São Tomé and Príncipe

By | September 12, 2020

São Tomé and Príncipe, Republic of West Africa, in the Gulf of Guinea approximately 275 kilometers off the coast of Gabon just north of the equator. Consists of the two major main islands of São Tomé and Príncipe as well as the smaller islands of Caroço, Pedras, Rõlas, Tinhosa Grande and Tinhosa Pequena.

São Tomé and Príncipe are volcanic islands with tropical climates that gained independence in 1975 after being a Portuguese colony. São Tomé and Príncipe are Africa’s second smallest country and the least Portuguese-speaking country. The country is among the poorest in the world. The capital and only major city is São Tomé.

Names of the Apostle Thomas the Saints because the island of St. Thomas was discovered on his memorial day December 21, 1704. Principe honors the ‘principe’ (prince) Afonso of Portugal (1475-98). ‘Principe’ is Portuguese for ‘Prince’.

National anthem is ‘Independência total’, ‘Complete independence’.

State and politics

São Tomé and Príncipe are a democratic and unified state republic. The president is elected directly in the general election for five years with the possibility of one re-election. The legislative authority is a national assembly with one chamber and 55 elected members elected in the general election for five years. The Prime Minister is appointed by the National Assembly and approved by the President.

The country is divided into two provinces: São Tomé and Príncipe.

Mandatory military service is mandatory for men who are 18 years of age. The armed forces consist of a small army of about 1,000 men. There is a small coast guard as well as a presidential guard and a national guard. The US has strengthened relations with São Tomé and Príncipe, among other things, militarily.

São Tomé and Príncipe are members of the UN and most of the UN’s special organizations, including the World Health Organization, the African Union, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the Commonwealth of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP).

People and society

The population density of 201.25 people per square kilometer is among the highest in Africa. 65.1 percent of the population is urban (2015). Most of the population lives in coastal areas on São Tomé. About 95.5 percent of the country’s population lives on São Tomé.

The inhabitants are divided into mastis (blend of Africans and whites), Angolares (descendants of Angolan slaves), Forros (descendants of freed slaves), serviçais (contract workers from Angola, Cape Verde and Mozambique ), tongas (children of serviçais born in the islands), Europeans (most Portuguese) and Asians (most Chinese). Several thousand Portuguese left the country by independence.

The official language is Portuguese which is spoken by 98.4 percent of the population. In addition, there are mixed dialects of Portuguese and local languages ​​( Creole language, crioulo ).

Roman Catholics make up 55.7 percent of the population, Seventh-day Adventists 4.1 percent (2012). There is a small and growing group of Muslims.

Life expectancy at birth is 65.92 years for women and 63.27 years for men (2015). 40.3 per cent of the population are children under the age of 15 (2010).

Malaria and other tropical diseases are widespread.

From the capital São Tomé


The Portuguese Pedro Escobar and João Gomes de Santarém discovered the probably uninhabited islands in 1471/72. Then the Portuguese sent slaves, Jews and prisoners to the islands and created the first plantation economy in the tropics ( sugarcane ); on these worked slaves from the African mainland. The rise of a successful sugar economy in Brazil led to a sharp decline in sugar exports.

1641–44 the islands were in Dutch possession. In the late 1800s, the islands experienced an economic boom with cocoa exports, but in 1909 cocoa from São Tomé and Príncipe was boycotted by British and German chocolate makers because the workers on the plantations lived under slave conditions.

Initially, São Tomé and Príncipe played a small role in the conflict between African nationalism and Portuguese colonialism. Along with the other Portuguese provinces, the islands gained status as an overseas province in 1951. Dissatisfaction with the working conditions on the plantations led to a series of strikes between 1952 and 1973.

São Tomé and Príncipe became independent on July 12, 1975. The leader of the Moderate Marxist Liberation Movement (MLSTP), Manuel Pinto da Costa, became the first president. The MLSTP government pursued a socialist policy and nationalized cocoa plantations in 1976, leading to financial problems. Many politicians went into exile after several coups and coup attempts.

The regime had close ties to communist states, but declared the country free of alliance in 1984 and improved relations with states in the West, among other things, to obtain financial assistance. At the 1994 election, MLSTP, renamed MLSTP-PSD, was once again the largest party. In 1994, Príncipe gained internal autonomy with his own government and regional assembly.

At a coup in 2003, a number of younger officers seized power; after mediation from Nigeria, a settlement led to the reinstatement of President Fradique de Menezes and the coup makers were granted amnesty. In 2009 a coup was launched against the Menezes. The coup failed and the coup makers were jailed, but later pardoned by the president.

Economy and business

18.4 per cent are employed in agriculture (2015) and the country is economically dependent on cocoa and the prices of this commodity; Cocoa is the only significant export item. Other agricultural products include coconut, copra, palm kernels, pepper, coffee, cinnamon, bananas and beans. The waters are fishy; it is especially fished for tuna. About half of the food consumption is imported.

The industry is underdeveloped, has 16.4 per cent of employment (2015) and consists mainly of production of textiles and consumer goods. In the early 2000s, major oil deposits were detected in the continental sector. The Norwegian company Energy Equity Resources collaborates with other players on exploration of petroleum deposits.

Tourism is modest, but growing.

Knowledge and culture

The country has four years of primary school from the children is seven years. It is a technical school in the capital. About 25 percent of the adult population is illiterate.

There is one daily newspaper and several weekly newspapers. The state-owned radio station broadcasts in Portuguese and a French radio station broadcasts to the islands. There is one state-controlled television channel and Portuguese-language satellite broadcast television broadcasts.

The culture is a mixture of Portuguese and African influences. The most famous author is the poet and “mother of the nation”, Alda de Espirito Santo (1926–2010). Other well-known authors are the poet and playwright Fernando de Macedo (1927–2006) and novelist Sum Marky (1921–2003).

The music is known for Ussua and socope rhythms (São Tomé) and dêxa beat (Príncipe). Tchiloli is a dance that tells a dramatic story. Danco-Congo is a combination of music, dance and theater.