Cape Verde - Tips

Cape Verde Bureau of African Affairs
July 2007

Background Note: Cape Verde

Fishermen drag a small boat up the
shore in Sao Pedro Bay, Sao Vicente,
Cape Verde. September 8, 2000. [© AP
Images]

Flag of Cape Verde is three horizontal bands of blue (top, double width),
white (with a horizontal red stripe in the middle third), and blue; a circle
of 10 yellow five-pointed stars is centered on the hoist end of the red
stripe and extends into the upper and lower blue bands.

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
Republic of Cape Verde

Geography
Area: 4,033 sq. km. (1,557 sq. mi.), slightly larger than Rhode Island.
Cities: Capital--Praia (pop. 106,052). Other city--Mindelo (pop. 67,844).
Terrain: Rugged volcanic islands.
Climate: Dry, temperate.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Cape Verdean(s).
Population (2005): 507,000.
Annual growth rate (2001): 2.9%.
Ethnic groups: Creole (mixed African and Portuguese), African, European.
Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant.
Languages: Portuguese (official); Crioulo (national).
Education: Literacy (2004)--76%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2001)--37/1,000. Life expectancy (2004)--70
yrs.

Government
Type: Republic.
Independence: July 5, 1975.
Constitution: 1982; revised 1992, 1995, and 1999.
Branches: Executive--president (head of state), prime minister (head of
government), Council of Ministers. Legislative--National Assembly.
Judicial--Supreme Court, lower courts.
Administrative subdivisions: 17 administrative districts.
Political parties: African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV);
Movement for Democracy (MPD); Party for Democratic Convergence (PCD); Party
for Democratic Renovation (PRD); Party for Labor and Solidarity (PTS); Social
Democratic Party (PSD).
Suffrage: Universal over 18.

Economy
GDP (2004): $983 million.
GDP per capita (2004): $2,091.
Annual real GDP growth rate (2005): 6.6%.
Inflation (2005): 0.4%.
Natural resources: Salt, pozzolana, limestone.
Agriculture: Products--bananas, corn, beans, sugarcane, coffee, fruits,
vegetables, livestock products.
Industry: Types--fish and fish products, clothing, shoes, beverages, salt,
construction, building materials, ship repair, furniture, metal products,
tourism.
Trade (2004): Exports--$55 million: fuel, clothing, shoes and shoe parts,
fish and crustaceans. Imports--$350.7 million: consumer goods, intermediary
goods, capital goods, petroleum. Major trading partners, exports--Portugal
60.2%, U.S. 17.5%, U.K. 11.5%, Denmark 2.1%, Germany 1.7%. Major trading
partners, imports--Portugal 40.7%, U.S. 12%, Netherlands 8.1%, Spain 5.1%,
Italy 4.1%.
Fiscal year: Calendar year.
Currency: Escudo (CVEsc 91.03 = $1), which is pegged to the Euro.
Economic aid received: $92 million (2002). Largest donors: Portugal ($11
million); Luxembourg; Japan; and the United States ($5.9 million).

GEOGRAPHY
The Cape Verde Islands are located in the mid-Atlantic Ocean some 450
kilometers (about 300 mi.) off the west coast of Africa. The archipelago
includes 10 islands and 5 islets, divided into the windward (Barlavento) and
leeward (Sotavento) groups. The main islands in the Barlavento group are
Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia, São Nicolau, Sal, and Boa Vista; those
of the Sotavento group include Maio, Santiago, Fogo, and Brava. All larger
islands but Santa Luzia are inhabited.

Three islands--Sal, Boa Vista, and Maio--generally are level and very dry.
Mountains higher than 1,280 meters (4,200 ft.) are found on Santiago, Fogo,
Santo Antão, and São Nicolau.

Sand carried by high winds has created spectacular rock formations on all
islands, especially the windward ones. Sheer, jagged cliffs rise from the sea
on several of the mountainous islands. Natural vegetation is sparse in the
uplands and coast, but interior valleys support denser growth.

Rainfall is irregular, and the archipelago suffers periodic droughts and
consequent food shortages. The average precipitation per year in Praia is 24
centimeters (9.5 in.). During the winter, storms blowing from the Sahara
sometimes cloud the sky, but sunny days are the norm year round.

PEOPLE
The Cape Verde archipelago was uninhabited until the Portuguese discovered
the islands in 1456. African slaves were brought to the islands to work on
Portuguese plantations. As a result, Cape Verdeans are of mixed African and
European origin. The influence of African culture is most pronounced on the
island of Santiago, where half the population resides. Sparse rain and few
natural resources historically have induced Cape Verdeans to emigrate. It is
believed that of the more than 1 million individuals of Cape Verdean
ancestry, fewer than half actually live on the islands. Some 500,000 people
of Cape Verdean ancestry live in the United States, mainly in New England.
Portugal, Netherlands, Italy, France, and Senegal also have large
communities.

The official language is Portuguese, but most Cape Verdeans also speak a
Creole dialect--Crioulo--which is based on archaic Portuguese but influenced
by African and European languages. Cape Verde has a rich tradition of Crioulo
literature and music.

HISTORY
In 1462, Portuguese settlers arrived at Santiago and founded Ribeira Grande
(now Cidade Velha)--the first permanent European settlement city in the
tropics. In the 16th century, the archipelago prospered from the
transatlantic slave trade. Pirates occasionally attacked the Portuguese
settlements. Sir Francis Drake sacked Ribeira Grande in 1585. After a French
attack in 1712, the city declined in importance relative to Praia, which
became the capital in 1770.

With the decline in the slave trade, Cape Verde's early prosperity slowly
vanished. However, the islands' position astride mid-Atlantic shipping lanes
made Cape Verde an ideal location for resupplying ships. Because of its
excellent harbor, Mindelo (on the island of São Vicente) became an important
commercial center during the 19th century.

Portugal changed Cape Verde's status from a colony to an overseas province in
1951 in an attempt to blunt growing nationalism. Nevertheless, in 1956,
Amilcar Cabral, a Cape Verdean, and a group of Cape Verdeans and
Guinea-Bissauans organized (in Guinea-Bissau) the clandestine African Party
for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which demanded
improvement in economic, social, and political conditions in Cape Verde and
Portuguese Guinea and formed the basis of the two nations' independence
movement. Moving its headquarters to Conakry, Guinea in 1960, the PAIGC began
an armed rebellion against Portugal in 1961. Acts of sabotage eventually grew
into a war in Portuguese Guinea that pitted 10,000 Soviet bloc-supported
PAIGC soldiers against 35,000 Portuguese and African troops.

By 1972, the PAIGC controlled much of Portuguese Guinea despite the presence
of the Portuguese troops, but the organization did not attempt to disrupt
Portuguese control in Cape Verde. Portuguese Guinea declared independence in
1973 and was granted de jure independence in 1974. Following the April 1974
revolution in Portugal, the PAIGC became an active political movement in Cape
Verde. In December 1974, the PAIGC and Portugal signed an agreement providing
for a transitional government composed of Portuguese and Cape Verdeans. On
June 30, 1975, Cape Verdeans elected a National Assembly, which received the
instruments of independence from Portugal on July 5, 1975.

Immediately following the November 1980 coup in Guinea-Bissau, relations
between Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau became strained. Cape Verde abandoned
its hope for unity with Guinea-Bissau and formed the African Party for the
Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV). Problems have since been resolved, and
relations between the countries are good. The PAICV and its predecessor
established a one-party system and ruled Cape Verde from independence until
1990.

Responding to growing pressure for pluralistic democracy, the PAICV called an
emergency congress in February 1990 to discuss proposed constitutional
changes to end one-party rule. Opposition groups came together to form the
Movement for Democracy (MpD) in Praia in April 1990. Together, they
campaigned for the right to contest the presidential election scheduled for
December 1990. The one-party state was abolished September 28, 1990, and the
first multi-party elections were held in January 1991. The MpD won a majority
of the seats in the National Assembly, and the MpD presidential candidate
Mascarenhas Monteiro defeated the PAICV's candidate with 73.5% of the votes.
Legislative elections in December 1995 increased the MpD majority in the
National Assembly. The party won 50 of the National Assembly's 72 seats. A
February 1996 presidential election returned President Mascarenhas Monteiro
to office. Legislative elections in January 2001 returned power to the PAICV,
with the PAICV holding 40 of the National Assembly seats, MpD 30, and Party
for Democratic Convergence (PCD) and Party for Labor and Solidarity (PTS) 1
each. In February 2001, the PAICV-supported presidential candidate Pedro
Pires defeated former MpD leader Carlos Veiga by only 13 votes.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The Cape Verde constitution--adopted in 1980 and revised in 1992, 1995, and
1999--forms the basis of government. The president is head of state and is
elected by popular vote for a 5-year term. The prime minister is head of
government and proposes other ministers and secretaries of state. The prime
minister is nominated by the National Assembly and appointed by the
president. Members of the National Assembly are elected by popular vote for
5-year terms.

Cape Verde enjoys a stable democratic system. The Movement for Democracy
(MpD) captured a governing majority in the National Assembly in the country's
first multi-party general elections in 1991. The MpD was returned to power
with a larger majority in the general elections held in December 1995. In
2001, the PAICV regained power, with four parties holding seats in the
National Assembly--PAICV 40, MPD 30, PCD 1, and PTS 1. Nationwide municipal
elections were held March 21, 2004.

In January 2006, Cape Verde held a successful round of parliamentary
elections, followed by successful presidential elections on February 12,
2006. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) judged both elections free and
fair. However, the leading parliamentary opposition party has filed a court
case in an attempt to overrule the NEC on the grounds of alleged fraud.

The judicial system is comprised of a Supreme Court of Justice--whose members
are appointed by the president, the National Assembly, and the Board of the
Judiciary--and regional courts. Separate courts hear civil, constitutional
and criminal cases. Appeal is to the Supreme Court.

Principal Government Officials
President--Pedro Verona Pires
Prime Minister and Defense Minister--Jose Maria Neves
President of the National Assembly--Aristides Lima
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Victor Borges
Ambassador to the United States--vacant
Ambassador to the United Nations--Fatima Lima Veiga

Cape Verde maintains an embassy in the United States at 3415 Massachusetts
Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20007 (tel. 202-965-6820) and one consulate at 535
Boylston Street, Boston MA 02116 (tel. 617-353-0014).

ECONOMY
Cape Verde has few natural resources and suffers from poor rainfall and
limited fresh water. Only 4 of the 10 main islands (Santiago, Santo Antão,
Fogo, and Brava) normally support significant agricultural production.
Mineral resources include salt, pozzolana (a volcanic rock used in cement
production), and limestone.

The economy of Cape Verde is service-oriented, with commerce, transport, and
public services accounting for more than 70% of GDP. Although nearly 70% of
the population lives in rural areas, agriculture and fishing contribute only
about 10% of GDP. Light manufacturing accounts for most of the remainder. An
amount estimated at about 20% of GDP is contributed to the domestic economy
through remittances from expatriate Cape Verdeans.

Since 1991, the government has pursued market-oriented economic policies,
including an open welcome to foreign investors and a far-reaching
privatization program. It established as top development priorities the
promotion of market economy and of the private sector; the development of
tourism, light manufacturing industries, and fisheries; and the development
of transport, communications, and energy facilities. From 1994 to 2000 there
was a total of about $407 million in foreign investments made or planned, of
which 58% were in tourism, 17% in industry, 4% in infrastructure, and 21% in
fisheries and services.

Fish and shellfish are plentiful, and small quantities are exported. Cape
Verde has cold storage and freezing facilities and fish processing plants in
Mindelo, Praia, and on Sal.

Cape Verde's strategic location at the crossroads of mid-Atlantic air and sea
lanes has been enhanced by significant improvements at Mindelo's harbor
(Porto Grande) and at Sal's international airport. Ship repair facilities at
Mindelo were opened in 1983, and the harbors at Mindelo and Praia were
recently renovated. The major ports are Mindelo and Praia, but all other
islands have smaller port facilities. In addition to the international
airport on Sal, airports have been built on all of the inhabited islands. All
but the airport on Brava enjoy scheduled air service. The archipelago has
3,050 kilometers (1,830 mi.) of roads, of which 1,010 kilometers (606 mi.)
are paved.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Cape Verde pursues a nonaligned foreign policy and seeks cooperative
relations with all states. Angola, Brazil, China, Cuba, France, Portugal,
Senegal, Russia, and the United States maintain embassies in Praia. Several
others, mostly European countries, maintain honorary consulates. In addition,
Cape Verde maintains multilateral relations with other Lusophone nations and
holds membership in many international organizations. It currently is working
to accede to the World Trade Organization.

U.S.-CAPE VERDEAN RELATIONS
The cordial relations between the United States and Cape Verde have strong
historical roots. In the early 18th century, U.S. whaling ships appear to
have begun recruiting crews from Brava and Fogo to hunt whales that were
abundant in the waters surrounding Cape Verde. Ties between the American
colonies and Cape Verde are documented as early as the 1740s, when American
ships routinely anchored in Cape Verdean ports to trade for salt or buy
slaves. The tradition of emigration to the United States began at that time
and continues today.

The first U.S. consulate in sub-Saharan Africa was established in Cape Verde
in 1818. U.S. consular representation continued throughout the 19th century.
The United States recognized Cape Verde on its independence day and supported
its admission to the United Nations. Cape Verde assigned one of its first
ambassadors to the United States, and a resident U.S. ambassador was posted
to Cape Verde in 1983. Prime Minister Jose Neves visited Cape Verdean
communities in New England during an official trip to the United States in
2002, and President Pires visited the United States in April 2005.

The United States provided emergency humanitarian aid and economic assistance
to Cape Verde in the period immediately following Cape Verde's independence,
as well as after natural disasters, including a hurricane that struck the
island of Brava in 1982, and after a severe volcanic eruption on Fogo in
1995. The United States normally delivers about 15,000 metric tons of grain
yearly to Cape Verde. Cape Verde also is eligible for trade benefits under
the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), and has signed an Open Skies
agreement to facilitate air travel safety and expansion. On July 4, 2005,
Cape Verde became the third country to sign a compact with the U.S.
Government-funded Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC); the three-year
assistance package is worth over $110 million in addressing rural economic
expansion, infrastructure development, and development of tourism and a
community college system.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Roger D. Pierce
Deputy Chief of Mission--Paul Pometto
Consul--Kristen Thompson

The U.S. Embassy in Cape Verde is at Rua Abílio Macedo, 81, Praia; C.P.201,
tel. (238) 260 890, fax 611 355.

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program advises Americans
traveling and residing abroad through Consular Information Sheets, Public
Announcements, and Travel Warnings. Consular Information Sheets exist for all
countries and include information on entry and exit requirements, currency
regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political
disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.
Public Announcements are issued to disseminate information quickly about
terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that
pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings
are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel
to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable.

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad
should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet
web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution,
Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs
Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a
safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov. For
additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/
Citizen/Topics/Travel/International.shtml.

The Department of State encourages all U.S citizenstraveling or residing
abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or
at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your
presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an
emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security
conditions.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained
by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular
toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of
State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport
information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service
representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00
a.m. to 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP
(877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the
most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements,
and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A
booklet entitled "Health Information for International Travel" (HHS
publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at http://
www.state.gov, the Department of State web site provides timely, global
access to official U.S. foreign policy information, including Background
Notes and daily press briefings along with the directory of key officers of
Foreign Service posts and more. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)
provides security information and regional news that impact U.S. companies
working abroad through its website http://www.osac.gov

Export.gov provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market
information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free
export counseling, help with the export process, and more.
STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides
authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from
the Federal government. The site includes current and historical
trade-related releases, international market research, trade opportunities,
and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank. ***********************************************************
See http://www.state.gov/r/pa/bgn/ for all Background notes
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