Sao Tome Travel Information

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Facts About Sao Tome

Background: 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 plantation slave labor, a form of which lingered into the 20th century. Although independence was achieved in 1975, democratic reforms were not instituted until the late 1980s. The first free elections were held in 1991.
Government type: republic
Capital: Sao Tome
Currency: 1 dobra (STD) = 100 centimos

Geography of Sao Tome

Location: Western Africa, islands in the Gulf of Guinea, straddling the Equator, west of Gabon
Geographic coordinates: 1 00 N, 7 00 E
total: 1,001 sq km
land: 1,001 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 209 km
Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: tropical; hot, humid; one rainy season (October to May)
Terrain: volcanic, mountainous
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pico de Sao Tome 2,024 m
Natural resources: fish, hydropower
Land use:
arable land: 2%
permanent crops: 36%
permanent pastures: 1%
forests and woodland: 0%
other: 61% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 100 sq km (1993 est.)
Environment - current issues: deforestation; soil erosion and exhaustion
Environment - international agreements:
party to:  Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: the smallest country in Africa; the two main islands form part of a chain of extinct volcanoes and both are fairly mountainous.

People of Sao Tome

Of Sao Tome and Principe's total population, about 131,000 live on Sao Tome and 6,000 on Principe. All are descended from various ethnic groups that have migrated to the islands since 1485. Six groups are identifiable:

  • Mestico, or mixed-blood, descendants of African slaves brought to the islands during the early years of settlement from Benin, Gabon, Congo, and Angola (these people also are known as filhos da terra or "sons of the land";
  • Angolares, reputedly descendants of Angolan slaves who survived a 1540 shipwreck and now earn their livelihood fishing;
  • Forros, descendants of freed slaves when slavery was abolished;
  • Servicais, contract laborers from Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde, living temporarily on the islands;
  • Tongas, children of servicais born on the islands; and
  • Europeans, primarily Portuguese.
In the 1970s, there were two significant population movements--the exodus of most of the 4,000 Portuguese residents and the influx of several hundred Sao Tomean refugees from Angola. The islanders have been absorbed largely into a common Luso-African culture. Almost all belong to the Roman Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, or Seventh-day Adventist Churches, which in turn retain close ties with churches in Portugal.

Population: 187,410 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years:  47.7% 
15-64 years:  48.28% 
65 years and over:  4.02%
Population growth rate: 3.18% 
Birth rate: 42.74 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 7.54 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: -3.38 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
Infant mortality rate: 48.96 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population:  65.59 years
male:  64.15 years
female:  67.07 years 
Total fertility rate: 6.02 children born/woman 
noun: Sao Tomean(s)
adjective: Sao Tomean
Ethnic groups: mestico, angolares (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 islands), Europeans (primarily Portuguese)
Religions: Christian 80% (Roman Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, Seventh-Day Adventist)
Languages: Portuguese (official)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 73%
male: 85%
female: 62% (1991 est.)

SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Sao Tome > Map Economy