Sao Tome and Principe Economy - 2021


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Economic overview

The economy of São Tomé and Príncipe is small, based mainly on agricultural production, and, since independence in 1975, increasingly dependent on the export of cocoa beans. Cocoa production has substantially declined in recent years because of drought and mismanagement. Sao Tome depends heavily on imports of food, fuels, most manufactured goods, and consumer goods, and changes in commodity prices affect the country’s inflation rate. Maintaining control of inflation, fiscal discipline, and increasing flows of foreign direct investment into the nascent oil sector are major economic problems facing the country. In recent years the government has attempted to reduce price controls and subsidies. In 2017, several business-related laws were enacted that aim to improve the business climate.

São Tomé and Príncipe has had difficulty servicing its external debt and has relied heavily on concessional aid and debt rescheduling. In April 2011, the country completed a Threshold Country Program with The Millennium Challenge Corporation to help increase tax revenues, reform customs, and improve the business environment. In 2016, Sao Tome and Portugal signed a five-year cooperation agreement worth approximately $64 million, some of which will be provided as loans. In 2017, China and São Tomé signed a mutual cooperation agreement in areas such as infrastructure, health, and agriculture worth approximately $146 million over five years.

Considerable potential exists for development of tourism, and the government has taken steps to expand tourist facilities in recent years. Potential also exists for the development of petroleum resources in São Tomé and Príncipe's territorial waters in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea, some of which are being jointly developed in a 60-40 split with Nigeria, but production is at least several years off.

Volatile aid and investment inflows have limited growth, and poverty remains high. Restricteded capacity at the main port increases the periodic risk of shortages of consumer goods. Contract enforcement in the country’s judicial system is difficult. The IMF in late 2016 expressed concern about vulnerabilities in the country’s banking sector, although the country plans some austerity measures in line with IMF recommendations under their three year extended credit facility. Deforestation, coastal erosion, poor waste management, and misuse of natural resources also are challenging issues.

Real GDP growth rate

3.9% (2017 est.)

4.2% (2016 est.)

3.8% (2015 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

7.8% (2018 est.)

5.6% (2017 est.)

5.7% (2017 est.)

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$853 million (2019 est.)

$842 million (2018 est.)

$818 million (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$0 (2018 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$3,970 (2019 est.)

$3,993 (2018 est.)

$3,953 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

Gross national saving

18.7% of GDP (2017 est.)

21% of GDP (2016 est.)

19.3% of GDP (2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 11.8% (2017 est.)

industry: 14.8% (2017 est.)

services: 73.4% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 81.4% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 17.6% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 33.4% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 7.9% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -40.4% (2017 est.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores

Overall score: 45 (2020)

Starting a Business score: 78.2 (2020)

Trading score: 66 (2020)

Enforcement score: 28.8 (2020)

Agricultural products

plantains, oil palm fruit, coconuts, taro, bananas, fruit, cocoa, yams, cassava, maize


light construction, textiles, soap, beer, fish processing, timber

Industrial production growth rate

5% (2017 est.)

Labor force

72,600 (2017 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 26.1%

industry: 21.4%

services: 52.5% (2014 est.)

Unemployment rate

12.2% (2017 est.)

12.6% (2016 est.)

Population below poverty line

66.7% (2017 est.)

Gini Index coefficient - distribution of family income

56.3 (2017 est.)

32.1 (2000 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA

highest 10%: NA


revenues: 103 million (2017 est.)

expenditures: 112.4 million (2017 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

26.2% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-2.4% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Public debt

88.4% of GDP (2017 est.)

93.1% of GDP (2016 est.)

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

-$32 million (2017 est.)

-$23 million (2016 est.)


$15.6 million (2017 est.)

$9.31 million (2016 est.)

Exports - partners

Singapore 30%, Switzerland 24%, France 11%, Poland 7%, Belgium 7%, United States 5% (2019)

Exports - commodities

gas turbines, cocoa beans, aircraft parts, iron products, chocolate (2019)


$127.7 million (2017 est.)

$119.1 million (2016 est.)

Imports - partners

Portugal 41%, Angola 17%, China 8% (2019 )

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, cars, rice, flavored water, postage stamps (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$58.95 million (31 December 2017 est.)

$61.5 million (31 December 2016 est.)

Debt - external

$292.9 million (31 December 2017 est.)

$308.5 million (31 December 2016 est.)

Exchange rates

dobras (STD) per US dollar -

22,689 (2017 est.)

21,797 (2016 est.)

22,149 (2015 est.)

22,091 (2014 est.)

18,466 (2013 est.)

NOTE: The information regarding Sao Tome and Principe on this page is re-published from the 2021 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Sao Tome and Principe 2021 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Sao Tome and Principe 2021 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 16 Dec 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.