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Sao Tome

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:

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.)

Sao Tome Economy

Economy – overview: This small poor island economy has become increasingly dependent on cocoa since independence 25 years ago. However, cocoa production has substantially declined because of drought and mismanagement. The resulting shortage of cocoa for export has created a persistent balance-of-payments problem. Sao Tome has to import all fuels, most manufactured goods, consumer goods, and a significant amount of food. Over the years, it has been unable to service its external debt and has had to depend on concessional aid and debt rescheduling. Sao Tome benefited from $200 million in debt relief in December 2000 under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program. Considerable potential exists for development of a tourist industry, and the government has taken steps to expand facilities in recent years. The government also has attempted to reduce price controls and subsidies, but economic growth has remained sluggish. Sao Tome is also optimistic that significant petroleum discoveries are forthcoming in its territorial waters in the oil-rich waters of the Gulf of Guinea. Corruption scandals continue to weaken the economy. At the same time, progress in the economic reform program has attracted international financial institutions’ support, and GDP growth will likely rise to at least 4% in 2001-02.

GDP: purchasing power parity – $178 million (2000 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 3% (2000 est.)
GDP – per capita: purchasing power parity – $1,100 (2000 est.)
GDP – composition by sector:
agriculture: 23%
industry: 19%
services: 58% (1997 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 5% (2000 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: population mainly engaged in subsistence agriculture and fishing
note: shortages of skilled workers
Unemployment rate: 50% in the formal business sector (1998 est.)
revenues: $58 million
expenditures: $114 million, including capital expenditures of $54 million (1993 est.)
Industries: light construction, textiles, soap, beer; fish processing; timber
Electricity – production: 17 million kWh (1999)
Electricity – production by source:
fossil fuel:  41.18%
hydro:  58.82%
nuclear:  0%
other:  0% (1999)
Electricity – consumption: 15.8 million kWh (1999)
Agriculture – products: cocoa, coconuts, palm kernels, copra, cinnamon, pepper, coffee, bananas, papayas, beans; poultry; fish
Exports: $3.2 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
Exports – commodities: cocoa 90%, copra, coffee, palm oil
Exports – partners: Netherlands 18%, Germany 9%, Portugal 9% (1998)
Imports: $40 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
Imports – commodities: machinery and electrical equipment, food products, petroleum products
Imports – partners: Portugal 42%, US 20%, South Africa 6% (1998)
Debt – external: $268 million (2000)
Economic aid – recipient: $200 million in December 2000 under the HIPC program
Currency: 1 dobra (STD) = 100 centimos

Map of Sao Tome