Facts about Cape Verde

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Cape VerdeThe uninhabited islands were discovered and colonized by the Portuguese in the 15th century; Cape Verde subsequently became a trading center for African slaves and later an important coaling and resupply stop for whaling and transatlantic shipping. Following independence in 1975, and a tentative interest in unification with Guinea-Bissau, a one-party system was established and maintained until multi-party elections were held in 1990. Cape Verde continues to exhibit one of Africa's most stable democratic governments. Repeated droughts during the second half of the 20th century caused significant hardship and prompted heavy emigration. As a result, Cape Verde's expatriate population is greater than its domestic one. Most Cape Verdeans have both African and Portuguese antecedents.

Geography of Cape Verde

Western Africa, group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Senegal
16 00 N, 24 00 W
total: 4,033 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 4,033 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly larger than Rhode Island
Land boundaries:
0 km
965 km
Maritime claims:
measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
territorial sea: 12 NM
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
contiguous zone: 24 NM
temperate; warm, dry summer; precipitation meager and very erratic
steep, rugged, rocky, volcanic
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mt. Fogo 2,829 m (a volcano on Fogo Island)
Natural resources:
salt, basalt rock, limestone, kaolin, fish
Natural hazards:
prolonged droughts; seasonal harmattan wind produces obscuring dust; volcanically and seismically active
Environment - current issues:
soil erosion; demand for wood used as fuel has resulted in deforestation; desertification; environmental damage has threatened several species of birds and reptiles; illegal beach sand extraction; overfishing
Geography - note:
strategic location 500 km from west coast of Africa near major north-south sea routes; important communications station; important sea and air refueling site

Population of Cape Verde

426,998 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 37.9% (male 80,594/female 79,126)
15-64 years: 55.3% (male 113,450/female 119,423)
65 years and over: 6.7% (male 10,542/female 17,844)
Median age:
19.8 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
46.52 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 70.73 years
male: 67.41 years
female: 74.15 years
Total fertility rate:
3.38 children born/woman
noun: Cape Verdean(s)
adjective: Cape Verdean
Ethnic groups:
Creole (mulatto) 71%, African 28%, European 1%
Roman Catholic (infused with indigenous beliefs); Protestant (mostly Church of the Nazarene)
Portuguese, Crioulo (a blend of Portuguese and West African words)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total : 76.6%
male: 85.8%
female: 69.2% 


Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Cape Verde
local long form: Republica de Cabo Verde
Government type:
Administrative divisions:
17 municipalities (concelhos, singular - concelho); Boa Vista, Brava, Maio, Mosteiros, Paul, Praia, Porto Novo, Ribeira Grande, Sal, Santa Catarina, Santa Cruz, Sao Domingos, Sao Filipe, Sao Miguel, Sao Nicolau, Sao Vicente, Tarrafal
5 July 1975 (from Portugal)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 5 July (1975)
new constitution came into force 25 September 1992; underwent a major revision on 23 November 1995, substantially increasing the powers of the president, and a further revision in 1999, to create the position of national ombudsman (Provedor de Justica)
Legal system:
derived from the legal system of Portugal
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Pedro Verona PIRES (since 22 March 2001)
head of government: Prime Minister Jose Maria Pereira NEVES (since 1 February 2001)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 12 February 2006 (next to be held in February 2011); prime minister nominated by the National Assembly and appointed by the president
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly or Assembleia Nacional (72 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Tribunal of Justice or Supremo Tribunal de Justia


This island economy suffers from a poor natural resource base, including serious water shortages exacerbated by cycles of long-term drought. The economy is service-oriented, with commerce, transport, tourism, and public services accounting for about three-fourths of GDP. Although nearly 70% of the population lives in rural areas, the share of food production in GDP is low. About 82% of food must be imported. The fishing potential, mostly lobster and tuna, is not fully exploited. Cape Verde annually runs a high trade deficit, financed by foreign aid and remittances from emigrants; remittances supplement GDP by more than 20%. Economic reforms are aimed at developing the private sector and attracting foreign investment to diversify the economy. Future prospects depend heavily on the maintenance of aid flows, the encouragement of tourism, remittances, and the momentum of the government's development program. Cape Verde became a member of the WTO in July 2008.

$1.603 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 12.1%
industry: 21.9%
services: 66%
Inflation rate:
21% (2000 est.)
revenues: $328.1 million
expenditures: $393.1 million
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
other: 0%
food and beverages, fish processing, shoes and garments, salt mining, ship repair
bananas, corn, beans, sweet potatoes, sugarcane, coffee, peanuts; fish
fuel, shoes, garments, fish, hides
Export partners:
Spain 38.3%, Portugal 35.3%, US 9.2%
foodstuffs, industrial products, transport equipment, fuels
Import partners:
Portugal 40.6%, Italy 8.4%, Netherlands 6.8%, Spain 5.4%, Belgium 4.9%, France 4.7%, Brazil 4.4%
Cape Verdean escudo (CVE)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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