Guinea-Bissau

Introduction

Introduction

Guinea-Bissau , officially the Republic of Guinea-Bissau , is a country in West Africa. It covers 36,125 square kilometres (13,948 sq mi) with an estimated population of 1,704,000.

Guinea-Bissau was once part of the kingdom of Gabu, as well as part of the Mali Empire. Parts of this kingdom persisted until the 18th century, while a few others were under some rule by the Portuguese Empire since the 16th century. In the 19th century, it was colonized as Portuguese Guinea. Upon independence, declared in 1973 and recognised in 1974, the name of its capital, Bissau, was added to the country's name to prevent confusion with Guinea (formerly French Guinea). Guinea-Bissau has a history of political instability since independence, and no elected president has successfully served a full five-year term.

Only 14% of the population speaks Portuguese, established as the official language in the colonial period. Almost half the population (44%) speaks Crioulo, a Portuguese-based creole language, and the remainder speak a variety of native African languages. The main religions are African traditional religions and Islam; there is a Christian (mostly Roman Catholic) minority. The country's per-capita gross domestic product is one of the lowest in the world.

Guinea-Bissau is a member of the United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of West African States, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Latin Union, Community of Portuguese Language Countries, La Francophonie and the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone.


Demographics

According to the 2010 revision of the UN World Population Prospects, Guinea-Bissau's population was 1,515,000 in 2010, compared to 518,000 in 1950. The proportion of the population below the age of 15 in 2010 was 41.3%, 55.4% were aged between 15 and 65 years of age, while 3.3% were aged 65 years or older.

Ethnic groups

The population of Guinea-Bissau is ethnically diverse and has many distinct languages, customs, and social structures.

Bissau-Guineans can be divided into the following ethnic groups:

  • Fula and the Mandinka-speaking people, who comprise the largest portion of the population and are concentrated in the north and northeast;
  • Balanta and Papel people, who live in the southern coastal regions; and
  • Manjaco and Mancanha, who occupy the central and northern coastal areas.

Most of the remainder are mestiços of mixed Portugueseand African descent, including a Cape Verdean minority.

Portuguese natives comprise a very small percentage of Bissau-Guineans. After Guinea-Bissau gained independence, most of the Portuguese nationals left the country. The country has a tiny Chinese population. These include traders and merchants of mixed Portuguese and Chinese ancestry from Macau, a former Asian Portuguese colony.

Religion

Throughout the 20th century, most Bissau-Guineans practiced some form of Animism. In the early 21st century, many have adopted Islam, which is now practiced by 50% of the country's population. Most of Guinea-Bissau's Muslims are of the Sunni denomination with approximately 2% belonging to the Ahmadiyyasect.

Approximately 10% of the country's population belong to the Christian community, and 40% continue to hold Indigenous beliefs. These statistics can be misleading, however, as many residents practice syncretic forms of Islamic and Christian faiths, combining their practices with traditional African beliefs.

Roman Catholic Church claims most of Christian community.


Geography

Guinea-Bissau is bordered by Senegal to the north and Guineato the south and east, with the Atlantic Ocean to its west. It lies mostly between latitudes 11° and 13°N (a small area is south of 11°), and longitudes 13°and 17°W.

At 36,125 square kilometres (13,948 sq mi), the country is larger in size than Taiwan or Belgium. It lies at a low altitude; its highest point is 300 metres (984 ft). The terrain of is mostly low coastal plain with swamps of Guinean mangroves rising to Guinean forest-savanna mosaic in the east. Its monsoon-like rainy season alternates with periods of hot, dry harmattan winds blowing from the Sahara. The Bijagos Archipelago lies off of the mainland.


Climate

Guinea-Bissau is warm all year around and there is little temperature fluctuation; it averages 26.3 °C (79.3 °F). The average rainfall for Bissau is 2,024 millimetres (79.7 in) although this is almost entirely accounted for during the rainy season which falls between June and September/October. From December through April, the country experiences drought.


Economy

Guinea-Bissau's GDP per capitais one of the lowest in the world, and its Human Development Index is one of the lowest on earth. More than two-thirds of the population lives below the poverty line. The economy depends mainly on agriculture; fish, cashew nuts and ground nuts are its major exports.

A long period of political instability has resulted in depressed economic activity, deteriorating social conditions, and increased macroeconomic imbalances. It takes longer on average to register a new business in Guinea-Bissau (233 days or about 33 weeks) than in any other country in the world except Suriname.

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 key challenges for the country in the period ahead are to achieve fiscal discipline, rebuild public administration, improve the economic climate for private investment, and promote economic diversification. After the country became independent from Portugal in 1974 due to the Portuguese Colonial War and the Carnation Revolution, the rapid exodus of the Portuguese civilian, military, and political authorities resulted in considerable damage to the country's economic infrastructure, social order, and standard of living.

After several years of economic downturn and political instability, in 1997, Guinea-Bissau entered the CFA franc monetary system, bringing about some internal monetary stability. The civil war that took place in 1998 and 1999, and a military coup in September 2003 again disrupted economic activity, leaving a substantial part of the economic and social infrastructure in ruins and intensifying the already widespread poverty. Following the parliamentary elections in March 2004 and presidential elections in July 2005, the country is trying to recover from the long period of instability, despite a still-fragile political situation.

Beginning around 2005, drug traffickers based in Latin America began to use Guinea-Bissau, along with several neighboring West African nations, as a transshipment point to Europe for cocaine. The nation was described by a United Nations official as being at risk for becoming a "narco-state". The government and the military have done little to stop drug trafficking, which increased after the 2012 coup d'état.

Guinea-Bissau is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA).

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