Dubbed the most democratic nation in Africa, Cape Verde is one of the better-known of the continent’s success stories. While Cape Verde’s scattered islands enjoy stable democracy and strong majority-wielding governments, its leaders have undertaken far-reaching and ambitious reforms.
Since the 70s, democratic processes have continually improved bringing the country into the present day where it boasts a pluralistic, multi-party system that was realised in 1991. Freedom House, the US-based NGO that records and scores societies on their levels of political rights and civil liberties, rates the nation highly. In 2018, Cape Verde was the only African country to receive a perfect score in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World survey, narrowly outpacing many western nations including the United States.
This democratic stability, in spite of partisan game-playing in parliament, has allowed consecutive governments to make strides in stabilising the economy and capitalising on a sturdy tourist industry. In the past few years this atmosphere has fostered business interest which is helping to fuel the nation’s development.
As a result, in July Cape Verde held an Investment Forum widely viewed as a great success, raising €1.5 billion for investments in the country. The deputy prime minister and finance minister, Olavo Correia suggested that this demonstrated “great confidence in the Cape Verdean economy.”
“Cape Verde is a great country, with great ambition. There are many people who believe in our country and we have to create conditions to execute projects that are structural for our economy,” he explained. The deputy prime minister added at the time that contracts had been signed with investors from several countries and that all of Cape Verde’s islands would see investments in health, tourism, maritime and air transport, telecommunications and vocational training. The success also demonstrated a clear appetite for a repeat of the forum in 2020.
In another sign that the country is taking ground, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the governments of Cape Verde and Portugal have signed a territory-specific memorandum of understanding for the implementation of the Lusophone Compact, aiming to boost private sector development in Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa.
Signing the contract took place on Sal Island on the 1st of July 2019, involving Olavo Correia, Helena de Paiva, Portugal’s ambassador to Cape Verde, and Moono Mupotola, the AfDB’s director for regional integration. The process was witnessed by more than 200 Cape Verdean and international investors and lenders.
The Lusophone Compact is a financing platform, involving the African Development Bank, Portugal, and the six Portuguese-speaking countries of Africa (PALOPs): Angola, Cabo Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe.
Speaking after the event, Moono Mupotola said that “the Compact will help address Cabo Verde’s infrastructure bottlenecks that limit private sector development and diversification.” He explained that this will transform sectors such as agriculture, “the blue economy, and small industry to support inclusive growth and formal job creation for the youth and women of Cabo Verde.”
Next on the government’s agenda is a marathon of crucial privatisation or concession transactions which will see 23 partly and wholly state-owned companies changing hands. The largest on the plate being fixed line operator Cabo Verde Telecom (CVT) and data centre operator Nucleo Operacional da Sociendade de Informacao (NOSi), as well as sea port transportation service providers. The moves will free up huge amounts of the national budget for reinvestment in health, education, and tourism.
Sitting at the top of this is the move to privatise Cabo Verde Airlines in a sale to Loftleidir Cabo Verde. This is possibly the smartest play in the government’s strategy as it will free up enormous revenue and reduce the burden of air transportation on the tax payer. Given that flights are predominantly used by foreign holiday makers, this will feed revenue back into the tourism sector and improve the country’s economy. As for airports, there is now talk of a concession to a private operator. Here too, the State has everything to gain. By receiving a significant amount of money at the beginning of the concession, having an annual contribution to the income and an additional one in the event of exceptional revenue, the Cape Verdean government is demonstrating real economic and political ingenuity.
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