São Tomé and Príncipe Island, - The Traveller


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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

São Tomé and Príncipe Island,


Sao Tome & Principe – Portuguese Speaking Island Nation

Sao Tome and Principe which is officially the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe, in the Gulf of Guinea, is a Portuguese speaking island nation. It is off the western equatorial coast of Central Africa comprising of two archipelagos around the two main islands.

Both Sao Tome and Principe are located around 140 kilometres apart and around 250 and 225 kilometres respectively off the north-western coast of Gabon. Till its discovery by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century, the islands seemed to be uninhabited and gradually colonized and settled by Portugal all through the 16th century.

Collectively they served as a dynamic commercial as well as trade centre for the Atlantic slave trade. Sao Tome and Principe became ideal for sugar cultivation due to rich volcanic soil together with its close vicinity to the equator. Later on it was followed by cash crops like coffee and cocoa and the profitable plantation economy depended greatly on imported African slaves.

This small poor island economy was dependent on cocoa since independence around 34 years ago. But the cocoa production had considerably deteriorated due to drought and mismanagement. The outcome of shortage of cocoa for export resulted in a persistence balance of payment issue.

Benefited from HPC Program

Sao Tome had to import fuels, mostly manufactured goods, consumer goods together with a significant amount of food and over the years, was unable to service its foreign debt and was dependent on concessional aid and debt reschedule.

 Under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries – HPC program, Sao Tome seemed to benefit from $200 million in debt relief in December 2000.Series of social unrest and economic instability during the 19th and 20th centuries, ended in peaceful independence in 1975 and Sao Tome and Principe since then remained one of Africa’s most stable as well as democratic countries.

Sao Tome and Principe is the second smallest African country after Seychelles, with a population of 192,993 and the smallest Portuguese speaking country. The inhabitants are mainly of African and mestico descent where most of them followRoman Catholicism. Legacy of the Portuguese rule is also seen in the country’s customs, culture and music which tend to fuse European and the African impacts.

Important in the Trans-shipment of Slaves

From late 1400, the Portuguese started settling convicts on Sao Tome, creating sugar plantation with the support of slaves from the mainland. Moreover the island was also important in the trans-shipment of slaves. The aspirations of the colony for independence were known after the 1974 revolution in Portugal.

At first the Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe was the country’s sole political party, but the 1990 constitution developed a multi-party democracy. The island of Principe assumed independence in 1995. They expect to lessen its dependence on donors and cocoa exports by manipulating offshore oil. Success of Sao Tome in the implementing of structural reforms was rewarded by international donors in 2001, who had pledged increased assistance.

Besides this, the government had also made efforts in reducing price controls as well as subsidies. Sao Tome is positive that considerable petroleum discoveries are imminent in its territorial water in the oil-rich waters of the Gulf of Guinea. Corruption outrages tend to continue in weakening the economy.

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