São Tomé and Príncipe is located in the Gulf of Guinea 290 kilometers (180 miles) west of Gabon, which is located on the western edge of Africa. The 2 mountainous main islands of the republic are São Tomé and Príncipe; other rocky islets include Caroco, Pedras, and Tinhosas off Príncipe Island, and Rolas off São Tomé Island. The islands are the tips of an extinct volcanic mountain range and make up one of Africa's smallest countries. The country has an area of 1,001 square kilometers (386.5 square miles). The coast line is 209 kilometers (130 miles). Comparatively the area of São Tomé is more than 5 times of the size of Washington, D.C. The capital city of the country, São Tomé, is located on the northeastern coast of the island of São Tomé.
The population of São Tomé and Príncipe was estimated at
159,883 in July 2000. In 2000, the birth rate stood at 42.98 per 1,000,
which is quite high. The death rate in the same year was 7.76 per 1,000,
giving an annual average population growth rate of 3.16 percent. The
life expectancy at birth is 65.25 years for total population, 63.84
years for males and 66.7 years for females. The population density in
1997 was 135.5 per square kilometers Democratic Republic of São
Tomé and Príncipe
República Democrática de São Tomé e
Príncipe (351 per square mile). Ninety-five percent of the country's population lives on the island of São Tomé and 46 percent of the population lived in urban areas in 1996. São Tomé and Príncipe is a country of young people with 48 percent of the population below the age of 14, and just 4 percent of the population older than 65.
The country's population is very diverse and represents mainly descendants from different parts of the African continent. Ethnic groups include mestico, ango-lares (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 island); and Europeans (primarily Portuguese). Roughly 80 percent of the islanders are Christians, with representatives of the Roman Catholic, Seventh-Day Adventist, and Evangelical Protestant faiths. The official language of the republic is Portuguese; however, Lungwa São Tomé (a Portuguese creole) and Fang (a Bantu language) are widely used as well.
Fishing is another important economic activity of São Toméans. The annual total catch of fish is estimated at about 3,000 tons. About 90 percent of the total local catch is provided by 2,300 fishermen. The country's 160,000 square kilometer Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has a potential to produce about 12,000 tons of fish per year. The EEZ—created by the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea and completed in 1982—allows coastal nations to claim a territorial sea of up to 12 nautical miles and an exclusive economic zone of up to 200 nautical miles. The government uses this potential to receive its second largest source of foreign exchange by issuing fishing licenses to foreign fishing fleets. The government has prioritized the development of this sector as part of its economic diversification policy, but awaits significant foreign investments for development to be realized.
The country had considerable forest resources, but these are in the process of being depleted. In 1995 São Toméans produced 8,500 cubic meters of trunks and 3,150 cubic meters of processed timber. Severe deforestation of the country speaks for itself: the rain forest cover dropped to 28 percent of the land area and about 30 percent of the rain forest is secondary forest. New legislation was introduced in the 1990s to protect the rain forest. The government also plans to create national parks to protect the land, which should contribute to plans to boost tourism.
A big potential for the country lies within the fast-growing tourism sector. Fantastic mountain scenery, breathtaking beaches, and unique species of flora and fauna are big attractions for tourists. However, high airfares, the extreme isolation of the islands, and underdeveloped infrastructure discourage potential tourists, although there were considerable improvements in telecommunications and hotel accommodations in recent years. This sector attracts the largest portion of foreign investments. While in the early 1980s there was only 1 hotel, in 1996 there were already 9 hotels and 9 guest-houses with a total of 520 beds. In 1996, 2,000 tourists visited the country bringing US$2 million in revenue; in 1998 there were about 6,000 foreign visitors who brought US$4 million.
São Tomé and Príncipe has no territories or colonies.
Assembleia Nacional São Tomé and Príncipe. <http://www.parlamento.st> . Accessed August 2001.
Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: São Tomé and Príncipe. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.
Hodges, T., and M. Newitt. São Tomé and Príncipe: From Plantation Colony to Microstate. Boulder: Westview Press, 1998.
International Financial Statistics Yearbook, 1999. Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, 2000.
Siebert, Gerhard. Comrades, Clients and Cousins: Colonialism, Socialism and Democratization in São Tomé and Príncipe. Leiden, the Netherlands: Leiden University, 1999.
U.S. Department of State.
Background Notes: São Tomé and Príncipe, March 1997.
<http://www.state.gov/www/background_notes/sao_tome_0397_bgn.html> . Accessed August 2001.
Dobra (Db). One dobra equals 100 centimos. There are coins of 50 centimos and 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20 dobras, and notes of 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 dobras.
Cocoa, copra, coffee, palm oil.
Machinery and electrical equipment, food and live animals, petroleum products.
US$169 million (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).
Exports: US$4.9 million (f.o.b., 1999 est.). Imports: US$19.5 million (f.o.b., 1999 est.).