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São Tomé and Príncipe

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A country comprising two islands and several islets, lying on the Equator in the Gulf of Guinea, off the coast of West Africa.


The two main islands are volcanic and both have coastal lowlands rising to central mountainous regions. The island of Principe lies about 144 km (90 miles) north of São Tomé. Tropical rainforests cover most of the islands.


The economy was centrally planned until the mid-1980s, when severe drought and worsening economic conditions, including a drop in world cocoa prices, prompted the government to seek Western aid and reduce state controls. The main export is cocoa, followed by copra. Industry is restricted to food-processing.


The islands were probably uninhabited when they were discovered by the Portuguese in 1471 and were annexed by Portugal in 1522. Independence was gained in 1975, with Portugal's withdrawal from all its African colonies. Multiparty democracy was instituted under a new constitution in 1990. In 1995 President Miguel Trovoada was deposed by Cuban-trained rebel forces but was swiftly restored to power. Tensions continued for the rest of Trovoada's presidency and into that of his successor, Fradique de Menezes, who was elected in 2001. A coup in 2003 ended in a compromise between rebels and the de Menezes regime.

Source: MAPS IN MINUTES™ © RH Publications (1997)


São Tomé


1001 sq km (386 sq miles)


157,000 (2005)


1 dobra = 100 centimos


Roman Catholic 73.0%; Protestant 7.1%

Ethnic Groups:

Mixed 79.5%; Fang 10.0%


Portuguese (official); Portuguese creole

International Organizations:

UN; AU; Non-Aligned Movement

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