For decades, Cabo Verde has faced the challenges of modest economic growth, imbalanced development among its islands, and high unemployment, particularly among youth. To increase economic growth from a projected 4.1% for 2018 to about 7% in 2021, the government has put in motion two major proposals (Nshimyumuremyi, 2018; Monteiro, 2017).
First, the government announced that it would begin to issue free visas to European Union (EU) citizens in a bid to boost tourism, which according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (2018) constituted 44.9% of Cabo Verde’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017. A law governing the visa exemption was passed in 2017, but full implementation was postponed to January 2019 (Lusa, 2018).
Second, in 2018 the government proposed transforming the country’s 10 islands into 11 regions – with Santiago Island consisting of two regions – with the aim of fostering development by granting the islands greater autonomy (Inforpress, 2018).
Findings from the 2017 Afrobarometer survey show that Cabo Verdeans are keenly aware of their economic vulnerability – only small minorities describe the economic situation as good. Even so, a majority oppose granting visa exemptions to EU passport holders, which many fear will increase crime.
Citizens are more likely to favour than to oppose making regionalization of the islands a priority, although almost half are not adequately informed on the issue.