Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha - SH - SHN - Africa

Last updated: April 18, 2024
Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha flag
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Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha Factbook Data

Dependency status

overseas territory of the UK

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: none (overseas territory of the UK)

Transportation - note

the new airport on Saint Helena opened for limited operations in July 2016, and the first commercial flight took place on 14 October 2017, marking the start of weekly air service between Saint Helena and South Africa via Namibia; the military airport on Ascension Island is closed to civilian traffic; there is no air connection to Tristan da Cunha and very limited sea connections making it one of the most isolated communities on the planet

Age structure

0-14 years: 14.48% (male 586/female 563)

15-64 years: 66.87% (male 2,640/female 2,666)

65 years and over: 18.65% (2023 est.) (male 753/female 727)
2023 population pyramid
This is the population pyramid for Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha. A population pyramid illustrates the age and sex structure of a country's population and may provide insights about political and social stability, as well as economic development. The population is distributed along the horizontal axis, with males shown on the left and females on the right. The male and female populations are broken down into 5-year age groups represented as horizontal bars along the vertical axis, with the youngest age groups at the bottom and the oldest at the top. The shape of the population pyramid gradually evolves over time based on fertility, mortality, and international migration trends.

For additional information, please see the entry for Population pyramid on the Definitions and Notes page.

Geographic coordinates

Saint Helena: 15 57 S, 5 42 W;

Ascension Island: 7 57 S, 14 22 W;

Tristan da Cunha island group: 37 15 S, 12 30 W

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 1.04 male(s)/female

total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2023 est.)

Natural hazards

active volcanism on Tristan da Cunha

volcanism: the island volcanoes of Tristan da Cunha (2,060 m) and Nightingale Island (365 m) experience volcanic activity; Tristan da Cunha erupted in 1962 and Nightingale in 2004

Area - comparative

slightly more than twice the size of Washington, DC


Saint Helena is a British Overseas Territory consisting of Saint Helena and Ascension Islands, and the island group of Tristan da Cunha.

Saint Helena: Uninhabited when first discovered by the Portuguese in 1502, Saint Helena was garrisoned by the British during the 17th century. It acquired fame as the place of Napoleon BONAPARTE's exile from 1815 until his death in 1821, but its importance as a port of call declined after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. During the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa, several thousand Boer prisoners were confined on the island between 1900 and 1903.

Saint Helena is one of the most remotely populated places in the world. The British Government committed to building an airport on Saint Helena in 2005. After more than a decade of delays and construction, a commercial air service to South Africa via Namibia was inaugurated in October of 2017. The weekly service to Saint Helena from Johannesburg via Windhoek in Namibia takes just over six hours (including the refueling stop in Windhoek) and replaces the mail ship that had made a five-day journey to the island every three weeks.

Ascension Island: This barren and uninhabited island was discovered and named by the Portuguese in 1503. The British garrisoned the island in 1815 to prevent a rescue of NAPOLEON from Saint Helena. It served as a provisioning station for the Royal Navy's West Africa Squadron on anti-slavery patrol. The island remained under Admiralty control until 1922, when it became a dependency of Saint Helena. During World War II, the UK permitted the US to construct an airfield on Ascension in support of transatlantic flights to Africa and anti-submarine operations in the South Atlantic. In the 1960s the island became an important space tracking station for the US. In 1982, Ascension was an essential staging area for British forces during the Falklands War. It remains a critical refueling point in the air-bridge from the UK to the South Atlantic.

The island hosts one of four dedicated ground antennas that assist in the operation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation system (the others are on Diego Garcia (British Indian Ocean Territory), Kwajalein (Marshall Islands), and at Cape Canaveral, Florida (US)). NASA and the US Air Force also operate a Meter-Class Autonomous Telescope (MCAT) on Ascension as part of the deep space surveillance system for tracking orbital debris, which can be a hazard to spacecraft and astronauts.

Tristan da Cunha: The island group consists of Tristan da Cunha, Nightingale, Inaccessible, and Gough Islands. Tristan da Cunha, named after its Portuguese discoverer (1506), was garrisoned by the British in 1816 to prevent any attempt to rescue NAPOLEON from Saint Helena. Gough and Inaccessible Islands have been designated World Heritage Sites. South Africa leases a site for a meteorological station on Gough Island.

Environment - current issues

development threatens unique biota on Saint Helena

Population below poverty line


Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA

highest 10%: NA

Exports - commodities

crustaceans, fish, integrated circuits, air conditioners, clothing and apparel (2019)

Administrative divisions

3 administrative areas; Ascension, Saint Helena, Tristan da Cunha

Agricultural products

coffee, corn, potatoes, vegetables; fish, lobster; livestock; timber


revenues: $8.427 million (FY06/07 est.)

expenditures: $20.7 million (FY06/07 est.)

note: revenue data reflect only locally raised revenues; the budget deficit is resolved by grant aid from the UK


name: Jamestown

geographic coordinates: 15 56 S, 5 43 W

time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: founded in 1659 and named after James, Duke of York, who would become King JAMES II of England (r. 1785-1788)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, cranes, communion wafers, iron sheeting, cars and vehicle parts (2019)


Saint Helena: tropical marine; mild, tempered by trade winds;

Ascension Island: tropical marine; mild, semi-arid;

Tristan da Cunha: temperate marine; mild, tempered by trade winds (tends to be cooler than Saint Helena)


Saint Helena: 60 km
Ascension Island: NA
Tristan da Cunha (island only): 34 km


history: several previous; latest effective 1 September 2009 (St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Constitution Order 2009)

Exchange rates

Saint Helenian pounds (SHP) per US dollar -

Exchange rates:
0.7836 (2017 est.)
0.6542 (2016 est.)
0.6542 (2015)
0.607 (2014 est.)
0.6391 (2013 est.)

Executive branch

chief of state: King CHARLES III (since 8 September 2022)

head of government: Governor Nigel PHILLIPS (since 13 August 2022)

cabinet: Executive Council consists of the governor, 3 ex-officio officers, and 5 elected members of the Legislative Council

elections/appointments: none; the monarchy is hereditary; governor appointed by the monarch

note: the constitution order provides for an administrator for Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, appointed by the governor

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Flag description

blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and the Saint Helenian shield centered on the outer half of the flag; the upper third of the shield depicts a white plover (wire bird) on a yellow field; the remainder of the shield depicts a rocky coastline on the left, offshore is a three-masted sailing ship with sails furled but flying an English flag


none (overseas territory of the UK)


construction, crafts (furniture, lacework, fancy woodwork), fishing, collectible postage stamps

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Court of Appeal (consists of the court president and 2 justices); Supreme Court (consists of the chief justice - a nonresident - and NA judges); note - appeals beyond the Court of Appeal are heard by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (in London)

judge selection and term of office: Court of Appeal and Supreme Court justices appointed by the governor acting upon the instructions from a secretary of state acting on behalf of King CHARLES III; justices of both courts serve until retirement at age 70, but terms can be extended

subordinate courts: Magistrates' Court; Small Claims Court; Juvenile Court

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Land use

agricultural land: 30.8% (2018 est.)

arable land: 10.3% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 20.5% (2018 est.)

forest: 5.1% (2018 est.)

other: 64.1% (2018 est.)

Legal system

English common law and local statutes

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Legislative Council (17 seats including the speaker and deputy speaker; 12 members directly elected in a single countrywide constituency by simple majority vote and 3 ex-officio members - the chief secretary, financial secretary, and attorney general; members serve 4-year terms)

elections: last held on 13 October 2021 (next to be held in 2025)

election results: percent of vote - NA; seats by party - independent 12; composition - men 14, women 3, percent women 17.6%

note: the Constitution Order provides for separate Island Councils for both Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm

International organization participation


National holiday

Official birthday of King Charles III, April or June as designated by the governor


noun: Saint Helenian(s)

adjective: Saint Helenian

note: referred to locally as "Saints"

Natural resources

fish, lobster

Geography - note

Saint Helena harbors at least 40 species of plants unknown elsewhere in the world; Ascension is a breeding ground for sea turtles and sooty terns; Queen Mary's Peak on Tristan da Cunha is the highest island mountain in the South Atlantic and a prominent landmark on the sea lanes around southern Africa

Economic overview

upper middle-income, British Atlantic Ocean territorial economy; native (but pegged to British pound) currency user on 2 of 3 islands; significant UK financial support; unique land/farming commune structure; military-related economic activity; sport fishing locale

Political parties and leaders


Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Saint Helena

Saint Helena: Jamestown

Ascension Island: Georgetown

Tristan da Cunha: Calshot Harbor (Edinburgh)


18 years of age

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: capability to communicate worldwide; ADSL- broadband service; LTE coverage of 95% of population, includes voice calls, text messages, mobile data as well as inbound and outbound roaming; Wi-Fi hotspots in Jamestown, 1 ISP, many services are not offered locally but made available for visitors; some sun outages due to the reliance of international telephone and Internet communication relying on single satellite link (2020)

domestic: automatic digital network; fixed-line is 74 per 100 and mobile-cellular is 74 per 100 persons (2021)

international: country code (Saint Helena) - 290, (Ascension Island) - 247; landing point for the SaEx1 submarine cable providing connectivity to South Africa, Brazil, Virginia Beach (US) and islands in Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan de Cunha; international direct dialing; satellite voice and data communications; satellite earth stations - 5 (Ascension Island - 4, Saint Helena - 1) (2019)


the islands of this group are of volcanic origin associated with the Atlantic Mid-Ocean Ridge

Saint Helena: rugged, volcanic; small scattered plateaus and plains;

Ascension: surface covered by lava flows and cinder cones of 44 dormant volcanoes; terrain rises to the east;

Tristan da Cunha: sheer cliffs line the coastline of the nearly circular island; the flanks of the central volcanic peak are deeply dissected; narrow coastal plain lies between The Peak and the coastal cliffs

Government type

parliamentary democracy

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of the UK

Communications - note

Ascension Island hosts one of four dedicated ground antennas that assist in the operation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation system (the others are on Diego Garcia (British Indian Ocean Territory), Kwajalein (Marshall Islands), and at Cape Canaveral, Florida (US)); South Africa maintains a meteorological station on Gough Island in the Tristan da Cunha archipelago

Country name

conventional long form: Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha

conventional short form: none

etymology: Saint Helena was discovered in 1502 by Galician navigator Joao da NOVA, sailing in the service of the Kingdom of Portugal, who named it "Santa Helena"; Ascension was named in 1503 by Portuguese navigator Afonso de ALBUQUERQUE who sighted the island on the Feast Day of the Ascension; Tristan da Cunha was discovered in 1506 by Portuguese explorer Tristao da CUNHA who christened the main island after himself (the name was subsequently anglicized)


islands in the South Atlantic Ocean, about midway between South America and Africa; Ascension Island lies 1,300 km (800 mi) northwest of Saint Helena; Tristan da Cunha lies 4,300 km (2,700 mi) southwest of Saint Helena

Map references


Irrigated land

0 sq km (2022)

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (overseas territory of the UK)

Internet country code

.sh; note - Ascension Island assigned .ac


urban population: 40.7% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 0.98% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Broadcast media

Saint Helena has no local TV station; 2 local radio stations, one of which is relayed to Ascension Island; satellite TV stations rebroadcast terrestrially; Ascension Island has no local TV station but has 1 local radio station and receives relays of broadcasts from 1 radio station on Saint Helena; broadcasts from the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) are available, as well as TV services for the US military; Tristan da Cunha has 1 local radio station and receives BFBS TV and radio broadcasts

National anthem

note: as an overseas territory of the UK, "God Save the King" is official (see United Kingdom)
This is an audio of the National Anthem for Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha. The national anthem is generally a patriotic musical composition - usually in the form of a song or hymn of praise - that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions, or struggles of a nation or its people. National anthems can be officially recognized as a national song by a country's constitution or by an enacted law, or simply by tradition. Although most anthems contain lyrics, some do not.

Major urban areas - population

1,000 JAMESTOWN (capital) (2018)

National symbol(s)

Saint Helena plover (bird)
Coat of Arms of Saint Helena
The coat of arms of Saint Helena were officially granted on January 30, 1984. The arms show in the chief the national bird, the Saint Helena Plover (Charadrius sanctaehelenae). The lower part of the shield shows a coastal scene of the island, a three-masted sailing ship with the mountainous island to the left. This is taken from the colonial seal of the colony and shows the flag of England flying from the ship. Below the shield is a scroll with the motto “Loyal and unshakable”. The crest shows an image of Saint Helena, holding a cross and a flower.

Demographic profile

The vast majority of the population of Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha live on Saint Helena. Ascension has no indigenous or permanent residents and is inhabited only by persons contracted to work on the island (mainly with the UK and US military or in the space and communications industries) or their dependents, while Tristan da Cunha – the main island in a small archipelago – has fewer than 300 residents. The population of Saint Helena consists of the descendants of 17th century British sailors and settlers from the East India Company, African slaves, and indentured servants and laborers from India, Indonesia, and China. Most of the population of Ascension are Saint Helenians, Britons, and Americans, while that of Tristan da Cunha descends from shipwrecked sailors and Saint Helenians.

Change in Saint Helena’s population size is driven by net outward migration. Since the 1980s, Saint Helena’s population steadily has shrunk and aged as the birth rate has decreased and many working-age residents left for better opportunities elsewhere. The restoration of British citizenship in 2002 accelerated family emigration; from 1998 to 2008 alone, population declined by about 20%.

In the 2010s, the population experienced some temporary growth, as foreigners and returning Saint Helenians, came to build an international airport, but numbers faded as the project reached completion and workers departed. With the airport fully operational, increased access to the remote island has the potential to boost tourism and fishing, provide more jobs for Saint Helenians domestically, and could encourage some ex-patriots to return home. In the meantime, however, Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha have to contend with the needs of an aging population. The elderly population of the islands has risen from an estimated 9.4% in 1998 to 18% in 2022.


see United Kingdom

Population distribution

Saint Helena - population is concentrated in and around the capital Jamestown in the northwest, with another significant cluster in the interior Longwood area; Ascension - largest settlement, and location of most of the population, is Georgetown; Tristan da Cunha - most of the nearly 300 inhabitants live in the northern coastal town of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix


Ethnic groups

St. Helena 82.1%, UK 7.6%, South Africa 3.6%, Ascension 2.8%, other 3.9% (2021 est.)

note: data represent population of Saint Helena by country of birth


Protestant 69.4% (includes Anglican 63.2%, Baptist 2.3%, Salvation Army 2%, Seventh Day Adventist 1.9%), Jehovah's Witness 3.8%, Roman Catholic 2.2%, New Apostolic 1.6%, other Christian 1.4%, other 1.1%, none 9%, unspecified 11.4% (2021 est.)

note: data represent Saint Helena only



Disputes - international

none identified


highest point: Queen Mary's Peak on Tristan da Cunha 2,060 m; Green Mountain on Ascension Island 859 m; Diana's Peak on Saint Helena Island 818 m

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m

Physicians density


Contraceptive prevalence rate


Current health expenditure



total population: NA

male: NA

female: NA

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 68.6 NA

youth dependency ratio: 23.6 NA

elderly dependency ratio: 45.1 NA

potential support ratio: 2.2 (2021) NA

Drinking water source

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 99.1% of population

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 0.9% of population (2020)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 100% of population

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 0% of population (2020)

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2021)

Imports - partners

United Kingdom 65%, South Africa 21% (2019)

Exports - partners

United States 47%, Japan 12%, South Korea 10%, France 9%, Australia 5% (2019)


2 (2024)


production: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

consumption: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

exports: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

imports: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

proven reserves: 0 metric tons (2019 est.)

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 100% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

nuclear: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

solar: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

wind: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

hydroelectricity: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

tide and wave: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

geothermal: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

biomass and waste: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

Natural gas

production: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

consumption: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

exports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

imports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

proven reserves: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)


total petroleum production: 0 bbl/day (2021 est.)

refined petroleum consumption: 100 bbl/day (2019 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate exports: 0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate imports: 0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil estimated reserves: 0 barrels (2021 est.)

Gross reproduction rate

0.78 (2023 est.)

Net migration rate

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2023 est.)

Median age

total: 44.7 years (2023 est.)

male: 44.5 years

female: 44.9 years

Debt - external


Refined petroleum products - imports

65 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate

1.61 children born/woman (2023 est.)


7,935 (2023 est.)

note: Saint Helena's Statistical Office estimated the resident population to be 4,439 in 2021; only Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha islands are inhabited, none of the other nearby islands/islets are

Internet users

total: 2,287 (2021 est.)

percent of population: 37.6% (2021 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

13,000 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from coal and metallurgical coke: 0 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 13,000 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from consumed natural gas: 0 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)


total: 394 sq km

land: 122 sq km Saint Helena Island

water: 0 sq km

88 sq km Ascension Island, 184 sq km Tristan da Cunha island group (includes Tristan (98 sq km), Inaccessible, Nightingale, and Gough islands)


total: 198 km (Saint Helena 138 km, Ascension 40 km, Tristan da Cunha 20 km)

paved: 168 km (Saint Helena 118 km, Ascension 40 km, Tristan da Cunha 10 km)

unpaved: 30 km (2002) (Saint Helena 20 km, Tristan da Cunha 10 km)


2 (2024)

Infant mortality rate

total: 18.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2023 est.)

male: 22.4 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 14.7 deaths/1,000 live births

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 4,000 (2021 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 74 (2021 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 1,000 (2018 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 17 (2020 est.)

Energy consumption per capita

0 Btu/person (2019 est.)

Death rate

8.2 deaths/1,000 population (2023 est.)

Birth rate

9.3 births/1,000 population (2023 est.)


installed generating capacity: 8,000 kW (2020 est.)

consumption: 6.809 million kWh (2019 est.)

exports: 0 kWh (2020 est.)

imports: 0 kWh (2020 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 1.688 million kWh (2019 est.)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight



$20.53 million (2010)

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 4,000 (2021 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 74 (2021 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 80.7 years (2023 est.)

male: 77.8 years

female: 83.7 years

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: NA

industry: NA

services: NA

Education expenditures


Population growth rate

0.11% (2023 est.)