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Presentation of Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha Islands

Member state: United Kingdom
Surface area (km2): St Helena 121, Ascension 88, Tristan da Cunha 98
Population: 4257 St Helena (2008 Census) 4177 estimated at May 2011, 710 Ascension (2008 Census), 260 Tristan da Cunha (May 2010)
Capital: Jamestown (St Helena), Georgetown (Ascension), Edinburgh of the Seven Seas (Tristan da Cunha)


South Atlantic Ocean. St Helena (15056’S, 5043’W) is 1287km southeast of Ascension
(7056’S, 14025’W and 2430km north of Tristan da Cunha (3704’S, 12019’W)


The islands are of volcanic origin and have significant endemic flora and fauna. St Helena is very hilly, barren around the coast and green inland. Ascension is largely arid, rising to a peak which is green. Tristan da Cunha is mostly steep, rising to a peak of 2,062m. In previous centuries there was a large-scale destruction of vegetation on St Helena and Ascension. Rock falls are a hazard to Jamestown thus protection works have been installed.


St Helena has a maritime climate that is kept mild by the southeast trade winds. Temperatures in Jamestown, on the north leeward coast, range from 15oC to 32oC and tend to be 5oC to 6oC lower at higher altitudes. The climate of Ascension is tropical and the climate of Tristan da Cunha is subtropical.

Economic activities

St Helena depends heavily upon budgetary support from Britain (£13,863,000 in 2009/2010), but produces some income, primarily from agriculture, fishing and tourism. Ascension has a small British and American presence, but no significant economic activity. Tristan da Cunha has a fishing industry.

Political and administrative status

The constitution of St Helena provides for the office of a Governor, an Executive Council and a Legislative Council. Members of the Legislative Council are elected and five are nominated to serve on Executive council. The Ascension Island and Tristan Da Cunha Governments are headed by Administrators who report to the Governor and work with an elected Island Council.


Primary and secondary education is provided on all three islands. On St Helena, the Adult and Vocational Education Centre offer some vocational and distance-learning qualifications that are recognised in the UK. All other tertiary education must be obtained abroad.


Improving physical access to enable economic development

St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (TDC) are small, isolated islands largely lacking commercially exploitable natural resources. Both St Helena and Tristan da Cunha are accessible only by sea whereas Ascension Island has a military airport. Thus improving access to St Helena and TDC is considered a priority. In 2010 the British Government provisionally agreed to fund an airport on St Helena providing all targets of the "Memorandum of Understanding" are met. These targets centre on the need for SHG to implement new policies which will encourage investment in the island’s economy and also increase the number of tourists visiting St Helena on an annual basis. The resulting economic growth is hoped to help the island become self sufficient, reducing its financial dependence on Britain.
The current infrastructure on St Helena is inadequate to facilitate and sustain future development therefore improvements are being made to St Helena’s wharf under the 9th and 10th European Development Fund. The construction of a new Customs and Passenger Terminal building is near completion and the wharf has been widened to enable safer, more efficient wharf operations. Construction of safer landing facilities - a breakwater and ancillary works primarily funded from the 10th EDF territorial allocation for which the Single Programming Document and Financing Agreement have been signed - are due to commence in 2012. With the provision of safer landing the number of cruise ships visiting the island should increase, thus contributing to expansion of the island’s tourism industry. On 3 November 2011, the contract for provision of an airport was formally signed with Basil Read (Pty) Ltd for the design, build and operation of the airport. This is momentous news for St Helena. The airport will be the largest single investment ever made in our island.
St Helena can now look forward to overcoming the barriers associated with poor physical access that have impeded its sustainable development since its discovery.