Facts About the Culture, Geography, and History of São Tomé and Principe
Sao Tome and Principe is a twin-island nation found on the equatorial west coast of Africa within the Atlantic Ocean. It is a nation with a lot to be explored and an avid traveler wouldn’t like to miss paying it an adventurous visit.
We have saddled together these interesting facts about this gem of a West African nation to captivate your imagination of what awaits you on your trip
12. São Tomé and Principe, is a Portuguese-speaking island nation situated in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Africa. Both islands are part of an extinct volcanic range.
Sao Tome and Principe consist of two archipelagos about 140 kilometers apart. Principe is the closest island to mainland Africa and it is 225 kilometers off the northwestern coast of Gabon. Sao Tome is a bit southwards compared to Principe. They were formed as a result of extinct volcanic activity.
11. São Tomé and Principe gained independence on the 12th of July 1975 from Portugal.
Sao Tome and Principe had African aboriginals before being found by the Portuguese in around 1470 AD. The Portuguese started settling there soon after the discovery and colonized it until it gained its independence on 12th July 1975.
10. The island of Sao Tome was named after Saint Thomas by the Portuguese explorers who happened to arrive at the island at the saint’s feast day.
Sao Tome not only bears its name from the Portuguese explorers but it has had centuries of Portuguese cultural influences. For example, it is one of the few Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa with Portuguese as its official language.
9. São Tomé and Principe are a part of a mountain range consisting of none active volcanoes.
Both Sao Tome and Principe are a part of the Cameroonian volcanic mountain range. It is on this range that other nearer islands such as Bioko and Annobón are established.
These two islands form part of Equatorial Guinea. Apart from these two islands, Mount Cameroon rests on this range and sits on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea.
Sao Tome’s flora is largely based on the Obô – a high altitude Atlantic rain forest that descends from Sao Tome peak accompanied by various rivers that flows along with various directions on the island into the ocean.
8. São Tomé became one of the first African countries to adopt democratic reforms and changes to its constitution.
Sao Tome became the first country in Africa to adopt multiparty democracy in 1990. It was, later on, followed up by holding its first multiparty elections in 1991 after changing the Constitution.
The first multiparty elections were free, fair, transparent, and non-violent. As such, this political maturity and stability endowed the country with much-need foreign direct investment (FDI) thus boosting its largely-sleeping economy.
Sao Tome is one of the few countries in Africa that you can visit during the electioneering season without worrying about being caught up in an eruption of pre and post-election violence.
7. São Tomé and Principe is the second-smallest African country when it comes to population.
Sao Tome is the world’s 172nd nation in terms of its size and Africa’s second smallest country.
The island of Sao Tome is just 854 square kilometers while its partner island of Principe is just 136 square kilometers thus aggregating to a total of about 990 square kilometers.
As of 2007, Sao Tome and Principe had a combined population of 196,548 people of whom 96% live on the largest island.
6. Coca is the main crop of the island nation São Tomé and it represents 95% of the country’s export. Other export crops include copra, palm kernels, and coffee.
Sao Tome economy is largely an agriculture-based economy. Its primary crops are cocoa, copra, palm kernels, and coffee. It shares this type of crop culture with places such as Ivory Coast and Ghana. Its primary export destinations are Britain, Netherlands, and Belgium.
5. São Tomé and Principe is home to a large number of birds and plants, including the world’s smallest ibis and the world’s largest sunbird and many other giant species of Begonia.
The uniquely rich flora and fauna make Sao Tome a great destination for nature lovers. Here you can see plenty of birds and plant species. As small as the island nation is, so is its collection of small animals.
One of these small animals is the world’s smallest ibis. The nation’s small size doesn’t mean it cannot hold large birds. Sao Tome is home to the world’s largest sunbird. There are many species that will welcome you on your visit to the jungles of Sao Tome and Principe.
4. There are no dangerous animals like tigers, lions, deadly snakes, or spiders in the jungle of São Tomé.
Sao Tome, unlike mainland Africa, does not have large dangerous animals. However, the most threatening animal is the mosquito.
Mosquito bites, though not severe, can prove fatal in the long-term due to malarial infection. Being safe from mosquitoes simply means that you are safe from a lot of danger while on your tour in Sao Tome.
3. Many of the workers who worked in the production of sugar in São Tomé and Principe were Jewish individuals that had been expelled from Europe and slaves who were imported from the African mainland.
Sao Tome comprises largely of populations with slave ancestry. Slaves were picked from as far as Angola (being a Portuguese colony).
Others were picked from neighboring West Africa as Sao Tome was a resting point along the transit route during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Around 1550 AD, Sao Tome was the leading producer and exporter of sugarcane, thanks to this slave labor.
2. In 1991 São Tomé and Principe held its first multi-party election and have held regularly and fair elections ever since.
After changing its Constitution in 1990 to allow multiparty democracy, opposition political parties were formed. Campaigns ensued in earnest and peaceful, free, fair, and transparent multiparty elections were held in 1991 under the new multiparty Constitution.
So far, since then, Sao Tome and Principe have held peaceful elections and transition of power. This is uncharacteristic of mainland Africa where elections spell doom and anxiety for most nations.
1. The São Tomé and Principe cuisine is based on tropical root crops, plantains, and bananas, with fish as the most common source of protein.
Being largely Bantu speaking, Sao Tome’s cuisine is based on common crops found on the West African mainland. Root crops, especially arrowroots and yams are common staple foods.
Plantains and bananas cap the staple diet. To make the cuisine enriched with proteins, like most island nations, fish cannot miss. Other sea sources of protein are sparingly included.
However, the traditional delicacy of fruit bat and monkey meat adds to the protein flavor. Wild fruits and wild vegetables are also in plenty to supplement the western-type fruits and vegetables. The island is richly endowed with natural food sources.
Sao Tome and Principe offer to the world a unique land and cultural heritage not found elsewhere in the universe. It blends both African and Portuguese culture to come up with a unique milieu of traditions.
This is a great place to visit as you explore the beauty of that part of the Atlantic Ocean cooked up by Africa’s volcanic activity and ancestry.
What to read next: 12 Interesting Facts About Niger