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Economy of São Tomé and Príncipe

The economy of São Tomé and Príncipe, while traditionally dependent on cocoa, is experiencing considerable changes due to investment in the development of its oil industry in the oil-rich waters of the Gulf of Guinea. In 2003, the government agreed a Joint Development Zone over the area which gives Sao Tome 40% of revenues.

Oil reserves

Geologists estimate that the Gulf of Guinea zone (Niger Delta province) holds more than 10 billion barrels (1.6 km³) of oil, although no reserves have yet been proved. A joint oil project with Nigeria in 2005 is likely to contribute $50 million of revenues to the government from the exploration licence signing fees. This represents four times government revenues in 2004. São Tomé is optimistic that significant petroleum discoveries under the exploration licence are forthcoming.


Since the 1800s, the economy of São Tomé and Príncipe has been based on plantation agriculture. At the time of independence, Portuguese-owned plantations occupied 90% of the cultivated area. After independence, control of these plantations passed to various state-owned agricultural enterprises. The dominant crop on São Tomé is cocoa, representing about 95% of exports. Other export crops include copra, palm kernels, and coffee.

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