#GetToKnow : South Sudan
July 8, 2016
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July 12, 2016

#GetToKnow: Sao Tome & Principe

Sao Tome and Principe is the second smallest country in Africa. Situated in Central Africa, the country is made up of two major islands; the island of Sao Tome and the island of Principe. The two Islands were colonised by the Portuguese in the 1600s. After a military coup executed in Portugal in 1974, the new Portuguese government recognised that the islands had the right to independence and so in 1975, the country gained its independence under the new leadership of Manuel Pinto da Costa as President and Miguel Trovoada as Prime Minister. Soon after, the citizens of the country became dissatisfied with President da Costa and shortly after, a coup was attempted. Prime Minister was implicated in this attempted coup. Subsequently, he was arrested in 1979 and went in exile after his release in 1981. In 1988, another coup was attempted as the country’s economy deteriorated and satisfaction with the president continued to decline. [1]

A new Constitution was drafted in 1990 that instituted multiparty elections as well as restricted the number of terms the president could serve to two five year terms as President da Costa had been the president for fifteen years. Trovoada returned from exile in the same year and went on to become the first democratically elected president in 1991.[2] The 1900s were plagued by protests and civil unrest over issues of unemployment and escalating inflation. In the July 2001 elections, Businessman Fradique de Menezes was declared the winner in the presidential election, however his government was briefly toppled as result of a military coup in 2003. He was reinstated a week later, offering the coup leaders general amnesty.[3] Currently the positions of President and Prime Minister President are held by Manuel Pinto de Costa and Miguel Trovoada.

Sao Tomé and Principe is one of the poorest countries in Africa, despite the fact they are in possession of numerous untapped off shore oil reserves. It was estimated that between 2007 and 2008, six billion barrels were expected to start flowing thus bolstering their economy.[4] However the country is still one of Africa’s smallest economies, relying predominantly on international aid with a majority of it budgets financed through donor funding.[5] Although access to economic opportunities is uneven, economic activity within Sao Tomé and Principe is growing; but this is hindered by bureaucracy and corruption as it poses challenges to the process of establishing private businesses. According to Freedom House, efforts have been made over the years to improve transparency within the government structure as well as curb the abuse of office, with assistance from international donors.[6] A law was approved to prevent and fight money laundering however corruption remains a problem.

Agriculture has been the main source of revenue on Sao Tomé and Principe since the 1800s, with 90% of the cultivated area having been Portuguese owned plantations. After its independence, the plantations were under the control of stated owned enterprise, which have now been privatised. Their main export is cocoa which makes up 95% of all export, with the 5% split between coffee, palm kernels and copra.[7] Currently the country as to import some of its food as the food-crop production does not meet local consumption.

Although their democracy is not the most stable as there have been countless coup attempts and changes in leadership; freedom of expression is guaranteed and respected. While the state controls one of the three local press agencies and the only radio and television stations; no law forbids independent broadcasting. Opposition parties receive free airtime, and newsletters and pamphlets criticizing the government circulate freely. While São Toméans are free to travel and seek employment, they have limited access to secondary and higher education. According to UNICEF, secondary school participation (net attendance ratio) for males and females, sit at 29.7% and 30.9%.[8].


Table 1 [9]


President Manuel Pinto da Costa
Capital City Sao Tome
GDP $310.7 million
Population 194 497
Religion Predominantly Christian, Islam growing
Major Languages Portuguese
Currency São Tomé and Príncipe Dobra


Male Life Expectancy 64 years
Female Life Expectancy 68 years





[1] BBC News. 2015. Sao Tome and Principe profile. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-14093670. Accessed: 10 July 2016.

[2] Ibid 1.

[3] Infoplease. 2007. Sao Tome and Principe. Available at: http://www.infoplease.com/country/profiles/sao-tome-and-principe.html. Accessed: 10 July 2016.

[4] Ibid 3.

[5]Freedom House. 2016. Sao Tome and Principe. Available at: https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2015/s-o-tom-and-pr-ncipe. Accessed: 10 July 2016.

[6]Ibid 5.

[7] n.3

[8] Unicef. 2013. At a glance: Sao Tome and Principe. Available at: http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/stp_statistics.html. Accessed: 10 July 2016.

[9]World Bank. 2010. Sao Tome and Principe. Available at: http://data.worldbank.org/country/sao-tome-and-principe

(Accessed on: 11 July 2016)