Country FilesCentralSao Tomé e Principe Country Profile 2015: A triumph for Trovoada


Posted on Tuesday, 24 November 2015 09:00

Sao Tomé e Principe Country Profile 2015: A triumph for Trovoada

By The Africa Report

altAmidst the habitual party fragmentation and vote-buying, Patrice Trovoada's Acção Democrática Independente (ADI) won an unexpected absolute majority in legislative elections on 12 October 2014, increasing the ADI's share from 26 to 33 of the 55 seats.

It is the second time since 1991 that a party has gained an absolute majority. Trovoada aims to combat youth unemployment, reform the judiciary and attract foreign investment. So far, the government has not succeeded in finding finance for the container port at Fernão Dias.

Trovoada's landslide victory is an opportunity for more political stability, but not necessarily a guarantee for efficient and successful governance. After the elections, he promised to seek constructive relations with President Manuel Pinto da Costa, who had become his principal political adversary. It remains to be seen if the two can overcome their differences.

The tables are turned

The three coalition parties that had dismissed Trovoada as prime minister through a vote of no confidence in November 2012 all lost seats.

The Movimento de Libertação de São Tomé e Príncipe/Partido Social Democrata (MLSTP/ PSD) went from 21 deputies to 16, while the Partido de Convergência Democrática lost two of its seven deputies.

The Movimento Democrático Força da Mudança of former president Fradique de Menezes lost its seat to the União para a Democracia e Desenvolvimento, the party of former prime minister Gabriel Costa, which for the first time succeeded in entering parliament.

It seems Trovoada's long voluntary exile in Portugal – he returned to São Tomé on 3 October 2014 – proved to be to his advantage, while the MLSTP/PSD was weakened by internal strife and the fact that the coalition government was not headed by a prime minister from its own ranks.

altTrovoada's outspoken stance proved popular. In June, while still abroad, he said he had filed a suit at the International Criminal Court against President Pinto da Costa, Prime Minister Gabriel Costa and other high-ranking politicians for alleged political persecution. That claim lacked credibility in a country that since 1991 has not had a record of human rights violations.

Trovoada's action is a symptom of a political environment marked by personal quarrels between political leaders and a lack of substantive dispute. The prospects for the local economy remain rather gloomy.

The cocoa sector has stagnated for years, the growth of tourism has lagged far behind expectations and the likelihood of oil production has become even more uncertain. France's Total withdrew from its oil blocks in 2013 and other news of the sector has varied from neutral to negative.

Nigeria cuts its losses

In March 2014, Nigeria's foreign minister Nurudeen Mohammed reported to parliament that the Nigeria-São Tomé Joint Development Zone was a loss-making venture. Parliamentarians declared that Nigeria could no longer fund a project that was of no economic benefit.

To fight off the pessimism, the executive directors of the Abuja-based Joint Development Authority claimed, a week after the hearing, that new technologies will allow production from Block 1 to start within 18 months.

In its search for foreign investment the country has become enmeshed in China's politics. São Tomé has been an ally of Taiwan since 1997 but Taipei suffered a setback in November 2013 when Beijing inaugurated an official trade mission in São Tomé.

To appease the Taiwanese, São Tomé invited Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou to visit in January 2014. In June, Taipei formally expressed serious concerns when President Pinto da Costa visited China.

On 1 October, the government and China's Guangxi Hydroelectric Construction Bureau signed an agreement for the construction of a new city covering 212ha. Expo Gongá, as it will be called, is to be located in the north of São Tomé. Reportedly, the works will begin within 12 months and last a total of 58 months.

The project is to be financed by China and Angola, but some analysts have expressed doubt that the funds will be raised for such a prestigious project in one of Africa's smallest economies. Local media said the planned total investment is $300m, twice São Tomé's national budget.

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