Sao Tome and Principe State Overview

By | November 24, 2021

According to abbreviationfinder, Sao Tome and Principe, known in Portuguese as São Tomé e Principe, is a country formed by a group of islands of volcanic origin belonging to the African continent, of which the most important are: São Tomé (São Tomé) and Príncipe, which are located in the Gulf of Guinea, to the northwest about 250 kms from the coast of Gabon, very close to the equatorial line.


When the first Portuguese navigators discovered these islands in the 15th century, they found them uninhabited and used them until their incorporation into the Portuguese crown a hundred years later. Until 1875, when slavery was formally abolished, the islands were used as a slave market attended by traffickers from other European countries. When the abolition of slavery was declared, the slaves who remained on the islands received the treatment of contract laborers and continued along with other Africans brought from the mainland., carrying out the work in the sugar plantations. This modification in their legal status did not modify the working conditions to which they had been subjected during slavery, which led to the first rebellions against the Portuguese settlers in the following years.

These movements against the colony did not translate into an organized movement until 1975, after the fall of the Salazar dictatorship in Portugal, when the Movement for the Freedom of Sao Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP) was born, which forced the Portuguese government to accept the independence of the archipelago. The governments that followed independence chose, as had happened with many other new African countries, to take the socialist model as the path to their economic development, which led them to align themselves within the socialist bloc led by the Soviet Union.. In their international relations, they maintained close relations with the rest of the former Portuguese colonies and with neighboring countries, such as Gabon, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. In 1984, the government of President da Costa began to dissociate itself from the Soviet Union when it became part of the Non-Aligned Countries and in 1995 it took a further step by diversifying the training of its military cadres and sending a small number of them to receive preparation in the United States.

In 1986, the first steps were taken to open the economy towards a market economy and, in 1990, the MLSTP government approved a new constitution that allowed the formation of opposition parties and led to the holding of multi-party elections, which were it would take place in January 1991 and in which the opposition Democratic Convergence party was the winner. Later, in the presidential elections, a member of the opposition, Miguel Trovoada, would emerge as the new President, initiating a totally different political situation without significant tensions in this change. In the first legislative elections in October 1994, the MLSTP won a majority of seats in the Assembly. He regained a full majority of seats in the November 1998 elections.

The presidential elections were held in July 2001. The candidate backed by the Independent Democratic Action Party, Fradique de Meneses, was elected in the first round and installed in government on September 3. Then in March of 2002, parliamentary elections which led to a coalition government after no party achieved a majority of seats were held. An attempted coup by some members of the military and the Christian Democratic Front (mostly representatives of former São Toméan volunteers from the South African army of the era of the apartheid) in July of 2003 was reversed by international mediation, including the US, without the shedding of blood. In September of 2004, President Meneses dismissed the prime minister and appointed a new cabinet, which was accepted by the majority party.

Politic and government

The government of these islands is governed under a multiparty system implemented since 1990. The president is elected by secret, universal and direct vote which governs for a period of 5 years, after his mandate he can be reelected until the end of two consecutive periods, The president-elect has the power to appoint the Prime Minister, and this in turn elects its fourteen members of the cabinet. The National Assembly represents the supreme body of the state and the highest legislative body, which is composed of 55 members who can only be elected for a period of 4 years. The current constitution establishes that the judiciary is independent and justice is administered by the Supreme Court. São Tomé has a good level when it comes to Human Rights, including freedom of expression and of the press, as well as that of forming opposition parties.


The islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, located on the equatorial Atlantic, 300 km and 250 km respectively off the northwest coast of Gabon, are the smallest country in Africa. The islands are part of a mountain chain of extinct volcanoes that also includes the islands of Annobón to the southwest and Bioko. to the northeast, they belong to Equatorial Guinea, and Mount Cameroon on the west coast of Africa. The island of Santo Tomé is 50 km long and 32 km wide and is the most mountainous of the islands. Its maximum height is 2,024 m and it is home to the largest number of people and is the capital of the country, the city of Santo Tomé. The island of Principe has a size of 16 km long and 6 km wide, and is the second in size. There are also several smaller uninhabited islets that are part of the country: Islote de las Rolas, Islote de las Cabras, Islote Bombón, Islote Carozo, Tiñosa Grande and Tiñosa Pequena.

Political-administrative division

  • Province: Santo Tomé.
  • In turn, it is divided into six districts:
    • Água Grande (São Tomé)
    • Cantagalo (Santana)
    • Caué (São João dos Angolares)
    • Lembá (Neves)
    • Lobata (Guadalupe)
    • Mé-Zóchi (Trindade)
  • Province: Principe
  • District: Pagué (Santo António)


The economy of these islands was based mainly on agriculture. At the time of independence, the plantations owned by the Portuguese occupied 90% of the arable land. After independence, control of these plantations passed to various state agricultural companies, which were privatized over time. The dominant crop in São Tomé and Príncipe is cocoa, which accounts for 95% of exports. Other products are copra, palm hearts, banana and coffee. Domestic production is inadequate for local consumption, so the country imports part of this food. Efforts that the government has been making in recent years have been undertaken to expand food production and other large projects, most of them financed by foreign donors. Besides agriculture, the main economic activity is fishing and small industries in the food sector.

Tourism and investments

The exotic landscapes and beautiful beaches of the islands have a potential tourist attraction, and the government has tried to improve the infrastructure of the place, which until now is precarious. The government sector represents 11% of employment. The reforms of the 1990s focused on privatization, especially in the agriculture and industrial sectors. The Santotomense government has been obtaining foreign aid from various donors, including the United Nations Development Program, the World Bank, the European Union, Portugal, Taiwan, and the African Development Bank. In April 2000, the IMF approved a poverty reduction and growth installation for São Tomé that resulted in reducing inflation to 3% in 2001, growth of the economy to 4%, and reduction of the fiscal deficit. In late 2000, the country was recognized for its significant reduction in its debt. In 2001, São Tomé and Nigeria reached an agreement for the joint exploration of the waters claimed by both countries in the Nigerian Delta province. Currently, an attempt is being made to promote tourism, although for now the existence of these islands is practically unknown to most non-Portuguese travel agencies. The issuance of postage stamps, mainly intended for philatelic collecting, is also an important source of income for its economy.


The population of the islands is estimated at 165,000 residents, with the following ethnic composition:

  • Blacks: 88%
  • Mixed: 10%
  • Whites: 2%

All are descendants of emigrants who came to the islands since 1485. The first successful settlement (forced) was made with Spanish Sephardic Jews by order of King Juan II of Portugal. Almost the entire population lives on the island of São Tomé, the rest of the islands including Príncipe do not have more than 10,000 residents. See population of Sao Tome and Principe.


In São Tomé and Príncipe there are three levels of education:

  • Elementary education
  • Secondary education
  • Higher education
  • Literacy rate (2001):
  • Women 62%
  • Men 85%
  • Total 75%


The official language is Portuguese (spoken by 95% of the population), and Portuguese Creoles: Forro (85%), Angolar (3%) and Principense (0.1%). The country is a member of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries. [3] Due to its proximity to Equatorial Guinea (and the fact that it made Portuguese official) and Gabon, as well as being a member of the Francophonie, [4] in São Tomé and Príncipe there has been a gradual interest in learning French and Spanish, the first on everything.

Sao Tome and Principe State Overview