Facts about Sao Tome and Principe

World Facts Index

Sao Tome and PrincipeDiscovered 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. While independence was achieved in 1975, democratic reforms were not instituted until the late 1980s. The country held its first free elections in 1991, but frequent internal wrangling between the various political parties precipitated repeated changes in leadership and two failed coup attempts in 1995 and 2003. The recent discovery of oil in the Gulf of Guinea promises to attract increased attention to the small island nation.

Geography of Sao Tome

Western Africa, islands in the Gulf of Guinea, straddling the Equator, west of Gabon
1 00 N, 7 00 E
total: 1,001 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 1,001 sq km
Area comparative:
more than five times the size of Washington, DC
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
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

Population of Sao Tome

206,178 (July 2008 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)
Median age:
16.2 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
41.83 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 67.31 years
male: 65.73 years
female: 68.95 years
Fertility rate:
5.62 children born/woman
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%
Portuguese (official)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 79.3%
male: 85%
female: 62% 


Country name:
conventional long form: Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe
local long form: Republica Democratica de 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
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Fradique DE MENEZES (since 3 September 2001)
head of government: Prime Minister Joachim Rafael BRANCO (since 22 June 2008)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president on the proposal of the prime minister
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); prime minister chosen by the National Assembly and approved by the president.
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly or Assembleia Nacional (55 seats; members are elected by direct, popular vote to serve four-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the National Assembly)


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. 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, which helped 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 exceeded 6% in 2007, as a result of increases in public expenditures and oil-related capital investment.

$256 million (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 16.7%
industry: 14.8%
services: 68.4% 
Inflation rate:
Labor force - by occupation:
population mainly engaged in subsistence agriculture and fishing
note: shortages of skilled workers
revenues: $26.39 million
expenditures: $59.48 million 
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 41.2%
hydro: 58.8%
other: 0%
light construction, textiles, soap, beer; fish processing; timber
cocoa, coconuts, palm kernels, copra, cinnamon, pepper, coffee, bananas, papayas, beans; poultry; fish
cocoa 80%, copra, coffee, palm oil
Export partners:
Netherlands 64.3%, Belgium 10.1%, Germany 3.2% 
machinery and electrical equipment, food products, petroleum products
Import partners:
UK 92.5%, Portugal 3.8%, US 1.3% 
dobra (STD)

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

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