Main image: Joao Maximo
by Leisa Burrell
Endowed with picturesque beaches, rainforests and coral reefs that attract tourists from around the world, São Tomé and Príncipe is a small island country, located in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western coast of Central Africa. Its small size, distance from large markets and lack of diversity in its economic sectors mean the country faces a number of challenges. Like many other small island developing states (SIDS), the country is also dealing with the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international travel has temporarily brought São Tomé and Príncipe’s thriving tourism industry to a standstill. The country’s authorities have moved to protect their population from the spread of the coronavirus, implementing social distancing rules, amongst other measures. Reduced maritime activity has led to an interruption of international supply chains, which are vital for the export of the country’s cacao and coffee and for the import of manufactured products.
Whilst the priority for many countries, including São Tomé and Príncipe, will be to prevent the spread of the virus and to protect livelihoods into the foreseeable future, many commentators are already calling for countries to “build back better,” once the pandemic has passed. Specifically, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has proposed a number of climate-related actions to shape countries’ recovery from the pandemic and to help them to address climate change.
In this vein, green stimulus packages that include strong renewable energy and energy efficiency components have garnered attention as viable options to help countries to meet social, economic and environmental objectives, once the worst of the pandemic has passed.