Nation at a Glance - Sao Tome And Principe

History

Discovered and claimed by Portugal in the late 15th century, the islands' sugar-based economy gave way to coffee and cocoa in the 19th century - all grown with African plantation slave labor, a form of which lingered into the 20th century. While independence was achieved in 1975, democratic reforms were not instituted until the late 1980s. The country held its first free elections in 1991, but frequent internal wrangling between the various political parties precipitated repeated changes in leadership and four failed, non-violent coup attempts in 1995, 1998, 2003, and 2009. In 2012, three opposition parties combined in a no confidence vote to bring down the majority government of former Prime Minister Patrice TROVOADA, but in 2014, legislative elections returned him to the office. New oil discoveries in the Gulf of Guinea may attract increased attention to the small island nation.

Location: Central Africa, islands in the Gulf of Guinea, just north of the Equator, west of Gabon

Border Countries: 0 km

Total Area: 964 sq km Land: 964 sq km Water: 0 sq km

Climate: Tropical; hot, humid; one rainy season (October to May)

Terrain: Volcanic, mountainous

Natural resources: Fish, hydropower

Land use: Agricultural land: 50.7%arable land 9.1%; permanent crops 40.6%; permanent pasture 1% Forest: 28.1% Other: 21.2% (2011 est.)

Ethnic groups: Mestico, Angolares (descendants of Angolan slaves), Forros (descendants of freed slaves), Servicais (contract laborers from Angola, Mozambique, and Cabo Verde), Tongas (children of servicais born on the islands), Europeans (primarily Portuguese), Asians (mostly Chinese)

Languages: Portuguese 98.4% (official), Forro 36.2%, Cabo Verdian 8.5%, French 6.8%, Angolar 6.6%, English 4.9%, Lunguie 1%, Other (including sign language) 2.4%

Religions: Catholic 55.7%, Adventist 4.1%, Assembly of God 3.4%, New Apostolic 2.9%, Mana 2.3%, Universal Kingdom of God 2%, Jehovah's Witness 1.2%, Other 6.2%, None 21.2%, Unspecified 1% (2012 est.)

Population: 197,541 (July 2016 est.)

Literacy: 74.9%; Male: 81.8%; Female: 68.4% (2015 est.)

Administrative divisions: 2 provinces; Principe, Sao Tome

Economy: The economy of S?o Tom? and Pr?ncipe is small, based mainly on agricultural production, and, since independence in 1975, increasingly dependent on the export of cocoa beans. Cocoa production has substantially declined in recent years because of drought and mismanagement. Sao Tome depends heavily on imports of food, fuels, most manufactured goods, and consumer goods, and changes in commodity prices affect the country’s inflation rate. Maintaining control of inflation, fiscal discipline, and increasing flows of foreign direct investment into the nascent oil sector are major economic problems facing the country. In recent years the government has attempted to reduce price controls and subsidies. In 2017, several business-related laws were enacted that aim to improve the business climate. S?o Tom? and Pr?ncipe has had difficulty servicing its external debt and has relied heavily on concessional aid and debt rescheduling. In April 2011, the country completed a Threshold Country Program with The Millennium Challenge Corporation to help increase tax revenues, reform customs, and improve the business environment. In 2016, Sao Tome and Portugal signed a five-year cooperation agreement worth approximately $64 million, some of which will be provided as loans. In 2017, China and S?o Tom? signed a mutual cooperation agreement in areas such as infrastructure, health, and agriculture worth approximately $146 million over five years. Considerable potential exists for development of tourism, and the government has taken steps to expand tourist facilities in recent years. Potential also exists for the development of petroleum resources in S?o Tom? and Pr?ncipe's territorial waters in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea, some of which are being jointly developed in a 60-40 split with Nigeria, but production is at least several years off. Volatile aid and investment inflows have limited growth, and poverty remains high. Restricteded capacity at the main port increases the periodic risk of shortages of consumer goods. Contract enforcement in the country’s judicial system is difficult. The IMF in late 2016 expressed concern about vulnerabilities in the country’s banking sector, although the country plans some austerity measures in line with IMF recommendations under their three year extended credit facility. Deforestation, coastal erosion, poor waste management, and misuse of natural resources also are challenging issues.

Agriculture - products: Cocoa, coconuts, palm kernels, copra, cinnamon, pepper, coffee, bananas, papayas, beans; poultry; fish

Industries: Light construction, textiles, soap, beer, fish processing, timber

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