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Key findings
  • About three in 10 São Toméans describe their country’s economic conditions (35%) and their personal living conditions (27%) as “bad” or “very bad,” but the most common assessment is “neither good nor bad.”
  • Four in 10 São Toméans (40%) went without enough food to eat at least once in the year preceding the survey. About three in 10 experienced a shortage of clean water for home use (30%), medicines or medical care (35%), and cooking fuel (28%) on at least one occasion, while nearly eight in 10 (78%) lacked a cash income.
  • As of July-August 2015, a majority of citizens were critical of the government as performing “very” or “fairly” badly on narrowing income gaps (65%), creating jobs (59%), and improving living standards of the poor (55%), but on overall management of the economy, 53% gave a thumbs up.
  • Most São Toméans (72%) expressed optimism that economic conditions would be “better” or “much better” in a year’s time. By far the most important problem citizens want their government to address is unemployment (cited by 55% of respondents).

São Tomé and Príncipe’s economy grew by 4.0% in 2013 and 4.9% in 2014; inflation dropped from 8.1% to 6.3%; and the proportion of the population living in poverty declined from 53.8% in 2000 to 49.6% in 2010, according to the government’s second National Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (International Monetary Fund, 2014). Still, that leaves half of the population in poverty while the once-important cocoa sector stagnates, hoped-for oil discoveries have not materialized, and unemployment affects 13% of the workforce (Economy Watch, 2016; African Economic Outlook, 2014).

How do São Toméans perceive their economic performance and challenges? In 2015, Afrobarometer’s first survey in the island nation found considerable ambivalence: The most common assessment of the country’s economic situation and personal living conditions is “neither good nor bad.” Substantial proportions of the population report having experienced shortages of food, clean water, and other basic necessities of life, and public assessments of government performance on economic issues are fairly negative. Still, most São Toméans are optimistic about the economic outlook.

While these data were collected well before the 2016 presidential election that replaced incumbent Manuel Pinto da Costa with former Prime Minister Evaristo Carvalho, they may serve as a useful baseline of public perceptions as the government grapples with the country’s persistent economic challenges.

Samuel Baaye

Samuel Adusei Baaye previously served as Afrobarometer's monitoring, evaluation, and learning specialist based at CDD-Ghana.

Adu Kakra Duayeden

Kakra is the data quality officer for North and West Africa

Daniel Armah-Attoh

Daniel is the project manager for North and Anglophone West Africa