Cabo Verde is a mid-performing democracy. It is a lower-middle income country with an economy that is based on services, including commerce and tourism. Cabo Verde boasts the highest Human Development Index achievement amongst Portuguese-speaking African countries, declining inequality, and a high adult literacy rate. The country has been considered a model of stability and democracy in West Africa, having adopted a multi-party system that has held consistent and credible elections since the 1990s. Cabo Verde has consistently exhibited high-range performance in Representative Government, Civil Liberties and Checks on Government in the Global State of Democracy (GSoD) Indices. Access to Justice has experienced a statistically significant decline in the past five years, which may be linked to inefficiencies within the judicial system, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cabo Verde's location in the Atlantic Ocean made it a strategically important trading post during the colonial era (1456-1975), including for the transatlantic slave trade and for supply ships going to Portuguese colonies. First settled by the Portuguese in 1462, Cabe Verde soon saw the growth of sugar plantations, and later, the development of rum, firearm, and cloth industries. The country gained independence in 1975 under the rule of a one-party state (under the same party that ruled Guinea-Bissau, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde - PAIGC) and eventually transitioned to democracy in 1990. Today, Cabo Verde is home to a Creole community, an African minority, a small population of European descendants and a Sephardic Jewish community. To this day, darker-skinned Cabo Verdeans face discrimination and colorism.
Upon independence, the governing party adopted a sustainable human development approach, implementing development policies to address economic growth, environmental issues, and socio-economic problems – namely unemployment, education, and health. Under pressure from younger party members eager for liberalization, political reforms took place in 1990, allowing for the formation of other political parties, and in 1991 the country held the first multiparty, free elections in its history. Movement for Democracy (MpD), established in 1990, won the elections for both president and prime minister. Political polarization in Cabo Verde is relatively low, with the two main political parties (African Party for the Independence of Cabo Verde and MpD) holding a duopoly on the country’s political landscape and engaging in constructive opposition, with the focus being on policy differences rather than personal or ethnic divisions. Still, Cabo Verde faces institutional and social challenges. The judicial system in Cabo Verde moves slowly, and a portion of the population perceives it as inefficient. A significant social issue in the country is gender discrimination, which extends to violence against women and a wide gender pay gap, but a recent increase in gender representation in the National Assembly is encouraging.
The major issues to watch in the near future relate to political participation and Access to Justice. Recent surveys indicate a decline in trust in institutions which, along with the large number of citizens living abroad, may help explain the decrease in Electoral Participation in recent years. Additionally, the country’s Association of Justices has responded to criticism regarding the slow pace of judicial proceedings by pointing out the need to increase the number of judges, improve their working conditions, increase pay, and find alternative venues for the resolution of certain conflicts. These prospective reforms will be important to watch in the years ahead.