Guinea Bissau

Republic of Guinea-Bissau
Population 1,530,653  ( 2015 National Institute of Statistic Guinea Bissau Estimate)
Independence 1973, Portugal
Languages Portuguese (official), Crioulo, French, English
Form of government Republic
GDP (2014) $1.02 billion; per capita (2014): $1.400

 

Guinea-Bissau, a West African country bordered by Senegal to the north and Guinea to the east and south, gained its independence from Portugal in 1973. Following an initial period of relative stability after independence, a series of coups caused widespread political and social unrest, human rights violations and extreme poverty.

The most recent coup in April 2012 and subsequent political and economic crisis further destabilized the country, but elections held in 2014 were successful. The new democratically elected president, H.E. José Mário Vaz, and his prime minister appointed a unity cabinet composed of members of the leading party and opposition parties.

The return to constitutional rule in 2014 paved the way for the lifting of international restrictions and re-introduction of major international aid programs. At a March 2015 international donor conference in Brussels, the Government of Guinea-Bissau presented its 2015-2020 Strategic and Operational Plan, highlighting national reconciliation and political stability as key priorities for development.

Government Title Name
President H.E.José Mário VAZ
Prime Minister H.E.  Baciro Djá
Minister of Economy and Finance H.E. Geraldo  MARTINS
g7+ Focal Point Mr. Cheik Amadu Bamba KOTE, Advisor, Ministry of Economy and Finance

New Deal Implementation

Guinea-Bissau joined the g7+ in 2010 and has endorsed the New Deal. A Fragility Assessment was launched in early 2014 and a joint technical mission of the International Dialogue for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding was conducted in November 2014.

The president is the chief of state, and is elected in five-year terms with no term limits. The head of government is the prime minister, who is appointed by the president in consultation with parliamentary leaders. The cabinet is appointed by the president in consultation with the prime minister.

The parliament is the National Assembly; its 100-102 members are directly elected in four-year terms. The most recent legislative elections were held in 2014, and were declared by many to be the most free and fair in the country’s existence; voter turnout exceeded record levels. The next elections are scheduled for 2018. The president’s party holds 57 seats in parliament, and the main opposition party holds 41 seats. Three small opposition parties hold 1-3 seats each.

Extended political instability in Guinea-Bissau has led to slow economic development and high rates of poverty. Poverty has increased since 2002; now, one out of every three people in Guinea-Bissau lives in extreme poverty. Maternal and infant mortality is high, access to water and sanitation is limited, and stunting is prevalent. Insufficient infrastructure leads to shortages in food, medical supplies and delivery of social services. The international community was largely absent from Guinea-Bissau until early 2015, when donors pledged investments of $1 billion to support the democratically elected government’s new development plan.

The Government of Guinea-Bissau has taken concrete steps to improve socioeconomic development, including renewing efforts to pay public wages, keep schools open, and improve access to water and electricity services. Guinea-Bissau’s 2015-2020 Strategic and Operational Plan, entitled Terra Ranca, or “Fresh Start,” highlights several priority areas for further government and development partner focus: (1) Strengthening the public sector; (2) Improving provision of basic public services; (3) Supporting the revival of productive sectors, including cashews, rice, fisheries, and extractive industries, with attention to natural resource protection; and (4) Fostering private investment.

The government has expressed its commitment to leverage development partner investments to promote private sector growth. Cashew nuts are Guinea-Bissau’s main export, comprising up to 90 percent of the country’s total export market. The majority of cashews are produced by smallholder farmers. Rice is produced for local consumption, but does not reach urban areas (where rice is imported) or export markets. Food and fuel are Guinea-Bissau’s primary imports. Inflation is stable in part due to Guinea-Bissau’s 1997 adoption of the West African CFA franc, joining neighboring countries Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo in the CFA Franc Zone. 

Fertile soil and an abundance of human resources in agriculture offers opportunity for foreign investment in agribusiness. In the extractive industries, timber, mining and offshore oil production are growing sectors. Poor infrastructure, weak judicial systems and high costs of services like energy are constraints to private sector growth, but are being addressed by the current government. The country is on an upward trajectory: economic growth is expected to reach 4.7 percent in 2015, up from 2.6 percent in 2014.