The uninhabited islands were discovered and colonized by the Portuguese in the 15th century; Cape Verde subsequently became a trading centre for African slaves and later an important coaling and resupply stop for whaling and transatlantic shipping. Following independence in 1975, and a tentative interest in unification with Guinea-Bissau, a one-party system was established and maintained until multi-party elections were held in 1990. Cape Verde continues to exhibit one of Africa’s most stable democratic governments.

Location: Western Africa, group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Senegal
Geographic coordinates: 16 00 N, 24 00 W
Population: 523,568 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 32.6% (male 84,545/female 83,718)

15-64 years: 61.9% (male 154,697/female 164,917)

65 years and over: 5.5% (male 10,648/female 17,575) (2011 est.)

Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Cape Verde

conventional short form: Cape Verde

local long form: Republica de Cabo Verde

local short form: Cabo Verde

Government type: republic
Capital: name: Praia

geographic coordinates: 14 55 N, 23 31 W

time difference: UTC-1 (4 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Telephones – main lines in use: 74,500 (2011)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 396,400 (2011)
Airports: 9 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total:9

over 3,047 m: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 3

914 to 1,523 m: 3

under 914 m: 2 (2012)

Military branches: Armed Forces: Army (also called the National Guard, GN), Cape Verde Coast Guard (Guardia Costeira de Cabo Verde, GCCV; includes naval infantry) (2012)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age (est.) for selective compulsory military service; 14-month conscript service obligation (2006)


This island economy suffers from a poor natural resource base, including serious water shortages exacerbated by cycles of long-term drought. The economy is service-oriented, with commerce, transport, tourism, and public services accounting for about three-fourths of GDP. Although nearly 70% of the population lives in rural areas, the share of food production in GDP is low. About 82% of food must be imported.

Transnational Issues:

Disputes – international: none
Illicit drugs: used as a transhipment point for Latin American cocaine destined for Western Europe; the lack of a well-developed financial system limits the country’s utility as a money-laundering centre