Cape Verde, in long form the Republic of Cape Verde is an island state, composed of an archipelago of ten volcanic islands. Located in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Senegal, it covers an area of approximately 4,000 km2. Praia, the capital, is 644 km from the Cape Verde peninsula in Senegal. The archipelago is divided into two series of islands: to the south the islands of Sotavento (Brava, Fogo, Santiago and Maio) and to the north the islands of Barlavento (Boa Vista, Sal, São Nicolau, Santa Luzia, São Vicente and Santo Antão). Santiago alone comprises more than half of the country’s population, including the capital Praia.
The islands were uninhabited before the arrival of the first Portuguese explorers in 1456. First European colony in the tropics, slaves coming from (Senegal, Mali, Guinea etc) it serves as a bridgehead for the slave trade and triangular trade. Cape Verde then attracted many privateers and pirates, including Francis Drake around 1580. The naturalist Charles Darwin also visited the archipelago in 1832. The colony continued to grow in the 19th century becoming a stopover on the shipping routes leading to the Indies Eastern and Australia. During the twentieth century, several famines decimated the population. The country gained independence in 1975 and became a member of ECOWAS the following year. At that time, many Cape Verdeans emigrated abroad, constituting a diaspora greater in number than the resident population of the country. Most residents today define themselves as Creole. Today, Cape Verde has an economy centered on the production of services, particularly in tourism. Of Portuguese and Cape Verdean Creole languages, its culture is nourished by European and African influences. Cape Verdean music and its various components (funaná, coladeira, morna, La kizomba resembling the Caribbean zouk but in Portuguese), have been popularized all over the world by the singer Cesária Évora. Catholicism is the dominant religion (90%) and the clergy still have a strong influence on the population, even if Islam tends to spread with the arrival of Malian and Senegalese migrants.
Cape Verde’s history
From the 15th to the end of the 18th century
The Cape Verde Islands were uninhabited until the arrival of European settlers. The archipelago was discovered by Genoese and Portuguese explorers around 1456. According to the official historiography of Portugal, the discovery was due to the Genoese navigator António Noli, whom King Alfonso V appointed governor of Cape Verde. Explorers have also associated the discoveries with the names of Diogo Gomes (lieutenant of Noli, who claims to have been the first to accost and have named the island of Santiago), Diogo Dias, Diogo Afonso and the Venetian Alvise Cadamosto. In 1462, the Portuguese arrived in Santiago and founded a colony, Ribeira Grande (today Cidade Velha), the first European establishment in the tropics. In the sixteenth century, the archipelago prospered thanks to the benefits derived from the transatlantic slave trade. Pirates occasionally attack Portuguese buildings. Francis Drake, an English corsair commissioned by a letter of mark from the British crown, twice plundered Ribeira Grande (then capital of Cape Verde) in 15853. After an attack by France in 1712, the city’s decline begins in favor of Praia, which becomes the new capital in 1770.
19th and 20th centuries: towards independence
The decline of the slave trade in the nineteenth century provoked an economic crisis which gradually ruptured the prosperity of the archipelago. However, due to its strategic position halfway across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe, Cape Verde becomes a privileged stopover for shipping lines. Thanks to its well-sheltered port, the town of Mindelo (island of São Vicente) becomes an important commercial center for replenishing ships. The American diplomat Edmund Roberts made a stop there in 1832. However, chronic droughts due to deforestation led to regular famines, accentuated by the absence of food aid. Between 1941 and 1948, 50,000 people died, or more than a third of the population, indifferent to the Portuguese authorities. The lack of natural resources and investments made by the Portuguese cause discontent of the population. The colonists also refuse any hint of local autonomy. Autonomist demands grew during the twentieth century. In order to appease the political situation and satisfy the emerging nationalist movement, Portugal changed the legal status of Cape Verde in 1951: from a simple colony, the archipelago became an overseas province. From 1956, the separatists of Cape Verde, led by Amílcar Cabral, and of Guinea, another Portuguese possession in West Africa, joined forces to form the African Party for the independence of Guinea and Cape Green (PAIGC).
The PAIGC then demanded economic, social and political improvements in Cape Verde and Portuguese Guinea, thus laying the foundations for the independence movements of these two nations. In 1960, the party established its headquarters in Conakry, Guinea. The following year began the armed rebellion of the PAIGC against the Portuguese troops: the acts of sabotage gradually turned into a real war between the 10,000 soldiers of the PAIGC, supported by the Soviet Union, and the 35,000 soldiers of government troops allied with other African countries. In 1972, PAIGC troops controlled most of the territory of Portuguese Guinea, despite the presence of Portuguese soldiers, but the organization failed to seize the Cape Verde islands. Guinea declares its independence in 1973 and is recognized de jure independence in September 1974 by Portugal: it becomes Guinea-Bissau and has for its first leader Luís Cabral, the half-brother of the Cape Verdean independence leader. Destabilized by internal political problems (the Carnation Revolution of April 1974), Portugal cannot oppose the return in force of the PAIGC in Cape Verde, supported from Guinea-Bissau by Cabral. In December 1974, the PAIGC and Portugal signed an agreement providing for the constitution of a transitional government composed of Portuguese and Cape Verdeans. On June 30, 1975, the Cape Verdeans elected a National Assembly to which Portugal recognized sovereignty on July 5. Aristides Pereira, figure of the anti-colonial movement and leader of the PAIGC, becomes the country’s first president.
Since independence (1975)
In 1975, the meeting of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau was planned. The coup d’état in Guinea in November 1980 provoked a cooling of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The union project was thus buried, and the PAIGC changed its name to PAICV (African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde). He established a one-party regime of Marxist inspiration (although not aligned) which lasted until 1990, the year when Cape Verde opened up to a multiparty system. Constrained by popular pressure, which calls for more democracy, the PAICV convened an extraordinary congress in February 1990 to effect changes to the Constitution. Several opposition parties unite to form the Movement for Democracy (MPD) in April 1990 in Praia, and contest the legitimacy of the presidential election scheduled for December 1990. The one-party system was officially abolished on September 28, 1990, and the first free elections were held in January 1991. They saw the large victory (73.5%) of the candidate for the Movement for Democracy, António Mascarenhas Monteiro, who defeated Aristides Pereira, president in office since 1975. The legislative elections of December 1995 granted a large majority in the National Assembly to the MPD, with 50 seats out of 72. Monteiro was re-elected in 1996 and did not stand for re-election in 2001. The candidate of PAICV, Pedro Pires won the February 2001 election and was also re-elected for a second term. Since 2011, the President has been the leader of MPD Jorge Carlos Fonseca.
Due to its political stability and the regularity of the elections, Cape Verde is considered one of the most democratic African countries. On July 23, 2008, the World Trade Organization (WTO) welcomed Cape Verde, which became the 153rd member country. The country benefits from a peaceful altenance of the two main parties, the Movement for Democracy (MPD), and the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV, the former single party), which succeed one another in power, and sometimes coexist there (with a president of the one and a prime minister of the other). The archipelago, on the other hand, suffers from global warming and droughts, especially since fresh water is scarce there. Governments have opted for a policy of developing renewable energies, as well as ecotourism.
Cape Verde’s politics
Cape Verde is a representative democracy, governed by a semi-presidential republic. The constitution, adopted in 1980 and revised in 1992, 1995 and 1999, defines the basic principles of government. The president is the head of state and is elected by the citizens for a term of five years. The Prime Minister heads the government and appoints ministers and state secretaries. He is appointed by the National Assembly, with the approval of the President. Members of the National Assembly are also elected for a five-year term. Two parties have dominated Cape Verdean political life since independence: the PAICV (ex-PAIGC): initially of communist obedience, the PAICV is the only party of the regime under the presidency of Aristides Pereira. It evolves towards social democracy and democratic socialism at the end of the 20th century and remains today the main political force in the country. the Movement for Democracy (MPD): this liberal center-right party is the main opposition to the PAICV. Two presidents came from its ranks: António Mascarenhas Monteiro (1991-2001) and the current president, Jorge Carlos Fonseca. Due to the regular alternation between parties since 1991 and the freedom enjoyed by the press, Cape Verde is considered one of the most democratic countries in the world: it ranks 26th on the Democracy Index in 2018. The judicial system is made up of a Supreme Court of Justice, the members of which are appointed by the President, the National Assembly and the Judicial Committee, as well as courts distributed throughout the territory. There are chambers dealing with civil, criminal and administrative matters. The appeal is made to the Supreme Court.
Cape Verde’s economy
The escudo has been pegged at fixed parity since July 5, 1998 to the currency of Portugal (the Portuguese escudo until 1999, the euro since that date), at the exchange rate of 110,265 escudos for one euro. The country could become, like Madeira, a place of tax optimization, from 2015.
Cape Verde’s GDP is 190th in the world, due to the weakness of its natural resources. In particular, Cape Verde is regularly the victim of water shortages due to ancient deforestation and long periods of drought. Only four of the ten islands in the archipelago can support agricultural production during normal rainy periods. In 2007 Cape Verde left the group of least developed countries.
The economy is oriented towards services with trade, transport, tourism and public services. This represents three quarters of the GDP. International aid represents an essential supplement to the budget. Tourism is developing but the remoteness of rich countries makes it a relatively marginal destination despite real attractions. The country could become, like Madeira, a place of tax optimization, from 2015.
Cape Verde’s demography
Cape Verde remained uninhabited until the arrival of the Portuguese colonists in 1456 and its population comes from a mixture of these (in particular the Portuguese of the Azores and Madeira) and the slaves coming from the African continent, especially from West Africa. A number of other Europeans also settled on the archipelago, as well as a community of Spanish and Portuguese Jews fleeing the Inquisition. They all quickly assimilated. The population, descended from slaves transported by the Portuguese to work in the plantations or to be sold in Brazil, is made up of a very mixed base. The whites were only 3% at independence and the mestizos make up more than two thirds of the city dwellers. Young (45% under 15), this still very rural population (70%) is growing at a rate of 1.9% per year (1997 estimate), and the poverty of the country has forced many Cape Verdeans to expatriate. In addition, under the influence of a rural exodus, nearly 30% of the population now resides in the cities of Praia and Mindelo (50,000 inhabitants).
The diaspora approximately 700,000 nationals abroad for 500,000 people resident in the following countries: United States, Portugal, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Senegal, Switzerland, Angola, and Sao Tome and Principe. Its economic role is crucial for foreign exchange earnings, but migration is threatened because of the tightened controls at European borders. Portuguese is the official language. Creeoulo Creole is the national language. The majority of Cape Verdeans are Catholic (93.2%). Cramped on a cramped and not very fertile ground, the Cape Verdean population undergoes very numerous famines until the independence of the country in 1975. Today, the food aid made it possible to eradicate the famines but Cape- Green remains a land of emigration. With 523,568 inhabitants in 2012, Cape Verde is one of the least populated countries in Africa. Its population in 2012 was 32.6% people between 0 and 14 years old, 61.9% people between 15 and 64 years old and 5.5% people 65 years old or more. Its human density is 129.8 inhabitants / km2. Men have a life expectancy of 66.78 years while for women it is 73.27 years. In 2011, the country experienced a population growth rate of 1.43%, with a birth rate of 21.21 ‰, a mortality rate of 6.28 ‰, an infant mortality rate of 26.02 ‰, a fertility rate of 2.44 children per woman and a negative migration rate of -0.66%.
Cape Verde’s languages
The official language of Cape Verde is Portuguese but the inhabitants speak mainly Cape Verdean Creole (crioulo in Portuguese, criolo or criol in Cape Verdean Creole). English and French are taught in school. Cape Verde is part of the International Organization of La Francophonie and the Parliamentary Assembly of La Francophonie. There are regional variations of Creole, specific to each of the 9 inhabited islands but which are not significant enough to prevent understanding between the inhabitants. The different Creoles of Cape Verde can be separated into two groups: the Creoles of Sotavento (Brava, Fogo, Santiago and Maio) and the Creoles of Barlavento (Boa Vista, Sal, São Nicolau, São Vicente and Santo Antão). The regions of Ribeira Grande, Santiago and Santa Catarina do Fogo are members of the International Association of French Speaking Regions. In addition, the municipalities of Praia and São Vicente are members of the International Association of Francophone Mayors.
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