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Discovered 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 African 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 four failed, non-violent coup attempts in 1995, 1998, 2003, and 2009. In 2012, three opposition parties combined in a no confidence vote to bring down the majority government of former Prime Minister Patrice TROVOADA, but in 2014, legislative elections returned him to the office. President Evaristo CARVALHO, of the same political party as Prime Minister TROVOADA, was elected in September 2016, marking a rare instance in which the positions of president and prime minister are held by the same party. New oil discoveries in the Gulf of Guinea may attract increased attention to the small island nation.


Central Africa, islands in the Gulf of Guinea, just north of the Equator, west of Gabon

Natural Resources

fish, hydropower

Population - distribution

Sao Tome, the capital city, has roughly a quarter of the nation's population; Santo Antonio is the largest town on Principe; the northern areas of both islands have the highest population densities

Portuguese 98.4% (official), Forro 36.2%, Cabo Verdian 8.5%, French 6.8%, Angolar 6.6%, English 4.9%, Lunguie 1%, other (including sign language) 2.4%
SAO TOME (capital) 71,000 (2014)
Conventional long form
Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe
Conventional short form
Sao Tome and Principe
Local long form
Republica Democratica de Sao Tome e Principe
Local short form
Sao Tome e Principe
semi-presidential republic
Sao Tome
Geographic coordinates
0 20 N, 6 44 E
Time difference
UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
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 and Principe has to import fuels, most manufactured goods, consumer goods, and food, making it vulnerable to fluctuations in global commodity prices. Maintaining control of inflation, fiscal discipline, and increasing flows of foreign direct investment into the nascent oil sector are major economic problems facing the country. The government also has attempted to reduce price controls and subsidies.
External debt stocks
US$ 249,357,000
Total tax rate (% of commercial profits)
Real Interest Rate
Manufacturing, value added (% of GDP)
Current Account Balance
US$ -52,502,405
Labor Force, Total
Employment in Agriculture
Employment in Industry
Employment in Services
Unemployment Rate
Imports of goods and services
US$ 171,344,793
Exports of goods and services
US$ 39,861,634
Total Merchandise Trade
FDI, net inflows
US$ 22,152,093
Commercial Service Exports
US$ 82,687,644
cocoa, coconuts, palm kernels, copra, cinnamon, pepper, coffee, bananas, papayas, beans; poultry; fish
light construction, textiles, soap, beer, fish processing, timber
cocoa 80%, copra, coffee, palm oil (2010 est.)
Netherlands 29.1%, Belgium 22.3%, Spain 15.4%, US 6.6%, Nigeria 5.1% (2015)
machinery and electrical equipment, food products, petroleum products
Portugal 65.4%, China 8.1%, Gabon 7.3% (2015)
Country Risk Rating
A very uncertain political and economic outlook and a business environment with many troublesome weaknesses can have a significant impact on corporate payment behavior. Corporate default probability is high.
Business Climate Rating
The business environment is very difficult. Corporate financial information is rarely available and when available usually unreliable. The legal system makes debt collection very unpredictable. The institutional framework has very serious weaknesses. Intercompany transactions can thus be very difficult to manage in the highly risky environments rated D.
  • Considerable oil potential
  • Prospects for development of tourist sector
  • Supported by international donors
  • Links developed with Portugal and Portuguese speaking countries (Angola, Brazil)
  • Dobra pegged to the euro
  • Heavily dependent on public aid
  • Economy still dominated by agriculture and fishing
  • Business environment shortcomings
  • Underdeveloped and weak banking sector (non-performing loans ratio 18%)

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