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Sao Tome and Principe Country Report

Country Risk Level

Medium

Overview

Executive Summary

A coalition led by the MLSTP/PSD took power on 3 December 2018 after eight weeks of competition over who would form the government following legislative polls on 7 October. The administration led by Jorge Bom Jesus has only a single seat majority, but a peaceful transition of power from the former ruling ADI, which remains the largest party, underlines the relative strength of São Tomé’s parliamentary democracy.The change of power is bringing a rapprochement with long-term ally Angola at the expense of China, which no longer appears to be interested in the construction of a proposed USD800-million deepwater port in Fernão Dias. That contract was put out to general tender in November 2019. Angola and state oil company Sonangol have a prominent role in the economy and in providing budgetary support.IHS Markit forecasts real GDP to contract 7.8% during 2020, driven largely by COVID-19 virus-related disruption to the tourism industry, a fall in diaspora remittances and delays in externally financed projects. We forecast real GDP growth to marginally rebound to 2.4% in 2021 as the economy gradually recovers from the impact of the pandemic.Financing needs are likely to increase in 2020 as the government combats the negative economic impacts of COVID-19. The introduction of VAT at 15% from 1 March 2020 – as part of fiscal and regulatory reforms mandated by the IMF in return for a USD18.2-million Extended Credit Facility agreement signed in October 2019 – was shelved to 2021 to support consumer spending in the wake of the pandemic.The country is likely to experience further recurrent fuel and power shortages, caused by debts owed to oil suppliers, and the technical bankruptcy of state power utility EMAE. Its failure to maintain a thermal power plant has left the facility beyond repair, creating a chronic power deficit.

Operational Outlook

Long-held ambitions to become an IT and telecoms hub have been undermined by São Tomé and Principe's geographical isolation, undiversified economy, relatively unskilled workforce, institutionalised bureaucracy and poor infrastructure. Elite level corruption has been illustrated by an ongoing case over allegedly illegal loan contracted by the former ADI government from the China International Fund (USD30 million) and the Kuwait Fund (USD17 million). Strikes by teachers, judges, and health-service workers are common due to funding shortages, but the private sector employs few people.

Terrorism

São Tomé and Principe's geographical proximity to the Niger Delta, where many piracy groups are based, raises attack risks on vessels serving the island nation and the nascent oil industry in particular. Nevertheless, a reported incident in November 2019 when attackers in a skiff opened fire on an under-way crude oil tanker was the first case of attempted piracy in São Toméan waters for at least two years. Other attempted piracy cases occurred since then. The government remains fully engaged with efforts by regional organisations such as the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of Central African States, and neighbouring countries to improve surveillance and anti-piracy measures.

Crime

Petty crime remains a persistent problem, particularly in urban areas. Theft of unaccompanied items is the most commonly reported offence, though robberies are reported to be on the rise. Foreigners and tourists are likely to be targets due to their perceived greater wealth. The socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to moderately increase crime levels. Violent crime is very rare, and there is no evidence of organised crime. Although the police force is small and under-resourced, its reputation among the population is generally good, and it has a reasonable record at solving minor crimes. The involvement of state authorities in criminal activities is not known, although in late March 2019, around eight kilograms of cocaine went missing from the building of the Supreme Court of Justice, after being seized on different occasions.

War Risks

The former government headed by Patrice Trovoada had claimed to have frustrated two coup attempts in mid-2018, but actual coup risks are minimal as the military has stepped back from its previous long-standing tendency to become involved in politics. Oscar Sousa, defence minister under the new Jorge Bom Jesus administration, said in December 2018 that the previous government had staged the coup attempts to boost its waning popularity, and all those arrested for alleged involvement have been released. São Tomé and Principe's geographical isolation as an island nation and friendly relations with Gulf of Guinea countries mean there is very little risk of interstate war.

Social Stability

High food prices and poor service provision occasionally trigger protests. Working conditions and salaries in the civil service have also occasionally driven protests, such as the April 2017 strike and demonstration held by police officers in São Tomé city. A recent phenomenon was protests and roadblocks driven by fuel shortages in São Tomé, that resulted from supply disruptions from Sonangol. Although protests have been reduced, restrictions under the state of emergencies and the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic increase the likelihood of demonstrations and protests occurring more often in 2020, especially if the government fails to pay civil service salaries on time and honour commitments agreed with trade unions.

Health Risk

Vaccinations required to enter the country

Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required for all travelers over one year of age entering the country.

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).

Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - mefloquine (sometimes marketed as Lariam) or doxycycline (sometimes marketed as Vibramycin).

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Practical Information

Climate

The climate of Sao Tomé and Principe is equatorial; the island nation receives abundant rain and experiences high temperatures and high levels of humidity. Ocean breezes however often lower air temperatures. The dry season lasts from June until September; the month of January also sees a respite from rain (during the “Pequenha Gravana”). The south of the country's main island is mountainous and sees higher annual rainfall (7 meters) than the north (2 meters).

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +239
Police: 22 22 22

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Risk Level
Critical High Medium Low Minimal