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Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #15 of 52: Organic and Geriatric Mental Disorders »

March 26, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #8 of 54: Cape Verde

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- 8. CAPE VERDE Flag of Cape Verde

Formal Name: Republic of Cape Verde.

Term for Citizens: Cape Verdeans.

Capital: Praia. Population: 82,000.

Independence Achieved: July 5, 1975, from Portugal.

Major Cities: Praia.


Cape Verde is in West Africa. Cape Verde is estimated to have 1, 557 square miles. These ten islands and eight islets that constitute Cape Verde are located in the West- north Atlantic. The nearest neighbors are Senegal and Mauritania. The islands are volcanic in origin. The landscape is eroded and stark with minor vegetation only in the interior valleys.


The population of Cape Verde is estimated at 463, 000.

Ethnic Groups: The main ethnic groups are Creole 71%, Africans 28% and Portuguese 1%.

Languages: Portuguese is the official language but most people speak Crioulo, a pidgin Portuguese containing African words.

Religion: Roman Catholic with indigenous African beliefs added to it.

Education: primary education is available to all. Literacy rate is estimated at 76.6%.

Economy: production of crops like bananas, coffee, cocoa, corns, beans, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, and peanuts. Light manufacturing of beverages, food, fish processing, shoes, garments, ship repair, salt mining are on the rise. GDP estimate: $600 Million; Per Capita GDP: $1, 770. Monetary Unit: Escudo (pegged to Portuguese Escudo).

History and Government:

The country is divided into sixteen administrative districts. At the central level are a president, Pedro Pires, and a prime minister, Jose Marie Neves, who governs day to day. There is a unicameral legislature of 72 members and a Supreme Court.


In the Mid 1400s, Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal gathered sailors to navigate the world. He began his quest by trying to find out what lay around the corner from Portugal, Africa. At that time, Africa had not been visited by Europeans and a whole lot of myths existed about Africa. One such myth was that a famous Catholic Saint, Prester John, resided in Africa.

Prince Henry’s sailors began exploring the West Coast of Africa by the 1450s. In 1456 they reached ten wind swept islands off the Coast of Senegal and called them Cape Verde.

According to Portuguese accounts, there were no human beings living on those ten islands. The Portuguese settled in and from thereon continued their sailing around Africa. Vasco Digamma sailed from Cape Verde until he reached Cape of Good Hope in present South Africa in 1488. Christopher Columbus also sailed from Cape Verde in some of his journeys’ to the new world.

Portugal considered Cape Verde part of Portugal and settled its people there. When the slave trade began in earnest in the early 1500s, the Portuguese brought slaves from all over West Africa, from Senegal to Angola, to Cape Verde. In effect, all the Africans living in Cape Verde, for all you know, could be Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo.

In the meantime, the various African slaves brought to the Island mixed with the Portuguese. Today 71% of all the folks living on those ten islands are of mixed race, mullato, Creole; 28% are pure Africans and 1% is pure Portuguese. The entire people speak Portuguese or a pidgin form of it, Creoles. No one speaks a pure African language.

The people of Cape Verde consider themselves Portuguese, not Africans. Indeed, they are currently working to join the European Union! Portugal is, in fact, working hard to get them admitted into the EU.

In the mid twentieth Century, Cape Verde suffered a series of rainless periods, droughts. As a result it was difficult to feed the population. Many Cape Verdeans left the country and went overseas. In Massachusetts, USA, alone there are over 265, 000 Cape Verdians. These people do not, of course, call themselves Africans but Portuguese. Many others went to Portugal itself, some to Sao Tome and Principe, Angola, Brazil, Senegal, France, and Scandinavia. Today, there are more Cape Verdeans living overseas than those living on the Islands. (About 401, 343 persons live on those islands).

Even though they considered themselves Portuguese, the people of Cape Verde joined the wind of change blowing across Africa during the post Second World War years. Africans were asking for independence from foreign rule and Cape Verdeans did the same. Amilca Cabral and his fellow fighters formed the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC). Guinea Bissau was a neighboring Portuguese African territory.

In 1975 Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde won their independence from Portugal. PAIGC came to power. In 1980 there was a military Coupe in one half of this republic, Guinea Bissau and as a result Guinea Bissau separated from Cape Verde and became a sovereign nation.

As a result of the split of the two territories what was PAIGC became known as PAICV, African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde. PAICV governed Cape Verde from 1975 until 1991, when for the first time; there was a democratic election in Cape Verde. A different party won that election. Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro replaced Aristides Pereira as the president of Cape Verde. In 2001 Pedro Pires (PAICV) was elected as the president. He had only 17 votes more than his rival, Carlos Veiga. Mr. Pires was reelected this last January as the president of Cape Verde.

In 1980, Cape Verde adopted a new Constitution that made it a republic. It has a unicameral legislature, The National Assembly, 72 members. The members are elected to five year stints in the legislature. The president is elected for five years. The legislature nominates a prime minister and the president approves him. The prime minister nominates the cabinet ministers and the president approves them. The party with the majority seats in the legislature nominates the prime minister. So far, it is the same party that controls the legislature and the presidency, so all seems to be running smoothly. It remains to be seen how things would work out if different parties control the two branches of government. The legislature appoints, with the consent of the president, the members of the Supreme Court.

As noted, Cape Verde has ten islands and eight islets, all but one is inhabited. The ten islands are Santo Antao, Sao Vicente, Santa Luzia, Sao Nicolau, Sal, Boa Vista, Sotaventos, Maio, Santiago, Fogo, and Brava. (Santa Luzia is uninhabited, it is a national park.) All the ten islands are volcanic, although no volcanic activity has occurred in recent times.

The economy of Cape Verde relies on fishing. The Islands lack natural resources. With the depletion of fishing in the North Atlantic, Cape Verdeans are economically strapped. In fact, much of the country’s income now comes from foreign aids and the money sent home by Cape Verdeans living overseas. Still, the income per capita of cape Verdeans, $1770 (World Bank, 2005) is far ahead of most African countries.

Cape Verdeans are culturally Portuguese and tend to be tangentially African. They tend to look towards Europe rather than to Africa, even though they are off the Coast of Africa. Indeed, many of the people consider it a put down to be called Africans. Continental Africans tend to have very little to do with Cape Verdeans, and vice versa. As a proto European country, Cape Verde tends to reflect the culture and practices of Portugal. When Portugal itself was ruled by a brutal dictator, Cape Verde was similarly ruled. With the democratization of Portugal Cape Verde is increasingly becoming an open society. There is freedom of the press and many newspapers compete. From all indications, there is no repression of the press, electronic and print. In fact, the political parties appear to be truly democratic and elections appear fair. This is unlike in continental African countries where elections tend to be fixed for certain parties. On the whole, Cape Verde, by all indices, seems a democratic country.

February 20,

Posted by Administrator at March 26, 2006 07:14 PM


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