| The Courier - N°158 - July - August 1996 Dossier Communication and the media - Country report Cape Verde |
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 Lomé Convention (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 São Vicente, 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 'llhéu de 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 São Vicente 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, São Nicolau 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 Lomé Convention, 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.