Sao Tome and Principe Facts

Sao Tome and Principe Facts and History


São Tomé and Príncipe – The second smallest state in Africa

São Tomé and Príncipe, the second smallest state in Africa after the Seychelles, is located in the Atlantic Ocean in the Gulf of Guinea off the west coast of the continent – west of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea and south of Nigeria. Two godforsaken volcanic islands, on which there used to be only cocoa and slaves and today only cocoa, but the best in the world.

About 1 km below the southern tip of the main island of São Tomé is the small island of Rolhas, over which the equator runs. The archipelago was formed by volcanic activity and is therefore very mountainous, the highest point, the Pico de São Tomé, has a height of 2,024 meters.

With the beginning of the Portuguese colonization towards the end of the 15th century, the previously uninhabited islands served as an important hub for the slave trade between Africa and Brazil. The country’s fertile volcanic soil was mainly used for the monoculture cultivation of sugar cane until the middle of the 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, São Tomé temporarily rose to become the largest cocoa producer in the world. The relatively intact tropical rainforest is particularly attractive for visitors to the country.

Name of the country Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe
Form of government Presidential Republic
Geographical location Archipelago in the Gulf of Guinea off West Africa, about 200 km off Gabon and Equatorial Guinea and south of Nigeria
National anthem Independência Total (Absolute Independence)
Population approx. 210,000 (Credit: Countryaah: Sao Tome and Principe Population)
Ethnicities approx. 88% African, 10% mulatto, 2% European
Religions approx. 80% Catholics and 10% Protestants
Languages Portuguese (official language) and Crioulo (creole language)
Capital Sao Tome (City)
Surface 1,001 km²
Highest mountain Pico de São Tomé with a height of 2,024 m
International license plate STP
National currency 1 dobra = 100 centimos
Time difference to CET -1 h
International phone code 00239
Mains voltage, frequency 223 volts and 50 hertz
Sao Tome and Principe .st

Sao Tome and Principe: History

In the 15th and 16th centuries

In December 1471, the Portuguese captain João de Santarém was the first European to reach the uninhabited island of São Tomé. The discovery of San Antonio (later Príncipe) followed a few weeks later, in January 1472. The settlement of the two islands began in 1485 by Portuguese prisoners and traders, 2,000 deported children of Sephardic Jews whose parents had fled from Spain to Portugal, as well as from the southern part African-born slaves. The islands served mainly as a supply port and transshipment point for the slave trade between Africa, Portugal, Brazil and the Caribbean islands as well as for the monoculture cultivation of sugar cane. In 1572 São Tomé and in 1573 Príncipe were directly subordinated to the Portuguese crown.

From the 17th to the 19th century

According to Abbreviationfinder website, in the 17th century, the plantations were increasingly attacked by groups of runaway slaves, the Angolares, named after their main area of origin, who had settled in the inaccessible parts of São Tomé. There were also attacks by French and Dutch pirates. In addition to the resulting reduction in sugar cane production, competition from Brazilian plantations led to the majority of the wealthier Portuguese leaving the islands again.


The ports now opened up to the trading ships of the other nations. There were also repeated slave revolts in the isolated colony. When Portugal’s rule over Brazil was ended in 1822, the interest of Portuguese societies in the islands increased again and led to them taking back much of the fertile soil. The resulting large plantations were called rocas and coffee and, from the middle of the 19th century, cocoa were grown. Slavery was banned in Portugal and its colonies in 1869, but in fact did not end on the islands until 1878. Subsequently, contract workers were hired, first from mainland Africa and later from Cape Verde.

In the 20th and 21st centuries

São Tomé developed into the largest cocoa producer in the world by 1908, after which the country’s economic situation deteriorated increasingly. Various organizations that represented the interests of the locals could initially only be founded abroad. In 1953 there was an uprising which, due to its brutal suppression, became known as the “Batepá massacre”.

The 1974 Carnation Revolution then paved their way to independence for the Portuguese colonies. Free parliamentary elections were held for the first time in 1975, and in July the new state of São Tomé and Príncipe gained its autonomy. The Marxist-Socialist Party formed the government after the elections and subsequently established a one-party system, the plantations were nationalized. Angolan troops secured the establishment and later maintenance of the communist system of rule. The worsening economic situation, in addition to mismanagement, also caused by the drop in cocoa prices, brought mass unemployment and in 1981 even a hunger riot on Príncipe. In 1990 a multi-party system and a new constitution were introduced. Miguel Trovoada, former Prime Minister of the country, who was held in custody by the communist regime for years, took over the office of president. A two-party government developed. A coup carried out by officers in 1995 failed. Despite the discovery of considerable oil deposits on the territory of the island state, there was no improvement in the living conditions of the population.

The cocoa trader Fradiqui Melo de Menezes has been president of the island state since 2001, while the prime minister is Patrice Trovoada, the son of the first democratically elected president, Miguel Trovoada. Miguel Trovoada could not run again in 2001 after two terms. In 2006 Menezes was re-elected with around 60% of the vote.

Sao Tome and Principe Facts