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You are here: HomePublications Issue 312 – Dec. 2020 Market Information of Portuguese-speaking CountriesDemocratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe

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Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe

Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe, commonly known as São Tomé and Príncipe, is an island country in the southeast of the Gulf of Guinea in the central western side of Africa, with a distance of about 201 kilometers to the African continent. It is composed of 14 small islands including São Tomé, Príncipe, Rolas, with an area of about 1,001 square kilometres. The population is around 210,000, most of whom are Bantu people. São Tomé and Príncipe was once a Portuguese colony. The official language is Portuguese and the population predominantly practices Catholic Christianity. The country is divided into 7 large regions. The capital city São Tomé is the largest city.

São Tomé and Príncipe is a country of agriculture which mainly grows cash crops such as cocoa. It was considered one of the world’s least developed countries by the United Nation. In recent years, the government of São Tomé and Príncipe has taken measures such as lowering tariffs, improving the investment environment and establishing a free trade zone to attract foreign investment, focusing on infrastructure such as ports and electricity, and actively developing new industries such as tourism. As a result, the economy has maintained growth to a certain extent. In addition, according to the World Bank’s report on business environment “Doing Business 2020”, in terms of starting a business, it takes only 6 steps of procedures which is an average of 7 days to start a business in São Tomé and Príncipe; in terms of construction permits, in São Tomé and Príncipe takes an average of 67 days and costs only 2.2% of the warehouse value.

São Tomé and Príncipe has attached great importance to peaceful diplomatic relations and maintain good relations with neighboring countries. It has been members of various international organisations such as the United Nations(UN), the African Union, Economic Community of Central African States(CEFAC), and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries(CPLP).


Information of Business Opportunities in São Tomé and Príncipe

São Tomé and Príncipe is a country of agriculture. 51% of the population is engaged in agricultural production. The main export goods are cocoa, dried coconut, coffee and palm kernels, which cocoa production accounts for more than 20 percent of GDP. In terms of mineral resources, it has about 6-10 billion barrels of proven oil reserves.

São Tomé and Príncipe is uniquely located with beautiful natural landscapes. In 2017, the service industry including tourism accounted for 65% of GDP. Visitors are mainly from Portugal and Angola. In 2019, it received about 35,000 visitors.


Overview of Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and São Tomé and Príncipe

The People’s Republic of China and Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe established diplomatic relations on 12 July 1975. At one point, diplomatic relations were suspended. In November 2013, the Chinese Liaison Office in São Tomé and Príncipe was inaugurated and established. On 26 December 2016, the two countries signed “Joint Communiqué of the People’s Republic of China and the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Principe on Restoration of Diplomatic Relations”, restoring diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level between the two countries.

In terms of economic and trade relations and economic and technical co-operation, the two countries have established a mechanism of the Joint Commission on Economic and Trade in April 2017. In September the same year, the first meeting was held. In co-operation of other fields, the two countries signed “Memorandum of Understanding on the Implementation of the Tourism Program for Chinese Tour Groups to São Tomé and Principe” in April 2017, making São Tomé and Principe an outbound tourist destination for Chinese citizens. In addition, the Confucius Institute at São Tomé and Principe University was inaugurated in July 2019.


Main Economic Indicators in 2019

GDP (Current US$) (in US$ millions) 429.0
GDP per capita (Current US$) 1,994.9
Real GDP Growth (annual %) 2.4
Inflation, GDP deflator (annual %) 4.6
Foreign direct investment, net inflows (BOP, current US$) (in US$ billions) 28.1
Surface area (sq. km) 1,001
Population 215,056

1. World Bank, https://databank.worldbank.org/



Foreign Trade Statistics of São Tomé and Príncipe

(Unit: US$ million)
Year Total export-import volume Total exports volume Total imports volume
2019 157.8 9.9 147.9
2018 168.0 12.7 155.3

Source : International Trade Centre, https://www.intracen.org/


Major Trading Partners of
São Tomé and Príncipe (2019)

Main Export Destinations Percentage (%)
Netherlands 34.3
Belgium 34.2
Portugal 12.1
Italy 5.5
Main Origin for Imports Percentage (%)
Portugal 48.9
Angola 19.6
China 6.1

Source International Trade Centre, https://www.intracen.org/



China-Mozambique Import and Export Trade

(Unit: US$ thousand)
Year Total export and import Total exports to Mozambique Total imports from Mozambique
2019 8,934 8,921 14
2018 7,305 7,255 50

Source: General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China, http://online.customs.gov.cn/



World Bank

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China

Macao Trade and Investment Promotion

International Trade Centre

General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China

Statistics and Census Service of the Government of Macao Special Administrative Region