Causes of Poverty in Sao Tome and Principe

The most recent survey on the causes of poverty in Sao Tome and Principe, an island nation off the western coast of Africa, dates back to 1995. It showed that over 40 percent of the population was living below the poverty line, and 33 percent were living in extreme poverty.

Unfortunately, there is little household information about Sao Tome and Principe, but a decline in the nation’s per capita income through 1997 and difficult social conditions led to the increase in poverty since then. Specifically, fluctuations in the world’s cocoa prices triggered such conditions and have caused an influx of migration to urban areas.

Despite this, its rank of 142 out of 188 in the United Nations’ Development Programme Human Development Index is relatively good compared to other Western African countries. This mostly stems from foreign investment in health and education between 1975 and 1985, but this aid slowed with economic instability in the 1990s.

This country struggles to develop largely due to its low income, which stems from a lack of assets and means of production. Without the ability to export, Sao Tome and Principe struggles to resolve its economic instability. Without tools or proper infrastructure, agriculture as an industry is unable to generate income.

Despite this, since 1990, Sao Tome and Principe’s Human Development Index rating has gone up from .454 to .574, which is an increase of about 26.4 percent. Progress in different areas has been seen, as the life expectancy has gone up by 4.8 years, as well as mean years of schooling increased by 2.4 years and expected years of schooling increased by 3.8 years. Sao Tome and Principe’s GNI per capita also increased by 55.6 percent since 1990.

Sao Tome and Principe is still below the average level of HDI rating of .631, but above the average of .523 of sub-Saharan African countries. One area it must work on is its gender inequality rating, as only 30.8 percent of adult women have received a secondary level of education. Further improvement in some of these areas will help limit some of the causes of poverty in Sao Tome and Principe.

Tucker Hallowell

Photo: Flickr