The Republic of Guinea-Bissau is a country in western Africa and one of the smallest nations in continental Africa. It is bordered by Senegal to the north, and Guinea to the south and east, with the Atlantic Ocean to its west.

Background History

Since independence from Portugal in 1974, Guinea-Bissau has experienced considerable political and military upheaval. In 1980, a military coup established authoritarian dictator Joao Bernardo 'Nino' Vieira as president. Despite setting a path to a market economy and multiparty system, Vieira's regime was characterized by the suppression of political opposition and the purging of political rivals. Several coup attempts through the 1980s and early 1990s failed to unseat him. In 1994 Vieira was elected president in the country's first free elections. A military mutiny and resulting civil war in 1998 eventually led to Vieira's ouster in May 1999. In February 2000, a transitional government turned over power to opposition leader Kumba Yala after he was elected president in transparent polling. In September 2003, after only three years in office, Yala was ousted by the military in a bloodless coup, and businessman Henrique Rosa was sworn in as interim president. In 2005, former President Vieira was re-elected president pledging to pursue economic development and national reconciliation; he was assassinated in March 2009. Malam Bacai Sanha was elected in an emergency election held in June 2009. He passed away in January 2012 and a Presidential election has been scheduled for 18 March.


Country Name:

  • conventional long form: Republic of Guinea-Bissau
  • conventional short form: Guinea-Bissau
  • local long form: Republica da Guine-Bissau
  • local short form: Guine-Bissau
  • former name: Portuguese Guinea


  • name: Bissau
  • population: 302,000
  • geographic coordinates: 11 51 N, 15 35 W
  • time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)


  • 24 September 1973 (declared); 10 September 1974 (from Portugal)

Government Type:

  • Republic

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: President Raimundo PEREIRA (Acting), who, as Parliamentary Speaker in accordance with the Constitution, succeeded President SANHA following his death on 9 January 2012
  • head of government: Prime Minister Adiato Diallo Nandigna, Acting (since 10 February 2012)
  • cabinet: NA
  • elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (no term limits)

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: unicameral National People's Assembly

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Supreme Court; Regional Courts; Sectoral Courts

People & Society


  • 1,628,603 (global rank: 152)
  • growth rate: 1.971% (global rank: 54)


  • noun: Guinean(s)
  • adjective: Guinean

Major Cities:

  • Bissau (capital): 302,000

Ethnic Groups:

  • African 99% (includes Balanta 30%, Fula 20%, Manjaca 14%, Mandinga 13%, Papel 7%), European and mulatto less than 1%


  • Muslim 85%, Christian 8%, indigenous beliefs 7%


  • Portuguese (official), Crioulo, African languages

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 49.11 years (global rank: 220)
  • male: 47.16 years
  • female: 51.11 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 94.4 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 6)
  • male: 104.25 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 84.26 deaths/1,000 live births


  • adult prevalence rate: 2.5% (2009 est.) (global rank: 26)
  • people living with AIDS: 22,000 (2009 est.) (global rank: 74)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 42.4%
  • male: 58.1%
  • female: 27.4%



One of the poorest countries in the world, Guinea-Bissau's legal economy depends mainly on farming and fishing, but trafficking narcotics is probably the most lucrative trade. The combination of limited economic prospects, a weak and faction-ridden government, and favorable geography have made this West African country a way station for drugs bound for Europe. Cashew crops have increased remarkably in recent years; low rainfall hindered cereals and other crops in 2011. Guinea-Bissau exports fish and seafood along with small amounts of peanuts, palm kernels, and timber. Rice is the major crop and staple food. However, intermittent fighting between Senegalese-backed government troops and a military junta destroyed much of the country's infrastructure and caused widespread damage to the economy in 1998; the civil war led to a 28% drop in GDP that year, with partial recovery in 1999-2002. In December 2003, the World Bank, IMF, and UNDP were forced to step in to provide emergency budgetary support in the amount of $107 million for 2004, representing over 80% of the total national budget. The government is successfully implementing a three-year $33 million extended credit arrangement with the IMF that runs through 2012. Guinea-Bissau made progress with debt relief in 2011 when members of the Paris Club opted to write-off much of the country's obligations.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $1.938 billion (global rank: 189)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $1,100 (global rank: 210)
  • real growth rate: 4.8% (global rank: 82)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 55.7%, industry: 12.7%, services: 31.6%


  • currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine Franc (XOF)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 473.7

Agricultural Products:

  • rice, corn, beans, cassava (manioc), cashew nuts, peanuts, palm kernels, cotton; timber; fish


  • agricultural products processing, beer, soft drinks

Exports Commodities:

  • fish, shrimp; cashew nuts, peanuts, palm kernels, sawn lumber

Imports Commodities:

  • foodstuffs, machinery and transport equipment, petroleum products



  • Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea and Senegal


  • total: 36,125 sq km (global rank: 138)
  • land: 28,120 sq km
  • water: 8,005 sq km
  • comparative: slightly less than three times the size of Connecticut


  • tropical; generally hot and humid; monsoonal-type rainy season (June to November) with southwesterly winds; dry season (December to May) with northeasterly harmattan winds

Land Use:

  • arable land: 8.31%
  • permanent crops: 6.92%
  • other: 84.77%

Natural Resources:

  • fish, timber, phosphates, bauxite, clay, granite, limestone, unexploited deposits of petroleum

Current Environmental Issues:

  • deforestation; soil erosion; overgrazing; overfishing

Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: in 2006, political instability within Senegal's Casamance region resulted in thousands of Senegalese refugees, cross-border raids, and arms smuggling into Guinea-Bissau
  • refugees (country of origin): 7,454 (Senegal)
  • human traficking: Guinea-Bissau is a country of origin for children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; the scope of the problem of trafficking women or men for forced labor or forced prostitution is unknown; boys reportedly were transported to southern Senegal for forced manual and agricultural labor; girls may be subjected to forced domestic service and child prostitution in Senegal
  • illicit drugs: increasingly important transit country for South American cocaine enroute to Europe; enabling environment for trafficker operations thanks to pervasive corruption; archipelago-like geography around the capital facilitates drug smuggling

Published: Thursday, September 04, 2008