Cape Verde, Economy
Although limited by scarce arable land and diminished by regular drought, agriculture remains an important economic activity. Staple crops include maize and beans; also cultivated are sweet potatoes, coconuts, potatoes, cassava, and dates. Some bananas are grown for export, and sugarcane is raised for the making of rum. Because of its mountainous terrain, only 9.7 percent of the islandsí area is cultivated. Subdivision of farms from generation to generation has reduced many farms to a size smaller than needed for subsistence, and Cape Verde depends on food imports (much of it in the form of aid) to feed its people.
Cape Verde is located in the midst of rich fishing grounds, although the industry has yet to develop to its potential. Fish-processing facilities have been constructed in Mindelo, and the government has initiated programs to modernize the fishing fleet. The catch in 1997 was 10,039 metric tons; the catch is usually composed chiefly of skipjack and yellowfin tuna and wahoo, a type of large mackerel. Some lobsters are caught for export.
Salt is mined on Sal, Boa Vista, and Maio, with annual production of about 7,000 metric tons. Production has declined to less than one-quarter of the level achieved in the 1970s, depressed by the lack of steady markets and readily available ocean transportation, as well as the cost of repairs to equipment. Pozzolana is extracted for export.
Gross domestic product (GDP) of Cape Verde was $558 million in 2000, or just $1,270 per person. The bulk of exports, valued at $17 million in 2000, are purchased by Portugal, followed by the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Germany, and The Netherlands. Imports, worth $286 million, come principally from Portugal, France, and Japan. The economy depends extensively on remittances from Cape Verdeans living overseas, which help to offset the country's large trade deficit. The country's basic unit of currency is the Cape Verde escudo (115.88 escudos equal U.S.$1; 2000 average); 1,000 escudos is known as a conto.
Cape Verde is attempting to capitalize on its strategic location at the crossroads of mid-Atlantic air and sea lanes by expanding, with the assistance of foreign aid, airports, and port facilities. Main ports are at Mindelo and Praia. The international airport at Espargos, on Sal, is a refueling stop for flights to Africa and South America. A second international airport is under construction on Sao Tiago. With unspoiled beaches and a sunny climate, the government has identified tourism as the primary focus of development, although the number of visitors in 2000 was only 143,000.