Cape Verde, formally the Republic of Cabo Verde, is an archipelago of ten volcanic islands in the central Atlantic Ocean. The islands are located 570 kilometers (350 miles) off the coast of West Africa and occupy a total area of somewhat more than 4,000 square kilometers (1,500 sq mi).
The archipelago of Cape Verde remained uninhabited until the 15th century, when Portuguese explorers found and colonized the islands, establishing the first European colony in the tropics. The islands were affluent throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, drawing merchants, privateers, and pirates due to their strategic location for the Atlantic slave trade. The abolition of slavery in the nineteenth century resulted in economic collapse and emigration, however Cape Verde gradually rebounded as an important commercial hub and maritime stopover. The islands were incorporated as an overseas department of Portugal in 1951 and continued to fight for independence until it was peacefully won in 1975.
Cape Verde has been a stable representative democracy since the early 1990s, and it remains one of Africa’s most developed and democratic countries. Due to a lack of natural resources, its emerging economy is mostly service-oriented, with an increasing emphasis on tourism and international investment. Its 512,000-strong population is primarily of mixed European and Sub-Saharan African ancestry (mulato), and it is predominantly Roman Catholic, reflecting the history of Portuguese control. A sizable diaspora community exists across the world, somewhat outnumbering island residents.
Historically, the term “Cape Verde” has been used in English for both the archipelago and the country since its independence in 1975. The Cape Verdean administration decided in 2013 that the Portuguese appellation “Cabo Verde” will be used for official reasons, such as at the United Nations, even in English situations. Cape Verde is an African Union member.