Cape Verde -- Geography --
The Cape Verde archipelago is located approximately 604 kilometres (375 mi) off the coast of West Africa. It is composed of ten islands (of which nine are inhabited) and eight islets. The islands have a combined size of just over 4,000 square kilometers. The islands are divided into the Barlavento (windward) islands (Santo Antao, Sao Vicente, Santa Luzia, Sao Nicolau, Sal, and Boa Vista) and the Sotavento (leeward) islands (Maio, Santiago, Fogo, and Brava). The largest island, both in size and population, is Santiago, where the capital of Praia is located.
Though Cape Verde's islands are all volcanic in origin, they vary widely in terrain. A still-active volcano on the island of Fogo is the highest point on the archipelago (elevation 2,829 meters). Extensive salt flats are found on Sal and Maio. On Santiago, Santo Antao, and Sao Nicolau, arid slopes give way in places to sugarcane fields or banana plantations spread along the base of towering mountains.
Cape Verde’s climate is milder than that of the African mainland; because the island is surrounded by the sea, temperatures are generally moderate. Average daily high temperatures range from 25 °C (77 °F) in January to 29 °C (84 °F) in September. Cape Verde is part of the Sahelian arid belt, with nothing like the rainfall levels of nearby West Africa. It does rain irregularly between August and October, with frequent brief-but-heavy downpours. A desert is usually defined as terrain which receives less than 250 mm of annual rainfall. Cape Verde's total (261 mm) is slightly above this criterion, which makes the area climate semi-desert.
Cape Verde's isolation has resulted in the islands having a number of endemic species, particularly bird and reptiles, many of which are endangered by human development. Endemic birds include Alexander's Swift (Apus alexandri), the Raso Lark (Alauda razae), the Cape Verde Warbler (Acrocephalus brevipennis), and the Iago Sparrow (Passer iagoensis). The islands are also an important breeding area for seabirds including the Cape Verde Shearwater. Reptiles include the Cape Verde Giant Gecko (Tarentola gigas).
The islands are geologically principally composed of igneous rocks, with basic volcanics and pyroclastics comprising the majority of the total volume. The volcanic and plutonic rocks are distinctly basic in character. The archipelago is an example of a soda-alkaline petrographic province, with a petrologic succession which is similar to that found in other Mid Atlantic islands. Mount Fogo is an active volcano which most recently erupted in 1995. Fogo’s caldera is 8 km in diameter, the rim is at an elevation of 1600 m with an interior cone rising to 2830 m from the crater's floor level. Calderas probably result from the subsidence, following the partial evacuation of the magma chamber, of a cylindrical block into the supplying magma chamber, in this case lying at a depth of some 8 km. The archipelago has been dated at approximately 180 million years old.
Cape Verde -- History --
In 1462, Portuguese settlers arrived at Santiago and founded a settlement they called Ribeira Grande (now called Cidade Velha, to avoid being confused with the town of Ribeira Grande on the Santo Antao island). Ribeira Grande was the first permanent European settlement in the tropics.
The Portuguese named the islands Cabo Verde (from which the English Cape Verde derives), after the nearby Cap Vert on the Senegalese coast. In the 16th century, the archipelago prospered from the transatlantic slave trade.Pirates occasionally attacked the Portuguese settlements. Sir Francis Drake sacked Ribeira Grande in 1585.After a French attack in 1712, the town declined in importance relative to nearby Praia, which became the capital in 1770.
With the decline in the slave trade, Cape Verde's early prosperity slowly vanished. However, the islands' position astride mid-Atlantic shipping lanes made Cape Verde an ideal location for re-supplying ships. Because of its excellent harbour, Mindelo (on the island of Sao Vicente) became an important commercial center during the 19th century.
In 1951, Portugal changed Cape Verde's status from a colony to an overseas province in an attempt to blunt growing nationalism. Nevertheless, in 1956, Amilcar Cabral, a Cape Verdean, and a group of Cape Verdeans and Guineans organized (in Portuguese Guinea) the clandestine African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which demanded improvement in economic, social, and political conditions in Cape Verde and Portuguese Guinea and formed the basis of the two nations' independence movement. Moving its headquarters to Conakry, Guinea in 1960, the PAIGC began an armed rebellion against Portugal in 1961. Acts of sabotage eventually grew into a war in Portuguese Guinea that pitted 10,000 Soviet bloc-supported PAIGC soldiers against 35,000 Portuguese and African troops.
By 1972, the PAIGC controlled much of Portuguese Guinea despite the presence of the Portuguese troops, but the organization did not attempt to disrupt Portuguese control in Cape Verde. Portuguese Guinea declared independence in 1973 and was granted de jure independence in 1974. Following the April 1974 revolution in Portugal, the PAIGC became an active political movement in Cape Verde. In December 1974, the PAIGC and Portugal signed an agreement providing for a transitional government composed of Portuguese and Cape Verdeans. On June 30, 1975, Cape Verdeans elected a National Assembly, which received the instruments of independence from Portugal on July 5, 1975.
Immediately following the November 1980 coup in Guinea-Bissau, relations between Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau became strained. Cape Verde abandoned its hope for unity with Guinea-Bissau and formed the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV). Problems have since been resolved, and relations between the countries are good. The PAICV and its predecessor established a one-party system and ruled Cape Verde from independence until 1990.
Responding to growing pressure for pluralistic democracy, the PAICV called an emergency congress in February 1990 to discuss proposed constitutional changes to end one-party rule. Opposition groups came together to form the Movement for Democracy (MPD) in Praia in April 1990. Together, they campaigned for the right to contest the presidential election scheduled for December 1990.
The one-party state was abolished September 28, 1990, and the first multi-party elections were held in January 1991. The MPD won a majority of the seats in the National Assembly, and MPD presidential candidate Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro defeated the PAICV's candidate with 73.5% of the votes. Legislative elections in December 1995 increased the MPD majority in the National Assembly. The party won 50 of the National Assembly's 72 seats.
A February 1996 presidential election returned President Monteiro to office. Legislative elections in January 2001 returned power to the PAICV, with the PAICV holding 40 of the National Assembly seats, MPD 30, and Party for Democratic Convergence (PCD) and Party for Labor and Solidarity(PTS) 1 each. In February 2001, the PAICV-supported presidential candidate Pedro Pires defeated former MPD leader Carlos Veiga by only 13 votes.
Cape Verde -- Economy --
Cape Verde has few natural resources and suffers from scant rainfall and limited fresh water. Only 4 of the 10 main islands (Santiago, Santo Antao, 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.
The economy of Cape Verde is service-oriented, with commerce, transport, and public services accounting for more than 70% of GDP. Although nearly 70% 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.
Since 1991, the government has pursued market-oriented economic policies, including an open welcome to foreign investors and a far-reaching privatization program. 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.
Cape Verde's strategic location at the crossroads of mid-Atlantic air and sea lanes has been enhanced by significant improvements at Mindelo's harbor (Porto Grande) and at Sal's and Praia's international airports. A new international airport was opened in Boa Vista in December 2007. 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 airport on Brava 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 labor to neighboring African countries, and the momentum of the government's development program.
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 June 23, 2008 Cape Verde became the 153rd member of the WTO.
Cape Verde -- Culture --
Cape Verdean social and cultural patterns are similar to those of rural Portugal and Africa. Soccer games and church activities are typical sources of social interaction and entertainment. The traditional walk around the praca (town square) to meet friends is practiced regularly in Cape Verde towns. In towns with electricity, television is available on two channels (Cape Verdean and Portuguese).
Cape Verde music incorporates Portuguese, Caribbean, African, and Brazilian influences. Cape Verde's quintessential national music is the morna, a melancholy and lyrical song form typically sung in Cape Verdean Creole. Other popular genres include funana and batuque music. Amongst the most worldwide known Cape verdian singers, is the singer Cesaria Evora, whose songs became a hallmark of the country and its culture.
Dance forms include the soft dance morna, and its modernized version, passada (zouk), the Funana (a sensual mixed Portuguese and African dance), the extreme sensuality of coladeira, and the Batuque dance.
Cape Verdean literature is one of the richest of Lusophone Africa. Famous poets include Frusoni Sergio, Tavares Eugenio, and B. Leza, and famous authors include Manuel Lopes, Henrique Teixeira de Sousa, and Almeida Germano.
The Cape Verde diet is mostly based on fish and staple foods like corn and rice. Vegetables available during most of the year are potatoes, onions, tomatoes, manioc, cabbage, kale, and dried beans. Fruits like banana and papayas are available year-round, while others like mangoes and avocados are seasonal. A popular dish served in Cape Verde is Cachupa.
Cape Verde -- Political system --, law and government
Cape Verde is a stable democracy. The Cape Verde constitution—adopted in 1980 and revised in 1992, 1995, and 1999—forms the basis of government. The president is head of state and is elected by popular vote for a 5-year term. The prime minister is head of government and proposes other ministers and secretaries of state. The prime minister is nominated by the National Assembly and appointed by the president. Members of the National Assembly are elected by popular vote for 5-year terms. Three parties now hold seats in the National Assembly--PAICV 40, MPD 30, and Cape Verdean Independent Democratic Union (UCID) 2.
The judicial system consists of a Supreme Court of Justice — whose members are appointed by the president, the National Assembly, and the Board of the Judiciary — and regional courts. Separate courts hear civil, constitutional, and criminal cases. Appeal is to the Supreme Court.
In 2008, Cape Verde placed 3rd out of 48 sub-Saharan African countries in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, scoring very well in Safety and Security and Rule of Law, Transparency and Corruption. The Ibrahim Index is a comprehensive measure of African governance, based on a number of different variables which reflect the success with which governments deliver essential political goods to its citizens.
Cape Verde follows a policy of nonalignment and seeks cooperative relations with all friendly states. Angola, Brazil, the People's Republic of China, Cuba, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Senegal, Russia, and the United States maintain embassies in Praia. Cape Verde is actively interested in foreign affairs, especially in Africa. It has bilateral relations with some Lusophone nations and holds membership in a number of international organizations. It also participates in most international conferences on economic and political issues. Cape Verde has a Special Partnership status with the EU and might apply for membership.
The military of Cape Verde consists of a coast guard and an army; 0.7% of the country's GDP was spent on the military in 2005.