Cape Verde , officially the Republic of Cabo Verde, is an island countryspanning an archipelago of 10 volcanic islands in the central Atlantic Ocean. Located 570 kilometres (350 mi) off the coast of West Africa, the islands cover a combined area of slightly over 4,000 square kilometres (1,500 sq mi).
The Cape Verde archipelago was uninhabited until the 15th century, when Portugueseexplorers discovered and colonized the islands, establishing the first European settlement in the tropics. Ideally located for the Atlantic slave trade, the islands grew prosperous throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, attracting merchants, privateers, and pirates. The end of slavery in the 19th century led to economic decline and emigration, although Cape Verde gradually recovered as an important commercial center and stopover for shipping routes. Incorporated as an overseas department of Portugal in 1951, the islands continued to agitate for independence, which was peacefully achieved in 1975.
Since the early 1990s, Cape Verde has been a stable representative democracy, and remains one of the most developed and democratic countries in Africa. Lacking natural resources, its developing economy is mostly service-oriented, with a growing focus on tourism and foreign investment. Its population of around 512,000 is mostly of mixed European and sub-Saharan African heritage (mulato), and predominantly Roman Catholic, reflecting the legacy of Portuguese rule. A sizeable diaspora communityexists across the world, slightly outnumbering inhabitants on the islands.
Historically, the name "Cape Verde" has been used in English for the archipelago and, since independence in 1975, for the country. In 2013, the Cape Verdean government determined that the Portuguese designation "Cabo Verde" would henceforth be used for official purposes, such as at the United Nations, even in English contexts. Cape Verde is a member of the African Union.
Cape Verde's strategic location at the crossroads of mid-Atlantic air and sea lanes has been enhanced by significant improvements at Mindelo's harbour (Porto Grande) and at Sal's and Praia's international airports. A new international airport was opened in Boa Vista in December 2007, and on the island of São Vicente, the newest international airport (Cesária Évora Airport) in Cape Verde, was opened in late 2009. Ship repair facilities at Mindelo were opened in 1983.
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 airports on Brava and Santo Antão enjoy scheduled air service. The archipelago has 3,050 km (1,895 mi) of roads, of which 1,010 km (628 mi) are paved, most using cobblestone.
The country's future economic prospects depend heavily on the maintenance of aid flows, the encouragement of tourism, remittances, outsourcing labour to neighbouring African countries, and the momentum of the government's development programme
Cape Verde’s climate is temperate, with a warm, dry summer. Precipitation is meagre and falls between the months of June to February, peaking in September.
Some islands see almost no rain: these are Sal, Boavista and Maio. The islands with most rainfall are Santiago, Fogo and Santo Antao.
The Cape Verde archipelago is located in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 570 kilometres (350 mi) off the western coast of the African continent, near Senegal, The Gambia, and Mauritania, and is part of the Macaronesia ecoregion. It lies between latitudes 14° and 18°N, and longitudes 22° and 26°W.
The country is a horseshoe-shaped cluster of ten islands (nine inhabited) and eight islets, that constitute an area of 4033 km2.
The islands are spatially divided into two groups:
- The Barlavento Islands (windward islands): Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia, São Nicolau, Sal, Boa Vista; and
- The Sotavento Islands (leeward): Maio, Santiago, Fogo, Brava.
The largest island, both in size and population, is Santiago, which hosts the nation's capital, Praia, the principal agglomeration in the archipelago.
Three (Sal, Boa Vista and Maio) are fairly flat, sandy, and dry; the others are generally rockier with more vegetation.
The official Census recorded that Cape Verde had a population of 512,096 in 2013. A large proportion (236,000) of Cape Verdeans live on the main island, Santiago.
The Cape Verde archipelago was uninhabited when the Portuguese discovered it in 1456. African slaves were brought to the islands to work on Portuguese plantations. Many Cape Verdeans are mulattos (mestiços in Portuguese), who have mixed African and European origins; another term is creole meaning mixed black and white descent. A lot of these Cape Verdeans have emigrated elsewhere, mainly to the United States and Europe.
European ancestors include Spanish and Italian seamen who were granted land by the Portuguese Empire, followed by Portuguese settlers, exiles, Portuguese Muslims and Portuguese Jews who were both victims of the Inquisition. Many foreigners from other parts of the world settled in Cape Verde as their permanent country. These people came from places such as the Netherlands, France, Britain, Arab countries(Lebanon and Morocco), China (especially from Macau), India, Indonesia, South America, North America and Brazil (including people of Portuguese and African descent) and were absorbed into the mestiço population.
Cape Verde's population in the 21st century is mostly creole; the capital city Praia accounts for a quarter of the country's population. Over 65% of the population in the archipelago lives in urban centers, and the literacy rate is around 87% (i.e., 91% among men aged 15 and above and 83% among women aged 15 and above) according to the 2013 Cape Verdean census.
A genetic study revealed that the ancestry of the population in Cape Verde is predominantly European in the male line and West African in the female line; counted together the percentage is 56% African and 44% European. The high degree of genetic and ethnic mixture of individuals is a result of centuries of migration.
Around 95% of the population are Christian. More than 85% of the population was nominally Roman Catholic in 2007. For a minority of the population, Catholicism is syncretized with African influences.
The largest Protestant denomination is the Church of the Nazarene; other groups include the Seventh-day Adventist Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Assemblies of God, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, and other Pentecostal and evangelical groups. There is a small Muslimcommunity. There were Jewish settlements on several islands. The number of atheists is estimated at less than 1% of the population.
Cape Verde's notable economic growth and improvement in living conditions despite a lack of natural resources has garnered international recognition, with other countries and international organizations often providing development aid. Since 2007, the UN has classified it as a developing nation rather than a least developed country.
Cape Verde has few natural resources. Only five of the ten main islands (Santiago, Santo Antão, São Nicolau, Fogo, and Brava) normally support significant agricultural production, and over 90% of all food consumed in Cape Verde is imported. Mineral resources include salt, pozzolana (a volcanic rock used in cement production), and limestone. Its small number of wineries making Portuguese-style wines have traditionally focused on the domestic market, but have recently met with some international acclaim. A number of wine tours of Cape Verde's various microclimates began to be offered in spring 2010 and can be arranged through the tourism office.
The economy of Cape Verde is service-oriented, with commerce, transport, and public services accounting for more than 70% of GDP. Although nearly 35% of the population lives in rural areas, agriculture and fishing contribute only about 9% of GDP. Light manufacturing accounts for most of the remainder. 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. Expatriate Cape Verdeans contribute an amount estimated at about 20% of GDP to the domestic economy through remittances. In spite of having few natural resources and being semi-desert, the country boasts the highest living standards in the region, and has attracted thousands of immigrants of different nationalities.
Since 1991, the government has pursued market-oriented economic policies, including an open welcome to foreign investors and a far-reaching privatization programme. It established as top development priorities the promotion of a 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 about $407 million in foreign investments were made or planned, of which 58% were in tourism,17% in industry, 4% in infrastructure, and 21% in fisheries and services.
In 2011, on four islands a wind farm was built that supplies about 30% of the electricity of the country. It is one of the top countries for renewable energy.
Between 2000 and 2009, real GDP increased on average by over 7 percent a year, well above the average for Sub-Saharan countries and faster than most small island economies in the region. Strong economic performance was bolstered by one of the fastest growing tourism industries in the world, as well as by substantial capital inflows that allowed Cape Verde to build up national currency reserves to the current 3.5 months of imports. Unemployment has been falling rapidly, and the country is on track to achieve most of the UN Millennium Development Goals – including halving its 1990 poverty level.
In 2007, Cape Verde joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) and in 2008 the country graduated from Least Developed Country (LDC) to Middle Income Country (MIC) status.
Cape Verde has significant cooperation with Portugal at every level of the economy, which has led it to link its currency first to the Portuguese escudo and, in 1999, to the euro. On 23 June 2008 Cape Verde became the 153rd member of the WTO.
The minimum wage has been set at 11,000.00 Cape Verde escudos (CVE) monthly (equivalent to US$110 or 101 Euros) for the first time in Cape Verdean history, in August 2013. The national minimum wage went into full effect on 1 January 2014.