No Riches For Sao Tome

No Riches for Sao Tome
  • No Oil
  • “Hitting Oil”
  • The Myth of Oil
  • The Taste of the Past

São Tomé and Príncipe was going to be the next oil rich country. In 1994 scientists estimated 10  billion barrels of oil in the bedrock under the sear. For a country the size of STP of 160 000 people on an island the size of Hiiumaa, this means everybody could be become a millionaire. The problems is: it never happened.

After 10 years of talking and waiting no oil has been drilled. There is still a lot of talk on the radio. But not many believe.

Local people seem to be well-versed in the issue. Boys with no shirts on tell me oil can be a curse or a benefit. They could all end up in a debt. They expect the government official to struggle for the oil. And they expect little benefit for themselves.

The government says that it is committed to a fair and good governance with full transparency in all the oil dealings. An enlightened piece of legislation has been drawn up with the help of social scientists from the Columbia University Earth Institute. According to the law, a special bank account will be set up monitored both by EU parties and the US treasury. No bank loans can be taken with oil money as collateral. And there are severe restrictions exactly what the money can be used for. In October 2009 the government set up a telephone line for the citizens to call in about the Petroleum Dossier as it is known on the islands.

Oil can be a boom. That is if corrupt politicians and well-connected businessmen don’t steal all the money for themselves. Experiences in other Lusophone countries certainly doesn’t give much promise. In the case of Angola “the oil law is ambiguous and not published” meaning that even if there is a law no one in the public has seen it. In Equatorial Guinea oil has been used to by the rich. No road have been built. The curse of oil also known as the Dutch disease. Could Sao Tome become the first country in Africa to avoid the resource curse? Because it has no oil?

Claudio Corallo, a local farmer who came here from Italy says this is a good think. Other countries in the region for sure didn’t benefit from having oil.

Steven Kyle from Cornell Unviversity says oil riches could be casting the poor deeper into poverty. Experiences show oil creates dependency.

Ceutónia Lima from the organization International Aid which helped set up community radios all over the island says that only good media coverage and true transparency can guarantee that oil wealth is used in a proper manner.

Robert C. Drewes from California Academy of Sciences says than an oil boom  can be a curse to the wildlife. He has lead many research journeys into the forests of the island and discovered numerous endemic species that are not found anywhere else on the planet. These plants need to be protected.

Government Official
The Earth Institute of Colombia University has compiled an investement guide.

The Oil in Sao Tome is far from land. And it is deep. It is so deep in fact that the oil companies say it is not commercially viable. Thus it is an advantage because of fast and easy access. Insurgencies. Oil from the Gulf of Guinea can be in US or European ports in a matter of days.

STP qualifies for the EU Everything But Arms Program thus having preferential quota and duty free access to the European market.

The country does not exactly make headlines. Not many journalists are interested in the country. When the Prime Miniser of São Tomé and Príncipe (a tiny African island sate) did a press conference the only question was an unrelated one to President Barroso who with some embarrassment asked the journalist if there “really” were no questions.  The meeting lead to a EU help package of 19 million EUR which among other things will pay for the construction of a deep water port on the islands.

  • In July official from STP and Portugal signed a deal to peg the Dobra to the Euro.
  • People still live in the old plantations, also known as Rocas. As one boy says, the hospitals are still the same as the one built by Portuguese colonizers. Not much has changed.
  • The country is in fact so poor, that there is no university and there is a single high school that has to educate childrin in 3 vahetus, overcrowded and strapped for money?
  • Still many students have managed to go and study abroad. Government contracts with Portugal, Cuba, and Brasil have helped student study medicine, journalism and other subjects in foreign Universities. Yet not many return.
  • The relationships with Cuba are certainly warming up. In a recent talk the Cuban official promised medical education and Cubant doctors to besent to STP. So far there are 3 doctors on the island, most already  been there many years and wishing to retire. But there is no-one to  take their place. Perhaps there is hope if a new school would be built by the Cubans.
  • The same is heard from the traditional healeres, who seem to be dying off sooner than the forests where they get their herbal medicine. A Portugue biologist from the University of Coimbra has conducted a study that described 300 plants. As the islands were never part of mainland, there are many endemic species. think schools should be built to try to pass on the traditional knowledge. She says she has seen first hand how the herbs cure various diseases. Chemical analysis shows there is potential for new medicines be developed from these ingredients. Science has a lot to learn here.
  • The next Parliamentary elections in STP will be held on February 21,  2010. The National Portuguese Television RTP has posted in late 2009 a new correspondent to STP.
  • Biographical method. People do things. STP does not do anything. Oil can be the symbol of exclusion, marginalization, pollution,
  • opprecion, complicity with government.
  • Countries like Gabon and Congo are on decline, their reserves have largely been used up. No banans in Gabon.
  • In the tiny village of Guadulupe they are
  • STP has E-Governance with ministers actively e-mailing each other. Unexpected and stereotype busting. How big is this story really? Maybe there’s only enough material for a news piece? The government is setting up a help line and a website for information about the issue.

The Chocolate Island / Claudio Corallo Chocolate Factory

Sao Tome has some of the original beans brough back from Brasil by Portuguese colonizers. Today, these beans exists nowhere else in the world.

From the outside, Sao Tome is a country of two stories. Oil and Cocoa. Claudio Corallo, the anarchistic Italian farmer who bought

Today his wife and daugther live in Lisbon, and with the help of his two sons he continues making chocolate.
Corallo has a shop in central Lisbon.

Claudio Corallo loves the idea. Oil wealth means he can sell more chocolate.

+ Everybody loves chocolate
+ Universal
+ Corallo Shop
+ Obidos chocolate festival March 5-15
– Has been done before
– No Conflict

The University of Coimbra conducts research in STP. Interviews.

Portugal dispaches professors to STP in program something between help and adventure.

The Pestana resort on Ilhéu das Rolas was closed in November

She thinks that money will help set up schools where traditional medicinal knowledge can be maintained. Over 300 plants categorized.

“São Tomé was once known as “the island in the middle of the world,” and in a way it really was. The Portuguese first landed here in 1470, back when most folks thought the world was flat. If you think about it, the Equator runs right across the little island off the south coast, and the Prime Meridian is only a few degrees to our west. Certainly, São Tomé was in the middle of the world as it was known at the time of Portuguese exploration.”