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Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Sao Tome and Principe
Sao Tome and Principe (STP) is a small island nation just north of the Equator. This formal Portuguese colony achieved its independence in 1975. As a Portuguese colony, from 1470 to 1975, people knew Sao Tome and Principe for its sugar production and trade. The slave labor utilized in the island’s sugar industry persisted into the 20th century. The country’s economy is largely dependent on agricultural exports, but the Sao Tome and Principe government is making efforts to diversify its economy. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Sao Tome and Principe.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Sao Tome and Principe

  1. Life expectancy in Sao Tome and Principe is 70.2 years old. While this is lower than life expectancy in developed countries such as the U.S. or the U.K., STP’s life expectancy is higher than its neighbors. Compared to other developing nations in Africa such as Gabon, Angola, Nigeria, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, STP has a higher life expectancy.
  2. As of 2018, the literacy rate in STP was 92.8 percent. Primary level education, which lasts for six years, is compulsory and free of charge. This, combined with a high primary school enrollment of 97 percent, resulted in a high literacy rate. However, the quality of education and teachers raises some concerns. To remedy this, in cooperation with the Global Partnerships for Education (GPE) and the World Bank, the STP government is striving to improve the quality of education facilities and training of teachers.
  3. About 97.1 percent of the STP population has access to an improved water source. While STP has access to more than 50 natural water sources, these sources are unevenly distributed within the island. With the support of the U.N. Environment and the Global Environment Facility, STP enacted its first water law in January 2018. The new law guides the use and control of water with the aim of long-term water sustainability and access to water for all populace in STP.
  4. Sixty-eight percent of the population in STP has access to electricity. While 87 percent of the urban area has access to electricity, only 22 percent of the rural areas in the STP have access to electricity. This lack of access to electricity for the rural populace negatively affects the living conditions in Sao Tome and Principe. To remedy this, the STP government is cooperating with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in creating hydro-powered power plants which will utilize STP’s multiple rivers to generate power.
  5. Approximately 66.2 percent of the STP population lives below the poverty line. STP’s economic dependence on cacao export resulted in the country’s over-dependence on its agricultural sector. The majority of STP’s population depends on agriculture for their income. The recent fall in cacao prices severely affected the STP’s economy. To remedy this, the STP government is investing in the country’s tourism industry. STP is also co-developing the recently discovered oil in the Gulf of Guinea with Nigeria.
  6. STP relies on foreign imports to support itself. Living conditions in Sao Tome and Principe depend heavily upon foreign imports. The majority of food, fuels, manufactured goods and consumer goods enter STP as imports. This leaves STP’s economy and access to goods vulnerable to the fluctuating international prices of goods. For example, of the estimated GDP of $686 million in 2017, $127.7 million went into foreign good imports.
  7. STP also relies heavily on foreign aid. UNICEF’s 2018 report showed concern that the GDP of the STP is still heavily dependent upon foreign aid. According to the report, only 14.9 percent of STP’s GDP came from domestic resources. In 2019, 90 percent of STP’s country budget received funding from foreign aid.
  8. Infant mortality in STP is in sharp decline since 1992. Compared to the 69.5 per 1,000 infant mortality rate in 1992, infant mortality in STP declined to 24.4 per 1,000 as of 2018. In UNICEF’s 2018 annual report, UNICEF noted the continuous progress that the STP government is making in improving access to basic services, education, maternal health and treating HIV/AIDS and malaria.
  9. STP will graduate from the U.N.’s list of least developed countries. According to the World Economic Outlook report, STP and Angola will leave the U.N.’s group of least developed countries. Angola will graduate from the list in 2021 and STP will graduate in 2024. This reflects the continuously improving living conditions in Sao Tome and Principe and Angola.
  10. As of 2017, the unemployment rate in STP is 12.2 percent. This unemployment rate was a 0.4 percent drop from 2016. However, some experts wonder if this truly represents the living conditions in Sao Tome and Principe. Since many workers in STP work as farmers, experts are calling for improvements in STP’s manufacturing and tourism sectors.

Living conditions in Sao Tome and Principe are steadily improving. There are still many mountains that the STP government must climb in order to lead its country into a more prosperous future. While the STP economy’s dependence on agriculture and foreign aid is concerning, the high literacy rate in STP reflects the potential for growth. STP’s planned graduation from the U.N.’s list of least developed countries certainly seems to reflect this optimism. With this progress, a better future is surely coming for the people of STP.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Global Partnerships for Education
Global Partnerships for Education (GPE) is bringing people together all over the world to ensure everyone is awarded access to an education. Created in 2002, GPE is a one-of-a-kind organization, with a goal of strengthening the education system in impoverished countries to raise the number of children enrolled in school.

The organization supports more than 60 countries around the globe, in places where it has historically seemed impossible for children to achieve an education. With the help of many different organizations and countries, GPE has provided millions of dollars to countries in need.

What is GPE 2020?

GPE 2020 is the organization’s aid plan for 2016 through 2020 to ensure inclusive and quality education for all, especially for those in the most vulnerable settings. According to Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there has been vast improvement in the number of children enrolled in school over the past 15 years. But in the poorest areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southern Asia, thousands of children are still unable to attend school.

In the poorest areas of the world, schools are not easily accessible. Due to the poor conditions of schools and lack of qualified teachers, many children miss out on an education because of their societies.

To combat these issues, GPE and many other partners invest millions of dollars to countries with high need. In April of 2018, GPE and The World Bank approved a $100-million grant for the country of Madagascar, a country in Africa with serious educational challenges. Four out of 10 children in Madagascar drop out of school before finishing the last grade, but with the help of GPE, this rate is projected to significantly decrease. Fortunately, Madagascar is just one of the many countries benefitting from GPE’s efforts.

How Does GPE Accomplish Its Goals?

Global Partnerships for Education receives its funding through various sources, including donor countries, international organizations and private sectors. Since 2003, the organization has received over $5 billion from 27 donors, with around 21 percent coming from the United Kingdom alone.

The money donated is given as grants to countries based on poverty level and the number of children not enrolled in school. The donations go to building schools, paying for supplies and hiring qualified teachers.

The Reach of an Empowering Organization

Global Partnerships for Education believes that education is a right for everyone, regardless of status or gender. GPE focuses on ensuring that everyone is able to access the schooling they deserve, and providing support to countries most affected by poverty and conflict.

The organization believes that people are empowered when they are able to achieve an education — something that so many of us in privileged societies take for granted. Through the utilization of available resources to support equal learning across the globe, Global Partnerships for Education is changing lives, one child at a time.

– Allisa Rumreich
Photo: Flickr