Facts about Cape Verde

September 15, 2015

Cape Verde’s population in the 21st century is mostly creole, the language of instruction and government is Portuguese, and the majority of the population are Christian.

The capital city Praia accounts for a quarter of the country’s population. A genetic study revealed that the ancestry of the population is predominantly European in the male line and West African in the female line, with 56 percent being African and 44 percent European. This mix of genes is the result of centuries of migration.

It is not uncommon to see individuals with dark skin, blond hair and blue eyes, and persons with light skin and black hair.


In spite of its relatively small size with a population of 500,000 (2013) mainly based in Santiago, Cape Verde has come to be recognized internationally as one of the world’s most democratic nations. It has also in recent times gained global acclaim for the strength of its notable economic growth and improvement in living standards despite a lack of natural resources and being semi-desert.

Only five of the ten main islands (Santiago, Santo Antão, São Nicolau, Fogo and Brava) support significant agricultural production, and over 90 percent of all food consumed in Cape Verde is imported. Mineral resources include salt, pozzolana (a volcanic rock used in cement production) and limestone. It has a small number of wineries that make Portuguese-style wines, and wine tours of the island’s various microclimates began in spring 2010.

The economy of Cape Verde is service-oriented, with commerce, transport and public services accounting for 70 percent of GDP. Although, 35 percent of the population lives in rural areas, agriculture and fishing contribute only nine percent of GDP. Light manufacturing accounts for most of the remainder. Fish and shellfish are bountiful, and small quantities are exported. Expatriate Cape Verdeans contribute an estimated one-fifth of GDP to the domestic economy through remittances.

The country boasts the highest living standards in the region, and has attracted thousands of immigrants of different nationalities. Since 1991, the government has pursued market-oriented economic policies, including an open welcome to foreign investors and a far-reaching privatization programme. In 2011, on four islands a wind farm was built that in total supplies one-third of the electricity of the country, making it one of the top countries for renewable energy.

Between 2000 and 2009, real GDP increased on average by seven percent a year, well above the average for Sub-Saharan countries and faster than most small island economies in the region. Strong economic performance was bolstered by one of the fastest growing tourism industries in the world, as well as by substantial capital inflows.

Unemployment has been falling rapidly, and the country is on track to achieve most of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals, including halving its 1990 poverty level. In 2009 Cape Verde joined the World Trade Organization as the WTO’s 153rd member.


The Cape Verdean educational system is similar to the Portuguese system, although, over the years the local universities have been increasingly adopting the American educational system, with all ten universities offering four-year Bachelor’s degree programmes. Cape Verde has the second best educational system in Africa, after South Africa. Primary school education in Cape Verde is mandatory and free for children between the ages of six and 14.

In 2011, the net enrollment ratio for primary school was 85 percent. Ninety per cent of the total population over 15 years of age is literate, and one-quarter hold a college degree. Although most children have access to education, some problems remain, including insufficient spending on school materials, lunches and books.


Cape Verdean literature is one of the richest of Lusophone Africa. Famous poets include Pedro Cardoso, Paulino Vieira, Manuel de Novas, Sergio Frusoni, Eugénio Tavares, and B. Léza. Famous authors include Baltasar Lopes da Silva, António Aurélio Gonçalves, Manuel Lopes, Orlanda Amarílis, Henrique Teixeira de Sousa, Arménio Vieira, Kaubverdianu Dambará, Dr. Azágua, and Germano Almeida.


Cape Verde is famous for wave sailing (a type of windsurfing) and kiteboarding. Josh Angulo, a Hawaiian and 2009 PWA Wave World Champion, has done much to promote the archipelago as a windsurfing destination.

The Cape Verde national football team, nicknamed the Tubarões Azuis (Blue Sharks), played at the two Africa Cup of Nations held in 2013 and 2015.

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