Sao Tome and Principe

Flag of Sao Tome and Principe

Map of Sao Tome and Principe


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 plantation slave labor, a form of which lingered into the 20th century. Although independence was achieved in 1975, democratic reforms were not instituted until the late 1980s. Though the first free elections were held in 1991, the political environment has been one of continued instability with frequent changes in leadership and coup attempts in 1995 and 2003. The recent discovery of oil in the Gulf of Guinea is likely to have a significant impact on the country's economy.


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

Geographic coordinates:

1 00 N, 7 00 E


total: 1,001 sq km
land: 1,001 sq km
water: 0 sq km

Land boundaries:

0 km


209 km

Maritime claims:

measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm


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


volcanic, mountainous

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pico de Sao Tome 2,024 m

Natural resources:

fish, hydropower

Land use:

arable land: 8.33%
permanent crops: 48.96%
other: 42.71% (2005)

Irrigated land:

100 sq km (2003)

Environment - current issues:

deforestation; soil erosion and exhaustion

Geography - note:

the smallest country in Africa; the two main islands form part of a chain of extinct volcanoes and both are fairly mountainous


193,413 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 47.5% (male 46,478/female 45,302)
15-64 years: 48.8% (male 45,631/female 48,661)
65 years and over: 3.8% (male 3,368/female 3,973) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 16.2 years
male: 15.6 years
female: 16.8 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

3.15% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

40.25 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

6.47 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

-2.32 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.85 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 41.83 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 43.74 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 39.86 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 67.31 years
male: 65.73 years
female: 68.95 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

5.62 children born/woman (2006 est.)

Major infectious diseases:

degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: malaria (2005)


noun: Sao Tomean(s)
adjective: Sao Tomean

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)


Catholic 70.3%, Evangelical 3.4%, New Apostolic 2%, Adventist 1.8%, other 3.1%, none 19.4% (2001 census)


Portuguese (official)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 79.3%
male: 85%
female: 62% (1991 est.)

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

Government type:



Sao Tome

Administrative divisions:

2 provinces; Principe, Sao Tome
note: Principe has had self-government since 29 April 1995


12 July 1975 (from Portugal)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 12 July (1975)


approved March 1990, effective 10 September 1990

Legal system:

based on Portuguese legal system and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction


18 years of age; universal

Legislative branch:

unicameral National Assembly or Assembleia Nacional (55 seats; members are elected by direct, popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 26 March 2006 (next to be held March 2010)
election results: percent of vote by party - MDFM-PCD 37.2%, MLSTP 28.9%, ADI 20.0%, NR 4.7%, other 9.2%; seats by party - MDFM-PCD 23, MLSTP 19, ADI 12, NR 1

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the National Assembly)

Economy - 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, but strengthening prices helped boost export earnings in 2003. Sao Tome has to import all fuels, most manufactured goods, consumer goods, and a substantial amount of food. Over the years, it has had difficulty servicing its external debt and has relied heavily on concessional aid and debt rescheduling. Sao Tome benefited from $200 million in debt relief in December 2000 under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program, and is expected to benefit from an additional round of HIPC debt relief in early 2006, to help bring down the country's $300 million debt burden. In August 2005, Sao Tome signed on to a new 3-year IMF Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) program worth $4.3 million. 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. Sao Tome is optimistic about the development of petroleum resources in its territorial waters in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea, which are being jointly developed in a 60-40 split with Nigeria. The first production licenses were sold in 2004, though a dispute over licensing with Nigeria delayed Sao Tome's receipt of more than $20 million in signing bonuses for almost a year. Real GDP growth reached 6% in 2004, and also probably in 2005, as a result of increases in public expenditures and oil-related capital investment.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$214 million (2003 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

6% (2004 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$1,200 (2003 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 16.7%
industry: 14.8%
services: 68.4% (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

note: population mainly engaged in subsistence agriculture and fishing; shortages of skilled workers

Population below poverty line:

54% (2004 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

15.1% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

31.2% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $26.39 million
expenditures: $59.48 million; including capital expenditures of $54 million (2004 est.)

Agriculture - products:

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


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

Electricity - production:

15 million kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

13.95 million kWh (2003)

Oil - consumption:

650 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Current account balance:

-$19 million (2005 est.)


$8 million f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

cocoa 80%, copra, coffee, palm oil

Exports - partners:

Netherlands 37.3%, China 12.8%, Belgium 7.7%, Germany 6.6%, Poland 5.3%, France 5%, Brazil 4.1% (2004)


$38 million f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

machinery and electrical equipment, food products, petroleum products

Imports - partners:

Portugal 51.2%, Germany 9.7%, US 6.2%, Netherlands 5%, South Africa 4.4%, Belgium 4.2% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$20 million (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$318 million (2002)

Economic aid - recipient:

$200 million in December 2000 under the HIPC program

Currency (code):

dobra (STD)

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

7,000 (2003)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

4,800 (2003)

Telephone system:

general assessment: adequate facilities
domestic: minimal system
international: country code - 239; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 1, FM 5, shortwave 1 (2002)

Television broadcast stations:

2 (2002)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

1,021 (2005)

Internet users:

20,000 (2005)


2 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2005)


total: 320 km
paved: 218 km
unpaved: 102 km (1999)

Merchant marine:

total: 10 ships (1000 GRT or over) 35,939 GRT/54,246 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 2, cargo 7, chemical tanker 1
foreign-owned: 2 (Egypt 1, Greece 1) (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Sao Tome

Military branches:

Armed Forces of Sao Tome and Principe (FASTP): Army, Coast Guard, Presidential Guard (2004)

Military - note:

Sao Tome and Principe's army is a tiny force with almost no resources at its disposal and would be wholly ineffective operating unilaterally; infantry equipment is considered simple to operate and maintain but may require refurbishment or replacement after 25 years in tropical climates; poor pay and conditions have been a problem in the past, as has alleged nepotism in the promotion of officers, as reflected in the 1995 and 2003 coups; these issues are being addressed with foreign assistance as initial steps towards the improvement of the army and its focus on realistic security concerns; command is exercised from the president, through the Minister of Defense, to the Chief of the Armed Forces staff (2005)