Sao Tome and Principe, once a leading cocoa producer, consists of two islands of volcanic origin and a number of smaller islets lying off the coast of Africa.
From the late 1400s Portugal began settling convicts on Sao Tome and establishing sugar plantations with the help of slaves from the mainland. The island was also important in the transshipment of slaves.
The colony’s aspirations for independence were recognised after the 1974 coup in Portugal and at first the Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe was the country’s sole political party. However, the 1990 constitution created a multi-party democracy.
The island of Principe assumed autonomy in 1995.
The country hopes to reduce its dependence on donors and cocoa exports by exploiting offshore oil.
- The Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe
- Capital: Sao Tome
- Population 172,000
- Area 1,001 sq km (386 sq miles)
- Major language Portuguese
- Religion Christianity
- Life expectancy 64 years (men), 66 years (women)
- Currency dobra