Sao Tome and Principe country profile

Map of Sao Tome and Principe

Sao Tome and Principe, once a leading cocoa producer, consists of two islands of volcanic origin and a number of smaller islets lying off the coast of Africa.

From the late 1400s Portugal began settling convicts on Sao Tome and establishing sugar plantations with the help of slaves from the mainland. The island was also important in the transshipment of slaves.

The colony's aspirations for independence were recognised after the 1974 coup in Portugal and at first the Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe was the country's sole political party. However, the 1990 constitution created a multi-party democracy.

The island of Principe assumed autonomy in 1995.

The country hopes to reduce its dependence on donors and cocoa exports by exploiting offshore oil.


The Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe

Capital: Sao Tome

  • Population 172,000

  • Area 1,001 sq km (386 sq miles)

  • Major language Portuguese

  • Religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 64 years (men), 66 years (women)

  • Currency dobra


President: Evaristo Carvalho

Prime minister: Patrice Emery Trovoada

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Carvalho, pictured on election posters, is a former prime minister

Evaristo Carvalho - a former prime minister - won the run-off presidential election in August 2016.

Vice president of the ruling ADI party, Mr Carvalho was guaranteed victory in the run-off after his rival, incumbent President Pinto da Costa, dropped out alleging irregularities in the first round.

Mr Carvalho, 75 at the time of being elected, was prime minister in 1994 and again in 2001-2002, and has also served as president of the national assembly and defence minister.

Sao Tome has a tradition of premiers and presidents from opposing camps governing together peacefully. Now, however, both top jobs are held by the ADI party.

The president has an arbitrating role in government but no executive powers, leaving the prime minister in the dominant position.


Freedom of expression, guaranteed by the constitution, is also respected in practice. There are three privately-owned newspapers and one which is state-run.


Some key dates in Sao Tome's history:

16th century - Sao Tome colonised by the Portuguese, who bring in slaves to work sugar plantations. Becomes important staging post for slave trade.

1800s - Cocoa introduced. Sao Tome develops into one of world's main cocoa producers.

1974 - Military coup in Portugal. Portuguese government recognises islands' right to independence.

1975 - Independence, with Manuel Pinto da Costa as president. Plantations nationalised, strong ties built up with communist countries.

1990 - New constitution allows opposition parties.

Read full timeline

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sao Tome's quest for independence was realised after the 1974 coup in Portugal

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