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Independence Day of the Democratic Republic of the St. Sao Tome and Principe

Sao Tome and Principe, island country of Central Africa, located on the Equator in the Gulf of Guinea. It consists of two main islands—São Tomé and Príncipe—and several rocky islets, including Rôlas, south of São Tomé island, and Caroço, Pedras, and Tinhosas, south of Príncipe. Land São Tomé, which is oval in shape, is larger than Príncipe, which lies about 90 miles (145 km) northeast of its sister island. The capital of the country, São Tomé city, is situated in the northeastern part of São Tomé island. The country’s closest neighbours are Gabon and Equatorial Guinea on the Atlantic coast of central Africa. Relief and drainage In the south and west of both islands, high volcanic mountains fall precipitously to the sea, although neither island has witnessed any volcanic activity in recent centuries. The mountains descend gradually to small plains in the northeast. São Tomé Peak, the highest point on the main island, rises to 6,640 feet (2,024 metres) above sea level, and Príncipe Peak on the smaller island reaches 3,110 feet (948 metres). These mountainous areas are deeply dissected by stream erosion, and spectacular isolated volcanic plugs stand out as landmarks. Swift and rocky streams rush down to the coast in every direction. Climate The climate is basically maritime and tropical, but, because of the rough topography, there is a wide range of microclimates. The prevailing moist southwesterly winds are intercepted by the mountains, so annual rainfall exceeds 275 inches (7,000 mm) in the southwestern part of São Tomé island, while the far northeast receives less than 30 inches (760 mm). The dry season, called gravana, lasts from June to September in the northeast but is scarcely discernible in the wetter regions. In the coastal areas the mean annual temperature is high, in the low 80s F (upper 20s C); the average relative humidity is also high, about 80 percent. Average temperatures decline sharply with elevation, and night temperatures fall below 50 °F (10 °C) at about 2,300 feet (700 metres). Above 3,300 feet (1,000 metres) fine misty rain falls almost continuously and the nights are cold, although frost and snow are unknown. Plant and animal life The original vegetation of the islands was luxuriant tropical rainforest, with a gradual transition from lowland forest to mist forest. Some of the islands’ area, mainly in the south and west, is still covered with rainforest. Much of this is secondary growth on abandoned plantation land. The flora and fauna include many rare and endemic species, reflecting the isolation and environmental diversity of the islands. Birds such as the ibis, shrike, and grosbeak can be found in Sao Tome and Principe. Many of the plants, birds, reptiles, and small mammals are threatened by pressure on the remaining rainforest. People - Ethnic groups The population consists mainly of Forros (from forro, Portuguese for “free man”), descendants of immigrant Europeans and enslaved Africans. Another group, the Angolares, descended from formerly enslaved Angolans who were shipwrecked on São Tomé about 1540. The Angolares remained apart in the isolated southern zone of São Tomé island until the late 19th century, but they later spread throughout the country and became largely assimilated. Cabo Verdeans form the largest group of resident foreigners; many have adopted Sao Tomean nationality. Angolans and Mozambicans make up most of the rest of the African immigrant community. Like the Cabo Verdeans, they are relatively well integrated with the other islanders, because of a shared Luso-African cultural background. There is a small European population—primarily Portuguese—in the country. Languages Standard Portuguese is the official language and is understood by virtually all islanders. In addition, three Portuguese-based creoles are spoken: Sãotomense, spoken by the Forros and having by far the largest number of speakers; Angolar, the language of the Angolares, spoken on the southern tip of São Tomé; and Principense, spoken by only a few hundred individuals on Príncipe. Religion More than half of the population belongs to the Roman Catholic Church. The remainder of those professing a religious affiliation is primarily Protestant. Traditional African religious practices and beliefs are widespread, even among adherents of other faiths. About one-fifth of the population identifies as nonreligious. Settlement patterns Almost three-fourths of the population resides in urban areas. The population is concentrated in the drier and flatter areas of both islands. Whereas a third of the inhabitants live in São Tomé city and its outskirts, only about 5 percent live on the island of Príncipe. Many people live in dispersed settlements known locally as lucháns. Houses made of wooden planks and raised above the ground are typical of the local building methods, although there are also many concrete structures in the Portuguese colonial style. Many people still live in barracklike accommodations on the plantations. Demographic trends Population growth is above the world average but below the average for sub-Saharan Africa. About two-fifths of the population is younger than 15 years of age, and another one-fourth is younger than 30, assuring continued rapid growth. Life expectancy in the early 21st century was more than 65 years of age, relatively high for an African country and close to the world average. Economy of Sao Tome and Principe Decades of colonial stagnation were followed by economic disruption after independence in 1975. Under the tutelage of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank since the mid-1980s, Sao Tome and Principe has tried to restore a functioning economy by devaluing its currency, reducing the budget deficit, privatizing formerly nationalized companies, attracting foreign investment, and removing price subsidies and controls. Despite all efforts and considerable inflows of foreign funds, however, the results of the imposed reforms did not match the original targets. During that time corruption became rampant, and mass poverty increased tremendously. In the late 1990s, IMF measures helped the country’s economy improve considerably, as did the advent of petroleum concessions sales, which continued into the 21st century. Sao Tome and Principe’s economy has historically been dependent on agriculture, and much of the total agricultural area of the two islands belongs to the state. Until 1993 this land was divided into 15 large plantation enterprises, but, by the end of the decade, most of the former plantations were dissolved and their land distributed to smallholders and medium-sized enterprises on a usufruct basis as part of attempted agricultural reform. High levels of unemployment coexist with a critical labour shortage on the former plantations, where wages and working conditions are poor. Agriculture, forestry, and fishing São Tomé is endowed with excellent conditions for tropical agriculture. The growing season is long, the volcanic soils are fertile, and there is no lack of water. Consequently, the economy remains dependent on plantation agriculture, especially cacao (grown for its seeds, cocoa beans). About two-fifths of the total land area is under cultivation, with cacao trees covering a little less than two-thirds of the cultivated land; coconut palms cover most of the remainder. Large areas of plantation land have been poorly maintained since independence; they are harvested from time to time but not otherwise tended. The country has never been self-sufficient in staple foodstuffs, and a combination of local eating habits, the legacy of the plantation economy, and foreign food aid has undermined the production of food crops for the local market. Fine stands of timber remain in the mountains, but the difficulty of removing logs from the steep terrain and the pressing need for effective conservation limit long-term prospects. The country’s small size prevents farmers from keeping large herds of livestock, but conditions for poultry raising are quite favourable. Fishing resources are limited by the narrow continental shelf. The domestic demand for fish exceeds supply by the local artisan fishermen, and trawlers from European Union countries pay small license fees for the right to fish in the country’s national waters. The deep-sea tuna resources of the Gulf of Guinea and shellfish in coastal waters represent the best hopes for fishery exports. Resources and power There are numerous sites for small hydroelectric schemes but no large rivers for major installations. The islands have no known mineral resources, but the country claims an area of the Gulf of Guinea that may have considerable deepwater hydrocarbon reserves; in the late 1990s and early 2000s this potential attracted foreign investors who purchased exploration concessions. In 2001 Sao Tome and Principe and Nigeria reached an agreement to oversee the exploration and development of potential oil fields in the Joint Development Zone (JDZ), an area of overlapping maritime boundaries about 125 miles (200 km) from the Nigerian coast. The agreement was renegotiated in 2003, after which oil companies began bidding for the right to develop sections within the JDZ. The first exploratory drilling in the JDZ began in 2006. Manufacturing Manufacturing, which accounts for a tiny fraction of the gross domestic product, is hampered by the small size of the domestic market, limited energy resources, and the lack of skilled labour. It consists mainly of small processing factories producing foodstuffs, beverages, soap products, bricks, and sawn wood for the domestic market. Finance and trade Sao Tome and Principe is reputed to be the recipient of one of the highest amounts of foreign aid per capita in the world, but this has not prevented large budgetary and balance-of-payment deficits. There are several commercial banks active in the country, and the Central Bank of Sao Tome and Principe controls foreign exchange dealings and issues the country’s currency, the dobra. Cocoa, despite decreasing production, still accounts for almost all foreign exchange earnings from merchandise exports. Belgium, the Netherlands, and France are the country’s most significant export destinations. Portugal is the main source of imports. Source: https://www.britannica.com/place/Sao-Tome-and-Principe  

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