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. 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

Geographic coordinates

1 00 N, 7 00 E

Map references



total: 964 sq km
land: 964 sq km
water: 0 sq km

Area - comparative

more than five times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

0 km


209 km

Maritime claims

measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm


tropical; hot, humid; one rainy season (October to May)


volcanic, mountainous


mean elevation: NA
elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pico de Sao Tome 2,024 m

Natural resources

fish, hydropower

Land use

agricultural land: 50.7%
arable land 9.1%; permanent crops 40.6%; permanent pasture 1%
forest: 28.1%
other: 21.2% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

100 sq km (2012)

Natural hazards


Environment - current issues

deforestation; soil erosion and exhaustion

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

the smallest country in Africa; the two main islands form part of a chain of extinct volcanoes and both are mountainous

People and Society

Ethnic groups

mestico, angolares (descendants of Angolan slaves), forros (descendants of freed slaves), servicais (contract laborers from Angola, Mozambique, and Cabo Verde), tongas (children of servicais born on the islands), Europeans (primarily Portuguese), Asians (mostly Chinese)


197,541 (July 2016 est.)


noun: Sao Tomean(s)
adjective: Sao Tomean


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%
note: shares sum to more than 100% because some respondents gave more than one answer on the census (2012 est.)


Catholic 55.7%, Adventist 4.1%, Assembly of God 3.4%, New Apostolic 2.9%, Mana 2.3%, Universal Kingdom of God 2%, Jehovah's Witness 1.2%, other 6.2%, none 21.2%, unspecified 1% (2012 est.)

Demographic profile

Sao Tome and Principe’s youthful age structure – more than 60% of the population is under the age of 25 – and high fertility rate ensure future population growth. Although Sao Tome has a net negative international migration rate, emigration is not a sufficient safety valve to reduce already high levels of unemployment and poverty. While literacy and primary school attendance have improved in recent years, Sao Tome still struggles to improve its educational quality and to increase its secondary school completion rate. Despite some improvements in education and access to healthcare, Sao Tome and Principe has much to do to decrease its high poverty rate, create jobs, and increase its economic growth.
The population of Sao Tome and Principe descends primarily from the islands’ colonial Portuguese settlers, who first arrived in the late 15th century, and the much larger number of African slaves brought in for sugar production and the slave trade. For about 100 years after the abolition of slavery in 1876, the population was further shaped by the widespread use of imported unskilled contract laborers from Portugal’s other African colonies, who worked on coffee and cocoa plantations. In the first decades after abolition, most workers were brought from Angola under a system similar to slavery. While Angolan laborers were technically free, they were forced or coerced into long contracts that were automatically renewed and extended to their children. Other contract workers from Mozambique and famine-stricken Cape Verde first arrived in the early 20th century under short-term contracts and had the option of repatriation, although some chose to remain in Sao Tome and Principe.
Today’s Sao Tomean population consists of mesticos (creole descendants of the European immigrants and African slaves that first inhabited the islands), forros (descendants of freed African slaves), angolares (descendants of runaway African slaves that formed a community in the south of Sao Tome Island and today are fishermen), servicais (contract laborers from Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde), tongas (locally born children of contract laborers), and lesser numbers of Europeans and Asians.

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 84.2%
youth dependency ratio: 78.5%
elderly dependency ratio: 5.7%
potential support ratio: 17.6% (2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 42.47% (male 42,660/female 41,234)
15-24 years: 20.33% (male 20,358/female 19,808)
25-54 years: 30.66% (male 29,728/female 30,829)
55-64 years: 3.7% (male 3,342/female 3,959)
65 years and over: 2.85% (male 2,506/female 3,117) (2016 est.)

Median age

total: 18.2 years
male: 17.8 years
female: 18.6 years (2016 est.)

Population growth rate

1.78% (2016 est.)

Birth rate

33.3 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Death rate

7 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Net migration rate

-8.5 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)


urban population: 65.1% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 3.58% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

SAO TOME (capital) 71,000 (2014)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.84 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.81 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Child labor - children ages 5-14

total number: 3,235
percentage: 8% (2006 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

156 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 46.6 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 48.5 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 44.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 64.9 years
male: 63.6 years
female: 66.3 years (2016 est.)

Total fertility rate

4.4 children born/woman (2016 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

38.4% (2008/09)

Health expenditures

8.4% of GDP (2014)

Hospital bed density

2.9 beds/1,000 population (2011)

Drinking water source

urban: 98.9% of population
rural: 93.6% of population
total: 97.1% of population
urban: 1.1% of population
rural: 6.4% of population
total: 2.9% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

urban: 40.8% of population
rural: 23.3% of population
total: 34.7% of population
urban: 59.2% of population
rural: 76.7% of population
total: 65.3% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

0.78% (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

1,000 (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

100 (2014 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria and dengue fever
water contact disease: schistosomiasis (2016)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

10.6% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

8.8% (2014)

Education expenditures

3.9% of GDP (2014)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 74.9%
male: 81.8%
female: 68.4% (2015 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 13 years
male: 13 years
female: 13 years (2015)

Mother's mean age at first birth

note: median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2008/09 est.)


Country name

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
etymology: Sao Tome was named after Saint THOMAS the Apostle by the Portuguese who discovered the island on 21 December 1470 (or 1471), the saint's feast day; Principe is a shortening of the original Portuguese name of "Ilha do Principe" (Isle of the Prince) referring to the Prince of Portugal to whom duties on the island's sugar crop were paid

Government type

semi-presidential republic


name: Sao Tome
geographic coordinates: 0 20 N, 6 44 E
time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

2 provinces; Principe, Sao Tome


12 July 1975 (from Portugal)

National holiday

Independence Day, 12 July (1975)


approved 5 November 1975; revised several times, last in 2006 (2016)

Legal system

mixed legal system of civil law base on the Portuguese model and customary law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt


citizenship by birth: no
citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Sao Tome and Principe
dual citizenship recognized: no
residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Evaristo CARVALHO (since 3 September 2016)
head of government: Prime Minister Patrice Emery TROVOADA (since 29 November 2014)
cabinet: Council of Ministers proposed by the prime minister, appointed by the president
elections/appointments: president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 7 July 2016 and second round held on 7 August 2016 (next to be held in July 2021); prime minister chosen by the National Assembly and approved by the president
election results: Evaristo CARVALHO elected president; percent of vote - Evaristo CARVALHO (ADI) 49.8%, Manuel Pinto DA COSTA (independent) 24.8%, Maria DAS NEVES (MLSTP/PSD) 24.1%; note - first round results for CARVALHO were revised downward from just over 50%, prompting the 7 August runoff; however, on 1 August DA COSTA withdrew from the runoff, citing voting irregularities

Legislative branch

description: unicameral National Assembly or Assembleia Nacional (55 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote to serve 4-year terms)
elections: last held on 12 October 2014 (next expected in October 2018)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - ADI 33, MLSTP-PSD 16, PCD-GR 5, other 1

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court or Supremo Tribunal Justica (consists of 5 judges); Constitutional Court or Tribunal Constitucional (consists of 5 judges, 3 of whom are from the Supreme Court)
judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court judges appointed by the National Assembly; judge tenure NA; Constitutional Court judges nominated by the president of the republic and elected by the National Assembly for 5-year terms
subordinate courts: Court of First Instance; Audit Court

Political parties and leaders

Democratic Movement of Forces for Change or MDFM [Fradigue Bandeira Melo DE MENEZES]
Independent Democratic Action or ADI [Patrice TROVOADA]
Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe-Social Democratic Party or MLSTP-PSD [Aurelio MARTINS]
Party for Democratic Convergence or PCD [Leonel Mario D'ALVA]
other small parties

Political pressure groups and leaders

Association of Sao Tome and Principe NGOs or FONG
other: the media

International organization participation

ACP, AfDB, AOSIS, AU, CD, CEMAC, CPLP, EITI (candidate country), FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), IPU, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, NAM, OIF, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, Union Latina, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Carlos Filomeno Azevedo Agostinho das NEVES (since 3 December 2013)
chancery: 675 Third Avenue, Suite 1807, New York, NY 10017
telephone: [1] (212) 651-8116
FAX: [1] (212) 651-8117

Diplomatic representation from the US

the US does not have an embassy in Sao Tome and Principe; the US Ambassador to Gabon is accredited to Sao Tome and Principe on a nonresident basis and makes periodic visits to the islands

Flag description

three horizontal bands of green (top), yellow (double width), and green with two black five-pointed stars placed side by side in the center of the yellow band and a red isosceles triangle based on the hoist side; green stands for the country's rich vegetation, red recalls the struggle for independence, and yellow represents cocoa, one of the country's main agricultural products; the two stars symbolize the two main islands
note: uses the popular Pan-African colors of Ethiopia

National symbol(s)

palm tree; national colors: green, yellow, red, black

National anthem

name: "Independencia total" (Total Independence)
lyrics/music: Alda Neves DA GRACA do Espirito Santo/Manuel dos Santos Barreto de Sousa e ALMEIDA
note: adopted 1975


Economy - overview

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 manufa

Over the years, Sao Tome and Principe has had difficulty servicing its external debt and has relied heavily on concessional aid and debt rescheduling. It benefited from $200 million in debt relief in December 2000 under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries

Considerable potential exists for development of a tourist industry, and the government has taken steps to expand facilities in recent years. Potential also exists for the development of petroleum resources in Sao Tome and Principe's territorial waters in

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$694 million (2016 est.)
$667.3 million (2015 est.)
$641.6 million (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$351 million (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate

4% (2016 est.)
4% (2015 est.)
4.5% (2014 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP)

$3,300 (2016 est.)
$3,300 (2015 est.)
$3,200 (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

Gross national saving

19.5% of GDP (2016 est.)
16% of GDP (2015 est.)
3.7% of GDP (2014 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 85.2%
government consumption: 14.9%
investment in fixed capital: 48.5%
investment in inventories: 0.5%
exports of goods and services: 9.6%
imports of goods and services: -58.7% (2016 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 22.4%
industry: 10.3%
services: 67.4% (2016 est.)

Agriculture - products

cocoa, coconuts, palm kernels, copra, cinnamon, pepper, coffee, bananas, papayas, beans; poultry; fish


light construction, textiles, soap, beer, fish processing, timber

Industrial production growth rate

4.5% (2016 est.)

Labor force

70,620 (2016 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

note: population mainly engaged in subsistence agriculture and fishing; shortages of skilled workers

Unemployment rate

13.5% (2014 est.)
13.7% (2013 est.)

Population below poverty line

66.2% (2009 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%


revenues: $108.6 million
expenditures: $127 million (2016 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

30.9% of GDP (2016 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-5.3% of GDP (2016 est.)

Public debt

89.5% of GDP (2016 est.)
81.8% of GDP (2015 est.)

Fiscal year

calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

5.1% (2016 est.)
5.3% (2015 est.)

Central bank discount rate

16% (31 December 2009)
28% (31 December 2008)

Commercial bank prime lending rate

15% (31 December 2016 est.)
15% (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of narrow money

$71.57 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$63.82 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of broad money

$139.4 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$126.6 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of domestic credit

$73.47 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$72.7 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares


Current account balance

-$44 million (2016 est.)
-$55 million (2015 est.)


$11 million (2016 est.)
$11.3 million (2015 est.)

Exports - commodities

cocoa 80%, copra, coffee, palm oil (2010 est.)

Exports - partners

Netherlands 29.2%, Belgium 22.4%, Spain 15.5%, US 6.6%, Nigeria 5.1% (2015)


$116.8 million (2016 est.)
$118.9 million (2015 est.)

Imports - commodities

machinery and electrical equipment, food products, petroleum products

Imports - partners

Portugal 65.2%, China 8.1%, Gabon 7.3% (2015)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$68.3 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$72.86 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Debt - external

$236.5 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$219 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Exchange rates

dobras (STD) per US dollar -
22,624 (2016 est.)
22,091 (2015 est.)
22,091 (2014 est.)
18,466 (2013 est.)
19,068 (2012 est.)


Electricity - access

population without electricity: 100,000
electrification - total population: 59%
electrification - urban areas: 70%
electrification - rural areas: 40% (2013)

Electricity - production

70 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - consumption

65.1 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - exports

0 kWh (2013)

Electricity - imports

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity

20,000 kW (2014 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels

75% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants

25% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil - exports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - imports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves

0 bbl (1 January 2010 es)

Refined petroleum products - production

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption

1,000 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports

1,001 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Natural gas - production

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves

0 cu m (1 January 2014 es)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy

100,000 Mt (2013 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 7,000
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 4 (July 2015 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular

total: 132,000
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 68 (July 2015 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: local telephone network of adequate quality with most lines connected to digital switches
domestic: combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity roughly 70 telephones per 100 persons
international: country code - 239; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2015)

Broadcast media

1 government-owned TV station; 1 government-owned radio station; 3 independent local radio stations authorized in 2005 with 2 operating at the end of 2006; transmissions of multiple international broadcasters are available (2007)

Internet country code


Internet users

total: 50,000
percent of population: 25.8% (July 2015 est.)


National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1
inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 1
annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 50,716
annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 0 mt-km (2015)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

S9 (2016)


2 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2013)


total: 320 km
paved: 218 km
unpaved: 102 km (2000)

Merchant marine

total: 3
by type: bulk carrier 1, cargo 2
foreign-owned: 2 (China 1, Greece 1) (2010)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Sao Tome


Military branches

Armed Forces of Sao Tome and Principe (Forcas Armadas de Sao Tome e Principe, FASTP): Army, Coast Guard of Sao Tome e Principe (Guarda Costeira de Sao Tome e Principe, GCSTP; also called "Navy"), Presidential Guard, National Guard (2015)

Military service age and obligation

18 is the legal minimum age for compulsory military service; 17 is the legal minimum age for voluntary service (2012)

Military - note

Sao Tome and Principe's army is a tiny force with almost no resources at its disposal and would be wholly ineffective operating unilaterally; infantry equipment is considered simple to operate and maintain but may require refurbishment or replacement after 25 years in tropical climates; poor pay, working conditions, and alleged nepotism in the promotion of officers have been problems in the past, as reflected in the 1995 and 2003 coups; these issues are being addressed with foreign assistance aimed at improving the army and its focus on realistic security concerns; command is exercised from the president, through the Minister of Defense, to the Chief of the Armed Forces (infantry, technical issues) and the Chief of the General Staff (logistics, administration, finances) (2012)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international