SEATTLE — Located off the west coast of Africa, the Republic of Sao Tome and Principe (STP) is a nation often described as fragile and impoverished. With almost 62 percent of the population living below the poverty line, the country is in desperate need of an effective poverty reduction strategy. Poor economic growth, heavy dependence on aid and vulnerability to natural shocks are some of the major causes of poverty in Sao Tome and Principe. These three causes are further explained below.
Poor Economic Growth
Perhaps one of the main causes of poverty in Sao Tome and Principe is the lack of economic activity. Since the country’s independence in 1975, it has heavily relied on cocoa production as its driving force of revenue. In recent years, however, drought and mismanagement have caused a decrease in many of the country’s agricultural industries. Increased imports and a lack of tourism have added to Sao Tome and Principe’s struggle to find economic sustainability.
Heavy Reliance on Aid and Debt Relief
STP has long experienced trouble repaying its external debt. This has made the country heavily dependent on aid and assisted debt relief from other countries. In 2000, STP received $200 million in debt relief under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries program. Other programs have also assisted STP in order to increase the country’s tax revenues, reform customs and improve local businesses.
Vulnerability to Natural Shocks
Sao Tome and Principe is susceptible to natural disasters and the effects of climate change. This poses a large threat of further damage to the region’s already weak ecosystems and lack of socioeconomic development. The United Nations Development Programme predicts that extreme climatic events and higher average temperatures will be a part of STP’s future. As a result, water supplies will be reduced, energy production will decrease and infrastructure will be lost.
The main challenges to eliminating the causes of poverty in Sao Tome and Principe exist in the implementation of feasible solutions. However, the country is off to a good start, with 2015 being a year of notable progress on the Millennium Development Goals. This was mainly seen in the areas of universal primary education, promoting gender equality and combating diseases. Future plans involve a reform agenda that builds on these recent improvements to develop maintainable advancements.
– Emilee Wessel