Country Profiles:
São Tomé and Príncipe

São Tomé and Príncipe, is an island nation in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Central Africa. It consists of two archipelagos around the two main islands: São Tomé and Príncipe and several rocky islets, including Rôlas, south of São Tomé island, and Caroço, Pedras, and Tinhosas. With a population of 199,910 (2016 Census), São Tomé and Príncipe is the second-smallest country on the continent after Seychelles, as well as the smallest Portuguese-speaking country in the world. The rich volcanic soil and close proximity to the Equator made São Tomé and Príncipe ideal for sugar cultivation. The sugar-based economy of the islands later gave way to coffee and cocoa production in the 19th century.

The islands were uninhabited until their discovery by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century. Gradually colonized and settled by the Portuguese throughout the 16th century, they collectively served as a vital commercial and trade center for the Atlantic slave trade. In the early 1900s, controversy arose over unsatisfactory working conditions and forced labor of the Angolan contract workers. An outbreak of riots in 1953 resulted in several hundred African laborers killed known as the Batepá Massacre. São Tomé and Príncipe, was a Portuguese colony and after a lengthy process, independence from Portugal was finally achieved on July 12th 1975 with Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP) Secretary General Manuel Pinto da Costa selected as President.

In 1990, Sao Tome made changes to the constitution and embraced democratic reform.

At the 1991 elections, former Prime Minister Miguel Trovoada, was elected president. He was re-elected in 1996. Leadership changed in the elections of 2001, and Fradique de Menezes assumed the role of president. In July of 2003, the army seized the government for one week until an accord was achieved, and Menezes returned to office. Menezes won an additional five-year term in the 2006 elections. In 2009, an attempted coup d’état to overthrow Menezes failed. Manuel Pinto da Costa was elected president in 2011, focusing on a campaign of political stability and promising to end the widespread corruption. The current president Evaristo do Espírito Santo Carvalho came to power in September 2016. He was previously the Prime Minister of the country on two occasions. His prime Minister is Patrice Trovoada.

Until the recent discovery of oil in the Gulf of Guinea, which has had a significant impact on the country’s economy, its primary source of revenues came from its agriculture with the main crop of cocoa representing 95% of its exports. The Gulf of Guinea also may have considerable deep water hydrocarbon reserves. In 2001 São Tomé and Príncipe and Nigeria reached an agreement to oversee the exploration and development of potential oil fields in the Joint Development Zone (JDZ).

The people are predominantly of African and mestiço descent. The population consists mainly of Forros (from forro, Portuguese for “free man”), descendants of immigrant Europeans and African slaves. Another group, the Angolares, descended from runaway Angolan slaves who were shipwrecked on São Tomé. The official languages are Portuguese and three recognized regional languages; Sãotomense, spoken by the Forro, Angolar language of the Angolares, Principense spoken by only a few hundred individuals on Príncipe.​

Santomean cuisine is largely based on tropical root crops, plantains and bananas and seafood

  • Arroz doce is a traditional breakfast food prepared with sweet corn and coconut.
  • Banana pap is porridge.
  • Barriga de peixe is a traditional Santomean dish of grilled fish served with rice, breadfruit or manioc (cassava).
  • Blablá.
  • Broa (corn roll).
  • Cachupa is a dish prepared with green beans, broad beans and corn.
  • Calulu is a traditional dish prepared with grouper or smoked fish, prawns, tomato, okra, aubergines (eggplant), onion, and spices, including grains of paradise.

São Toméans are known for ússua and socopé rhythms, while Principe is home to the dêxa beat. Portuguese ballroom dancing may have played an integral part in the development of these rhythms and their associated dances. Tchiloli is a musical dance performance that tells a dramatic story. The danço-congo is similarly a combination of music, dance and theater.

Sao Tome offers a winning combination of lush rainforests, beautiful beaches, national parks filled with amazing fauna and flora, traditional culture, colonial architecture, and a generally safe environment.

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