Cabo Verde, also known as Cape Verde, is a country made up of nine inhabited islands, one uninhabited island, and numerous islets. With an area of 4,033 sq. km, Cabo Verde is located 385 miles (620 kilometers) off the west coast of Africa. The capital is Praia on Santiago. Cabo Verde is named after Africa’s westernmost cape, Cape Verde (French: Cap Vert), which is located in nearby Senegal and is the continent’s closest point. Mindelo, on So Vicente, is the largest port on the islands. Its deepwater harbor can accommodate large vessels and has served as a fueling station since the nineteenth century. The islands are hilly and mountainous (all of which are volcanic in origin), surrounded by rugged cliffs and reefs. The islands are divided into two categories: windward islands, leeward islands, and leeward islands. Santiago is the archipelago’s largest island, both in size and population.
The overwhelming majority of Cabo Verde’s population is of mixed European and African descent and is referred to as mestiço or Crioulo. There is also an African minority comprised of the Fulani (Fulbe), Balante, and Mandyako peoples. A small European population includes those of Portuguese descent (mainly from the historical province of Algarve and the Azores islands) and those of Italian, French, and English descent. There are also a significant number of Sephardic Jews who were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula during the Inquisition and were among the island’s early settlers, as well as other groups of Jews, primarily tradesmen, who arrived in the 19th century from Morocco. Despite the fact that Portuguese is the official language and is used in formal settings, Crioulo, one of the oldest Portuguese creole languages, is by far the most widely spoken. The majority of the population is Roman Catholic, but Praia has a thriving Protestant mission with a publishing venture in Fogo.
Cape Verde’s economy is service-oriented, with commerce, transportation, and public services accounting for more than 70% of GDP. Despite the fact that nearly 35% of the population lives in rural areas, agriculture, and fishing account for only about 9% of GDP. The remainder is dominated by light manufacturing. Fish and shellfish are abundant, and only a small amount is exported. Cold storage and freezing facilities, as well as fish processing plants, are available in Mindelo, Praia, and Sal. Cabo Verde’s agriculture is hampered by the islands’ severe and recurring droughts. Corn (maize), sugarcane, castor beans, broad beans, potatoes, and peanuts are among the crops grown for local consumption (groundnuts). Only a few small-scale industries exist, and the country is heavily reliant on imported foodstuffs. These include sewing, textiles, ceramics, mining, timber, beverages, and pharmaceuticals.
The archipelago of modern-day Cape Verde has formed approximately 40–50 million years ago during the Eocene era. Although there is no conclusive evidence that the islands were inhabited before the arrival of the Portuguese, cases may be made for visits by Phoenicians, Moors, and Africans in previous centuries. In 1462 the first settlers from Portugal landed on São Tiago (Santiago), subsequently founding there the oldest European city in the tropics—Ribeira Grande (now Cidade Velha). In the 16th century, the archipelago prospered from the Atlantic slave trade. Pirates occasionally attacked the Portuguese settlements. Francis Drake, an English privateer, twice sacked the (then) capital Ribeira Grande in 1585 when it was a part of the Iberian Union. After a French attack in 1712, the town declined in importance relative to nearby Praia, which became the capital in 1770. Following the Pidjiguiti Massacre, the people of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau fought one of the longest African liberation wars After the Carnation Revolution on April 25, 1974, Cape Verde became more autonomous but continued to have a governor from overseas, later that post would become High Commissioner. Widespread unrest forced the government to negotiate with the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), and agreements for an independent Cape Verde were on the table.
- Capital City:
Total: 4,033 sq km
Land: 4,033 sq km
Water: 0 sq km
- Land boundaries:
Temperate; warm, dry summer; precipitation meager and erratic
Steep, rugged, rocky, volcanic
Mean elevation: NA
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
Highest point: Mt. Fogo 2,829 m (a volcano on Fogo Island)
- Natural resources:
Salt, basalt rock, limestone, kaolin, fish, clay, gypsum
- Land use:
Agricultural land: 18.6%
Arable land 11.7%; permanent crops 0.7%; permanent pasture 6.2%
Other: 60.4% (2011 est.)
- Irrigated land:
35 sq km (2012)
- Population – distribution:
Among the nine inhabited islands, population distribution is variable; islands in the east are very dry and are only sparsely settled to exploit their extensive salt deposits; the more southerly islands receive more precipitation and support larger populations, but agriculture and livestock grazing have damaged the soil fertility and vegetation; approximately half of the population lives on Sao Tiago Island, which is the location of the capital of Praia; Mindelo, on the northern island of Sao Vicente, also has a large urban population.
- Natural hazards:
Seasonal harmattan wind produces obscuring dust;
Volcanically and seismically active
People and Society
The population of Cape Verde in 2017 was estimated by the United Nations (CIA Factbook) at 560,899, which placed it at number 173 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2017, approximately 8% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 42% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 92 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population growth rate for 2005–2010 was expected to be 2.3%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The government is focusing its concerns on adolescent fertility. The projected population for the year 2025 was 692,000.
Cabo Verde’s population descends from its first permanent inhabitants in the late 15th century – a preponderance of West African slaves, a small share of Portuguese colonists, and even fewer Italians, Spaniards, and Portuguese Jews. Over the centuries, the country’s overall population size has fluctuated significantly, as recurring periods of famine and epidemics have caused high death tolls and emigration. Labor migration historically reduced Cabo Verde’s population growth and still provides a key source of income through remittances. Expatriates probably outnumber Cabo Verde’s resident population, with most families having a member abroad. Cabo Verdeans have settled in the US, Europe, Africa, and South America.
Emigration has declined in more recent decades due to the adoption of more restrictive migration policies in destination countries. Reduced emigration along with a large youth population, decreased mortality rates, and increased life expectancies, has boosted population growth, putting further pressure on domestic employment and resources. In addition, Cabo Verde has attracted increasing numbers of migrants in recent decades, consisting primarily of people from West Africa, Portuguese-speaking African countries, Portugal, and China. Since the 1990s, some West African migrants have used Cabo Verde as a stepping stone for illegal migration to Europe.
560,899 (July 2017 est.)
- Ethnic groups:
Creole (mulatto) 71%, African 28%, European 1%
Portuguese (official), Crioulo (a blend of Portuguese and West African words)
Roman Catholic 77.3%, Protestant 4.6% (includes Church of the Nazarene 1.7%, Adventist 1.5%, Assembly of God 0.9%, Universal Kingdom of God 0.4%, and God and Love 0.1%), other Christian 3.4% (includes Christian Rationalism 1.9%, Jehovah’s Witness 1%, and New Apostolic 0.5%), Muslim 1.8%, other 1.3%, none 10.8%, unspecified 0.7% (2010 est.)
Ethnicity, Language, and Religion
The modern population of Cape Verde descends from the mixture of European settlers and African slaves who were brought to the islands to work on Portuguese plantations. Most Cape Verdeans are therefore mulattos, also called mestiços in Portuguese. Another term is Creole, meaning those of mixed native-born African and native-born European descent. The Creole or Mulatto ethnic group boasts of comprising 71% of the total Cape Verdean population. 28% of Cabo Verdeans have predominately African ancestry and trace their roots to slavery and the settlement of other African groups. African groups in modern-day Cape Verde include the Mandyako, Fulani, and Balante ethnic groups. Portuguese and other European make up around 1% of Cape Verde’s population. Some of the European immigrants in Cape Verde are Italian and French.
Cape Verde’s official language is Portuguese. It is the language of instruction and government. It is also used in newspapers, television, and radio. Cape Verdean Creole is used colloquially and is the mother tongue of virtually all Cape Verdeans. The national constitution calls for measures to give it parity with the Portuguese. Cape Verdean Creole or Kriolu is a dialect continuum of Portuguese-based creole. There is a substantial body of literature in Creole, especially in the Santiago Creole and the São Vicente Creole. Creole has been gaining prestige since the nation’s independence from Portugal.
About 77% of the population of Cape Verde is nominally Roman Catholic. Protestant churches account for five percent of the population with the largest denomination being the Church of the Nazarene. Other denominations include the Seventh-Day Adventists, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Assemblies of God, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, and various Pentecostal and evangelical groups. There are also small groups of Muslims and Baha’is. Several African traditional religions are practiced, especially in São Tiago, with some traditional elements infused into other religions. Though there is no state religion, the Catholic Church seems to enjoy a somewhat privileged status, including officially observed religious holidays. The constitutional right of freedom of religion is generally respected in practice. All associations, religious and secular, must register with the Ministry of Justice in accordance with the Law of Associations.
Cape Verde has the second-best educational system in Africa, after South Africa. Primary school education in Cape Verde is mandatory and free for children between the ages of 6 and 14 years. According to official policy, compulsory primary education begins at age six or seven and lasts for six years. It is followed by secondary schooling, which is divided into two phases of three and two years, respectively. In 2011, the net enrollment ratio for primary school was 85%. For approximately 90% of the total population secondary education consists of six more years divided into three cycles of two years each. In the second and third cycles, students may choose to switch to a technical or vocational school program.
The curriculum of secondary education is nominally divided into 3 years of lower and 2 years of higher respectively, the academic curriculum is seamless and the differentiation is relatively meaningless. Students who wish to apply to the university must complete both phases though. Others often leave after the first. As of October 2016, there were 69 secondary schools throughout the archipelago (including 19 private secondary schools) and at least 10 universities in the country which are based on the two islands of Santiago and São Vicente. In 2015, 23% of the Cape Verdean population had either attended or graduated from secondary schools
The first college in the nation was Escola de Formação de Professores opened on June 28, 1979. The National Technological Investigation Institute opened in 1980. INAG (Instituto Nacional de Administração e Gestão, National Administration, and Management Institute) opened on October 21, 1998. Centro de Formação Náutica (CFN – Nautical Formation Centre) opened on June 19, 1982. The first three would become part of the University of Cape Verde which was the country’s first public university opened on November 21, 2006, the latter joined in 2007. All of the predecessor schools would be eliminated and fully became campuses on October 9, 2008. Uni-CV’s university campuses are under development which started construction in 2014.
The first college in the nation was Escola de Formação de Professores (EFPES) opened on June 28, 1979. On October 2, 1995, EFPAS became ISE, the High Education Institute. Later, the National Technological Investigation Institute opened in 1980, it became INIDA (Instituto Nacional de Investigação e Desenvolvimento Agrário) in 1997. About 9% of Cape Verdean men and 8% of Cape Verdean women held bachelor’s degrees or had attended universities. The overall college education rate in Cape Verde is about 24%, in relation to the local college-age population.
Although approximately two-thirds of Cabo Verdeans were illiterate at independence, literacy was greatly improved in the decades that followed. By the early 2000s, almost four-fifths of the population was literate, although there was an appreciable disparity between male and female literacy levels. Even if most children have access to education, some problems remain. There is insufficient spending on school materials, lunches, and books; and there is a high repetition rate for certain grades.
Cabo Verde witnessed spectacular social and economic progress between 1990 and 2008, driven mainly by the rapid development of inclusive tourist resorts. During this period, its gross national income (GNI) per capita grew six-fold to US$3200, and it was the only non-extractive economy in Sub-Saharan Africa to reach a middle-income status in a short time. The country’s small population spread across a large water area constitutes a major constraint to growth and development. It limits economies of scale and creates significant connectivity issues, as well as challenges for service delivery (energy, water, education, etc.).
Consolidating its achievements as a middle-income country and further strengthening the conditions for poverty reduction and boosting shared prosperity will be key challenges. With its small open economy, the country is vulnerable to the vagaries of global economic developments. Given the fixed exchange rate with the Euro, it will be vital for the country to rebuild fiscal buffers to absorb future shocks. Diversification within and beyond the tourism sector and more flexible labor markets can help to absorb shocks. Economic reforms are aimed at developing the private sector and attracting foreign investment to diversify the economy and mitigate high unemployment. The government’s elevated debt levels have limited its capacity to finance any shortfalls.
Cabo Verde’s economy is vulnerable to external shocks and depends on development aid, foreign investment, remittances, and tourism. The economy is service-oriented with commerce, transport, tourism, and public services accounting for about three-fourths of GDP. Tourism is the mainstay of the economy and depends on conditions in the euro-zone countries. Cabo Verde annually runs a high trade deficit financed by foreign aid and remittances from its large pool of emigrants; remittances as a share of GDP are one of the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa. The fishing potential, mostly lobster and tuna, is not fully exploited.
Growth is projected to approximate 4% over the medium term, as a foreign direct investment (FDI) continues to recover and inflation expectations remain subdued. The tourism sector is expected to strengthen reflecting a firming of economic conditions in Europe—which provides most of the country’s tourism receipts (47% of total exports of goods and services)—complemented by recent efforts by the government to improve the competitiveness of the sector. The ongoing construction of several hotels across the archipelago should help to create jobs and further stimulate economic growth. Leading indicators also suggest that domestic demand should strengthen reflecting efforts to bolster credit to the private sector.
- GDP (purchasing power parity):
$3.734 billion (2017 est.)
$3.591 billion (2016 est.)
$3.459 billion (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars
- GDP (official exchange rate):
$1.728 billion (2017 est.)
- GDP – real growth rate:
4% (2017 est.)
3.8% (2016 est.)
1% (2015 est.)
- GDP – per capita (PPP):
$6,900 (2017 est.)
$6,800 (2016 est.)
$6,600 (2015 est.)
- Gross national saving:
33.8% of GDP (2017 est.)
33.3% of GDP (2016 est.)
33.8% of GDP (2015 est.)
- GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
Services: 74.2% (2017 est.)
- Agriculture – products:
Bananas, corn, beans, sweet potatoes, sugarcane, coffee, peanuts; fish
Food and beverages, fish processing, shoes and garments, salt mining, ship repair
- Population below the poverty line:
30% (2000 est.)
Revenues: $437.1 million
Expenditures: $463.7 million (2017 est.)
The contribution of agriculture to GDP is less than 12 percent, but the sector is key in today’s transformation in Cape Verde. The Government’s strategy includes the construction of 17 dams and more than 10 embankments and a dozen wells to mobilize water, especially rainwater, which will directly benefit agribusinesses. The construction of these dams will help expand the availability of arable land and overcome some constraints associated with water scarcity.
Agribusiness opportunities also exist in coffee, for which the island of Fogo is especially famous. Mid‐March 2013, the company Coffee Spirit of Fogo in Mosteiros exported 180 kilograms to the Netherlands, which has already made another shipment request. Café Fama, a Cape Verdean coffee brand that is produced on the Island of São Vicente, is now sold in six Seabra’s supermarkets in Maine and Rhode Island and is exported under the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA). Besides coffee, the Island of Fogo also produces high-quality wine, which is exported to Europe and the United States and is known as Vinho de Chã. The Fogo‐based wine cooperatives Chã and Sôdade produce about 150,000 bottles of wine. Production is expected to increase as viticulture and winemaking conditions improve. The wines are too expensive to qualify for export to the United States under AGOA.
Mountainous terrain, rocky soil, and frequent droughts have made agricultural production difficult in Cape Verde, but these challenges are also opportunities for agribusinesses to fill needs in the following areas:
- Water mobilization and irrigation to increase productivity and diversify agriculture in rural areas.
- Sustainable land and water management
- Installation of efficient technologies, such as drip irrigation and renewable energy in the agricultural sector.
- Food conservation and production focused on new technologies in goat cheese and other rural products, improving opportunities for women entrepreneurs.
- Modernization of the production of wine and rogue to increase production capacity and exports.
- The growth of tourism in Cape Verde signals increases in demand for fresh goods and other biological products.
Banking and Finance
Cape Verde has a small but relatively strong, efficient, and well-managed financial sector supervised and regulated by a single institution: the Central Bank of Cape Verde. The financial sector consists of; Credit institutions (banks and other institutions that are qualified by law); Special credit institutions (credit unions and savings banks); Nonbanking institutions; Insurance companies; and Stock exchanges. In the 1990s, the statute of International Financial Institutions (IFI) was created for institutions whose activities are directed primarily to non-residents. Most IFI banks in Cape Verde are “foreign branches” or subsidiaries of Portuguese banks, which were established in Cape Verde to benefit from tax advantages in their transactions with non-residents.
The onshore segment contains eight banks (Banco Comercial do Atlântico; Caixa Económica de Cabo Verde; Banco Interatlântico; Banco Cabo-Verdiano de Negócios; Banco Angolano de Investimentos; Novo Banco; Ecobank-Cape Verde, and Banco Espírito Santo-Cape Verde). There are 10 non-bank institutions: a venture capital management company – A Promotora; three currency exchange offices – Cotacâmbios de Cabo Verde, Arisconta – Câmbios Lda. and Girassol – Câmbios Lda.; a company that issues credit cards and handles the payment system – SISP, a leasing company Promo leasing – Sociedade de Locação Financeira SA; three securities fund management companies – Innovation Box, Sociedade de Gestão de Fundos de Habitação de Interesse Social e Novagest SA; and a money transfer agency – Global Money Transfer-Cape Verde SA.
The offshore market is comprised of nine institutions licensed to operate, eight in banking activities (Banco Fiduciário Internacional, Banco Sul Atlântico, Banco Português de Negócios, Banco Montepio Geral, Banco Espírito Santo, Banco Privado Internacional, Caixa de Crédito Agrícola Mútua and Atlantic International Bank) and one acting as a fund manager (CA Finance SA).
Overall, the banking sector is still relatively small, with a limited supply of financial products. However, it is well-managed and exhibits good performance indicators. Credit risk is mainly controlled through limited exposure and strict compliance with prudential ratios. The Cape Verdean stock market, Bolsa de Valores de Cabo Verde (BVC), is fully operational. It has been most active in the issuance of Bonds. Foreign investors must open a bank account with a local bank in Cape Verde before buying stocks or bonds from BVC.
Industry and Mining
The mineral industry’s contribution to the economy of Cabo Verde, which is an archipelago of 10 islands and 8 islets that are located about 600 kilometers off the western coast of Africa, was minimal. Cabo Verde’s nominal gross domestic product was estimated to be $1.9 billion1 in 2013. Most of the country’s mineral commodity needs were satisfied by imports. In 2013, the provisional value of total exports from Cabo Verde was about $201 million and the value of total imports was about $833 million. The value of imports of mineral fuels accounted for about 19% of Cabo Verde’s total imports in 2013; cement, about 3%; and steel products, about 2%.
Most of the imported cement and steel products were sourced from Portugal. Compared with those of 2012, imports of building materials declined in 2013 and imports of cement declined for the first half of the year but increased in the second half. Salt was recovered from the Saline de Pedra Lume, which is located in the crater of an extinct volcano on the island of Sal, and from the salt marshes of Porto Ingles on Maio Island. In 2013, an area of 535 hectares of the Salinas de Porto Ingles was added to the Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance. Artisanal production of salt was expected to continue.
Historically, salt also had been produced at Curral Velho on the island of Boa Vista. Crude construction materials, such as aggregate and clay, were produced primarily to meet local demand. Outlook With four international airports and available nonagricultural land adjacent to sandy beaches, the archipelago is slowly making the transition to a tourist destination.
Domestic mineral production is not expected to change in the near future, although imports of cement and steel could increase with additional housing and infrastructure construction. The potential increase in the transient population is expected to increase the demand for electrical power and potable water. The separation of the islands limits the economies of scale associated with centralized desalination and electrical power plants but enhances the attractiveness of supplementing the local power supply with electrical power generated by wind farms.
- Electricity access:
Population without electricity: 153,027
Electrification – total population: 70.6%
Electrification – urban areas: 84.4%
Electrification – rural areas: 46.8%
- Electricity – production:
469 million kWh (2015 est.)
- Electricity – consumption:
436.2 million kWh (2015 est.)
- Electricity – exports:
0 million kWh (2015 est.)
- Electricity – imports:
0 kWh (2015 est.)
- Electricity – installed generating capacity:
157,500 kW (2015 est.)
- Electricity – from fossil fuels:
76.8% of the total installed capacity
Electricity – from nuclear fuels:
0% of total installed capacity
- Telephones – fixed lines:
Total subscriptions: 64,724
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 11
- Telephones – mobile cellular:
Subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 107
- Internet country code:
- Internet Users
Percent of population: 48.2
Cape Verde is a natural enigma for tourists. Visitors are immediately struck by a mystic contrast in the landscape. The harsh majesty of the island’s mountains is matched by large flat expanses of sun-drenched arid land as if nature wished to assign different molds to each of the ‘enchanted isles’ of the Atlantic while designing the archipelago. Uniting the entire mosaic, the sea, blue and warm all year round, forms the perfect backdrop to the white or black coastal sands. Magnificent long beaches and clear, calm waters await those who explore the islands.
Tourism first came to Cape Verde in the 60s, when a Belgian couple, Gaspard Vynckier and Marguerite Massart, built the first vacation homes on the Island of Sal, then little more than uninhabited desert. Up to then, the island had served only as a refueling stop for trans-Atlantic flights. Shortly afterward, South African Airways asked the couple to provide improved accommodation for its crew members, which is how the Hotel Morabeza, today one of the most luxurious and welcoming on the archipelago, came into existence.
Place of Attractions
Santo Antão is the northernmost of the islands and the most mountainous. It is also home to a small spit of land called Ponta do Sol, where the sun goes down on Africa. Beyond the horizon, the American continent is a vast mirage. Like this little spot, Cabo Verde hides numerous charming places ready to surprise the visitor.
Sal is home to some of the best beaches in Cape Verde, and Santa Maria is where you’ll find clean white sands stretching off to the horizon in either direction. There are good snorkeling opportunities offshore and a turtle hatchery near the Riu Funana hotel, where you can see the impossibly cute hatchlings make for the waves in the evenings during November-December.
The trade winds blow steadily from November to June, making Sal an ideal destination for surfing of all kinds. In particular, you’ll find the place crawling with windsurfers and kiteboarders in January and February, all keen to make the most of the winter breeze. Punto Preto is one of the main breaks, perfect for riding if you’re experienced and gazing out if you’re more confident on the sand.
The town of Pedra Lume’s main claim to fame is a volcanic crater filled with what’s known as the ‘salt sea’. Sal means ‘salt’ in Portuguese, and the island was an important source of this precious mineral during colonial times. Nowadays, the salt sea is the perfect spot for a relaxing float – the warm pools are saltier than the Dead Sea, so it’s practically impossible to sink.
Its first seamount that came above the water was about 20 million years ago, and the sea level was about 200 to 400 meters, higher than the present day. The first islands formed were present-day Sal, and the eastern part, 50-40 million years ago. The western part was formed later, including, São Nicolau, as early as 11.8 million years ago, São Vicente, 9 million years ago, present-day Santiago and Fogo 4 million years ago, and Brava, 3-2 million years ago.
Some millions of years after the seamounts were raised above the ocean, its first geckos, lizards, and insects, as well as plants, came to the archipelago, one possible clue was that were rafted from the African mainland when the salinity of the ocean was lower. The archipelago had a couple of large volcanic eruptions recorded through geology including Praia Grande 4.5 million years ago, São Vicente possibly modern-day Porto Grande 300,000 years ago, Topo da Coroa 200,000 years ago, and the last one east of modern-day Fogo 73,000 years ago that inundated coastal Santiago Island and possibly Brava and a part of Barlavento Islands.
During the Last Ice Age, the sea level dropped to about 130 meters below its current level, its islands were slightly larger with the Northwest Island, present-day Santo Antão was a kilometer northwest of the island, Boa Vista and Maio were one single island, and there was another island named Nola (Ilha da Nola) northwest of Santo Antão that was about 80–90 meters tall. Before the end of the Ice Age, the Eastern Island (Ilha Occidental) split into three islands, one would be submerged and is now the João Valente Reef, and the Canal de São Vicente was widened to 12 km distant from Santo Antão, Nola Island submerged and again became a seamount and the east of the Northwest Island were broken up into São Vicente, the smaller Santa Luzia and the two islets of Branco and Raso.
The Arrival of European
Although there is no conclusive evidence that the islands were inhabited before the arrival of the Portuguese, cases may be made for visits by Phoenicians, Moors, and Africans in previous centuries. It was Portuguese navigators such as Diogo Gomes and Diogo Afonso, Venetian explorer Alvise Ca’ da Mosto, and Genoese navigators such as António and Bartólomeu da Noli, however, who began to report on the islands in the mid-15th century, shortly before a plan of active colonization and settlement was launched. In 1456, at the service of Prince Henry the Navigator, Alvise Cadamosto, Antoniotto Usodimare (a Venetian and a Genoese captain, respectively) and an unnamed Portuguese captain, jointly discovered some of the islands. In the next decade, Diogo Gomes and António de Noli, also captains in the service of Prince Henry, discovered the remaining islands of the archipelago.
In 1462 the first settlers from Portugal landed on São Tiago (Santiago), subsequently founding there the oldest European city in the tropics—Ribeira Grande (now Cidade Velha). Sugar was planted in an attempt to emulate the success of the earlier settlement of Madeira. Cabo Verde’s dry climate was less favorable, but, with the development of the transatlantic slave trade, the importance and wealth of the islands increased. In Spain, the Reconquista movement was growing in its mission to recover Catholic lands from the Muslim Moors who had first arrived as conquerors in the 8th century. In 1492 the Spanish Inquisition also emerged in its fullest expression of anti-Semitism. It spread to neighboring Portugal where King João II and especially Manuel I in 1496, decided to exile thousands of Jews to São Tomé, Príncipe, and Cape Verde.
The Portuguese soon brought slaves from the West African coast. Positioned on the great trade routes between Africa, Europe, and the New World, the archipelago prospered from the transatlantic slave trade, in the 16th century. Settlements started to appear on other islands, São Filipe was founded in 1500, Ponta do Sol, Ribeira Grande was founded in the mid 16th century, its first settlers also arrived in Madeira, Ribeira Brava on São Nicolau, Povoação Velha on Boa Vista was later founded, Furna, Nova Sintra on Brava and Palmeira on Sal. The islands’ prosperity brought them unwanted attention in the form of a sacking at the hands of pirates.
The Atlantic Slave Trade
Cabo Verde served an increasingly important role as an offshore entrepôt with the development of the triangular trade, by which manufactured goods from Europe were traded for slaves, who were sold in turn to plantations in the New World in exchange for the raw materials produced there; with these, the ships returned home. Cabo Verde was thus a center for the trade of cheap manufactured items, firearms, rum, cloth, and the like in exchange for slaves, ivory, and gold. Cabo Verde was especially known for its pano cloths, usually constructed of six strips of fabric made from cotton that was grown, dyed dark indigo, and woven on narrow looms by slaves in Cabo Verde; the clothes were a valuable form of currency for the slave trade on the mainland. Tens of thousands of slaves were exported from the coast to the islands and then on to the New World, especially to northern Brazil.
Portuguese efforts to monopolize exploration and trade along the western African coast were disrupted by those who saw the potential of the wealth of Africa for their own interests, and smuggling was rife. Although the slave trade was controlled through the crown-issued monopoly contracts, in the late 16th century the English and Spanish began to wear away the Portuguese monopoly. In addition, the prosperity of Ribeira Grande attracted pirates, who attacked the city in 1541. The English later attacked it twice—in 1585 and 1592—the first time under the command of Sir Francis Drake. After a French attack in 1712, it was decided to move the capital to Praia. With the transfer officially complete in 1770, Ribeira Grande began its long slow decline.
Praia was later founded in 1613 on the plateau of the previous settlement. The Pico of Fogo erupted in 1680 which resulted in the move of the population to Brava and other parts including Brazil, for a few years, the volcano was its natural lighthouse that sailors called and ships used it within the volcanic mountain. As a result of the French Cassard expedition in 1712 in which Ribeira Grande was destroyed, the capital was partly moved to Praia in the east, which later became the capital in 1770. By 1740, the island was a supply point for American slave ships and whalers, this started an all-male immigration to the American colonies (now the United States).
The 18th Century
In 1747 the islands were hit with the first of several droughts and famines that have plagued them ever since, with an average interval of five years. The situation was made worse by deforestation and overgrazing, which destroyed the ground vegetation that provided moisture. Three major droughts in the 18th and 19th centuries resulted in well over 100,000 people starving to death. The Portuguese government sent almost no relief during any of the droughts. Textiles were smuggled and sold into the black market since their values were high and their origins were difficult to prove, between 1766 and 1776, 95,000 “Barafulas” (Cape Verdean textiles) were imported to the Guinean coast.
The Pico do Fogo again erupted in 1769 and was the last time it erupted from the top, further eruptions occurred in 1785 and 1799. Another famine started in 1774 when 20,000 people starved, as Brava and Fogo were affected, Fogo’s population dropped from 5,700 to 4,200 in around 1777. The first wave of emigration began from the islands of Brava and Fogo as American whaling ships visited these islands and took some residents for a better life in the United States. In 1770, Praia became the colonial capital which remained up to Cape Verdean independence. On 16 April 1781, though Portugal was neutral throughout the Anglo-French War and American Revolutionary War, the naval Battle of Porto Praya took place off modern-day Praia and the island between Great Britain and France.
The islands produced trade goods; especially important were cattle, cotton cloths (Panos ) made by slave women, and rum (grog ). These goods were used to purchase slaves and consumer items from slavers trading in the African interior as well as engage in the slave trade to the New World. The economy of the islands suffered from colonial restrictions on the production of potentially competitive export commodities, as well as from cyclical drought. Between 1747 and 1960, an estimated 250,000 Cape Verdeans died of famine.
The End of the Slave Trade
The 19th-century decline of the lucrative slave trade was another blow to the country’s economy. The fragile prosperity slowly vanished. Cape Verde’s colonial heyday was over. It was around this time that Cape Verdeans started emigrating to New England. This was a popular destination because of the whales that abounded in the waters around Cape Verde, and as early as 1810 whaling ships from Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the United States (U.S.) recruited crews from the islands of Brava and Fogo. The last pirate raids including one in Sal Rei in 1815 led to the building of a couple of more forts across Cape Verde. Other settlements on some islands were founded later including Mindelo (first as Nossa Senhora da Luz) in 1795, Pedra de Lume on Sal in 1799 and Santa Maria at the start of 1830 on the same island. The colonial capital Praia underwent modernization in 1822 which expanded the plateau towards the north.
After Portugal lost Brazil, the British used Mindelo for coal refueling for ships and the city flourished in 1838, and attempt on moving the colonial capital from Praia was made, first a plan to move to Picos in 1831 at the time another famine struck Cape Verde, then in 1838, Mindelo, many people do not want to move the colonial capital, the capital stayed in Praia. Fogo erupted for the last time in the 19th century in 1847, 1852, and 1857. Mindelo grew as a result of ship refueling, two submarine telegraph cables were linked in 1874 to Pernambuco, Brazil, Cory Brothers later opened, and another connected to Cameroon via Bathurst (now Banjul), the Gambia in 1885, Mindelo became the most used Transatlantic telegraph station for some time in 1912.
A total of 669 ships were refueled each year at the port, it reached to 1,927 ships a decade later, and then when gasoline fuel was started to be used especially boats, it never rivaled the ports of Las Palmas of the Grand Canary or nearby Dakar in Senegal. The usage of coal dropped which lead to a coal strike in 1912 due to insufficient work when the Great Depression began in 1930, ship activity ended. Slavery was disappearing in Cape Verde, the first was São Vicente, then São Nicolau, Santo Antão, and Boa Vista in 1867, At the same time the slave trade ended, and later slavery ended throughout Cape Verde.
The waning of the slave trade—the Portuguese rulers and merchants reluctantly abandoned the industry in 1876—coupled with increasing drought slowly sapped the islands’ prosperity. In the early 1800s, Cabo Verde experienced not only recurrent drought and famine but government corruption and maladministration as well. In the mid-1850s the islands enjoyed a period of economic optimism as the age of steam replaced the age of sail, and large long-distance oceanic vessels needed strategic coaling stations such as Mindelo could provide. As a result, Cabo Verde was briefly the site of great port activity, before the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 cut severely into this business. For the wider population, there was little relief or improvement, and emigration from the islands became the norm: faced with the prospect of drought and starvation at home, the poorest Cabo Verdeans commonly traveled south to work as agricultural laborers picking bananas and cocoa beans in Sao Tome and Principe; others found maritime work on whaling ships.
The phase-out of the Atlantic slave trade and the abolition of slavery in the Portuguese Empire, coupled with an 1886 law providing for the settlement of former Cape Verde slaves on open lands, brought the end of Cape Verde’s importance as a slave-trading center. The islands’ historical role as a port of call (prior to the building of the Suez Canal) became important again in the mid-20th century when they were used by Portuguese troops as a transit area for their African counter-insurgency campaigns. For five centuries, the Portuguese were strong enough to keep the archipelago as a colony until the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde
At the end of the 19th century, with the advent of the ocean liner, the island’s position astride Atlantic shipping lanes made Cape Verde an ideal location for resupplying ships with fuel (imported coal), water, and livestock. Because of its excellent harbor, Mindelo (on the island of São Vicente) became an important commercial center during the 19th century, mainly because the British used Cape Verde as a storage depot for coal which was bound for the Americas. The harbor area at Mindelo was developed by the British for this purpose. The island was made a coaling and submarine cable station, and there was plenty of work for local laborers. This was the golden period of the city, where it gained the cultural characteristics that made it the current cultural capital of the country. During World War II, the economy collapsed as the shipping traffic was drastically reduced.
Struggle for Independence
The long-standing joint colonial administration of Cabo Verde and Guinea-Bissau was terminated in 1879 when both became separate Portuguese territories. During World War II, British ships were stationed in Mindelo, later with Winston Churchill’s interest in Cape Verde, in April 1941, thousands of troops were stationed on the island. The famine in the nation worsened and struck when World War II was happening outside the Portuguese Empire between 1941 and 1942 and the second one from 1946 to 1948, it led to the emigration of tens of thousands to Europe, some left to Senegal and São Tomé and Príncipe. Espargos in the middle of the island was founded in the mid-20th century, it was founded in the late 1940s as an airport town, the last in the Portuguese era, in 1950, the number of flights rose, first Alitalia, then the Portuguese-Brazilian Friendship flight and South Africa Airways (SAA).
In 1951, Portugal changed Cape Verde’s status from a colony to an overseas province in an attempt to blunt growing nationalism. In 1956, Amílcar Cabral and a group of fellow Cape Verdeans and Guineans organized (in Portuguese Guinea) the clandestine African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). In 1952, the Portuguese government planned to transfer over 10,000 settlers to the island of São Tomé in São Tomé and Príncipe, that time another Portuguese colony to work in plantations instead of the Forros. In the lead-up to and during the Portuguese Colonial War, those planning and fighting in the armed conflict in Portuguese Guinea often linked the goal of liberation of Guinea-Bissau to the goal of liberation in Cape Verde. (For instance, in 1956, Amílcar and Luís Cabral founded the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde.)
After World War II, Portugal was intended to hold on to its former colonies, which since 1951 were called overseas territories. When most former African colonies gained independence in 1957/1964, the Portuguese still held on. Consequently, following the Pidjiguiti Massacre, the people of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau fought one of the longest African liberation wars After the Carnation Revolution on April 25, 1974, Cape Verde became more autonomous but continued to have a governor from overseas, later that post would become High Commissioner. Widespread unrest forced the government to negotiate with the PAIGC, and agreements for an independent Cape Verde were on the table. Pedro Pires returned to Praia on October 13 after being exiled for over a decade. After his return, Portugal signed the 1975 Algiers Agreement. On July 5, at Praia, Portugal’s Prime Minister Vasco Goncalves turned over power to National Assembly President Abilio Duarte, thus the colonial history of Cape Verde ended when Cape Verde become independent.
Independent Cabo Verde
Immediately following a November 1980 coup in Guinea-Bissau (Portuguese Guinea declared independence in 1973 and was granted de jure independence in 1974), relations between the two countries 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 state and ruled Cape Verde from independence until 1990. Responding to growing pressure for a political opening, 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.
The MPD won a majority of the seats in the National Assembly, and the MPD presidential candidate António Mascarenhas Monteiro defeated the PAICV’s candidate by 73.5% of the votes cast to 26.5%. He succeeded the country’s first President, Aristides Pereira, who had served since 1975. Legislative elections in December 1995 increased the MPD majority in the National Assembly. The party held 50 of the National Assembly’s 72 seats. A February 1996 presidential election returned President António Mascarenhas Monteiro to office. The December 1995 and February 1996 elections were judged free and fair by domestic and international observers. In the presidential election campaign of 2000 and 2001, two former prime ministers, Pedro Pires, and Carlos Veiga were the main candidates.
During the legislative and presidential elections of 2001, the PAICV was returned to power, with Pires winning the second round of balloting to secure the presidency despite allegations of irregularities by his opponent, former prime minister Carlos Alberto Wahnon Carvalho Veiga. That same year food shortages—a common predicament for Cabo Verde—worsened considerably, and the government relied heavily on foreign aid and food imports to feed the country. Veiga and Pires faced each other once again in the presidential election of 2006, in which Pires—with diasporic support—very narrowly secured reelection. The constitution prohibited Pires from running for a third term, and in the 2011 presidential runoff election, Jorge Carlos Fonseca of the MPD defeated Manuel Inocencio Sousa of the PAICV. In the National Assembly elections in March 2016, the PAICV lost the majority that it had held in the legislative body for some 15 years; the MPD won more than 50 percent of the vote.