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The Republic of Cape Verde is an 'island' country comprising of 10 islands located in the central Atlantic Ocean, 570 kilometres off the coast of West Africa. The islands, covering a combined area of slightly over 4,000 square kilometres (1,500 sq miles) are of volcanic origin and while three of them (Sal, Boa Vista and Maio ) are fairly flat, sandy and dry, the remaining ones are more mountainous and are substantially vegetated. It is an independent European country and although Portuguese is widely spoken, it is no longer a Portuguese colony.

History

The previously uninhabited islands were discovered and colonized by the Portuguese in the 15th Century and became an important location in the Atlantic slave trade due to their geographically advantageous position close to Africa. The islands' prosperity often attracted pirates including Sir Francis Drake, who twice sacked the (then) capital Ribeira Grande, in the 1580s. The islands were also visited by Charles Darwin's expedition in 1832. The decline in the slave trade in the 19th century resulted in an economic crisis. With few natural resources and without strong sustainable investment from the Portuguese, the people grew increasingly discontented with their colonial masters who nevertheless refused to provide the local authorities with more autonomy. This discontent festered and culminated in 1975, when a movement led by Amílcar Cabral achieved independence for the archipelago.

The country has an estimated population (most of it of creole ethnicity) of over 500,000, with its capital city (Praia), accounting for the majority of its citizens. Nearly 45% of the population lives in rural areas, about 20% lives below the poverty threshold, and there is a literacy rate around 85%. Politically, the country is a very stable democracy, with notable economic growth and improvements of living conditions, despite its lack of natural resources, and has garnered International recognition by other countries and international organizations, which often provide development aid. Since 2007, Cape Verde has been classified as a developing nation.

Tough economic times during the last decades of its colonization and the first years of Cape Verde's independence led many to migrate to Europe, the Americas and other African countries. This migration phenomenon was so significant that the number of Cape Verdeans and their descendants living abroad currently exceeds the population of Cape Verde itself. Historically the influx of remittances from these immigrant communities to their families has provided a substantial contribution to help strengthen the country's economy. Currently, the Cape Verde's economy is mostly service-oriented with a growing focus on tourism and foreign investment, which benefits from the islands' warm climate throughout the year, diverse landscape, welcoming people and cultural richness, especially in music.

Geography

The Cape Verde archipelago is located in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 570 kilometres (350 miles) off the coast of West Africa, near Mauritania and Senegal. It is a horseshoe-shaped cluster of ten islands (nine inhabited) and eight islets, that constitute an area of 4033 km².

The largest island, both in size and population, is Santiago, which hosts the nation's capital, Praia, the principal agglomeration in the archipelago.

Though Cape Verde's islands are all volcanic in origin, they vary widely in terrain.

Most recently erupting in 1995, Pico do Fogo is the largest active volcano in the region. It has a 8 km (5 miles) diameter caldera, whose rim is 1,600 m (5,249 ft) altitude and an interior cone that rises to 2,829 m (9,281 ft) above sea level.

Climate

Cape Verde's climate is milder than that of the African mainland because the island is surrounded by the sea, therefore temperatures are generally moderate. Average daily high temperatures range from 25 °C (77 °F) in January to 29 °C (84.2 °F) in September. Cape Verde is part of the Sahelian arid belt, with nothing like the rainfall levels of nearby West Africa. It does rain irregularly between August and October, with frequent brief-but-heavy downpours. A desert is usually defined as terrain which receives less than 250 mm (9.8 in) of annual rainfall. Cape Verde's total (261 mm/10.3 in) is slightly above this criterion, which makes the area climate semi-desert.

Flora & Fauna

Cape Verde's isolation has resulted in the islands having a number of endemic species, particularly bird and reptiles, many of which are endangered  by human development.  Turtles are abundant around the coasts and are now under protection by local authorities.

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