Sao Tome and Principe, Africa’s smallest country in terms of geographical size, relies heavily on the production of cocoa, which has been steadily declining due to droughts and mismanagement. Despite the decrease in production, the economy has been growing at a rate of around 4 percent, but it is not enough to alleviate the country’s widespread poverty. An estimated 62 percent of the population lives in poverty.
About 100,000 people, almost half of the island nation’s population, live without electricity and one-third of the available roadways remain unpaved, which makes road travel difficult.
Investing in projects like paved roads and other areas encompassed by infrastructure in Sao Tome and Principe has the potential to jumpstart the alleviation of poverty across the country. Improving the country’s infrastructure opens up other doors for Sao Tome and Principe’s economy to grow and flourish. The World Bank and the government of Sao Tome and Principe are working together to introduce a multitude of reforms promoting growth in the financial sector and infrastructure.
The Urban/Rural Divide
The urban/rural divide is often a driving force for inequality. As countries urbanize, many people move towards the cities and leave rural areas behind. The people left in rural areas often have trouble keeping up with the shift and fall into a pattern of poverty. This is the case for Sao Tome and Principe.
Infrastructure in Sao Tome and Principe is worst in rural areas, but many initiatives have been implemented to improve the infrastructure so that it is equal to urban areas. The African Development Bank Group, a development finance institution, has a goal to diversify rural infrastructure to keep up with Sao Tome and Principe’s growing agriculture strategy.
Sao Tome and Principe’s Location
Oftentimes, poor developing countries fall into a poverty trap based on their geographical location. Many of the most impoverished countries in the world are landlocked. Sao Tome and Principe, being an island nation, is in a much better position to escape poverty than many other countries with a less fortunate geographic location. The islands are situated in a strategic location for international trade via waterways.
Sao Tome and Principe’s government is seeking international investors for the creation of a deepwater port. The government hopes that with the emergence of the deepwater port, Sao Tome and Principe will become an international shipping point connecting central Africa with the United States, Asia and Europe.
The International Development Association
The International Development Association (IDA) is the World Bank’s sector dedicated to helping the world’s poorest countries. Nearly 50 percent of the IDA’s funds go towards programs in Africa. Currently, in Sao Tome and Principe, the IDA is funding projects that total $22 million. The projects are currently focused on the country’s social support sector, advocating for equality for all citizens of Sao Tome and Principe.
Despite its size, infrastructure in Sao Tome and Principe has the potential to make the country a major player on the world’s stage. Continued development in this area can help the country improve living conditions for its most vulnerable citizens.
– Sonja Flancher