FINANCIAL TIMES & ENGLISH FEVER
British newspaper Financial Times dedicated a series of articles on Cape Verde in its November 13 edition. The country’s economic situation, its musical rhythms, and a portrait of some of its political figures, such as Jorge Santos, José Maria Neves and Isaura Gomes, are among the subjects of the Financial Times’ reports, which seek to shed light on reasons behind English investors’ gold rush to the small Atlantic archipelago.
“People in Cape Verde’s real estate business call it ‘the English fever’, and can trace the exact moment when it first took hold. It all started in February 2005 when the UK Channel 4 television series A Place in the Sun, a lifestyle programme about property-buying, identified the archipelago as one of the new holiday-home opportunities.” This is the introduction to the article “Crowded by coast lined with construction cranes,” one of the texts included in a special series of reports on Cape Verde published last month by the Financial Times. The love affair between the British and Cape Verde apparently began in 2005 and is still going full-stream ahead, as the British newspaper reveals. “Prices have risen by 50 to 100 per cent in the past two years. A one-bedroom apartment that would have sold for between €50,000 and €60,000 may now be on offer for €90,000 to €100,000. Some properties have changed hands two or three times before they are completed,” says journalist David White.
Conversing with several British investors who own property in Sambala Village, on the island of Santiago, for example, the Financial Times concluded, however, that Cape Verde is still far from being in a position to sustain the “high-level tourism” it is trying to develop. “Health and transport facilities lag behind,” and “almost everything has to be imported, including cement and bricks, for which demand exceeds local supply, and even sand.”
This rapid growth in tourism, which comes in stark contrast with the absence of resources, is analyzed in the article “In danger of attracting too many visitors,” in which the president of tourism and investment promotion agency Cabo Verde Investimentos, Victor Fidalgo, presents figures revealing just how “in fashion” Cape Verde is at the moment (a forty-percent increase in the number of tourists visiting the country in five years), while Sal mayor Jorge Figueiredo and a number of entrepreneurs express their concern with this “phenomenon.” “We have to know when to stop,” affirms the owner of the Hotel Odjo d’Água. On the island of Sal, referring to the impact of tourism on the environment and on endangered species such as sea turtles.
But if the archipelago lacks resources, at least there is no absence of “special partnerships,” notes the Financial Times in another article in the series. Cape Verde’s ties with China, which built the country’s government palace, parliament building, national library and auditorium, a national monument, conference halls and Cape Verde’s first dam, are among the most important ones the country has. Indeed, Cape Verde, says the newspaper, hopes to become “a special economic area/platform” for China to introduce its products in Africa, as well as in the Americas and Europe.
Cape Verde’s special partnership with the European Union and what it represents for both sides (“an advanced security post” for Europe, with the EU helping to “equip the country with the technical resources and know-how it lacks to combat drug and people trafficking,” says the Financial Times), NATO’s presence in the archipelago, its recent membership in the World Trade Organization and its graduation from the UN’s list of Least Developed Countries are among the conquests highlighted by the British periodical. “Cape Verde was also selected as the first pilot country for the One UN programme, an initiative aimed at streamlining and rationalising the work of UN agencies in developing countries, ensuring that they work more closely together to improve their overall effectiveness,” reveals the Financial Times in “An array of special partnerships.”
As Cape Verde “leaves behind its poor country status,” the Financial Times foresees a chance for the archipelago to “break away from aid dependence” and “take advantage of its Atlantic vocation.” Cape Verde, concludes the report, is a country that exists between various paradoxes.
Cape Verde has “managed to distance itself from the worst afflictions of the continent. The islands are now at a significant turning point, about to graduate next year from the United Nations’ list of least developed countries (LDCs) and preparing to enter an upgraded partnership arrangement with the European Union. (...)The country has started getting more foreign investment than aid, and more tourism earnings than emigrants’ remittances. But it faces a challenge training the local workforce to fill the jobs that tourism creates,” explains the Financial Times. Indeed, Cape Verde is looking to have “quality tourism with added value,” but still needs to “construct basic services, which require considerable investments.” “What we want is not what we need,” Cape Verde’s Minister of the Economy, José Brito, admits to the newspaper. São Vicente mayor Isaura Gomes, a personality the Financial Times qualifies as a “force of nature,” presents her own solution. “What is required, she says, is integrated planning for the [tourism] sector. ‘In my country,’ she laments, ‘nobody does that’.”
In Prime Minister José Maria Neves’ view, the country must take “full advantage of its mid-Atlantic location.” But, warns the Prime Minister, it would be a mistake to rely exclusively on tourism, a sector that lends dynamic to the economy. As such, authorities are studying the possibility of making the archipelago a fishing and aviation hub or even a financial center. In other words, summing up what various different authorities told the Financial Times’ journalists, Cape Verde still has “a long way to go.”
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