The archipelago known as the Cape Verde Islands was uninhabited until the 1400s. Slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island, it was claimed as a Portuguese colony and played a strategic role in the slave trade. Cape Verde gained independence from Portugal on July 5 1975. It is located 570 kilometres (350 miles) off the coast of Western Africa. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Cape Verde’s independence.
When explorers first discovered the Cape Verde islands in 1456, they were uninhabited. In 1495 Portugal claimed the islands and they remained under Portuguese control for 450-plus years. Today, the majority of residents are a mix of Portuguese and African.
Their position on the great trade routes between Africa, Europe and the New World made Cape Verde islands an ideal and very rich slave-trade center. After the salve trade was abolished in 1876, however, Cape Verde began to decline economically. In the 20th century, much of its economy has been driven by the shipping industry.
In 1879 Cape Verde became its own Portuguese territory. Prior to this it had a long-standing joint colonial administration with mainland neighbor Guinea-Bissau.
As part of the contemporary African decolonization movement, Cape Verde’s status was modified in 1951 to “overseas provinces,” and its inhabitants were officially granted full Portuguese citizenship in 1961.
Not perceiving these changes as worthwhile, some members of Cape Verde’s colonial population began to push for complete independence from Portugal for both Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.
The African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde; PAIGC) was founded in Bissau in 1956. It was headed by Amílcar Cabral, who was considered a gifted revolutionary leader and theoretician. Its goal was to achieve independence through peaceful means of protest.
Portugal began abandoning its colonial empire and negotiating with African national movements after a 1974 coup in Portugal installed a new government. This led to Cape Verde’s independence on July 5, 1975.
Cape Verde is made up of 10 islands and five islets, all of which are mountainous. It has few natural resources, little arable land and much drought. Despite all this it is still one of Africa’s most politically and economically stable countries. It also has some gorgeous beaches with serious tourism potential.
Due to severe droughts through much of the 20th-century, many people moved off the island. Today more people with Cape Verde roots live outside the country than inside it. The money they send home, however, brings in much-needed foreign currency. Partly for this reason, Cape Verde enjoys a per capita income greater than many African countries.
Cape Verde is considered one of the least developed countries in the world, according to the United Nations, which sponsored a promotion campaign for the islands in 2008. Since then, however, Cape Verde has seen economic growth averaging 6 percent plus the construction of three international airports and hundreds of kilometers of new pavement.