Sao Tome and Principe


Sao Tomé-et-Principe, São Tomé-et-Príncipe or Saint-Thomas-et-île du Princenote 1 (in Portuguese: São Tomé e Príncipe / sɐ̃w̃ tuˈmɛ i ˈpɾĩsɨpɨ / note ), in long form the democratic republic of Sao Tome and Principe (República Democrática de São Tomé e Príncipe), is one of the smallest countries in Africa, which occupies an archipelago in the South Atlantic located in the Gulf of Guinea, 239 km (São Tomé) from the coast of Gabon and 216 km (Principe) from Equatorial Guinea.

It is made up of two main islands, São Tomé and Principe, located between the two Equatorial Guinean islands of Annobón and Bioko. The entire territory covers an area of ​​approximately 1,000 km2. The volcanic relief culminates at more than 2000 m, the climate is of equatorial type. Agriculture – and cocoa production in particular – retains an important place, but the expected exploitation of hydrocarbons and the tourist potential have given rise to great hopes in a poor country, which remains largely dependent on international aid. Sao Tome and Principe is a former colony of Portugal, independent since 1975, and its official language is Portuguese.

The island of São Tomé, then uninhabited, was discovered on Saint Thomas’ Day, December 21, 1471, by the Portuguese navigators João de Santarém and Pedro Escobar.


Beginnings of the triangular slave trade

During the fifteenth century, Portuguese colonists came to settle there, in particular new Christians, driven out by the Inquisition, with their sights set on the kingdom of Kongo, accessible in six days on the Atlantic coasts further south. The first contacts with Nzinga Nkuwu, the ruler of this kingdom, having taken place peacefully, the Portuguese will gradually set up tripartite diplomatic and commercial exchanges involving the kingdom of Kongo, São Tomé and Elmina in the Gold Coast (current Ghana), country of the Akan people. Manufactured products (fabrics, glassware, alcohol, firearms, etc.) from Porto or Lisbon were exchanged for slaves from distant lands or conquered kingdoms. These were then transported via São Tomé, to Elmina and exchanged for gold to be used as labor in the mines of extraction of the precious metal. These are the beginnings of triangular trade. To clear and develop the rich volcanic lands of the island of Sao Tome, with the cultivation of sugar cane, the Portuguese will bring en masse from the coasts of the Kingdom of Kongo, nearly 4,000 captives per year. The island of São Tomé will thus be the scene of the first most profitable experiment in history in the tropics, namely the plantation of sugar cane. The settlers did not pay, dress, house, or feed these slaves who worked more than 14 hours a day. These slaves did it on their own in the lush island.

This trade established tense relations between masters and initially free black populations, reduced to captivity which, under the effect of demography, largely overcrowded their masters and revolted by forming resistance organizations called “Mocambo”. To counter this numerical superiority, the Portuguese will encourage the crossbreeding of white men with black women to give birth to the Forros (or Filhos da terra), by instilling European values ​​in them, so that they defend the interests of the white population. It should also be remembered that this interbreeding is often the result of a relationship of domination, violence, rape between masters and slaves.


The Filhos da terra, mulattoes, a new commercial elite, began to raid the populations of the Kongo Kingdom, including nobles from the royal lineage, in order to satisfy the explosion in demand for slaves, which caused disarray. of Alfonso I of Kongo. He wrote to King John III of Portugal to denounce the abuses of the slave trade, a futile attempt because the slave trade was now essential to the colonial economy. With the discovery of Brazil by Pedro Alvares Cabral on April 23, 1500, barter will turn into a triangular trade and take on an unexpected scale. Although still having as their primary objective, the quest for gold, the Portuguese now believe that the slave trade, the cultivation of sugar cane or spices can validly replace it.

From 1516, in order to provide the workforce to cultivate the vast spaces of the new continent, the Portuguese based in São Tomé, will become the essential intermediaries in the supply of slaves from the African kingdoms and their transport to Brazil. and the Caribbean, with a stopover in the Santomean Islands7. The slave trade will thus become the first source of enrichment for the crown and the Portuguese elites.

In 1595, a captive born on the island, named Amador and self-proclaimed “King of São Tomé”, led an insurrection of slaves and set the island ablaze. The sons of the earth only succeed in suppressing the revolt after a year. The instigator Amador was hanged in 1596 in the public square. The Santomean experience having shown its limits, the Portuguese decided to transfer their proven model to the other side of the Atlantic by dismantling the mills, sugar factories and ovens to rebuild them in Brazil, not to mention the slaves who hold the agricultural know-how, thus leaving the island to itself. In 1620, Portugal was the undisputed master of world trade through its mastery of the sea through caravels, and the slave trade. He has already deported more than 300,000 captives and is quickly imitated by other European countries (England, Holland, Spain, France, etc.).


By virtue of the Constitution of September 10, 1990, São Tomé and Príncipe constitutes a democratic and pluralist parliamentary republic. Since the 1991 legislative elections, the country has experienced many alternations between the Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe – Social Democratic Party (MLSTP-PSD), a former single party, and various central parties, including the principal is currently the Independent Democratic Action (ADI).

Power is shared between: the President of the Republic, elected for five years by direct universal suffrage and eligible for re-election once; the Prime Minister, elected for four years by direct universal suffrage and eligible for re-election once; the government, made up of ministers and secretaries of state appointed by the president on the proposal of the prime minister;b the National Assembly, made up of 55 deputies elected for four years.







Main article: Economy of Sao Tome and Principe.

Coffee growing.

Merchandise exports (2002): US $ 6 million

Merchandise imports (2002): US $ 25 million

Balance of payments (2002): – US $ 5 million

Active population by sector (2001): no statistics

GDP: US $ 0.053 billion

GDP per capita: 390 US $

Real GDP growth: 5%

Inflation (2006): 22%

HDI: 0.632

São Tomé and Príncipe is considered to be one of the poorest, least developed (LDC) and most indebted countries in the world (HIPC). 50% of the GDP is provided by international aid. Sao Tome and Principe is a flag of convenience.The discovery of oil, however, is expected to radically change the economy of São Tomé and Príncipe.

Reserves would be two billion barrels.

This archipelago of more than 200,000 inhabitants (est. 2009) is at the center of a struggle between Taiwanese, Americans and Chinese. The United States would have the idea of ​​establishing a military base there. São Tomé was one of Taipei’s last allies in Africa, until formal rapprochement with Beijing in 2016. In recent years, efforts have been made to develop tourism. São Tomé Island has two airports, São Tomé International Airport in São Tomé, and Porto Alegre Airport in the south of the island. Principe has one, the Principe aerodrome.


The São Tomé and Príncipe National Museum, housed in the old São Sebastião fort built in 1575, reflects the African and Portuguese origins of Santomean culture. The poet Alda do Espírito Santo (1926-2010), nationalist leader, several times minister and president of the National Assembly, is the author of the words of the national anthem, Independência total.