Antigua and Barbuda is a two-island state in the Americas, located between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It consists of two large inhabited islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and a number of smaller islands (including Great Bird, Green, Guinea, Long, Maiden and York Islands and, further south, Redonda Island). The permanent population is approximately 81,800 (as of the 2011 census) and the capital and largest port city is St. John’s on Antigua.
Separated by only a few nautical miles, Antigua and Barbuda lie in the middle of the Leeward Islands, part of the Lesser Antilles, about 17°N from the equator. The country was named by Christopher Columbus in 1493 after the discovery of the island in honour of the Virgin of La Antigua in Seville Cathedral. The country is nicknamed “the land of 365 beaches” because of the many beaches that surround the islands. The governance, language and culture are strongly influenced by the British Empire, to which the country once belonged.
Both Antigua and Barbuda are low-lying islands whose topography has been influenced more by limestone formations than by volcanic activity. Antigua’s highest point is Mount Obama (formerly Boggy Peak), the remnant of a volcanic crater that is up to 402 metres high.
The coastline of both islands is very indented, with beaches, lagoons and natural harbours. The islands are surrounded by reefs and shoals. There are few rivers, as rainfall is low. Neither island has sufficient amounts of fresh groundwater.
Antigua has a population of 85,632, made up mostly of people of West African, British and Madeiran origin. The ethnic distribution is 91% black, 4.4% mixed, 1.7% white and 2.9% other (mainly Indian and Asian). Most whites are of Irish or British origin. Christian Arabs from the Levant and a small number of Asians and Sephardic Jews make up the rest of the population.
An increasing percentage of the population lives abroad, mainly in the United Kingdom (Antigua-British), the United States and Canada. A minority of Antiguan residents are immigrants from other countries, including Dominica, Guyana and Jamaica, and increasingly from the Dominican Republic, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Nigeria. An estimated 4,500 US citizens also call Antigua and Barbuda home, making their numbers one of the largest US populations in the English-speaking Eastern Caribbean.
74% of Antiguans are Christians, with Anglicans (about 44%) being the largest denomination. Other Christian denominations present are Baptists, Presbyterians and Roman Catholics.
Non-Christian religions practised on the islands include the Rastafarian movement, Islam, Judaism and the Baha’i Faith.
Tourism dominates the economy and contributes more than half of the gross domestic product (GDP). Antigua is famous for its many luxury resorts. However, weak tourism activity since the beginning of 2000 has slowed down the economy and forced the government into a difficult fiscal situation.
Investment banking and financial services are also an important part of the economy. Major global banks with offices in Antigua include Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Scotiabank. Financial services firms with offices in Antigua include PriceWaterhouseCoopers. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Antigua-based Stanford International Bank, owned by Texas billionaire Allen Stanford, with orchestrating a massive fraud that may have defrauded investors of about $8 billion.
Agricultural production in the two-island nation is concentrated in the domestic market and constrained by limited water supplies and a shortage of labour due to the attraction of higher wages in tourism and construction.
The manufacturing sector consists of enclave-like assemblies for export, with bedding, handicrafts and electronic components being the main products. Prospects for economic growth in the medium term continue to depend on income growth in developed countries, especially the US, which accounts for about one-third of all tourists.
After investor and lawyer Neil Simon opened the American University of Antigua College of Medicine in 2003, a new source of revenue was created. The university employs many Antiguans and the approximately 1000 students consume a large amount of goods and services.