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Cape Verde

Background: The uninhabited islands were discovered and colonized by the Portuguese in the 15th century; they subsequently became a trading center for African slaves. Most Cape Verdeans descend from both groups. Independence was achieved in 1975.
Government type: republic
Capital: Praia
Currency: 1 Cape Verdean escudo (CVEsc) = 100 centavos

Geography of Cape Verde

Location: Western Africa, group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Senegal
Geographic coordinates: 16 00 N, 24 00 W
total: 4,033 sq. km
land: 4,033 sq. km
water: 0 sq. km
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 965 km
Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: temperate; warm, dry summer; precipitation meager and very erratic
Terrain: steep, rugged, rocky, volcanic
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mt. Fogo 2,829 m (a volcano on Fogo Island)
Natural resources: salt, basalt rock, pozzuolana (a siliceous volcanic ash used to produce hydraulic cement), limestone, kaolin, fish
Land use:
arable land: 11%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 6%
forests and woodland: 0%
other: 83% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 30 sq. km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: prolonged droughts; harmattan wind can obscure visibility; volcanically and seismically active
Environment – current issues: overgrazing of livestock and improper land use such as the cultivation of crops on steep slopes has led to soil erosion; demand for wood used as fuel has resulted in deforestation; desertification; environmental damage has threatened several species of birds and reptiles; overfishing.
Environment – international agreements:
party to:  Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: strategic location 500 km from west coast of Africa near major north-south sea routes; important communications station; important sea and air refueling site.

People of Cape Verde

The Cape Verde archipelago was uninhabited until the Portuguese discovered the islands in 1456. African slaves were brought to the islands to work on Portuguese plantations. As a result, Cape Verdeans are of mixed African and European origin. The influence of African culture is most pronounced on the island of Santiago, where half the population resides. Sparse rain and few natural resources historically have induced Cape Verdeans to emigrate. It is believed that of the more than 1 million individuals of Cape Verdean ancestry, less than half actually live on the islands. Some 500,000 people of Cape Verdean ancestry live in the United States, mainly in New England. Portugal, Netherlands, Italy, France, and Senegal also have large communities.

The official language is Portuguese, but most Cape Verdeans also speak a Creole dialect–Crioulo–which is based on archaic Portuguese but influenced by African and European languages. Cape Verde has a rich tradition of Crioulo literature and music.

Population: 418,224 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years:  42.79%
15-64 years:  50.76%
65 years and over:  6.45%
Population growth rate: 0.92% 
Birth rate: 28.71 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 7.19 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: -12.37 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
Infant mortality rate: 53.22 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population:  69.21 years
male:  65.93 years
female:  72.6 years 
Total fertility rate: 4.05 children born/woman 
noun: Cape Verdean(s)
adjective: Cape Verdean
Ethnic groups: Creole (mulatto) 71%, African 28%, European 1%
Religions: Roman Catholic (infused with indigenous beliefs); Protestant (mostly Church of the Nazarene)
Languages: Portuguese, Crioulo (a blend of Portuguese and West African words)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 71.6%
male: 81.4%
female: 63.8% (1995 est.)

Cape Verde History

In 1462, Portuguese settlers arrived at Santiago and founded Ribeira Grande (now Cidade Velha)–the first permanent European settlement city in the tropics. In the 16th century, the archipelago prospered from the transatlantic slave trade. Pirates occasionally attacked the Portuguese settlements. Sir Francis Drake sacked Ribeira Grande in 1585. After a French attack in 1712, the city declined in importance relative to Praia, which became the capital in 1770.

With the decline in the slave trade, Cape Verde’s early prosperity slowly vanished. However, the islands’ position astride mid-Atlantic shipping lanes made Cape Verde an ideal location for resupplying ships. Because of its excellent harbor, Mindelo (on the island of São Vicente) became an important commercial center during the 19th century.

Portugal changed Cape Verde’s status from a colony to an overseas province in 1951 in an attempt to blunt growing nationalism. Nevertheless, in 1956, Amilcar Cabral, a Cape Verdean, and a group of Cape Verdeans and Guinea-Bissauans organized (in Guinea-Bissau) the clandestine African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which demanded improvement in economic, social, and political conditions in Cape Verde and Portuguese Guinea and formed the basis of the two nations’ independence movement. Moving its headquarters to Conakry, Guinea in 1960, the PAIGC began an armed rebellion against Portugal in 1961. Acts of sabotage eventually grew into a war in Portuguese Guinea that pitted 10,000 Soviet bloc-supported PAIGC soldiers against 35,000 Portuguese and African troops.

By 1972, the PAIGC controlled much of Portuguese Guinea despite the presence of the Portuguese troops. The organization did not attempt to disrupt Portuguese control in Cape Verde. Following the April 1974 revolution in Portugal, however, the PAIGC became an active political movement in Cape Verde.

In December 1974, the PAIGC and Portugal signed an agreement providing for a transitional government composed of Portuguese and Cape Verdeans. On June 30, 1975, Cape Verdeans elected a National Assembly, which received the instruments of independence from Portugal on July 5, 1975.

Immediately following the November 1980 coup in Guinea-Bissau (Portuguese Guinea declared independence in 1973 and was granted de jure independence in 1974), relations between the two countries became strained. Cape Verde abandoned its hope for unity with Guinea-Bissau and formed the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV). Problems have since been resolved, and relations between the countries are good. The PAICV and its predecessor established a one-party system and ruled Cape Verde from independence until 1990.

Responding to growing pressure for pluralistic democracy, the PAICV called an emergency congress in February 1990 to discuss proposed constitutional changes to end one-party rule. Opposition groups came together to form the Movement for Democracy (MpD) in Praia in April 1990. Together, they campaigned for the right to contest the presidential election scheduled for December 1990. The one-party state was abolished September 28, 1990, and the first multi-party elections were held in January 1991. The MpD won a majority of the seats in the National Assembly, and the MpD presidential candidate Mascarenhas Monteiro defeated the PAICV’s candidate by 73.5% of the votes. Legislative elections in December 1995 increased the MpD majority in the National Assembly. The party won 50 of the National Assembly’s 72 seats. A February 1996 presidential election returned President Mascarenhas Monteiro to office. Legislative elections in January 2001 returned power to the PAICV. The PAICV now holds 40 of the National Assembly seats, MpD 30, and PCD and PTS 1 each. In February 2001, the PAICV-supported presidential candidate Pedro Pires defeated former MpD leader Carlos Veiga by only 13 votes.

Cape Verde Economy

Economy – overview: Cape Verde’s low per capita GDP reflects a poor natural resource base, including serious water shortages exacerbated by cycles of long-term drought. The economy is service-oriented, with commerce, transport, and public services accounting for almost 70% of GDP. Although nearly 70% of the population lives in rural areas, the share of agriculture in GDP in 1998 was only 13%, of which fishing accounts for 1.5%. About 90% of food must be imported. The fishing potential, mostly lobster and tuna, is not fully exploited. Cape Verde annually runs a high trade deficit, financed by foreign aid and remittances from emigrants; remittances constitute a supplement to GDP of more than 20%. Economic reforms, launched by the new democratic government in 1991, are aimed at developing the private sector and attracting foreign investment to diversify the economy. Prospects for 2001 depend heavily on the maintenance of aid flows, remittances, and the momentum of the government’s development program.

GDP: purchasing power parity – $670 million (2000 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 5% (1999 est.), 6% (2000 est.)
GDP – per capita: purchasing power parity – $1,700 (2000 est.)
GDP – composition by sector:
agriculture: 13%
industry: 19%
services: 68% (1998)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 5% (1999), 4% (2000)
Unemployment rate: 24% (1999 est.)
revenues: $188 million
expenditures: $228 million, including capital expenditures of $116 million (1996)
Industries: food and beverages, fish processing, shoes and garments, salt mining, ship repair
Electricity – production: 40 million kWh (1999)
Electricity – production by source:
fossil fuel:  100%
hydro:  0%
nuclear:  0%
other:  0% (1999)
Electricity – consumption: 37.2 million kWh (1999)
Electricity – exports: 0 kWh (1999)
Electricity – imports: 0 kWh (1999)
Agriculture – products: bananas, corn, beans, sweet potatoes, sugarcane, coffee, peanuts; fish
Exports: $40 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
Exports – commodities: fuel, shoes, garments, fish, bananas, hides
Exports – partners: PortugalGermanySpainFranceUnited Kingdom, Malaysia
Imports: $250 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
Imports – commodities: foodstuffs, industrial products, transport equipment, fuels
Imports – partners: Portugal, Netherlands, France, United Kingdom, Spain, United States
Debt – external: $260 million (2000)
Economic aid – recipient: $111.3 million (1995)
Currency: Cape Verdean escudo (CVE)

Map of Cape Verde