|The Courier N° 158 - July - August 1996 - Dossier: Communication and the Media - Country Report: Cape Verde (EC Courier, 1996, 96 p.)|
Cape Verde has been shaped by the harmattan, the hot dry wind which blows from Africa, strong ocean currents and five hundred years of Portuguese colonialisation. Portugal has been a constant presence in the archipelago's history since the fifteenth century, when it granted the colonists who were to settle on the islands of Cape Verde a monopoly over the slave trade. The country became an interface between Africa, Europe and the Americas, at the centre of the triangle of trade in slaves, hardware and gold. The intermingling of black populations of every origin who passed through the islands meant that the country was unable to present a united face against the colonialist culture. The colonists were therefore able to impose their own culture, with their fervent and proselytzing Catholicism becoming the principal ingredientin the mixture that is Cape Verde. Strong, scorching winds from the desert have shaped the islands' landscape and inhospitable ocean currents mean that approaches to the islands are difficult, their rocky cliff faces plunging into the sea.
The mythical Portuguese colonial oasis
Up to the eighteenth century, Cape Verde was no more than a commercial centre for Portugal, its population at the end of that century barely exceeding 50,000, to be halved by the great drought between 1773-75. Other periods of drought regularly decimated the population and the arrival of new colonists and slaves did not offset such losses or compensate for the massive exodus which began in the early nineteenth century with the arrival of American whalers in search of crew members for their ships. Seven hundred thousand Cape Verdians currently live abroad, half of these in the United States.
Only four hundred thousand have stayed in their own country.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, a period which signalled a turning point in the country's history, the population still numbered no more than 150 000. At the time, major sea voyages were being undertaken and Cape Verde's geographical location was highly valued. Mindelo, on the island of SVicente in the north of the archipelago, developed as a coal-and-watersupply port for English vessels plying the route between India and the Americas, and England helped construct this port. However, Portugal's policy towards Cape Verde was double-edged. On the one hand, the islands were regarded as a natural extension of the home country, but as a competitor in terms of port activities. This led to Mindelo's slow development, although the trade in skins, fishery produce, coffee and salt could have made it a thriving centre.
The mixing of races in Cape Verde has often been held up as, so-to-speak, 'humane colonisation', but this opinion is not corroborated by the under-developed state of the country at the time of independence and the fact that Portugal implemented food security measures to combat the ravages of catastrophic famines only when under pressure from public opinion, at the end of the first half of the twentieth century. The island's colonists had always used slave labour to produce food or fabrics which enabled them to purchase more slaves and it was only when the slave based economy began to decline, which resulted in the impoverishment of the colonists, that a major grouping of free Blacks and rebel or emancipated slaves came into being. That is when the intermixing of races began. Therefore, before the abolition of slavery (18641869-1878), the vast majority of the black population of the island was free; both unmarried and married colonists would generally emancipate their children born of a secret relationship with female slaves. The aristocracy and white upper-middle classes continued to live a cloistered, aloof life and did not mix with other races. A second factor which would suggest that Portuguese colonisation of Cape Verde was sympathetic in outlook is the reputation of this small country's intellectuals; although colonisation created only a small intellectual elite which was the product of a single institution, the Mindelo College, opened in 1917. In a quote by Michel Lesourd, Deirdre Meintel refers to this phenomenon as the mythical 'cultural oasis'.
A nation born of a middle class in tatters
Through its contradictions, it was this black, mulatto and 'petty white' middle class which was to forge the mixed-race culture and national identity, caught between its own privileges and its aspirations of aristocracy, between its rejection of African culture (they sought a 'lusotropical' culture) and the need to find allies amongst the lower classes who retained African cultural values. In order to acquire the wealth and attributes of power, this middle class was to take over the lands vacated by the decline of the slavebased economy and which were often much improved by the former slaves (renamed 'tenant farmers' without a major change in their living conditions) preventing a major economic upheaval which could have put an end to this iniquitous system. Their wholesale appropriation of land explains why, today, there is a very high proportion of landless farmers in Cape Verde, seasonal agricultural workers who survive only thanks to the State's welfare system.
This petty bourgeoisie was to give birth to growing awareness which would lead to calls for independence. Officially, Cape Verde was not a colony but a province, and its inhabitants in theory had the same rights or lack of rights as Portuguese citizens in Salazar's 'New State', where the right to vote depended on social and cultural status. In other Portuguese territories, members of the petty bourgeoisie held the rank of colonial administrators and, from their ranks, the pro-independence movements emerged. Such was the case of the PAIGC (Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde pro-lndependence Party), created by Amilcar Cabral, a symbolic figure in Africa's striuggles for independence and Cape Verde's national hero. He was assassinated in mysterious circumstances in Guinea-Conakry in 1973. His brother, Luiz Cabral, was to become president of Guinea-Bissau, and Aristides Pereira his successor as Party leader and Cape Verde's first president.
Cape Verde's uneventful transition to independence in July 1975 mirrored Portugalts Carnation Revolution and was quite unlike the fierce war entered into by Portugal in Mozambique and Angola. There was a clandestine struggle during which a number of combatants were imprisoned, but there was never any real guerilla warfare. The Portuguese governor remained at his post until he was replaced by an ambassador. The PAIGC was to govern both Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde until the coup d't against Luiz Cabral in Guinea-Bissau in 1980, when it adopted the name of PAICV in Cape Verde, thereby signalling the end to any dream of a union between the two countries.
The new state pursued an even-handed diplomatic approach and accomplished the considerable diplomatic feat of remaining equidistant between the Cold wer's principal adversaries, adapting over time to all the changes which occurred on the world scene. Post-independence, embassies were opened by the United States, China and the Soviet Union. Cape Verde, with its marxist leanings, maintained the former links created with apartheid South Africa by Portugal. The arrival in power of a liberal party had no effect on this diplomatic tightrope-walking act. It was South Africa which was to provide aid to build the international airport at Sal. Ironically, after the establishment of democracy in South Africa, it was at this very airport that President Mandela was to stress his desire for strengthened links with the archipelago. Latterly, Cape Verde has demonstrated this flexible in its recent decision to Join the group of, French-speaking countries whilst still regarding itself as a mouthpiece for the Portuguese-speaking world, enjoying a privileged relationship with Portugal, the Azores, Brazil and African countries where the official language is Portuguese. It is also a very active member of the CEDAO (Community of West-African States) and its President is currently chairman of the CILSS (Inter national Commitee to Combat Drought). Cape Verde receives as much aid from China as from the US, from Russia and Sweden as from Cuba and Japan.
This diplomacy is in keeping with the atypical 'Marxist' Party which first initiated it. With its interventionist approach to economics, its highly developed social policy which gives priority to education, health and combating unemployment through public welfare, this party could be regarded as a socialist party, yet it opted decisively for a market economy. Its single-party structure mirrored the example of would-be popular democracies, but it never set up a system of repression and terror: only one opposition member's death is said to have taken place in suspicious circumstances on the island of Santo Antao. The population was able to discuss politics at popular assemblies and held no fear of openly criticising the government and, in the case of the well-off, of displaying its wealth. A mudan(change) was implemented calmly and collectedly by the PAICV when it was in power, sowing the seeds of its own downfall. With no pressure from street demonstrations and no insistent demands from political classes, the government of President Aristides Pereira and Prime Minister Pedro Pires adapted to the new situation created by the fall of the Berlin Wall. In early 1990, the PAICV gave up its privileged position as the single party and, one year later, at the legislative elections in January 1991 and presidential elections in February 1991, Africa witnessed the first democratic overthrow of a single-party government which had achieved independence. After the legislative elections, the PAICV, which had placed too great a reliance on being credited for its good governance, was silenced. The desire for change was too great and the position adopted by the Catholic church, anxious to punish a party which had dared to opt for a referendum on abortion, did the rest. President Aristides Pereira's personal prestige stood for little in the full face of this onslaught.
Prime Minister Carlos Veiga, who had founded the MPD only eight months before his overwhelming success in the 1991 elections, became the new figurehead in Cape Verde politics. His power sharing with Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro was again successful at the most recent elections (December 1995 and January 1996). Shortly before the poll, the MPD experienced a near-fatal split, but the new party which emerged, the PCD, had only one representative as against 50 (an absolute majority) for the MPD and 21 for the PAICV, which continued to exist. Three other parties taking part in the elections fell by the wayside and the polarisation of Cape Verde's politics into two camps locks set to continue. This is the second time that the MPD has surprised its opponents - this time, the political adversaries had attacked the MPD's attempt to curry favour, but the majority of the electorate, concentrated on the island of Santiago, continued to show their appreciation of the visible signs of modernisation in their lives and also the government's seductive politics, particularly in the ran-up to the elections. The country had also had a good harvest and, although this was unconnected with the MPD, that party could only benefit from it.
Despite what MPD leaders might say, there has been no real ideological split, any political reorientation having been instigated in 1990 by the previous regime when it threw off its socialist trappings. Diplomacy remains pragmatic and the new government's liberal rhetoric and social policy, particularly in the areas of education and health, has essentially been maintained. Suspension of the State's collective works programme, the symbol of the State's interventionist social policy, is only temporary, according to statements issued by the Prime Minister, counter to several rumours.
More visible changes have taken place in the economy: partial liberalisation of the banking system; legislation relating to foreign investment; suspension of the requirement for preliminary import authorisation; despite the government's backtracking as regards certain basic products; privatisation of State assets, particularly in the hotel business, etc. Here, too, the PAICV government engineered the changes, but it can surely not be criticised for maintaining a delicate balance between the new demands of the global village and the social practices of a country which is very poor, but which is succeeding in putting an end to its poverty and creating a modest quality of life, but a secure one. Given its bleak geographical location, Cape Verde is simply continuing to make the best of history.
The arrival in Praia on 30 April of a throng of IMF officials cannot have failed to cause the government some concern, despite its air of calm. Ministers repeated publicly that Cape Verde had already carried out its own programme of structural adjustments, that they were on the same wavelength as the Bretton Woods institutions, and that they could not, therefore, see any reason why any further adjustments should be imposed upon them. Nevertheless, the fact that the Cape Verde escudo has had rather a bumpy ride since last year's elections, trading sometimes by as much as 15% under its official rate on the parallel market, caused a certain degree of anxiety within financial circles, with the banks taking action by freezing certain credit facilities.
The government insists that this situation has by no means arisen because of a sudden anxiety raised by opposition parties as to the effects of possible devaluation The truth is that there is a genuine structural imbalance caused by the trade deficit, a disequilibrium which is only being partially offset by official development assistance and the transfer of currency by Cape Verde emigres. As a percentage of the GDP, the overall budgetary deficit has tripled between 1993 and 1994 (increasing from 3.3% to 13.6%). For a country which could always be relied upon to pay its debts promptly, Cape Verde is now, for the first time, in arrears with its payments (see the 1995 report of the Bank of Portugal). The servicing of external debts represents 25.7% of goods and services exported - although these are relatvely small compared with neighbouring countries - the country's total outstanding debt is now nearing $200 million.
Although Cape Verde is one of the LDCs (least developed countries) with a total GNP of approximately $850 per capita, out of a total of 174 States, it actually ranks 123 in the Human Development Indicator Tables, which take into account various factors such as life expectancy, education, etc. Its position near the middle of these tables clearly shows that, although the country is poor, its affairs are nevertheless being managed fairly efficiently. Boasting an adult literacy rate of 66% and a life expectancy of 64.7 years, Cape Verde is well ahead of those countries at the bottom of the list, which include a number of its Sahelian neighbours. Efficient administration of the State and the absence of rampant corruption are further feathers in the nation's cap. These achievements have earned Cape Verde much esteem from its sponsors, which goes to explain the prudence of the Bretton Woods institutions and their relative sympathies towards the country.
Unkind Mother Nature
Cape Verde's history has been punctuated by great famines. Between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries the country suffered no less than 30 famines, with this century seeing some of the cruellest: 16 000 people died in 1903-1904, the death toll in 1921 was 17000, in 1941-43 it was 25000 and between 1946-48 famine claimed 20 000 lives - a figure which at the time represented 20% of the total population of the archipelago. After the last famine, the colonial authorities, under pressure from international opinion, adopted food programmes which made the country more able to cope with the consequences of subsequent droughts. The last great famine ended 50 years ago. The nation may no longer be hungry, but the factors which make its inhabitants' lives so difficult remain. The main reason lies in the country's geography. Cape Verde has virtually no permanent springs and the topography of most of the islands, which are very mountainous, means that heavy rain simply runs down to the sea, the parched soil being unable to absorb it sufficiently. What is more, these downpours simultaneously wash away the little arable land that do" exist, thereby aggravating erosion. The whole situation is further worsened by the fact that the winter in this Sahelian region is very short. Despite huge efforts by successive governments, barely half the population has access to drinking water, with this figure barely reaching 25% in rural areas.
With a population of less than 400 000, there are just not enough people to pull off the miracle of making such an unforgiving soil bear fruit. Hence, although providing 50% of all jobs, agriculture represents only 17% of the nation's gross domestic product and produces only 10% of food consumed locally. The mountainous islands that make up Cape Verde are like teeth jutting out of the sea, and with virtually no continental shelf to speak of, small scale fishing is extremely difficult. Even with industrial equipment such as that installed on board large trawlers, catches are small - so small in fact that the country's fisheries agreement with the European Commission brings it only one million ECU over three years, one tenth of the proportional amount earned by neighbouring Senegal. Fishing thus represents less than 4% of the GDP.
Mere survival - a
Transport difficulties are another handicap for the economy. The sheer force of the harmattan, the strong ocean currents and the fog which often covers the region, make journeying by boat between the islands frequently hazardous. In addition, the volcanic relief of the islands makes them difficult to reach and means that there are very few locations that make suitable har bours. construction is both complex and costly due to the steep rocky barriers that seal off deep valleys. Those roads which have been built under the FAIMO scheme (Highly Labour-lntensive Projects) have sometimes turned into real labours of Hercules, and many areas, especially those on sparsely-populated islands, remain completely cut-off. The use of aeroplanes only partly solves the problem. Although competitive, the prices charged by the national airline, TAICV, are still too high for the average inhabitant.
Not only does the soil on Cape Verde contain very little water, it has virtually no natural resources: a few stones, lime, pozzolana and a little salt. Within the manufacturing sector (which makes up less than 20% of the GDP), only the construction and civil engineering industries, representing more than 10% of the GDP, contribute in any significant way to the economy, thanks partly to the transfer of currency from emigres who invest in the construction sector and works with wide public interest. These works, known as FAIMO schemes, have to some extent given this impoverished country a gloss that masks its poverty. Launched after Cape Verde gained its independence, they employ more than 25 000 people for up to ten months of the year in the construction of paved roads or in reafforestation projects, and ensure the survival of one hundred thousand people - over one quarter of the population. The workers are on the whole recruited from among farm labourers, with another large section of the workforce being made up of 'Solteiras' or 'single women', numerous in a country where the male population is constantly emigrating. Unfortunately, the liberal option adopted by the present government has cast some doubt as to whether these projects will continue and this year, for the first time, work ceased in April - three months ahead of the usual termination date. Yet the poor wages which these seasonal jobs pay (ECU 2 per day) are sometimes the only source of income for some families.
Only the tertiary sector shows a healthy balance of trade, accounting for more than 60% of the country's gross domestic production, with the biggest slice of the sector going to the hotel industry, followed by the transport industry. Although, overall, Cape Verde's balance of trade records a large deficit, the balance of trade for the services sector generally shows a profit, with the transport services provided by the international airport, Amilcar Cabral de Sal, alone accounting for 13% of exports.
Barely 10% of commercial goods are domestically produced and this has at times fallen below 5%. Cape Verde is therefore genuinely dependent upon foreign aid. Official development assistance represents 27.8% of the GNP (1989 figures), having risen from 17.7% to 27.2% of the GNP between 1980 and 1986. Cape Verde also relies on a second source of income - its emigrant population. In 1990 the currency transfers of its emigres represented nearly 20% of the GNP.
The colonial heritage
Contributing too to the country's poverty are relatively low educational standards. In this area too, successive governments have continued their predecessors' efforts to improve standards of education. However, at the time the country achieved independence, it was in a deplorable state. The reputation of a small intellectual elite of Cape Verdians had, over several decades, led the world to believe that Portuguese colonial rule had been 'enlightened'. This was a mere illusion. It was not until 1917, when the Mindelo grammar school was founded, that the country was able to claim an educational establishment of any cultural sophistication. The Mindelo school was the first state school in the country and it was to provide the nation with its first batch of 'home-grown' intellectuals. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the Church, which was in charge of all matters educational, had provided basic primary education; then, at the end of the last century, it opened two secondary schools with the purpose of training students for positions in government and the civil service.
Even so, the Mindelo school remained an exception until the middle of this century. In 1950, no more than 5000 children received primary education and no more than 400 went to secondary school. Thirty years earlier, the figure was slightly higher, but Salazar, with his retrograde ideologies, saw education as dangerous and threatening and trimmed the number of schools on the islands from 150 to 60. True, Cape Verde was undoubtedly in a better state than other Portuguese colonies, but, with an illiteracy rate of 80% at the beginning of the 1960s, its position was nevertheless far from enviable. It was not until independence that any real progress was made, with 60% of children attending primary school in 1989 (the average for LDCs is 54%). However, this figure is still well below the average for developing countries, which stands at 90%, and even now, only 13 % of children have access to secondary education. As for higher education, this is virtually only available abroad; in Europe, Brazil, USA and Cuba, in particular.
Serious health problems still exist, exacerbated in particular by the scarcity of water. The cholera epidemic which has struck several African countries over the last two years has killed over 150 people in Cape Verde. The prevalence of AIDS exceeds the average for sub-Saharan Africa, with more than 2000 people being HIV positive and with some one hundred having developed the full-blown disease. According to official figures, 70 have died of the disease. The cholera epidemic which, unlike previous epidemics has affected towns much more than rural areas, is a sign of the deterioration of sanitary conditions in towns - particularly in Praia - affected by a lack of water, a dilapidated sewerage system and overcrowding.
Anchoring the country's economy in its culture
Yet, through all the doom and gloom, a small miracle is taking place in Cape Verde. Despite such a heavy burden of poverty, the country has, since gaining independence 20 years ago, managed to clamber up the league tables notably in the essential areas of health and education. Life expectancy at birth, which was only 52 years in 1950, had increased in 1992 to 64.7 years, better than the average for developing countries and 13 years more than the average for sub-Saharan Africa. The infant mortality rate which stood at 110 per thousand in 1960, had dropped drastically to 50 per thousand by 1992, while virtually all children now receive essential vaccinations. Malaria is also now rare. In 1988 the GDP of Cape Verde amounted to only C.V.Esc 20 billion ($289 million), in other words, 6.9% of the GDP of Trinidad and Tobago, and 16.6% of that of Mauritius. But it is growing steadily. From 1980 to 1988, it grew by 6% per annum, compared with 3% per annum for the Sahel, and since 1980 the GDP per capita has doubled.
The solution the nation's leaders should be seeking is greater integration in the global economy context by encouraging foreign investment. They do not need to create free zones but free enterprise, such as the shoe manufacturing concerns which, over the last two years, have contributed to achieving a considerable increase in exports. Various steps have been taken to attract investors, such as the adoption of the principle of tacit acceptance of applications for investment within 30 days. The Prime Minister, Carlos Veiga, and the 'Super-Minister' for Economic Coordination, Antonio Guelberto do Rosario, have highlighted the service, tourism and fishing industries as top government priorities. In order to develop these areas they intend to invest in infrastructures, with the aid, of course, of foreign backers. The modernisation of the port of SVicente and of the international airport of Sal are currently underway, and the telecommunications project to link the islands by cable has also already been launched. The government's short-term plans also include the development of industries connected with the islands' culture. In the words of Mr Veiga: 'We in Cape Verde should develop our culture and use it as our anchor, to prevent our country drifting into oblivion. That way, our tiny country, which is fortunate enough to have a strong cultural identity, will be a Nation rather than a just a State'.
A wealth of culture and a realistic approach to diplomacy: Cape Verde's two major assets
- How the current government differ from the former administration which had Marxist leanings?
- The two eras are distinct from each other in that, since 1990, the Cape Verde people have been able to choose a life of freedom and democracy. Before that, for the first fifteen years after independence, there was a single-party system. So it is also valid to speak of a break - a break with the way in which institutions used to function at a political level.
-The single-party era does not seem to have been as strict as in other countries and the current regime appears to be continuing along the same lines in some areas. Was the former administration not, to some extent, responsible for initiating the change which has taken place?
- No, that's something else entirely. I often say that we had a civilised single party, and I assume that is what you are referring to. However, it is not possible to speak of continuity when formerly we had a single party and now we have moved on to a system where there is freedom of expression and new parties can be set up.
Admittedly, the single party did initiate a change when it created the conditions necessary for the advent of democracy. It removed the infamous Article 4 from the constitution, which seates that the PAICV was the guiding force of society and the state. In fact, it was the PAICV which drew up the country's first electoral laws whereby we were elected. When I say 'we', I mean the party which is in power and also myself, President of the Republic. The single party thus opened the way to democracy here: that much is undeniable.
-Am I also right in thinking that many of those who are in power today received their training in that single party?
- You are quite correct. When a change such as this comes about, one has to appreciate, and I do not wish to be elitist here, that it is the higher echelons of a party which lead the move towards change. Such people were there, working in the administration.
-Since politics gives direction to economic affairs, has there been a total turnaround in this sector, with a clear decision to opt for liberalisation and privatisation?
- Before 1990, we had a staterun economy. After that, the country's economy was opened up with a number of privatisations, fewer import restrictions, and so on. The word 'break' is also applicable in this area in that we now have a market economy.
-Do you feel that the economy has really shaken off state control given that the govemment still manages important sectors, such as the price of raw materials?
That is necessary a market economy does not mean that the state is entirely absent. I am in favour of a market economy, but with state monitoring. As far as possible, the state has to correct the injustices which are necessarily generated by competition. This is not, as some would have it, ultraliberalism. The government is still entitled to monitor the economy, but the change has been greatest in terms of attitude, in terms of the way things are done.
-Do you, like many leaders of developing countries, believe that the requirements set by international institutions as regards structure/ adjustment are too great?
- We are not subject to compulsory adjustment - it is on a voluntary basis here. However, I do feel that adjustment, as implemented in Africa, sometimes has regrettable aspects. On occasion, it is asking a little too much to impose the same requirements on countries whose actual situations are very different. What is applicable to Nigeria is not necessarily suitable for STome.
-The 1992 constitution switched Cape Verde over from a presidential system to a parliamentary system. As President of the Republic, do you fee/ trapped by this constitution?
- Cape Verde's constitution was never a presidential one. The
system under which I was elected is effectively 'semi-presidential'. Admittedly,
the constitution which was approved by Parliament in 1992 reduced the powers of
President, particularly as regards the right to dissolve Parliament - which was unrestricted in the 1980 text. The revision was made to permit democratisation and ensure the proper functioning of the institutions, and it was therefore fairly wide-ranging. Now, in order to dissolve Parliament, the President has to have the support of the Council of the Republic, which means that his hands are tied to some extent. Previously, the President could also dismiss the government, without too many restrictions. I would say that the President's prerogatives have undergone a substantial reduction in comparison with those exceptional powers. As for the rest, things are as they were. In a semi-presidential regime as that envisaged by the 1980 constitution, the President has no executive role.
· You seem to have chosen to play the role of 'wise man' Some observers think you give the Prime Minister too much leeway.
- They are wrong. The Prime Minister's post is conferred on him by the constitution. He is Head of Government and it is he who governs. I cannot govern in his place. What is true is that there is a great deal of ignorance - people do not restrict themselves to their own fields and attempt to teach lessons in subjects they are unfamiliar with. Germany has a parliamentary regime like we do - what is the position of the President of the Republic in Germany? If you were to ask a Cape Verde intellectual for the name of the President of Germany, he would be unable to answer you. The parliamentary regime does not give the President of the Republic any powers to run the country. I do not know what the Prime Minister can have taken away from me because I have no power for him to take over. However, I would say that, here, the President of the Republic does have a fairly high profile, in spite of his reduced powers, because all the country's citizens know him. In terms of foreign policy, he plays a significant role in that he represents the country abroad. I attend international conferences like the Rio Summit, go to meetings of the OAU and sign international undertakings on behalf of my country.
· The President is also the guarantor of the new democracy, which observers seem to regard as well-established. But there still seem to be some bad habits. For instance, I have heard criticism of MPD power and of the fact that state resources are made available to one party at election time.
- Look, this is criticism from the government's opponents - it is a normal state of affairs and happens everywhere. Any party, in any country, which has a parliamentary majority, can govern easily. This is possible, even when the majority is very small - and even in Europe. Look at Portugal when Cavaquo Silva was Prime Minister. There were people who said it was a PSD State. You will be familiar with France when Pompidou and even de Gaulle were in power, and Francis Mitterrand used to speak of a Gaullist state. As far as the election campaign is concerned, I am not aware of the government here having monopolised state resources and I don't believe this has happened.
· Another important factor involved in democracy is the press. Several journalists from the private media sector are awaiting a decision from you on a number of points - for example the lack of pubic support for the private press - in contrast to thestate-run press which has access to all that it needs.
- What decision are they waiting for? Do they want me to decide in favour of resourcess being given to the private media? I have already done that on a number of occasions. Recently, I had a meeting with the Prime Minister and I brought this matter up. He told me that it was something that was currently being considered. Sometimes, however, I get the impression that some of my critics want me to do the work of an opposition leader and to oppose the Government. That is not my job. I think that the President of the Republic, in a regime such as ours, ought to be a unifying force and not someone who foments political tension and instability. That is something I have always tried to avoid, but I do have sufficient courage to tell the government and the Prime Minister exactly what I think and I have actually dared to criticise them publicly several times. I am sole judge of the criticism I make, and I decide if it is appropriate and also when the time is right. Sometimes, people would have me criticise the government according to a timetable.
· A number of journalists in the private sector are currently being prosecuted and these actions nearly all originate from sources close to the government Surely if they were actually acting unprofessionally, we would see legal actions from parts of society, such as business, and not just from the political class.
- The reason for this is very simple. It is the political class that they vilify. I myself have been insulted on a number of occasions and, despite having put up with it for five years, I have not instigated any lawsuits. There was one case which was taken seriously by the Attorney General's office and there were other cases when the Prime Minister was called a thief. I would ask you, is this a normal state of affairs? Does freedom of the press mean that it can call a Minister or the Mayor of Praia a thief? Is that what is meant by democracy? You have to be aware of the background to these court cases - and there are a good many of them, some dating from 1991. They are not designed to 'get at' any particular newspaper. The reason many of these cases have been brought is because serious insults of the kind we are talking about are a crime. That is true of even the most advanced democracies.
· In economic terms, Cape Verde does not appear too badly off. But some economic indicators do give rise to concern, notably the big gap between the export and import figures. How do you see your country's future when it no longer relies so much on international aid? Do you believe in the dream of many of your fellow countrymen, that Cape Verde will be Africa's 'little dragon'?
- Unlike some people, I have never spoken of becoming a dragon. I don't like this expression. I do believe that, despite our enormous problems - Cape Verde has few resources and we have been in the grip of drought for many years - it does have a number of assets. We are capable of making progress and I believe that there are a number of promising areas which have already been identified: for example, fisheries, tourism and even 'foreign' investment. We have to be optimistic about Cape Verde's future. We are in a difficult situation, everyone knows that, but we are a hard-working and courageous people and our prospects are good. The country will be able to forge ahead.
-On the diplomatic front, Cape Verde appears something of an expert at maintaining good relations with different regimes: for instance, with both Israel and the Arab countries, with China, and with South Africa before and after apartheid. How do you manage this?
- There is no magic formula. Since independence, Cape Verde has tried to adopt a realistic and pragmatic foreign policy. We are a small country with no great influence on the international scene and we have to be on good terms with everyone. That is the principle on which we base our foreign policy.
· Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau used to be fairly close - do you foresee any future rapprochement, perhaps in some form of federation?
- It is difficult to say. I feel that there is already a degree of rapprochement in progress, particularly in economic terms. Recently, we signed a civil aviation cooperation agreement, and there are opportunities for similar achievements in the fisheries and shipping sectors as well. Relations between the Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau governments are excellent but, to my mind, the idea of our forming a federation is out of date. It would not be in our interests nor in those of Guinea Bissau. We do, however, intend to develop a closer economic relationship and our political relations are very good indeed. I would wager that our partners in Guinea Bissau would give you a similar analysis of the situation.
-In cultural terms, can it be said that your country has succeeded in becoming a multi-ethnic state?
- The important thing is that the Cape Verde people should have their own identity; that there should be a specific Cape Verde culture. What I would say is that all the citizens of Cape Verde are proud of their culture and citizenship. This constitutes a great source of strength for a country such as ours which has major challenges to overcome. Our culture is also an asset in our country's development.
Interview by Hegel Goutier
Interview with Aristides Lima, leader of the Opposition
'The government owes its victory to abuse of the electoral system'
· As main leader of the Opposition, what are your views on the fact that the governing party has recently been reelected?
- I believe the country's economy is in crisis. Growth rates are not very high, just like in the 1980s, for example, and there is a high level of structural imbalance. Unemployment has increased: in 1990, unemployment stood at approximately 25% and now it is 30%. There used to be 25 000 people who worked in what we call the high intensity labour sector and who had a job for about 10 months of the year. They were recently laid off early. Such jobs were part of a social programme which, amongst other things, enabled us to build roads. The prices of staple products, such as sugar, maize and rice, which were stable, have just gone up, and the price of cement, which was also controlled to promote economic growth, is no longer subject to the same control and I can foresee this giving rise to many problems in areas outside the towns and cities. In Praia, a 50-kg bag of cement used to cost 440 escudos and, although that price will stay more or less the same, on islands like Fogo, it will go up to about 660 escudos. This will generate problems for economic growth and a number of major projects in the tourism sector, for example, will suffer. The balance between exports and imports has also been adversely affected in that the level of coverage of imports by exports has fallen, despite announcements to the contrary made by the government.
· From 1993 to 1995, exports tripled in volume, if the government is to be believed. What are your thoughts on that?
- The problem is that, in this country, some exports rely on the import of considerable amounts of raw materials. For example, in SVicente, there is a shoe-manufacturing plant which gets its supplies of raw materials from abroad. The same applies to fishing and a number of fisheries products, such as anchovies, which are still canned in SVicente but which have to be imported from Chile or elsewhere. This causes great problems when it comes to managing the country's foreign currency reserves, which have fallen markedly. In 1990, reserves provided over 6 months' coverage for imports, but now we have to operate in terms of weeks or even days.
· Nevertheless, the government could say that it is not responsible for the economic picture you have just painted because the world economic situation is hitting all small countries harder.
- No, the government is responsible, because it has been unable to implement the appropriate liberalization policy. For example, this should have been applied gradually to the trade sector, but the government rushed in and has now had to backtrack on goods which needed import authorization. What happened was that it lifted this authorization requirement but has now had to bring it in once again. And another thing, the policy of liberalization has not been accompanied by very high levels of foreign investment and, in addition, the country's skilled workers feel marginalised, all of which goes to make the situation worse. As for structural adjustment, the government has always supported the idea of 'less State equals a better State', but, in practice, we have seen spending on the State's everyday activities go up and up. Civil service staff levels have now risen to about 12 000, compared with the former 10 000. However, increased spending is also a result of a not always equitable wages policy - the difference between the highest and lowest salaries is huge and, in some public bodies, one worker might be earning 15 times as much as another.
· According to the Minister for Economic Coordination, the currency is under pressure as a result of the Opposition's irresponsible scare tactics of announcing a future devaluation, leading to the stock-piling of currency and goods, a kind of artificial speculation.
- That's a very good way of offloading one's responsibilities - the Opposition did no more than criticise the government's policy and point to the facts of the situation. It was members of the government themselves who acknowledged the low levels of currency reserves and the State bank which suspended transfers abroad. The Minister would have people believe that the Opposition lacks any credibility so how could this same Opposition have any influence on peoples' behaviour? The problem is actually extremely basic: economic operators, society and foreigners are not really au fait with the country's real economic situation because the government does not issue information, which is one of our basic criticisms. Parliamentary representatives and political parties no longer receive the figures they need and the latter are sometimes forced to consult foreign sources or to rely on their personal links with people who are close to sources of information. I myself criticised the Prime Minister for adopting this attitude of regarding information as subversive. I asked the Prime Minister for a copy of the study on Cape Verde's economy by a Portuguese professor, which had been paid for with tax payers' money. I never received it. For our part, we hope that Cape Verde's partners will be able to recognise the true situation and persuade the government to act in a more equitable manner.
· Nonetheless the people cannot be too disappointed, because they reelected the government for another term.
- That could be explained in many ways - the government controls information and therefore holds the reins of power. It controls television, radio, part of the print media, and the private-press sector is fairly weak, so it has been able to manipulate information and give people the idea that the country is on the right track. The government did do things to change peoples' lives, but it exaggerated its achievements using the State social communication means available to it. In fact, it did not achieve the major objectives it set itself: firstly its fight against unemployment - a failure. Balancing foreign economic relations - another failure. Balancing the domestic economic situation: differences between our various islands have become more acute. In matters of health, Cape Verde made major advances when our party was in power and, although, to all intents and purposes, the health sector is just as good when compared with other African countries, it has, in fact, deteriorated. Diseases which had been eradicated from the country are returning, like malaria, for example, cholera, etc. Health services are concentrated in the capital city, Praia, and there is no decentralisation, which has negative effects on even links between carers and patients. Humanism shows the effects of a situation such as this, and it applies not only to health: there is an unfair distribution of State financial resources between the central government and local government. The State has been unable to reform local finances and has politicised transfers of funds to those districts which are closest to it. The government has also profited from the structural problems encountered in the working of our democracy. One of these structural problems is Parliament's weakness: it sits only three times a year and the representatives do not work full-time - they are sometimes employed by the administration which they are supposed to monitor. Democracy has a price and although savings can be made in other spheres, when one is seeking good governance, one of the conditions for which is a strong, functional and effective Parliament, this is not possible. The weakness of the private-press sector is yet another problem.
-And are you continuing to work in the administration?
- I am a 'full-time' parliamentary representative. There are now about 10 out of 79 representatives who work on a full-time basis. They are members of Parliament's office, chairmen of committees and parliamentary leaders.
-The government says that it inherited a serious state of affairs when it took over power from the PAICV.
- It is simply not true that the good life began with this government's accession to power. Here's a little history lesson: think back to colonial times. Admittedly, there were negative aspects to our time in power but you must remember that the PAICV did, in fact, leave in place the subjective. physical basis for the new policy direction. When we achieved independence, Cape Verde had no ports or airports, apart from small-scale port facilities at SVicente. We built the port at Praia, the port at Sal, the port at SNicolau and a number of airports. The telecommunications system was also set up by the PAICV government and we implemented the initial educational reforms. In the 1980s, the GDP growth rate was 7%and the per capita income was one of the highest in Africa, more than $820.
· The party in power describes the PAICV as marxist and non-democratic claiming that it was they, not the PAICV, who introduced democracy.
- That is nothing more than rhetoric, because all of the current governing party's members were in the PAICV - they were radicals, more marxist than anyone. Everyone knows that here, in Cape Verde, we had a pragmatic party, not a marxist party, although marxism was a source of ideas for many people. The idea was not to build socialism here. In those days, we had an open, not a centralised economy and all trade was private. We always had a market economy and to describe us as non-democratic is idle rhetoric. The PAICV's ideology has always been one of national liberation based on political and economic independence, with power vested in the people. This was a normal state of affairs during a national liberation struggle and, although it would be true to say that we were influenced by a certain single-party model which had gained widespread acceptance in Africa, the single party here could not be compared with any other. Both the PAIGC and later the PAICV attempted to force people into taking part in citizens' assemblies in order to put forward suggestions to the candidates. The current Prime Minister, Mr Veiga, for example, was put forward by a militants' assembly - he was on the PAICV's lists and they used to sit one beside the other on the benches in Parliament. The regime was, I suppose, slightly paternalistic but it was the people themselves who were really responsible for national liberation, it was they who had an idea of justice, patriotism, of being African, which explains the total commitment of Cape Verde's people to our party in the struggle for independence and also the good results we achieved when in power.
· Why, then, were you not re-elected?
- The party had been in power for a long time, with the same president, the same prime minister, the same president of the national assembly and virtually all the same ministers. People were hungry for change because the ruling elite had been in place for so long. The international scene, also, did not favour the old single-party system. Another element, too, was the Church, which fought us over the question of abortion. Perhaps I should point out that, from the very beginning, a section of the Catholic church was not in favour of independence, but younger members of the clergy, with more sympathetic feelings towards the population, supported us and, thus, we changed peoples' attitudes. The Church in Africa is a phenomenon worthy of greater analysis, particularly in Cape Verde, where, I feel, the current government was able to take advantage of the Cape Verde peoples) essentially religious nature to criticise us and present us as an anticlerical party. In fact, the situation is quite different: most PAICV leaders and militants are Roman Catholics and some church" were damaged by opponents in an attempt to discredit the party. Another example of abuse of the electoral system, apart from taking advantage of the peoples' religious nature, is the country's poverty. During election campaigns, the government make it easier for people to obtain food, and it also creates more jobs, en masse, but these disappear again after the elections - precisely as is happening at the moment.
· As it is governed at the moment, Cape Verde is regarded by other countries as a 'star pupil'. Surely this is another success for the government?
- Cape Verde has always been regarded as a star pupil because, here, our society is fairly homogeneous and there are no major social or ethnic imbalances. However, in my opinion, the future depends on changes at a structural level and such changes cannot take place unless we have a functioning parliament and a strong private press. I cannot deny that the government has had some successes, but I also believe that the people will have an opportunity to judge how it keeps its promises. interview by Hegei Gouger
It suffices for an unruly little bird to escape
For, suddenly, Fire to spark, Night to dissolve
The walls of every prison to cave in
From the tidal-wave battering
Amassed, in its untamed heart,
By a tiny breathless bird.
(Mario Fonseca in 'La Mer a tous les coupe')
Most cities in the Third World devote all their energy to mere survival and there are few imbued with the same atmosphere as Mindelo - the very air appears to brim over with art and good taste, beauty and sensuality. Our guide to the city speaks slowly, measuring his words, his delivery not an indication that he is searching for a translation, although it could be interpreted as an affectation, but matching the modulation of the language which is closest to his heart: 'I believe the air in this city is imbued with hedonism. Here, we mix work and pleasure - today is a holiday, but I am working. However, my day is not so rigidly timetabled that I cannot do some work and, since you have invited me out for a drink, take some time off to accept'.
Antonio Firmino, director of the Craft Centre, continues to tell us about his favourite city in the same steady language, a dreamy look in his eyes and wearing a Che Guevara-style beret. The tale he tells is the story of a tiny country which has fallen in love with culture: the actual building housing the Craft Centre used to be a school, the 'Mindelo Technical College', founded in 1917, the first secular educational institution. It was to transform the city into a cultural haven. The story goes that a certain senator named Vera Cruz, who represented the island of SVicente in the Portuguese Senate, wanted to establish Cape Verde's first college. His peers objected, arguing that Mindelo had no building worthy of housing an institution of such a high standing but
Vera Cruz straight away replied: 'So, why not use mine?'. Thus, he casually handed over his private residence.
Art even in the fish market
How many inhabitants are there in Mindelo? According to Antonio Firmino, 'Just me and my friends'. How right he is. It would be impossible not to become part of such a captivating place. And so a long journey began, which included the creation of Claridade, a review (and cultural movement) established in 1938 by Balthasar Lopes, a writer and essayist of world renown who was born in SNicolau but taught in Mindelo, and other great artists who were to make up the country's literary and artistic roll of honour. Claridade was to be followed by Certeza which was also to influence the cultural elite. Although historians and other commentators feel that Claridade did no more than praise Cape Verde's 'latinity', rejecting its African side, artists are unanimous in regarding it as the cradle of Cape Verdian intellectual culture and the soil which was to nurture Mindelo and make it such an extraordinary little town. The impression is that everyone here is interested in art - the local authorities encourage and help sculptors in their creative activities all over the town, making it a living museum: here, there is a painting by Antonio Concei and, over there, a huge flat sculpture of couples in languorous embraces, by Ro and Anildo, an illustration of the marvellous hedonism evoked by our host.
The same assured but delicate touch of these two artists can be seen in the lobby of Fishpackers, an anchovy- and tunapacking company, this time in the form of a celebration of fishermen. One of the finest examples of this type of art, which can be seen everywhere in the streets and public places, is the sequence of four huge decorative-tile frescoes in the fish market. When Bela Duarte showed them to us, it was such a delight to see how much at ease this famous artist was in the company of the staliholders, to whom both she and her work seemed so familiar.
Over and above this hedonistic atmosphere, there is, in Mindelo, an eclecticism which can be detected just as widely in other towns and cities, which means that you can talk about painting with the President of the Republic, dancing with a factory manager and decorative tiles with the man in the street. And the latter is literally 'in the street' - the inhabitants of SVicente, the capital, derive immense pleasure from strolling in its squares and narrow streets, and around the port. A little stall, looking like a sugar loaf in the middle of one of the city's many squares, opposite a grand hotel, opens up in the early evening just like a flower, attracting hundreds of people to it who come to quench their thirst, to converse or woo, and to dance to the music escaping from the terrace of the Porto Grande Hotel, which has just reopened after being privatised and modernised.
It is as if a dress ball were taking place on two different levels, one in front of the other, dancing to the same music and with equal pleasure: above, in an enormous gallery open to the sky, elegant guests (who include a small gathering of government officials and pretty Brazilian actresses who are here to film television soaps) and, down in the square, the dancing promenaders, full of admiration, almost stimulating those above.
Cape Verdian nights
Like all the island's intellectuals, Antonio Firmino has a number of different jobs. In addition to running the
Craft Centre, he teaches 'nautical' English to would-be sailors, is an amateur painter and musician (he plays and composes for his wife, who is a singer). His spare time is devoted to writing a column. The Craft Centre exhibits, amongst other things, a large number of tapestries, an art form much prized in Cape Verde. These admirable examples are by JuFortes, Juamo Pento, and a good many others, in particular Bela Duarte, Tchaligueira, Lucia Queiros and Miguel Figueira, Mindelo's top artistic foursome who appear to be involved in everything, including the frescoes at the fish market. Bela, who showed us her studio, her house and the fish market, does not conceal the joy she derives from colour and allusion in her pictures, tapestries or decorative tiles, ranging from the most distant abstraction to an anecdotal figuration, using her native land with its doleful nuances, soft cries and romantic strength as raw material. Above all, there is convivial artistic writing: 'Resistencia', which is at first sight a tapestry and then a patchwork of colour and sinuous lines. Scarcely has the artist begun to explain her work than everything becomes clear: this is a story, in threads and colours, about drought, representing roots, energy, space and struggle, all part of the Cape Verdian soul. She is also paying homage to those weavers of traditional African loincloth (badiu) from Cape Verde from whom today's artists inherited their technique.
So, where to meet Antonio's friends? To find them, look no further than the Cape Verdian nights (noite caboverdiana), those gatherings which take place everywhere and resemble both a nightclub and an artistic association, all those present sharing a fondness for Cape Verde mingled with nostalgia and yearning. One such place is the Piano Bar, which was closed on account of the departure of its owner Chico Serra, another notable in local society, who was accompanying a friend, Cria Evora, in her attempt to conquer new lands. Mission accomplished, Chico Serra is back and will soon be open for business again, his club's atmosphere just as intimate and warm as before - just enough room for his piano, his musician friends and others who come to sample grog and music.
Mario Fonseca also adores Mindelo but he would not agree that that wind-blown city has a monopoly on art and culture. He is from an island in the lee of the wind, from Praia, capital of the island of Santiago and of the country. In his opinion, it is the whole of Cape Verde which is bubbling with creativity and he will enchant you with his tales of Praia and its old colonial district, the 'Plateau', which still retains much of the nostalgic character to be seen in the now yellowing photographs taken 50 years ago when the city was not so sprawling and the ambience of Sucupira market was almost tangible. He will also tell you everything about the island of Santiago, with Cidade Velha, the ancient capital which was too difficult to defend against repeated pirate attacks. It bowed to Praia's supremacy and, today, has an old-fashioned feeling, nestling within a cove around the ruins of its castle, and dominated by the fort which perches above a cliff face. The architecture owes much of its charm to the predominant Creole style which is vaguely reminiscent of Portugal, in every pastel shade. Cidade Velha's central square is caressed by a gentle breeze and groups of young people can always be seen lazing around the monument to the slaves. Time seems to stand still. The pretty little white church whose walls are decorated with sheaves of bougainvillaea, Santa Maria do Rosario, is the oldest on the island and, indeed, along the entire West African coast. It was built in 1460 and the white marble paving in the central nave conceals the final resting place of grandees from colonial times, their epitaphs erased over five hundred years by the soles and knees of penitents.
The director of the INAC (National Cultural Institute), responsible for Praia National Museum (which is soon to open its doors), is Mario Alberto de Almeida Fonseca, who once taught French in Portugal; he is a former administrator who has worked in Mauritania and Turkey, a translator and also a former regional manager of the national airline. In addition he is a poet whose works have been translated into several languages, including Serbo-Croat and Russian. Above all, he is an amateur connoisseur of the art and artists of his country. As the INAC's director, he is responsible for cultural events, exhibitions, shows, publishing and also the compilation of an oral record of the country's history and the preparation of a Creole dictionary. The INAC's work also involves a major history of Cape Verde, the first volume of which has already been published. He will show you the future National Museum's collection, moving from one painting to another, from an old photograph to an antique cimboa, a type of locally-manufactured violin from the 1 9th century, or to an old Massachusetts galleon, testament to the past explorations of his people. You will first of all discover the works of artists from Praia such as Mito and Kiki Lima, not on account of Fonseca's chauvinism but because he feels he has to 'convert' the visitor who may have left Mindelo with the impression that that city is Cape Verde's premier cultural centre. There is also the music from the island of Santiago - the funana, the batuque, the fina- all more African than the languid style so influenced by the Portuguese fado of this island's musical groups (Fina, Bulimundo, Tuvaroes, Kodi Dona or the great traditional style singer Nha Inacia Gomes). Gomes is a 'women of the people' whose musical heritage consists of no more than local tradition.
It was she who 'reinvented' jazz and whom Alberto Fonseca admires a great deal. Cesaria Evora, moreover, is not the first musician to publicise Cape Verdian music abroad: Fina or Kodi Dona, for example, have captivated many music-lovers, particularly musicians, in Europe and America.
The Chamber and the stage
Daniel Brito is not from Mindelo either. He is from Sal but confesses to having to pay regular visits to Mindelo, to immerse himself in that city's hedonistic atmosphere. For three years he has been director of the National Cinematographic Institute which was established in 1967 and is currently exhibiting newfound dynamism on account of the 'production tax' (4% of the filming budget, paid to the Institute and generally converted into a holding, which the State supplements to make the sum up to slightly more than 10% in co-productions). There is also an agreement with Portugal which encourages co-productions between the two countries, thereby enabling Cape Verdian technicians to receive their training. Brito is working on a local video-film-production project (TV viewers are very fond of such things) and wants to set up a major production centre to be made available to lusophone African countries and, perhaps, others.
Daniel Spencer Brito is also Sal's parliamentary representative (10 000 inhabitants), musician, writer/composer and guitarist in his own group, Madrugada. His talents include the composition of morna and coladeira pieces, as well as jazz-rock. At the end of May, the MP was due to appear in his own production at the Cirque d'Hiver in Paris, as part of the lusophone music festival. You could say that he divides his time between the Institute, the Chamber and the stage; however, he is also involved in research into copyright protection in Cape Verde. Daniel (it would never occur to you to call him anything else, even five minutes after making his acquaintance) always gives the same advice to anyone wishing to discover Cape Verde, namely to get to know the atmosphere of a tocatinha, spontaneous jam sessions which take place at one location or another, usually even more intimate than the 'Cape Verdian nights'. By the way, I almost forgot - by training, Brito is a vet, having studied in Romania.
Sponsors are delighted at the full use of aid
Cape Verde's physical characteristics - its small size, the fact that its territory is scattered over a number of islands and islets, its Sahelian climate (continually rendering it vulnerable to drought), the arid nature of the soil and its low population (under five hundred thousand inhabitants) - might explain its high levels of poverty and mean that, in order to survive and develop, it requires considerable amounts of foreign aid. However, it is the effort made by this small country to stabilise its economy and to gain maximum profit from foreign aid which has attracted special attention from sponsors. Last year the European Commission decided to increase its contribution to Cape Verde's National Indicative Programme, within the framework of the Lomonvention (tome IV, first protocol 199-95, seventh EDF) by 7%, i.e. an extra ECU 1.7 million. Cape Verde had already put virtually all the ECU 23 million allocated to it to good use, an indication of the government's desire to use the aid granted to the full.
When realism is a luxury
It is difficult to imagine an island inhabited by 160 000 people - the island of SVicente, where the country's second largest city, Mindelo, with its population of 70 000, is located - having no source of drinking water. In former times, water was shipped in from the neighbouring island of Santo Antao, but Mindelo now has a number of seawater desalination plants, most of these provided by Israel, which meet 100% of its supply needs. The supply of both water and electricity is managed by
Electra, a publicly-owned company, which, within the framework of the EDF (European Development Fund), has received European Commission aid to increase its electricity-generating capacity. It has set up three wind pumps, of Danish manufacture, which alone supply 13% of the island's non-industrial requirements. Elsewhere, such solutions as sea-water desalination and wind pumps might appear to be unrealistic but, for 160 000 people with no indigenous supply, realism is sometimes a luxury.
Although the island of Santiago, which is home to Praia, the capital city, does have some natural water sources, these are far from sufficient for its needs. One of the projects recently financed by the European Union concerned improvements to water-distribution systems, water purity and rainwater drainage. Amongst other things, this work involves the recycling of waste water which the island cannot afford to let drain away. Cape Verde's Achilles' heel is definitely its lack of water, its strong point unquestionably the dynamic outlook of its population.
The Commission has an office on Cape Verde where the work done at Praia (water distribution and purity, support for poorer districts of the capital threatened with overpopulation) is regarded as symbolic of the EU's desire to take account of both weaknesses and strengths and represents the overall intention behind Community aid to this country. Generally speaking, such aid is geared towards infrastructures (water and electricity production and distribution, urban development) on the one hand and education and health on the other.
Praia's historic old town, the 'Plateau', with its wealth of fine colonial and neo-classical architecture, risks losing many of its buildings which have been abandoned by their owners who lack the means to maintain them. Community aid has also been provided to help save this part of the country's heritage. Funds are insufficient to finance a complete restoration of the 'Plateau', but, following the example of the Cape Verde government, which has maintained administrative buildings in good condition, the Commission will probably assume responsibility for renovation of a superb nineteenth-century building, the 'Case Cor-de-Rosa'. The purpose of this project is two-fold; not only will the building be restored, but also it will become the core of a more general project to train professionals in building techniques and restoration and it will serve as an example to motivate future purchasers, institutions, businesses and individuals to preserve the historic old town.
The Community has also funded a study into the preservation of the capital's historic old town, which has been used as a basis by Praia Town Council. A project is currently underway, costing 1 million ECU, to restore an islet. The principal aim of this project is to train Cape Verdian technicians. Other work in the field of training has induded the building of the Praia Technical College. The next phase of this project, worth almost ECU 1 million, will fund the supply of equipment and teacher training.
Still within the context of the overall project to develop Praia city, an EDF programme worth ECU 1.3 million has been created for the development of a designated area as an industrial site. A rural electrification project in the area around Praia was, at the end of 1995, granted a budget of ECU 1.5 million and will benefit a population of 7500 people living in the three most densely populated rural centres on the island of Santiago. The technical side of the works will be entrusted to Electra, with the private sector being responsible for supplying equipment and monitoring the works.
Cape Verde's 'essence' as a resource
Cape Verde's leaders regularly point to the richness, which they term the 'essence', of Cape Verde, contrasting this with the fact that their country is so poor. Indeed, despite limited resources, this country devotes a great deal of energy and ingenuity to 'cultivating' its culture. Two projects, financed within the framework of the National Indicative Programme and amounting to ECU 500 000, concern two feature-length films and will play a part in lessening the island's isolation by publicising its culture and people abroad. The first film, made during 1995 and entitled 'llhde Contenda', is the first fiction-based feature film to be made in Cape Verde and is the work of Leao Lopes, a director who has drawn his inspiration from the work of another Cape Verdian citizen, Teixeira de Sousa, and which centres on the history of Cape Verde and the birth of its national identity. The EDF contribution (approximately ECU 250 thousand) amounts to 14% of the total production cost. The film is currently being shown in a number of European countries. Virtually the same amount of money has been set aside to fund another production, this time by a Portuguese director, Francisco Manso, based on a novel by a Cape Verdian author, Germano de Almeida, and entitled 'O Testamento do Sr. Napuceno', which was being filmed on the island of SVicente at the time of our visit. 50% of the finance for this film comes from Portuguese producers, the other co-producers being French and Belgian.
Others EDF projects recently completed or being completed include one for improving roads on the islands of Santiago, SNicolau and Maio (ECU 3 million) and a micro-project programme (ECU 1 million). In addition to funds from the EDF, Cape Verde has received further finance under the Lomonvention, including ECU 700 000 within the context of the Stabex transfer schemes to offset loses in the banana-production sector during 1994.
Design a micro climate
Extemal food aid is essential in a country which cannot meet its own requirements and the Commission's most recent food-aid-budget contribution amounted to nearly ECU 2 million. Other special budget lines include funds provided under 'Human Rights and Democratisation in Developing Countries'.
To an attentive foreign visitor, one of Cape Verde's most interesting achievements is the progress it has made in reforesting such an infertile soil. One of these reforested areas, covering 5000 hectares (1990-94) forms the basis of a regional project to disseminate knowhow accumulated in this sphere in Cape Verde. Training course. have enabled technicians and others involved in the reformtation of the Sahel countries to gain experience in methods which have proved succesful here. The production and distribution of teaching tools (books, posters, films, etc.) supplement the project. Since independence, Cape Verde has achieved a tenfold increase in the amount of land which is forested - admittedly there was little to start with, but since climatic conditions are so hostile this result can be regarded as a major accomplishment. There is even a hope that a micro-climate might form. On the island of Santiago, in some of these new green areas, wild duck which had long since disappeared have returned. It is nice to dream but the country cannot afford to rest on its laurels.
Area: 4 033 km2 Population: 390 000 (1990) Population density: 97 per km2
Population growth rate: 2.8 % (forecast for the period 19922000)
Capital: Praia (pop. 75 000)
Other main town: Mindelo (pop. 65 000)
Languages: Portuguese, Creole
Currency: Cape Verde Escudo (CVE). In May 1996,1 ECU was worth CVE 104 ($1 = CVE 83 approx.)
Government: Mixed presidential/parliamentary system. The President is not the head of the executive but he represents the country and is guarantor of national unity and the Constitution. Unicameral Parliament.
President: Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro (elected in 1991 and reselected at the beginning of this year)
Prime Minister: Carlos Veiga (since 1991)
Political parties represented in Parliament:
Movimento pare a Democracia (MPD)
Partido Africano pare a Independencia de Cabo Verde (PAICV)
Partido da Convergencia Democratica (PCD) - formed as a result of a break away from the MPD
Party representation in Parliament: MPD 50, PAICV 21, PCD 1
GDP: CVE 23.9 billion
GDP per capita: US $840
Origin of GDP by sector: agriculture 13%, industry 17%, services 70%
Real GDP growth (estimate 1995): 4% Balance of payments: deficit of CVE 11.9 billion
Main trade partners: Portugal, Spain, Netherlands, Brazil.
Annual inflation rate: 9.1%
Life expectancy at birth: 64.7
Infant mortality per 1000 live births: 56 Adult literacy: 66.4%
Enrolment in education (primary, secondary and tertiary): 59%
Human Development Index rating: 0.536 (123rd out of 174)
Sources: UNDP Human Development Report, 1995; Economic Intelligence Unit 1995; 'Etat et soci aux iles du Cap Vert, by Michel Lesourd.