Cape VerdeCape Verde is an island country in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa.

Cape Verde, or Republic of Cape Verde, an island country in the Atlantic Ocean, some 350 miles (560 km) off the northwest coast of Africa. All of the 10 main islands are volcanic in origin. Most of the islands are mountainous. Cape Verde's total land area is 1,557 square miles (4,033 km 2). The climate is hot and rainfall is sparse. Severe droughts occur periodically.

Cape Verde's economy is underdeveloped. The country is heavily dependent on foreign aid and on money sent to islanders from relatives living abroad. Agriculture accounts for the largest part of the labor force. Bananas are the chief agricultural export. Crops grown for local consumption include corn, cassava, and sweet potatoes. There are few mineral resources; only salt and pozzolana (a volcanic rock used in making cement) are mined. Food processing and textile milling are the primary manufacturing activities. The country's main port is at Mindelo. Sal and São Tiago islands have international airports. The country's basic currency unit is the Cape Verde escudo.

Facts in brief about Cape Verde
Capital: Praia.
Official language: Portuguese.
Total land area: 1,557 mi2 (4,033 km2). Coastline—517 mi (966 km).
Elevation: Highest—Pico, 9,281 ft (2,829 m). Lowest—sea level.
Population: Current estimate—523,000; population density, 336 per mi2 (130 per km2); distribution, 57 percent urban, 43 percent rural. 2000 census—434,625.
Chief products: Bananas, salt, sugar cane.
Flag: Cape Verde's flag has five horizontal stripes of blue, white, red, white, and blue (top to bottom). A ring of 10 yellow, five-pointed stars overlaps all five stripes. It is set toward the lower left part of the flag.
Money: Basic unit—Cape Verdean escudo.

About 70 per cent of the people are of mixed African-European descent. Most of the remainder are African. Most Cape Verdeans speak both Portuguese and a Portuguese Creole tongue called Crioulo. Roman Catholicism is the religion of about 95 per cent of the population.

The total population in 1990 was 336,796. The largest cities are Praia, the capital (61,707), and Mindelo (47,080).

Primary education begins at age seven and lasts six years. General secondary education lasts three years, but students who plan to go to college take two additional years of preparatory schooling. The country has three teacher-training colleges, but the majority of college students pursue higher education abroad. About two-thirds of the people are literate.

Government and History

Under the constitution of 1992, Cape Verde is a republic. The president, who is popularly elected for a five-year term, is head of state. The legislature is the National People's Assembly; its members are elected for five-year terms. The assembly appoints the prime minister (head of government), who names the cabinet.

The Cape Verde Islands were uninhabited when they were discovered in 1460 by the Portuguese explorer Diogo Gomes. The first Portuguese settlers arrived in 1462. The settlers brought with them a large number of slaves, and eventually much of the population became mixed African-European in heritage. The islands remained a Portuguese possession until 1975, when they became independent.

The country's first president, Aristides Pereira, followed a socialist policy and nationalized most large private enterprises, such as banks and industrial firms. He established a one-party state in 1980.

During his rule the country was troubled by more than 10 years of drought, which caused a mass emigration.

In 1990 Pereira consented to multiparty elections. In 1991 his party was defeated in the parliamentary elections, and he lost the presidency to António Mascarenhas Monteiro. Mascarenhas's government followed a policy of free enterprise and began privatizing government-owned businesses.