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Sao Tome and Principe

Sao Tome and Principe

Sao Tome and Principe, officially the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe, is a Portuguese-speaking island nation in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Africa. It consists of two islands: So Tom and Prncipe, located about 140 kilometres apart and about 250 and 225 kilometres, respectively, off the northwestern coast of Gabon. Sao Tome, the sizable southern island, is situated just north of the equator.

Background 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 two failed coup attempts in 1995 and 2003. In 2012, three opposition parties combined in a no confidence vote to bring down the majority government of former Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada. The new government of Prime Minister Gabriel Arcanjo Ferreira Da Costa is entirely composed of opposition party members with limited experience in governance. New oil discoveries in the Gulf of Guinea may attract increased attention to the small island nation.



Country Name:

  • conventional long form: Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe
  • conventional short form: Sao Tome and Principe
  • local long form: Republica Democratica de Sao Tome e Principe
  • local short form: Sao Tome e Principe


  • name: Sao Tome
  • geographic coordinates: 0 12 N, 6 39 E
  • time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)


  • 12 July 1975 (from Portugal)

Government Type:

  • republic

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: President Manuel Pinto da Costa (since 3 September 2011)
  • head of government: Prime Minister Patrice Emery Trovoada (since 25 November 2014)
  • cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president on the proposal of the prime minister
  • elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 17 July and 7 August 2011 (next to be held in 2016); prime minister chosen by the National Assembly and approved by the president

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: unicameral National Assembly

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the National Assembly)


People & Society


  • 190,428 (global rank: 186)
  • growth rate: 1.89% (global rank: 60)


  • noun: Sao Tomean(s)
  • adjective: Sao Tomean

Major Cities:

  • Sao Toma (capital): 71,000

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), Asians (mostly Chinese)


  • 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%


  • 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%

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 64.22 years (global rank: 178)
  • male: 62.94 years
  • female: 65.53 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 49.16 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 41)
  • male: 51.16 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 47.1 deaths/1,000 live births


  • adult prevalence rate: 0.64% (2013 est.) (global rank: 55)
  • people living with AIDS: 2,300 (2013 est.) (global rank: 114)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 69.5%
  • male: 80.3%
  • female: 60.1%



Overview: This small, poor island economy has become increasingly dependent on cocoa since independence in 1975. Cocoa production has substantially declined in recent years because of drought and mismanagement. Sao Tome and Principe has to import fuels, most manufactured goods, consumer goods, and a substantial amount of food, making it vulnerable to fluctuations in global commodity prices. Over the years, it has had difficulty servicing its external debt and has relied heavily on concessional aid and debt rescheduling. Sao Tome and Principe benefited from $200 million in debt relief in December 2000 under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries program, which helped bring down the country's $300 million debt burden. In August 2005, the government signed on to a new 3-year IMF Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility program worth $4.3 million. 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. 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. Potential exists for the development of petroleum resources in Sao Tome and Principe's territorial waters in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea, which are being jointly developed in a 60-40 split with Nigeria, but any actual production is at least several years off. The first production licenses were sold in 2004, though a dispute over licensing with Nigeria delayed the country's receipt of more than $20 million in signing bonuses for almost a year. Maintaining control of inflation, fiscal discipline, and increasing flows of foreign direct investment into the oil sector are the major economic problems facing the country.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $612 million (global rank: 210)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $3,100 (global rank: 188)
  • real growth rate: 5% (global rank: 55)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 18.8%, industry: 16.1%, services: 65.1%


  • currency: Sao Tomean Dobra (STD)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 18,347


  • unemployment rate: NA
  • population below poverty line: 66.2%

Agricultural Products:

  • cocoa, coconuts, palm kernels, copra, cinnamon, pepper, coffee, bananas, papayas, beans; poultry; fish


  • light construction, textiles, soap, beer, fish processing, timber

Export Commodities:

  • cocoa 80%, copra, coffee, palm oil

Import Commodities:

  • machinery and electrical equipment, food products, petroleum products




  • Central Africa, islands in the Gulf of Guinea, straddling the Equator, west of Gabon


  • total: 964 sq km (global rank: 185)
  • land: 964 sq km
  • water: 0 sq km
  • comparative: more than five times the size of Washington, DC


  • tropical; hot, humid; one rainy season (October to May)

Land Use:

  • arable land: 9.06%
  • permanent crops: 41.67%
  • other: 49.27%

Natural Resources:

  • fish, hydropower

Current Environmental Issues:

  • deforestation; soil erosion and exhaustion


Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: none

Published: Friday, April 24, 2015