brazil, the island remained an important base for Portuguese activities in Africa, especially the slave trade. Its economic functions were revived in the late nineteenth century when cacao planting became prominent, utilizing British capital and contract labor, especially from Nigeria and Angola.

Although the island did not develop a major dissident movement in the 1960s, the republic of São Tomé and Príncipe achieved independence in 1975 as a result of Portugal's disengagement from Africa.

See alsoPortuguese Empire .


Garfield, Robert. A History of Sao Tome Island, 1470–1655: The Key to Guinea. San Francisco: Mellen Research University Press, 1992.

Lloyd-Jones, Stewart, and António Costa Pinto. The Last Empire: Thirty Years of Portuguese Decolonization. Portland: Intellect, 2003.

Seibert, Gerhard. Comrades, Clients, and Cousins: Colonialism, Socialism, and Democratization in São Tomé and Príncipe. Leiden, the Netherlands: Research School of Asian, African, and Amerindian Studies, Leiden University, 2000.

                                        John Thornton

São Tomé and Príncipe

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São Tomé and Príncipe Country in the Gulf of Guinea, 300km (200mi) off the w coast of Africa. The capital is São Tomé. The republic consists of two main islands, São Tome (the largest) and Príncipe. The islands are volcanic and mountainous, the vegetation predominantly tropical rainforest. The islands were discovered (uninhabited) in 1471 and, in 1483, a settlement was established at São Tomé. In 1522, the islands became a Portuguese colony. The Dutch controlled the islands from 1641 to 1740, but the Portuguese regained control and established plantations in the latter half of the 18th century. The official language is Portuguese and the major religion is Roman Catholicism. The islands became independent when the Portuguese pulled out in 1975, ushering in 16 years of Marxist rule. In 1990, the new constitution introduced multi-party elections. In 2001, Fradique de Menezes was elected as president. In 2003 a military coup toppled the government but Menezes returned to power soon after. Cocoa, coffee, bananas, and coconuts are grown on plantations, and their export is the republic's major source of income. Area: 1001sq km (387sq mi). Pop. (2000) 151,000.