Country Reports

Sao Tome and Principe Country Report

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Risk Level

Very High


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.The government plans to introduce VAT at 15% on 1 March 2020, a move that is likely to produce a considerable increase in fiscal revenue, previously dependent on a 5% sales tax and minimal corporate tax from a handful of private businesses. The introduction of VAT is 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.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. Real GDP growth is forecast at 4.5% and 4.9% in 2019 and 2020, respectively, driven by the implementation of infrastructure projects that will support the construction, services, and agricultural sectors. However, the country’s heavy reliance on external sources of financing and delays in donor disbursements could severely undermine growth prospects.
Last update: November 23, 2019

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 an allegedly illegal USD30-million loan contracted by the former ADI government from the China International Fund. The attorney-general has named the former prime minister, public works minister, and finance minister as defendants, with the latter held in custody for three months before being released in July 2019 on USD113,000 bail. Strikes by teachers, judges, and health-service workers are common due to funding shortages, but the private sector employs few people.

Last update: November 23, 2019



São Tomé and Principe's geographical proximity to the Niger Delta, where many piracy groups are based, raises the risk of attacks on vessels serving the island nation in general 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. The government is still 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.

Last update: November 23, 2019


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, although visitor numbers are still relatively low because of limited air traffic. Violent crime is very rare, and there is no evidence of organised crime. Although the Santomean 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.

Last update: November 23, 2019

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.

Last update: November 23, 2019

Social Stability


High food prices and poor service provision are occasional motivating factors that trigger protests. In February 2017, the first popular protest against the Patrice Trovoada-led government elected in 2014 took place in the capital city, but the protests failed to mobilise significant numbers. 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. Protests have been reduced and are likely to occur less often in 2020, after the Trovoada administration paid the price for broken promises when it lost power in late 2018 to a coalition headed by the MLSTP/PSD.

Last update: November 23, 2019

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.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information


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


Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz


Last update: April 5, 2019