Cape Verde Islands

Beez Neez
Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Thu 18 Dec 2008 16:44
Cape Verde


The Republic of Cape Verde (Portuguese: Cabo Verde) are located on an archipelago in the Macaronesia ecoregion of the North Atlantic Ocean, off the western coast of Africa. The previously uninhabited islands  were discovered and colonised by the Portuguese in the fifteenth century, gaining independence in 1975.





In 1462, Portuguese settlers arrived at Santiago and founded Ribeira Grande (now Cidade Velha), the first permanent European settlement city in the tropics. They named the islands Cabo Verde, 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 and Sir Francis Drake ransacked Ribeira Grande in 1585. After a French attack in 1712, the city declined in importance relative to 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 became an important commercial centre during the 19th century.

Portugal changed Cape Verde's status from a colony to an overseas province in 1951 in an attempt to blunt growing nationalism. Nevertheless, in 1956, Amilcar Cabral, a Cape Verdean, and a group of Cape Verdeans and Guinean 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 Guinea and formed the basis of the two nations' independence movement. Moving its headquarters to Conarkry, 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.




Bear in Mindelo market, on-going building work.  A water 'pick-up' (next to the Telecom). Water is dropped from tankers and locals gather it in drums. 


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 is comprised 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.

Cape Verde follows a policy of nonalignment and seeks cooperative relations with all friendly states. Angola, Brazil, China, Cuba, France, Germany, Portugal, Senegal, Russia, and the USA 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.

Geography and climate

The Cape Verde archipelago is located approximately 375 miles 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).These islands are divided into 22 municipalities (concelhos) and subdivided into 32 parishes (freguesias). 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.




The normal scenery to see a sparrow, in lush plants on Cape Verde and the black crowned sparrow on the beach.

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 Antão, and São 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 (75? °F) in January to 29 °C (85 °F) in September. Cape Verde is part of the Sahelian arid belt and lacks the rainfall levels of West African countries. When it does rain, most of the rainfall occurs between August and October, with several brief, heavy downpours.




Cape Verde's isolation has resulted in the islands having a large number of endemic species, many of which are endangered by human development. Endemic birds include Alexander's Swift (Apus alexandri), Raso Lark (Alauda razae), Cape Verde Warbler (Acrocephalus brevipennis), and Iago Sparrow (Passer iagoensis), and reptiles include the Cape Verde Giant Gecko (Tarentola gigas).


Cape Verde has few natural resources and suffers from poor rainfall and limited fresh water. Only 4 of the 10 main islands (Santiago, Santo Antão, 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 privitisation program. It established as top development priorities the promotion of 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 there was a total of about $407 million in foreign investments made or planned, of which 58% were in tourism, 17% in industry, 4% in infrastructure, and 21% in fisheries and services.




The airport on Sao Vicente will become international soon, the cement works and the Coca-Cola factory.

Cape Verde's strategic location at the crossroads of mid-Atlantic air and sea lanes has been enhanced by significant improvements at Mindelo's harbour (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 kilometers (1,830 mi.) of roads, of which 1,010 kilometers (606 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.


Around 71 percent of the population is Creole of mixed black African and Portuguese descent. The remainder of the population is mostly black Africans, with a small number of whites. The European men who colonized Cape Verde did not usually bring wives or families with them. As female African slaves were brought to the islands, inter-marriages occurred.                                                                                      More than 85 percent of the population is nominally Roman Catholic, though Catholicism is often melded with traditional African religions. The largest Protestant denomination is the Church of the Nazarene; other groups include the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Mormons, the Assemblies of God, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God and various other Pentecostal and evangelical groups. There are small Baha'i communities and a small but growing Muslim community. The number of atheists is estimated at less than 1 percent of the population.




Cape Verde's official language is Portuguese. It is the language of instruction and official acts. However, the Cape Verdean Creole is used colloquially and is the mother tongue of virtually all Cape Verdeans. Cape Verdean Creole or Kriolu is a dialect continuum of a Portuguese-based creole, which varies from island to island. There is a substantial body of literature in Creole, especially in the Santiago Creole and the Sao Vicente Creole. Creole has been gaining prestige since the nation's independence from Portugal. However, the differences between the varied forms of the language within the islands have been a major obstacle in the way of standardization of the language. Some people have advocated the development of two standards: a North (Barlavento) standard, centered on the São Vicente Creole, and a South (Sotavento) standard, centered on the Santiago Creole. Manuel Veiga, PhD, a linguist by training, and Minister of Culture of Cape Verde, is the premier proponent of Kriolu's officialisation and standardisation.

Cape Verdeans

Today, more Cape Verdeans live abroad than in Cape Verde itself, with significant communities in the US (about 500,000, with a major concentration on the New England coast from Providence, Rhode Island, to New Bedford, Mass.), Portugal (80,000) and Angola (45,000). There is also a significant number of Cape Verdeans in Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, France, Brazil, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Cape Verdean populations also settled in Spain, Germany, and other CPLP countries such as Guinea-Bissau. Culture

Cape Verdean social and cultural patterns are similar to those of rural Portugal, but some African patterns remain. Soccer games and church activities are typical sources of social interaction and entertainment. The traditional walk around the praça (town square) to meet friends is practiced regularly in Cape Verdean towns. In towns with electricity, Cape Verdeans have access to television and watch Cape Verde’s programs on two channels (Cape Verdean and Portuguese).Cape Verdean music incorporates Portuguese, 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 musical genres include funana and batuque music. Amongst the most world-wide known Cape Verdean singers, is the singer Cesaria Evora, whose songs became a hallmark of the country and its culture.

Cape Verdean literature is one of the richest of Lusitanian Africa. Famous poets include Frusoni Sergio, Tavares Eugénio, and B.Léza, and famous authors include Manuel Lopes, Henrique Teixeira de Sousa, and Almeida Germano.




The municipal market, chicken paella, tuna steak and chickpeas, all dishes we have tried. The Cape Verdean 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, fruit and veg is not cheap to buy. The Government sets the prices, so no hassle with bartering.

Health, education, and development

Primary school education in Cape Verde is mandatory between the ages of 6 and 14 years and free for children ages 6 to 12. Textbooks have been made available to 90 percent of school children, and 83 percent of the teachers have attended in-service teacher training. Although most children have access to education, some problems remain as many students and some teachers speak Creole at home and have a poor command of Portuguese (the language of instruction); there is insufficient spending on school materials, lunches and books; and there is a high repetition rate for certain grades. The strange thing for us - you just don't see many old people - there are a few of course, but twenty years ago the life expectancy was only 46. It has increased significantly with better health care for those who can afford it. The average wage for a factory worker is between 6 and 8 thousand ESC a month -  £53.10 to £70.80. There is no minimum wage and employers can pay what they want, or not as the case may be. That is why you see so much begging/ offers to do casual labour and unfinished housing. Some prefer shopping to money, many have asked us to buy baby formula or nappies, we have seen tourists offer money and been taken to the supermarket. Quite sad really.

Cape Verde has been steadily developing since its independence, and besides having been promoted to the group of "medium development" countries in 2007, leaving the Least Developed Countries category (which is only the second time it has happened to a country), is currently the 5th best ranked country in Africa in terms of Human Development Index.



All in all an interesting, young place to visit - but- don't forget it is technically 3rd World, so no comparing to holidaying in the Mediterranean.