The eight Portuguese-speaking countries

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Date of Formation: 1975

Population: 14.1 million

Languages: Portuguese, Umbundu, Kimbundu, Kikongo

Religions: Roman Catholic 50%, Other 30%, Protestant 20%

Ethnic Mix: Ovimbundu 37%, Other 25%, Kimbundu 25%, Bakongo 13%

Currency: Readjusted kwanza

GDP per capita (PPP, 2011): $5,910

HDI ranking (2011): 148th

An oil- and diamond-rich country in southwest Africa, Angola has suffered almost continuous civil war since independence from Portugal in 1975. During the Cold War, the West supported UNITA rebels against the Soviet-backed MPLA government. After many failed peace initiatives, the latest, in 2002, has raised hope yet again of a more permanent end to the violence. Angola was the world’s fastest growing economy in 2009, but its authoritarian politics are a hurdle to development.



Date of Formation: 1822

Population: 181 million

Languages: Portuguese, German, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Japanese, Amerindian languages

Religions: Roman Catholic 74%, Protestant 15%, Atheist 7%, Other 3%, Afro-American Spiritist 1%

Ethnic Mix: Black 53%, Mixed race 40%, White 6%

Currency: Real

GDP per capita (PPP, 2011): $11,845

HDI ranking (2011): 84th

The largest country in South America, Brazil became independent of Portugal in 1822 and, after several failed experiences with authoritarian or military regimes and a protected economy, embraced democracy and economic reforms which have led it to the path of a ‘rising power’. It is also renowned as the site of the world’s largest tropical rainforest, the threat to which led to the UN’s first international environment conference, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Brazil is the world’s leading coffee producer and also has rich reserves of gold, diamonds, oil, and iron ore. The city of São Paulo is the world’s fifth-biggest, with some 20 million inhabitants and Latin America’s main financial hub.


Cape Verde

Official Name: Republic of Cape Verde

Date of Formation: 1975

Population: 473,000

Languages: Portuguese Creole, Portuguese

Religions: Roman Catholic 97%

Ethnic Mix: Mestiço 60%, African 30%, Other 10%

Currency: Cape Verde escudo

GDP per capita (PPP, 2011): $3,973

HDI ranking (2011): 133rd

The Cape Verde archipelago off the west coast of Africa became independent of Portugal in 1975. Most of the islands are mountainous and volcanic; the low-lying islands of Sal, Boa Vista, and Maio have agricultural potential, though they are prone to debilitating droughts. Around 50% of the population lives on Santiago. Cape Verde has been one of Africa’s most stable democracies since multiparty elections were first held in 1991.



Date of Formation: 1974

Population: 1.5 million

Languages: Portuguese Creole, Portuguese, Balante, Fulani, Malinke

Religions: Traditional beliefs 52%, Muslim 40%, Christian 8%

Ethnic Mix: Other tribes 31%, Balante 25%, Fula 20%, Mandinka 12%, Mandyako 11%

Currency: CFA franc

GDP per capita (PPP, 2011): $1,138

HDI ranking (2011): 176th

Lying on Africa’s west coast, impoverished Guinea-Bissau is a former Portuguese territory. Apart from savanna highlands in the northeast, the country is low-lying. The PAIGC initiated a process of transition to multiparty democracy in 1990, and elections were held in 1994. Since then, the demo- cratic process has been interrupted by a series of army rebellions and military coups, the latest in 2009. Guinea-Bissau remains one of the world’s poorest countries.



Date of Formation: 1975

Population: 19.2 million

Languages: Makua, Xitsonga, Sena, Lomwe, Portuguese

Religions: Traditional beliefs 56%, Christian 30%, Muslim 14%

Ethnic Mix: Makua Lomwe 47%, Tsonga 23%, Malawi 12%, Shona 11%, Yao 4%

Currency: Metical

GDP per capita (PPP, 2011): $1,085

HDI ranking (2011): 184th

Situated on the southeast African coast, Mozambique is bisected by the Zambezi River. South of the Zam-bezi lies a semiarid savanna lowland. The more fertile north-central delta provinces around Tete are home to most of Mozambique’s ethnically diverse population. Following independence from Portugal in 1975, Mozambique was torn apart by civil war between the (then Marxist) Frelimo government and the South African-backed Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo). The conflict finally ended in 1992 after UN arbitration. Multiparty elections in 1994 returned Frelimo to power. Hit by devasta- ting floods in 2000 and 2001, Mozambique is now one of Africa’s top attractors of foreign invest-ment.



Date of Formation: 1139

Population: 10.1 million

Languages: Portuguese

Religions: Roman Catholic 97%

Ethnic Mix: Portuguese 98%, African and other 2%

Currency: Euro

GDP per capita (PPP, 2011): $23,204

HDI ranking (2011): 41st

Portugal, with its long Atlantic coast, lies on the western side of the Iberian peninsula. The River Tagus divides the more mountainous north from the lower, undulating terrain to the south. In 1974, a bloodless military coup overthrew a long- standing conservative dictatorship. A constituent assembly was elected in 1975 and the armed forces withdrew from politics thereafter. Portugal then began a substantial programme of economic modernization and accompanying social change. Membership of the EU has helped underpin this process.


São Tomé & Príncipe

Date of Formation: 1975

Population: 181,565

Languages: Portuguese Creole, Portuguese

Religions: Roman Catholic 84%, Other 16%

Ethnic Mix: Black 90%, Portuguese and Creole 10%

Currency: Dobra

GDP per capita (PPP, 2011): $1,985

HDI ranking (2011): 144th

Composed of two main islands and their surrounding islets, São Tomé and Príncipe is situated off the western coast of Africa. In 1975, a classic Marxist single-party regime was established following independence from Portugal, but a referendum in 1990 resulted in a 72% vote in favour of democracy. São Tomé’s main concerns are relations with Portugal and seeking closer ties with the EU and the United States.



Date of Formation: 2002

Population: 1,066,582

Languages: Portuguese, Tetum, Bahasa

Religions: Roman Catholic 97%

Ethnic Mix: Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian), Papuan, small Chinese and European Portuguese descent

Currency: US Dollar

GDP per capita (PPP, 2011): $3,071

HDI ranking (2011): 147th

East Timor is located between Southeast Asia and Oceania, and was colonized by Portugal in the 16th century. After declaring its independence in 1975, East Timor was invaded and occupied by Indonesia and declared as its 27th province. In 1999, following a United Nations-sponsored referendum, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory and East Timor became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century. It is one of only two predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Asia, and remains a lower-middle-income economy with important reserves of natural gas that have attracted attention and investments from China, Australia and other Asian countries.


* Adapted from DK’s World Fact File (http://www.dk.co.uk/static/cs/uk/11/worldfactfile/intro.html) and other sources.