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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Caribbean of Europe ... but who in Cape Verde has ever studied the Caribbean?

Cape Verde has an excellent track record in tourism of which it should be proud. The number of tourists visiting Cape Verde is growing at a double digit annual pace. The total number of tourists should surpass half-million in 2011-12. That's more than the entire population of Cape Verde!

Most of the tourists come from Europe. Cape Verde, in a few short years, has become the number one destination for vacationers in the United Kingdom. It was already very popular among the other Western European nations, such as Italy, Germany and France as a vacation destination. This is a testament to the investment incentives that the Cape Verde government has provided to encourage tourism.

This has lead to huge tourism development in Sal and Boa Vista as well as Santiago and Sao Vicente. Investors also have their sights set on Maio.

Because of the tropical island setting, the beautiful beaches and the warmth and hospitality of its people, Cape Verde has rightly been called, the "Caribbean of Europe." That is quite an accolade. However, Cape Verde should not become complacent. Each of the actual Caribbean countries that are dependent on tourism far out-pace Cape Verde in terms of foreign investments in tourism, numbers of tourists, and contributions of tourism to GDP.

The point here is simply to say that Cape Verde could learn a thing or two ... or three ... from the Caribbean. The similarities are astounding. For example, the Caribbean not only attracts Europeans and European investors like Cape Verde, but it also attracts hundreds of thousands if not millions of Americans annually.

The most interesting observation I would make, is that I am completely unaware of any attempt by Cape Verde to establish any sort of diplomatic, trade or exchange links with any of the Caribbean states from whom it can learn a great deal. Yes, surely there are certain barriers such as language. But those are actually not barriers at all. Cape Verde and the Caribbean government all deal with other countries with whom they do not share a common language. Interestingly enough, many Cape Verdeans speak English among other languages.

Moreover, it never ceases to amaze me how close Cape Verdeans are to their Caribbean counterparts in other respects. For example, the music, food and culture are quite similar. After all, the influences are identical - a mixture of African and European ancestry. There are more similarities than there are differences when you look at it. However, no one in Cape Verde is "looking at it" when it comes to the Caribbean.

Instead, Cape Verde tends to pattern itself after Portugal even though it has been independent of Portugal for almost four decades. Clearly, there are certain things for which Cape Verde had to and still continues to rely on Portugal. But many of the Caribbean countries have been independent for just as long or longer and have long escaped the clutches of their colonial masters! It is high time Cape Verde learns to follow suit. I see more in common with the Caribbean, but Cape Verde does not seem to recognize it.

In my opinion, it is this irrational lingual connection to Portugal - an economically challenged country in Europe - that holds Cape Verde back from its true potential. Cape Verde should make every effort to establish ties with its counterparts in the Caribbean, like Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, the Bahamas, Aruba/Curacao/Bonnaire (where they even speak a dialect that is almost identical to Kriolu) among others. It is surprising that this step was not taken many years ago.

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