Situated off the coast of Africa, Cabo Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe share a strikingly similar historical and socio-economic narrative. Both island nations were colonized by Portugal in the 1400s, and they have traversed parallel paths through history, marked by colonization, plantation economies, and a struggle for independence in 1975. Despite their geographical distance and similar developmental trajectories, these nations have faced distinctly different fortunes in the wake of discovering natural resources. This comprehensive exploration delves into the divergent paths of Cabo Verde and São Tomé, especially focusing on the latter’s encounter with the so-called resource curse.

Historical and Cultural Background

Cabo Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe both endured long periods under Portuguese rule, where they were primarily used as plantation economies. Post-independence, both nations experienced single-party states before transitioning to democracy in the early 1990s. Their economies historically depended heavily on agriculture, with São Tomé specializing in cacao and Cabo Verde attempting various monocultures without much success.

The Discovery of Oil and Its Implications

São Tomé’s discovery of potential oil reserves marked a pivotal turn in its development trajectory. Unlike its island counterpart, São Tomé found itself at the center of international attention in the late 1990s when oil was discovered in its territorial waters. This discovery brought with it the promise of prosperity but also the peril of increased corruption and mismanagement—a phenomenon often described as the resource curse.

The Resource Curse: More Bane than Boon

The resource curse, or the paradox of plenty, refers to the counterintuitive economic slowdown and governance challenges faced by resource-rich countries. For São Tomé, the anticipation of oil wealth led to significant political and economic shifts. Auctions of oil blocks potentially valued at more than twice the country’s GDP attracted global oil giants, creating a fiercely competitive environment fraught with corruption.

Economic and Political Challenges

Post-oil discovery, São Tomé witnessed a notable increase in corruption, particularly in high-stakes sectors such as scholarship allocations and state subsidies. The influx of potential oil wealth exacerbated existing governance issues, sidelining long-term economic planning in favor of immediate gains. Despite legislative efforts to manage oil revenue responsibly, actual oil production has remained elusive, demonstrating the profound impact of mere expectation of wealth on a nation’s political landscape.

Comparisons with Cabo Verde

In contrast, Cabo Verde has taken a different path. Lacking significant natural resources, it focused on developing its service sector, particularly tourism, and investing in infrastructure. This approach has fostered steady economic growth and a relatively stable political environment. Cabo Verde’s success underscores the potential benefits of a diversified economy free from the volatility associated with resource dependence.

Conclusion: Lessons from the Islands

The divergent paths of Cabo Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe offer valuable lessons on the impacts of natural resources on developing economies. While Cabo Verde illustrates the potential for growth without significant natural resources, São Tomé serves as a cautionary tale of the challenges posed by the resource curse. Effective governance, transparency, and diversification emerge as crucial factors in harnessing natural wealth for national development.


  1. What is the resource curse?
    • The resource curse, also known as the paradox of plenty, refers to the phenomenon where countries with abundant natural resources experience slower economic growth and worse development outcomes compared to countries with fewer natural resources.
  2. How have Cabo Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe managed their post-independence economies?
    • Cabo Verde has focused on developing its tourism and infrastructure sectors, leveraging its geographical location and stable governance. São Tomé and Príncipe, on the other hand, faced significant challenges with corruption and economic mismanagement following the discovery of oil.
  3. What can other resource-rich developing countries learn from São Tomé’s experience?
    • It is crucial for resource-rich countries to establish robust legal frameworks and transparent institutions before resource exploitation begins, to prevent corruption and ensure that resource wealth translates into sustainable development.
  4. How important is economic diversification for island nations?
    • Economic diversification is vital for island nations to reduce dependence on a single sector and mitigate the impact of external shocks, ensuring more stable and sustainable economic growth.
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By Ryan Hite

Ryan Hite is an American author, content creator, podcaster, and media personality. He was born on February 3, 1993, in Colorado and spent his childhood in Conifer, Colorado. He moved to Littleton in 2000 and spent the remainder of his schooling years in the city. Upon graduation from Chatfield Senior High School in 2011, he attended the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated from the university in 2015 after studying Urban Planning, Business Administration, and Religious Studies. He spent more time in Colorado in the insurance, real estate, and healthcare industries. In 2019, he moved to Las Vegas, NV, where he continued to work in healthcare, insurance, and took his foray into media full time in 2021. His first exposure to the media industry came as a result of the experiences he had in his mid to late teens and early twenties. In 2013, he was compelled to collect a set of stories from his personal experiences and various other writings that he has had. His first book, a 365,000-word epic, Through Minds Eyes, was published in collaboration with Balboa Press. That initial book launched a media explosion. He learned all that he could about creating websites, marketing his published works, and would even contemplate the publication of other works as well. This book also inspired him to create his philosophy, his life work, that still influences the values that he holds in his life. Upon graduating college, he had many books published, blogs and other informative websites uploaded, and would embark on his continued exploration of the world of marketing, sales, and becoming an influencer. Of course, that did not come without challenges that would come his way. His trial-and-error approach of marketing himself and making himself known guided him through his years as a real estate agent, an insurance agent, and would eventually create a marketing plan from scratch with a healthcare startup. The pandemic did not initially create too many challenges to the status quo. Working from home did not affect the quality of his life. However, a series of circumstances such as continued website problems, social media shutdowns, and unemployment, caused him to pause everything between late 2020 and mid-2021. It was another period of loss of momentum and purpose for his life as he tried to navigate the world, as many people may have felt at that time. He attempted to find purpose in insurance again, resulting in failure. There was one thing that sparked his curiosity and would propel him to rediscover the thing that was gone from his life for so long. In 2021, he started his journey by taking on a full-time job in the digital media industry, an industry that he is still a part of today. It was at this point that he would also shut down the rest of the media that he had going at the time. In 2023, he announced that he would be embarking on what has become known as PROJECT30. This initiative will result in the reformation of websites, the reinvigoration of social media accounts, the creation of a Youtube channel and associated podcast, the creation of music, and the continued rediscovery of his creative potential. Unlike past projects, the purpose of this would not expound on the musings of a philosophy, the dissemination of useless news and articles, or the numerous attempts to be someone that he was not. This project is going to be about his authentic self. There are many ways to follow him as he embarks on this journey. Most of all, he wants everyone to be entertained, informed, and, in some ways, maybe a little inspired about the flourishing of the creativity that lies within the mind and soul of Ryan.

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