São Tomé and Príncipe Overview

São Tomé and Príncipe Overview



The islands, 135 km apart, belong to the volcanic chain of the »Cameroon Line«. In the southwest of the country, several hundred meters high and densely vegetated volcanic vents (phonolite vents; here called “duque”) rise. Almost half of the island of São Tomé (859 km 2) is covered by a mountain range with the highest peak in the country (Pico de São Tomé, 2,024 m above sea level). Numerous rivers radially emanate from it. Príncipe (142 km 2) is less structured. The highest peak on the island is the Pico de Príncipe (948 m above sea level).

Population and Religion


According to threergroup, the population consists mainly of the descendants of the slaves (Foros) who were once deported from the mainland to the islands, as well as the immigrant farm workers from other former Portuguese colonies (Tongas). 4% are mulattos, 1% European (mainly Portuguese). The colloquial language (“Crioulo”) is Portuguese interspersed with Bantu words. The average population density is 213 residents / km 2. 96% of the population. live on the main island of São Tomé with the capital of the same name on the northeast coast. The capital of Príncipe is Santo António. Overall, the proportion of the urban population is 66%.


The constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Different sources provide different data on religious affiliation. According to this, between about 73 and over 80% of the population belong to the Catholic Church (exemtes diocese of São Tomé and Príncipe). In addition, there are 12–15% Protestants (especially Adventists and Pentecostals), members of the New Apostolic Church (estimated 2% of the population, according to self-reported about 10%), Jehovah’s Witnesses and others, as well as representatives of non-Christian religions such as Muslims [2–3%] as well as followers of traditional African religions.



The island state is one of the smallest economies in Africa; the economy is traditionally geared towards the production of cocoa. Low harvest yields, fluctuating world market prices and government mismanagement led to falling export revenues in the 1980s and 1990s. The foreign debt rose steadily and made the country dependent on international financial aid. In 2000 the IMF and World Bank launched the first comprehensive aid program to fight poverty, increase gross domestic product (GDP) and reduce the budget deficit. But São Tomé and Príncipe still belongs to them despite massive debt relief and a gross national income (GNI) of (2017) US $ 1,770 per resident to the poorest and most indebted countries (HIPC) worldwide. The expansion of the tourism industry and the beginning of oil development in the Gulf of Guinea are the bearers of hope for economic development.

Foreign trade: The foreign trade balance is negative (import value 2016: US $ 139 million, export value: US $ 10 million). The most important export goods are cocoa, as well as copra, coffee, palm oil and palm kernels. Mainly fuels, vehicles, consumer and capital goods are imported. The main trading partners are Portugal and Angola.


18.4% of the workforce work in the agricultural sector. About 51% of the island’s area is designated as agricultural land. The most important branch of the economy is cocoa production (around 84% of export revenues), the yield of which, however, is heavily dependent on the weather conditions. The islands are the oldest tropical plantation area on earth. In addition to cocoa, coffee, copra and bananas are grown for export, and manioc, potatoes, yams and beans are mainly grown for personal use. The production of food has increased through the promotion of smallholder farms. However, the island state is dependent on food imports to supply the population.

Forestry: Over half of the country’s area is designated as forest, but forestry is of little economic importance.

Fisheries: The waters around the islands are among the richest in fish in West Africa, but the country only has a small fishing fleet. Much of the state budget is financed through the sale of fishing licenses to foreign fleets.

Natural resources

There are large oil reserves in the Gulf of Guinea, the exploitation of which has been agreed with Nigeria. Development work began in early 2005 in cooperation with foreign companies.


The manufacturing industry, which mainly focuses on the beverage, wood and textile industries as well as the construction industry, is economically almost insignificant.


Despite the low number of visitors (2016: 52,000 foreign visitors), tourism is the country’s most important source of foreign currency income. The development of the sector is therefore one of the declared goals of the government. Offer tourist potential, among other things. the bathing bays on the east coast, the museum-like tropical farms and the capital São Tomé with Portuguese colonial architecture, the 400 year old fort with the national museum and the cathedral (16th century).


There is a road around the island of São Tomé; In total there are around 320 km of roads (around 220 km of which are paved). The main port is São Tomé, other ports have Neves (in the northwest of the main island) and Santo António on Príncipe. The international airport is near São Tomé.

São Tomé and Príncipe Overview