Photos of Cabo Verde

Introduction

Background

The uninhabited islands were discovered and colonized by the Portuguese in the 15th century; Cabo Verde subsequently became a trading center for African slaves and later an important coaling and resupply stop for whaling and transatlantic shipping. The fusing of European and various African cultural traditions is reflected in Cabo Verde’s Krioulo language, music, and pano textiles. Following independence in 1975, and a tentative interest in unification with Guinea-Bissau, a one-party system was established and maintained until multi-party elections were held in 1990. Cabo Verde continues to sustain one of Africa's most stable democratic governments and one of its most stable economies, maintaining a currency formerly pegged to the Portuguese escudo and then the euro since 1998. Repeated droughts during the second half of the 20th century caused significant hardship and prompted heavy emigration. As a result, Cabo Verde's expatriate population - concentrated in Boston and Western Europe - is greater than its domestic one. Most Cabo Verdeans have both African and Portuguese antecedents. 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. Among the nine inhabited islands, population distribution is variable. Islands in the east are very dry and are home to the country's growing tourism industry. The more western islands receive more precipitation and support larger populations, but agriculture and livestock grazing have damaged their soil fertility and vegetation. For centuries, the country’s overall population size has fluctuated significantly, as recurring periods of famine and epidemics have caused high death tolls and emigration.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Western Africa, group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Senegal

Geographic coordinates

16 00 N, 24 00 W

Area

total: 4,033 sq km

land: 4,033 sq km

water: 0 sq km

country comparison to the world: 175

Area - comparative

slightly larger than Rhode Island

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

965 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

measured from claimed archipelagic baselines

Climate

temperate; warm, dry summer; precipitation meager and erratic

Terrain

steep, rugged, rocky, volcanic

Elevation

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m

highest point: Mt. Fogo (a volcano on Fogo Island) 2,829 m

Natural resources

salt, basalt rock, limestone, kaolin, fish, clay, gypsum

Land use

agricultural land: 18.6% (2018 est.)

arable land: 11.7% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.7% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 6.2% (2018 est.)

forest: 21% (2018 est.)

other: 60.4% (2018 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 as shown in this population distribution map

Natural hazards

prolonged droughts; seasonal harmattan wind produces obscuring dust; volcanically and seismically active

volcanism: Fogo (2,829 m), which last erupted in 1995, is Cabo Verde's only active volcano

Geography - note

strategic location 500 km from west coast of Africa near major north-south sea routes; important communications station; important sea and air refueling site; one of four North Atlantic archipelagos that make up Macaronesia; the others are Azores (Portugal), Canary Islands (Spain), and Madeira (Portugal)

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Cabo Verdean(s)

adjective: Cabo Verdean

Ethnic groups

Creole (Mulatto) 71%, African 28%, European 1%

Languages

Portuguese (official), Krioulo (a blend of Portuguese and West African languages)

Religions

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.)

Demographic profile

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. The largest diaspora community in New Bedford, Massachusetts, dating to the early 1800s, is a byproduct of the transatlantic whaling industry. Cabo Verdean men fleeing poverty at home joined the crews of US whaling ships that stopped in the islands. Many settled in New Bedford and stayed in the whaling or shipping trade, worked in the textile or cranberry industries, or operated their own transatlantic packet ships that transported compatriots to the US. Increased Cabo Verdean emigration to the US coincided with the gradual and eventually complete abolition of slavery in the archipelago in 1878.

During the same period, Portuguese authorities coerced Cabo Verdeans to go to Sao Tome and Principe and other Portuguese colonies in Africa to work as indentured laborers on plantations. In the 1920s, when the US implemented immigration quotas, Cabo Verdean emigration shifted toward Portugal, West Africa (Senegal), and South America (Argentina). Growing numbers of Cabo Verdean labor migrants headed to Western Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. They filled unskilled jobs in Portugal, as many Portuguese sought out work opportunities in the more prosperous economies of northwest Europe. Cabo Verdeans eventually expanded their emigration to the Netherlands, where they worked in the shipping industry. Migration to the US resumed under relaxed migration laws. Cabo Verdean women also began migrating to southern Europe to become domestic workers, a trend that continues today and has shifted the gender balance of Cabo Verdean emigration.

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.

Age structure

0-14 years: 27.95% (male 82,010/female 81,012)

15-24 years: 18.69% (male 54,521/female 54,504)

25-54 years: 40.76% (male 115,811/female 121,923)

55-64 years: 7.12% (male 18,939/female 22,597)

65 years and over: 5.48% (male 12,037/female 19,901) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 49

youth dependency ratio: 41.8

elderly dependency ratio: 7.1

potential support ratio: 14 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 26.8 years

male: 25.9 years

female: 27.6 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 151

Birth rate

18.78 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 78

Death rate

5.84 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 167

Net migration rate

-0.58 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 125

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 as shown in this population distribution map

Urbanization

urban population: 66.7% of total population (2020)

rate of urbanization: 1.97% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major urban areas - population

168,000 PRAIA (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.95 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.84 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.6 male(s)/female

total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

58 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 91

Infant mortality rate

total: 24.1 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 28.32 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 19.76 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 72

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 73.47 years

male: 71.12 years

female: 75.89 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 148

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 89.1% of population

total: 96.2% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 10.9% of population

total: 3.8% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

0.78 physicians/1,000 population (2015)

Hospital bed density

2.1 beds/1,000 population (2010)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 87.8% of population

rural: 64.9% of population

total: 79.8% of population

unimproved: urban: 12.2% of population

rural: 35.1% of population

total: 20.2% of population (2017 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

<100 (2019 est.)

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 86.8%

male: 91.7%

female: 82% (2015)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 13 years

male: 12 years

female: 13 years (2018)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Cabo Verde

conventional short form: Cabo Verde

local long form: Republica de Cabo Verde

local short form: Cabo Verde

etymology: the name derives from Cap-Vert (Green Cape) on the Senegalese coast, the westernmost point of Africa and the nearest mainland to the islands

Government type

parliamentary republic

Capital

name: Praia

geographic coordinates: 14 55 N, 23 31 W

time difference: UTC-1 (4 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: the earlier Portuguese name was Villa de Praia ("Village of the Beach"); it became just Praia in 1974 (prior to full independence in 1975)

Administrative divisions

22 municipalities (concelhos, singular - concelho); Boa Vista, Brava, Maio, Mosteiros, Paul, Porto Novo, Praia, Ribeira Brava, Ribeira Grande, Ribeira Grande de Santiago, Sal, Santa Catarina, Santa Catarina do Fogo, Santa Cruz, Sao Domingos, Sao Filipe, Sao Lourenco dos Orgaos, Sao Miguel, Sao Salvador do Mundo, Sao Vicente, Tarrafal, Tarrafal de Sao Nicolau

Independence

5 July 1975 (from Portugal)

National holiday

Independence Day, 5 July (1975)

Constitution

history: previous 1981; latest effective 25 September 1992

amendments: proposals require support of at least four fifths of the active National Assembly membership; amendment drafts require sponsorship of at least one third of the active Assembly membership; passage requires at least two-thirds majority vote by the Assembly membership; constitutional sections, including those on national independence, form of government, political pluralism, suffrage, and human rights and liberties, cannot be amended; revised 1995, 1999, 2010

Legal system

civil law system of Portugal

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Cabo Verde

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Jorge Carlos FONSECA (since 9 September 2011)

head of government: Prime Minister Ulisses CORREIA E. SILVA (since 22 April 2016)

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister

elections/appointments: president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 2 October 2016 (next to be held on 17 October 2021); prime minister nominated by the National Assembly and appointed by the president

election results: Jorge Carlos FONSECA reelected president; percent of vote - Jorge Carlos FONSECA (MPD) 74%, Albertino GRACA (independent) 23%, other 3%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral National Assembly or Assembleia Nacional (72 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote; members serve 5-year terms)

elections: last held on 20 March 2016 (next to be held on 18 April 2021)

election results: percent of vote by party MPD 54.5%, PAICV 38.2%, UCID 7%, other 0.3%; seats by party - MPD 40, PAICV 29, UCID 3; composition - men 57, women 15, percent of women 20.8%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court of Justice (consists of the chief justice and at least 7 judges and organized into civil, criminal, and administrative sections)

judge selection and term of office: judge appointments - 1 by the president of the republic, 1 elected by the National Assembly, and 3 by the Superior Judicial Council (SJC), a 16-member independent body chaired by the chief justice and includes the attorney general, 8 private citizens, 2 judges, 2 prosecutors, the senior legal inspector of the Attorney General's office, and a representative of the Ministry of Justice; chief justice appointed by the president of the republic from among peers of the Supreme Court of Justice and in consultation with the SJC; judges appointed for life

subordinate courts: appeals courts, first instance (municipal) courts; audit, military, and fiscal and customs courts

Political parties and leaders

rz African Party for Independence of Cabo Verde or PAICV [Janira Hopffer ALMADA]
Democratic and Independent Cabo Verdean Union or UCID [Antonio MONTEIRO]
Democratic Christian Party or PDC [Manuel RODRIGUES]
Democratic Renovation Party or PRD [Victor FIDALGO]
Movement for Democracy or MPD [Ulisses CORREIA E SILVA]
Party for Democratic Convergence or PCD [Dr. Eurico MONTEIRO]
Party of Work and Solidarity or PTS [Anibal MEDINA]
Social Democratic Party or PSD [Joao ALEM]

International organization participation

ACP, AfDB, AOSIS, AU, CD, CPLP, ECOWAS, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt (signatory), ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, NAM, OIF, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, Union Latina, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Jose Luis do Livramento MONTEIRO ALVES DE BRITO (since 23 December 2020)

chancery: 3415 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20007

telephone: [1] (202) 965-6820

FAX: [1] (202) 965-1207

consulate(s) general: Boston

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador John "Jeff" DAIGLE (since 28 June 2019)

telephone: [238] 260-89-00

embassy: Rua Abilio Macedo 6, Praia

mailing address: C. P. 201, Praia

FAX: [238] 261-13-55

Flag description

five unequal horizontal bands; the top-most band of blue - equal to one half the width of the flag - is followed by three bands of white, red, and white, each equal to 1/12 of the width, and a bottom stripe of blue equal to one quarter of the flag width; a circle of 10 yellow, five-pointed stars is centered on the red stripe and positioned 3/8 of the length of the flag from the hoist side; blue stands for the sea and the sky, the circle of stars represents the 10 major islands united into a nation, the stripes symbolize the road to formation of the country through peace (white) and effort (red)

National symbol(s)

ten, five-pointed, yellow stars; national colors: blue, white, red, yellow

National anthem

name: "Cantico da Liberdade" (Song of Freedom)

lyrics/music: Amilcar Spencer LOPES/Adalberto Higino Tavares SILVA

note: adopted 1996

Economy

Economic overview

Cabo Verde’s economy 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.

Although about 40% of the population lives in rural areas, the share of food production in GDP is low. The island economy suffers from a poor natural resource base, including serious water shortages, exacerbated by cycles of long-term drought, and poor soil for growing food on several of the islands, requiring it to import most of what it consumes. The fishing potential, mostly lobster and tuna, is not fully exploited.

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.

Real GDP growth rate

4% (2017 est.)

4.7% (2016 est.)

1% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 73

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

1.1% (2019 est.)

1.2% (2018 est.)

0.7% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 71

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: B- (2020)

Standard & Poors rating: B (2013)

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$3.944 billion (2019 est.)

$3.732 billion (2018 est.)

$3.57 billion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

country comparison to the world: 185

GDP (official exchange rate)

$1.971 billion (2019 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$7,172 (2019 est.)

$6,864 (2018 est.)

$6,643 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

country comparison to the world: 157

Gross national saving

35% of GDP (2019 est.)

34.4% of GDP (2018 est.)

30.5% of GDP (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 21

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 8.9% (2017 est.)

industry: 17.5% (2017 est.)

services: 73.7% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 50.1% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 18.3% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 32.2% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 1.9% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 48.6% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -51.1% (2017 est.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores

Overall score: 55 (2020)

Starting a Business score: 84.5 (2020)

Trading score: 69.1 (2020)

Enforcement score: 64.8 (2020)

Agricultural products

sugar cane, tomatoes, bananas, cabbages, coconuts, cassava, pulses nes, vegetables, milk, goat milk

Industries

food and beverages, fish processing, shoes and garments, salt mining, ship repair

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 1.9%

highest 10%: 40.6% (2000)

Budget

revenues: 493.5 million (2017 est.)

expenditures: 546.7 million (2017 est.)

Public debt

125.8% of GDP (2017 est.)

127.6% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 8

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

-$109 million (2017 est.)

-$40 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 88

Exports

$189 million (2017 est.)

$148.4 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 191

Exports - partners

Spain 65%, Portugal 14%, Italy 8% (2019)

Exports - commodities

processed and frozen fish, mollusks, clothing, scrap iron (2019)

Imports

$836.1 million (2017 est.)

$687.3 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 190

Imports - partners

Portugal 36%, Netherlands 16%, Spain 11%, China 6% (2019)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, delivery trucks, coal tar oil, cars, rice (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$617.4 million (31 December 2017 est.)

$572.7 million (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 145

Debt - external

$1.713 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$1.688 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 155

Exchange rates

Cabo Verdean escudos (CVE) per US dollar -

101.8 (2017 est.)

99.688 (2016 est.)

99.688 (2015 est.)

99.426 (2014 est.)

83.114 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 96% (2019)

electrification - urban areas: 99% (2019)

electrification - rural areas: 89% (2019)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 60,233

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 10.46 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 154

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 623,749

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 108.32 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 167

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: LTE reaches almost 40% of the population; regulator awards commercial 4G licenses and starts 5G pilot; govt. extends USD 25 million for submarine fiber-optic cable project linking Africa to Portugal and Brazil; major service provider is Cabo Verde Telecom (CVT) (2020)

domestic: 11 per 100 fixed-line and 108 per 100 mobile-cellular; fiber-optic ring, completed in 2001, links all islands providing Internet access and ISDN services; cellular service introduced in 1998; broadband services launched early in the decade (2019)

international: country code - 238; landing points for the Atlantis-2, EllaLink, Cabo Verde Telecom Domestic Submarine Cable Phase 1, 2, 3 and WACS fiber-optic transatlantic telephone cable that provides links to South America, Africa, and Europe; HF radiotelephone to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

state-run TV and radio broadcast network plus a growing number of private broadcasters; Portuguese public TV and radio services for Africa are available; transmissions of a few international broadcasters are available (2019)

Internet users

total: 330,623

percent of population: 58.17% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 164

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 15,657

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 3 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 161

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 2 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 5

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 140,429 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 1,728,152 mt-km (2015)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 9 (2017)

over 3,047 m: 1 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 3 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2017)

under 914 m: 2 (2017)

Roadways

total: 1,350 km (2013)

paved: 932 km (2013)

unpaved: 418 km (2013)

country comparison to the world: 176

Merchant marine

total: 43

by type: general cargo 16, oil tanker 2, other 25 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 121

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Porto Grande

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Cabo Verdean Armed Forces (FACV): Army (also called the National Guard, GN; includes a small air component), Cabo Verde Coast Guard (Guardia Costeira de Cabo Verde, GCCV) (2020)

Military expenditures

0.5% of GDP (2019)

0.6% of GDP (2018)

0.5% of GDP (2017)

0.6% of GDP (2016)

0.6% of GDP (2015)

country comparison to the world: 154

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Cabo Verdean Armed Forces (FACV) consist of approximately 1,100 Army (includes an air component of about 100 personnel) and 100 Coast Guard active duty troops (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the FACV has a limited amount of mostly dated and second-hand equipment, largely from China, European countries, and the former Soviet Union; since 2010, it has received limited quantities of equipment (naval patrol craft and aircraft) from the Netherlands and Portugal (2020)

Military service age and obligation

18-35 years of age for male and female selective compulsory military service; 2-years conscript service obligation; 17 years of age for voluntary service (with parental consent) (2019)

Transnational Issues

Refugees and internally displaced persons

stateless persons: 115 (2019)

Illicit drugs

used as a transshipment point for Latin American cocaine destined for Western Europe, particularly because of Lusophone links to Brazil, Portugal, and Guinea-Bissau; has taken steps to deter drug money laundering, including a 2002 anti-money laundering reform that criminalizes laundering the proceeds of narcotics trafficking and other crimes and the establishment in 2008 of a Financial Intelligence Unit