São Tomé and a Decade of Limited Change

    Jul 12, 2019 @ 06:32 AM / by Andrew Morollo

    The long unused movie theatre named 'Cinema Marcelo da Veiga' in São Tomé. Photo taken by AIRINC surveyor Andrew Morollo.

    The long unused movie theatre named 'Cinema Marcelo da Veiga' in São Tomé. Photo taken by AIRINC surveyor Andrew Morollo.

    The Pace of Change: From Hong Kong to São Tomé 

    As a resident of Hong Kong, I’m used to seeing the supremely fast-paced development of a modern city: new skyscrapers, high-speed train stations, subway lines, road tunnels, highways, stores, restaurants, and even a 55-kilometer-long bridge were built in the short time that I’ve lived there.

    The idyllic island nation of São Tomé & Príncipe has the second smallest population in Africa, and it remains a hard-to-reach destination. I recently surveyed there and was amazed to see just how little had changed since my last visit over a decade ago.


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    The Super CKdo Supermarket in São Tomé & Príncipe. Photo by AIRINC surveyor Andrew Morollo.

    The Super CKdo Supermarket in São Tomé & Príncipe. Photo by AIRINC surveyor Andrew Morollo.

    A new supermarket and restaurants in São Tomé 

    The most notable difference I found was the new supermarket, Super CKdo, which sits on the edge of Ana Chaves Bay on the north side of the small city. In 2008, the only supermarkets were small mom-and-pop style grocery stores with little or no air conditioning and very little merchandise. I also found two new restaurants, the Ilangue-Ilangue and Papa Figo, both of which are very popular with locals and the few visitors who come to the island. The trendy looking Café Camões, which sits on Rua de Angola in the heart of the city center, was the only other new outlet that I found during my survey.

    As in 2008, the roads were in a state of disrepair and the street lights didn’t work, bathing the city in complete darkness after sunset. The two main hotels looked just as they had back then – no updates since and none planned.

    The bustling Mercado Municipal (Municipal Market) remains a gritty scene of marketplace chaos with its overload of vendors selling palm oil, cassava, bananas, and barracuda. To my happy eyes, the city had maintained its unaltered charm over the years since my last visit. Upon leaving, I felt refreshed by the slow pace of life in this little equatorial island paradise compared to my bustling Hong Kong life.


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    On-site Insight and AIRLinc

    This post is taken from On-site Insight, AIRINC’s in-house global mobility blog. On-site Insight provides AIRLinc subscribers with an exclusive “behind-the-surveys” insight into new and existing expatriate locations based on commentary and photos from our global research team. Included is information on general living conditions as well as changing costs for both goods and services and housing and utilities, along with much, much more! To find out more, click here. 


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    Topics: On-site Insight, Cost of Living Surveys, Insights and Experience, Employee Experience, Sao Tome, São Tomé & Príncipe, Customer Experience

    Andrew Morollo

    Written by Andrew Morollo

    Andrew joined AIRINC in 2000 as a surveyor and analyst. Since 2011, he has managed both the Hong Kong and Brussels survey teams directly. His primary responsibilities include coordinating travel for the international teams, recruiting survey staff, and managing workflow from the Cambridge headquarters. He is also responsible for conducting pricing and housing surveys in more complicated international locations, having visited over 120 countries for AIRINC. He received his B.A. in Business Administration from Northeastern University. In addition to English, Andrew speaks German.