The World Factbook (1990)/Sao Tome and Principe

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pages 272–273

Sao Tome and Principe

See regional map VII


Total area: 960 km²; land area: 960 km²

Comparative area: slightly less than 5.5 times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries: none

Coastline: 209 km

Maritime claims: (measured from claimed archipelagic baselines)

Extended economic zone: 200 nm
Territorial sea: 12 nm

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

Terrain: volcanic, mountainous

Natural resources: fish

Land use: 1% arable land; 20% permanent crops; 1% meadows and pastures; 75% forest and woodland; 3% other

Environment: deforestation; soil erosion

Note: located south of Nigeria and west of Gabon near the Equator in the North Atlantic Ocean


Population: 124,765 (July 1990), growth rate 3.0% (1990)

Birth rate: 38 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 8 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: migrants/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 61 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 64 years male, 67 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 5.4 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun—Sao Tomean(s); adjective—Sao Tomean

Ethnic divisions: mestico, angolares (descendents of Angolan slaves), forros (descendents of freed slaves), servicais (contract laborers from Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde), tongas (children of servicais born on the islands), and Europeans (primarily Portuguese)

Religion: Roman Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, Seventh-Day Adventist

Language: Portuguese (official)

Literacy: 50% (est.)

Labor force: 21,096 (1981); most of population engaged in subsistence agriculture and fishing; labor shortages on plantations and of skilled workers; 56% of population of working age (1983)

Organized labor: NA


Long-form name: Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe

Type: republic

Capital: São Tomé

Administrative divisions: 2 districts (concelhos, singular—concelho); Principe, São Tomé

Independence: 12 July 1975 (from Portugal)

Constitution: 5 November 1975, approved 15 December 1982

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

National holiday: Independence Day, 12 July (1975)

Executive branch: president, prime minister, Council of Ministers (cabinet)

Legislative branch: unicameral National People's Assembly, sometimes referred to as the National Popular Assembly (Assembléia Popular Nacional)

Judicial branch: Supreme Court

Leaders: Chief of State—President Dr. Manuel Pinto da COSTA (since 12 July 1975);

Head of Government Prime Minister Celestino Rocha da COSTA (since 8 January 1988)

Political parties and leaders: only party—Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe (MLSTP), Dr. Manuel Pinto da Costa

Suffrage: universal at age 18

Elections: President—last held 30 September 1985 (next to be held September 1990); results—President Dr. Manuel Pinto da Costa was reelected without opposition by the National People's Assembly;

National People's Assembly—last held 30 September 1985 (next to be held September 1990); results—MLSTP is the only party; seats—(40 total) MLSTP 40 (indirectly elected)


Diplomatic representation: Ambassador Joaquim Rafael BRANCO; Chancery (temporary) at 801 Second Avenue, Suite 1504, New York, NY 10017; telephone (212) 697-4211; US—the US Ambassador in Gabon is accredited to Sao Tome and Principe on a nonresident basis and makes periodic visits to the islands

Flag: three horizontal bands of green (top), yellow (double width), and green with two black five-pointed stars placed side by side in the center of the yellow band and a red isosceles triangle based on the hoist side; uses the popular pan-African colors of Ethiopia


Overview: The economy has remained dependent on cocoa since the gained independence nearly 15 years ago. Since then, however, cocoa production has gradually deteriorated because of drought and mismanagement, so that by 1987 output had fallen to less than 50% of its former levels. As a result, a shortage of cocoa for export has created a serious balance-of-payments problem. Production of less important crops, such as coffee, copra, and palm kernels, has also declined. The value of imports generally exceeds that of exports by a ratio of 4 to 1. The emphasis on cocoa production at the expense of other food crops has meant that Sao Tome has to import 90% of food needs. It also has to import all fuels and most manufactured goods. Over the years, Sao Tome has been unable to service its external debt, which amounts to roughly 80% of export earnings. Considerable potential exists for development of a tourist industry, and the government has taken steps to expand facilities in recent years. The government also implemented a Five-Year Plan covering 1986-90 to restructure the economy and reschedule external debt service payments in cooperation with the International Development Association and Western lenders.

GDP: $37.9 million, per capita $340; real growth rate 1.8% (1986)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 4.2% (1986)

Unemployment rate: NA%

Budget: revenues $19.2 million; expenditures $25.1 million, including capital expenditures of $19.9 million (1987)

Exports: $9.1 million (f.o.b., 1988 est.); commodities—cocoa 90%, copra, coffee, palm oil; partners—FRG, GDR, Netherlands, China

Imports: $17.3 million (c.i.f., 1988 est.); commodities—machinery and electrical equipment 59%, food products 32%, fuels 9%; partners—Portugal, GDR, Angola, China

External debt: $95 million (1988)

Industrial production: growth rate 7.1% (1986)

Electricity: 6,000 kW capacity; 12 million kWh produced, 100 kWh per capita (1989)

Industries: light construction, shirts, soap, beer, fisheries, shrimp processing

Agriculture: dominant sector of economy, primary source of exports; cash crops—cocoa (90%), coconuts, palm kernels, coffee; food products—bananas, papaya, beans, poultry, fish; not self-sufficient in food grain and meat

Aid: US commitments, including Ex-Im (FY70-87), $7 million; Western (non-US) countries, ODA and OOF bilateral commitments (1970-87), 41.9 million

Currency: dobra (plural—dobras); 1 dobra (Db) = 100 centimes

Exchange rates: dobras (Db) per US$1—122.48 (December 1988), 72.827 (1987), 36.993 (1986), 41.195 (1985)

Fiscal year: calendar year


Highways: 300 km (two-thirds are paved); roads on Principe are mostly unpaved and in need of repair

Ports: São Tomé, Santo Antonio

Civil air: 8 major transport aircraft

Airports: 2 total, 2 usable; 2 with permanent-surface runways 1,220-2,439 m Telecommunications: minimal system; 2,200 telephones; stations—1 AM, 2 FM, no TV; 1 Atlantic Ocean INTELSAT earth station

Defense Forces

Branches: Army, Navy

Military manpower: males 15-49, 27,805; 14,662 fit for military service

Defense expenditures: 1.6% of GDP (1980)