Guinea Bissau
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Brief History

Guinea-Bissau, officially known as the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, was declared to be independent as of September 24, 1973, but became independent from Portugal on September 24, 1973. In 1980, a military coup established authoritarian dictator Joao Bernardo 'Nino' Vieira as president, whose regime was characterized by the suppression of political opposition and the purging of political rivals. In July 1994, Guinea-Bissau held its first multiparty legislative and presidential elections. João Bernardo Vieira was elected president, given that prior coup attempts in the 1980s failed to unseat him. However, an army uprising in 1998 led to the president's ousting and the Guinea-Bissau Civil War. Another coup occured when the new president Yala was ousted and businessman Rosa became in power. Vieira was re-elected as president in 2005 only to be assassinated four years later. The current president is Malam Bacai Sanha who was placed in power after emergency elections in June 2009.


Guinea-Bissau, capital Bissau, is located in Western Africa covering an area of 36,125 square kilometers. It is bordered by Senegal to the north and Guinea to the south and east, with the Atlantic Ocean to its west. Guinea-Bissau has a hot, humid, typically tropical climate, with a rainy season that lasts from June to November and a cooler dry season occupying the rest of the year. It has a hot, humid, typically tropical climate, with a rainy season that lasts from June to November and a cooler dry season occupying the rest of the year. The most important rivers include the Cacheu, Mansoa, Geba, and Corubal. The natural resources that Guinea-Bissau is known for are fish, timber, phosphates, bauxite, clay, granite, limestone, and unexploited deposits of petroleum.


Guinea-Bissau has a population of 1,565,126 (2010). 99% of the population includes the following ethnic groups: Balanta, Fula, Manjaca, Mandinga, and Papel. Non- indigenous people make up the remaining 1%. The official language is Portuguese. Crioulo and African languages are also spoken. The literacy rate is 42.4% (2003). Its religions are distributed among 50% Muslims, 40% followers of indigenous beliefs, and 10% Christians. There is also a small foreign community, consisting mainly of Portuguese and of Lebanese and Syrian merchants.


The government of Guinea-Bissau is subject to a republic system. Its legal system is based on French civil law. It accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction. The chief of state is President Malam Bacai Sanha since September 8, 2009. The head of government is Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior since December 25, 2008. The official currency is the West African CFA franc where 655.957 francs are equivalent to US$1.


Guinea-Bissau is one of the six poorest countries in the world with 88% of the population below the poverty line (2002), and with GDP per capita of US$600 in 2009. A long period of political instability has resulted in depressed economic activity, deteriorating social conditions and infrastructure, and increased macroeconomic imbalances, however, Guinea-Bissau has started to show some economic advances after a pact of stability was signed by the main political parties of the country, leading to an IMF-backed structural reform program. The tightening of monetary policy and the development of the private sector had also begun to reinvigorate the economy, but that was not a near-term prospect due to several factors.

82% of the population relies on fishing and subsistence agriculture. Guinea-Bissau exports fish and seafood along with small amounts of peanuts, palm kernels, and timber, while tobacco, coconuts, sugar and palm kernels are also grown for export. Food crops include rice, plantains, maize, cassava, sorghum, millet, sweet potatoes and beans, most of which are produced by subsistence farmers.Rice is the major crop and staple food.

The Guinea-Bissau oil industry is dependent on the importation of all petroleum products. Other industries include agricultural products processing, beer, and soft drinks.

There is a fledgling mining industry which offers some investment potential. Although there is potential for gold, phosphate, bauxite and oil mining, at present the costs of exploration are more than the country can afford. In 2001, mining activities were limited to small-scale production of clay, granite, limestone, and sand. Bauxite, diamonds, gold, and phosphate were economically promising minerals being explored.

In December 2003, the World Bank, IMF, and UNDP were forced to step in to provide emergency budgetary support which represented over 80% of the total national budget. Government drift and indecision, however, resulted in continued low growth in 2002-06.

The inflation rate is 3.8% (2007) and the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is estimated to be US$ 245.22 (2010).

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