São Tomé, 12 July 2022 (TDI): São Tomé and Príncipe celebrated 47 years of independence following gaining freedom from Portugal in 1975.

An island nation consisting of two main islands – São Tomé and Príncipe – it is one of the smallest African countries after Seychelles.

The country received diplomatic felicitations from countries around the world including India, Qatar, and the White House.

The Colonial Past

In 1470, Portuguese explorers discovered the then uninhabited São Tomé and Príncipe and colonised it. During the 16th century, the country was for a brief time the world’s largest producer of sugar.

But the economy declined over the years due to the competition from sugar-producing colonies in the Western Hemisphere.

After the collapse of the sugar economy, the colony served as an entrepôt for the Portuguese slave trade. An entrepôt is a seaport or warehouse where goods are stored until they are shipped.

Following a coup in 1974, the Portuguese colonists fled the country and the country officially gained independence in 1975.

Trajectory since Independence

While the country achieved independence in 1975, democratic reforms were not instituted until the late 1980s. First free elections in the country were held in 1991, but frequent internal wrangling between the various political parties precipitated repeated changes in leadership and four failed, non-violent coup attempts in 1995, 1998, 2003, and 2009.

With respect to the economy, the country has always been an agricultural economy with cocoa as a cash crop. Although, the country has been witnessing the decline of the industry due to climate change, flooding, and mismanagement.

With little private investments, the country has also long depended heavily on international assistance although petroleum-related earnings have increased since the late 1990s due to the exploration of oil in the Gulf of Guinea.