Cape Verde Profile
When the Portuguese 'discovered'
the islands that make up Cape Verde they were uninhabited. Situated half way
between Portugal and South America, the ten islands and five islets made for an ideal trading station for
all sorts of goods including the slave trade. However, when the slave trade
ended, there was little use for Cape Verde as it was no longer required for
transit, nor did it have any meaningful natural resources.
Despite this, its strategic
importance allowed it to remain as a supply destination for ships travelling to
and from the Americas with its harbour port Mindelo (left) on this island of São
Vicente coming to prominence in the 19th century. However, without generating
revenue, Portugal was unwilling to invest in its colony, but neither was it
prepared to let it go leading to increasing resentment from the island settlers.
Well over a century later as
Portugal's government collapsed, the Cape Verde islands were granted
independence from Portugal in 1975 and briefly toyed with the idea of becoming
part of Guinea-Bissau however opted for full independence. As with many newly
established Africa nations, a one party system was created however full
multi-party elections were held in Cape Verde in 1990.
Today, Cape Verde is considered a
good example of African democracy. Having no trans-national border issues by
definition, the biggest problem Cape Verde faces is droughts leading to many
leaving the islands in favour of a steady supply of food, water and better
living conditions. In fact more people from Cape Verde now live off the islands
than actually live on them. The money they send 'home' help
sustain the country's economy. Cape Verde is also affected by plagues of locusts
which sweep in from the African mainland at regular intervals badly damaging
much needed crops in a country that is already dependent on foreign food aid to
feeds its inhabitants.
There are 221,000 children under
the age of 18 in Cape Verde and whilst primary school enrolment is pretty much
universal only 27% of all children attend secondary school. Just 7% of the
population live under the poverty line of 60p a day, however many children in
Cape Verde have poor access to clean water and sanitation and they also suffer
from regular outbreaks of cholera and there are few doctors on the islands to
assist when these outbreaks occur.