: 𞤘𞤭𞤲𞤫 𞤄𞤭𞤧𞤢𞥄𞤱𞤮 Gine-Bisaawo
, Mandinka: ߖߌߣߍ ߺ ߓߌߛߊߥߏ߫
), officially the Republic of Guinea-Bissau
: República da Guiné-Bissau [ʁɛˈpuβlikɐ ðɐ ɣiˈnɛ βiˈsaw]
), is a country in West Africa
that covers 36,125 square kilometres (13,948 sq mi) with an estimated population of 1,874,303.
It borders Senegal
to the north
to the south-east
Guinea-Bissau was once part of the kingdom of Kaabu
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 colonised 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 only one elected president (José Mário Vaz
) has successfully served a full five-year term.
The current president is Umaro Sissoco Embaló
, who was elected on 29 December 2019.
Only about 2% of the population speaks Portuguese, the official language, as a first language, and 33% speak it as a second language. However, Creole
is the national language and also considered the language of unity. According to a 2012 study, 54% of the population speak Creole as a first language and about 40% speak it as a second language.
The remainder speak a variety of native African languages. There are diverse religions in Guinea-Bissau. Christianity
are the main religions
practised in the country.
The country's per-capita gross domestic product
is one of the lowest in the world
Archeology has insufficiently explained the Guinea-Bissau pre-history. In 1000 CE, there were hunter-gatherers in the area, hundreds of thousands of years after they traversed the rest of Africa. This was shortly followed, in the archaeological record, by agriculturists using iron tools.
Although the rivers and coast of this area were among the first places colonized by the Portuguese, who set up trading posts in the 16th century, they did not explore the interior until the 19th century. The local African rulers in Guinea, some of whom prospered greatly from the slave trade
, controlled the inland trade and did not allow the Europeans into the interior.
They kept them in the fortified coastal settlements where the trading took place.
African communities that fought back against slave traders also distrusted European adventurers and would-be settlers. The Portuguese in Guinea were largely restricted to the ports of Bissau
. A small number of European settlers established isolated farms along Bissau's inland rivers.
For a brief period in the 1790s, the British tried to establish a rival foothold on an offshore island, at Bolama
But by the 19th century the Portuguese were sufficiently secure in Bissau to regard the neighbouring coastline as their own special territory,
also up north in part of present South Senegal.
An armed rebellion
, begun in 1956 by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde
(PAIGC) under the leadership of Amílcar Cabral
gradually consolidated its hold on the then Portuguese Guinea
Unlike guerrilla movements in other Portuguese colonies
, the PAIGC rapidly extended its military control over large portions of the territory, aided by the jungle-like terrain, its easily reached borderlines with neighbouring allies, and large quantities of arms from Cuba
, the Soviet Union
, and left-leaning African countries.
Cuba also agreed to supply artillery experts, doctors, and technicians.
The PAIGC even managed to acquire a significant anti-aircraft capability in order to defend itself against aerial attack. By 1973, the PAIGC was in control of many parts of Guinea, although the movement suffered a setback in January 1973 when Cabral was assassinated.
In September 2003, a military coup was conducted. The military arrested Ialá on the charge of being "unable to solve the problems".
After being delayed several times, legislative elections
were held in March 2004. A mutiny
of military factions in October 2004 resulted in the death of the head of the armed forces and caused widespread unrest.
From Vieira years to present
In June 2005, presidential elections were held for the first time since the coup that deposed Ialá. Ialá returned as the candidate for the PRS, claiming to be the legitimate president of the country, but the election was won by former president João Bernardo Vieira
, deposed in the 1999 coup. Vieira beat Malam Bacai Sanhá
in a run-off election. Sanhá initially refused to concede, claiming that tampering
and electoral fraud occurred in two constituencies
including the capital, Bissau.
Despite reports of arms entering the country prior to the election and some "disturbances during campaigning", including attacks on government offices by unidentified gunmen, foreign election monitors
described the 2005 election
overall as "calm and organized".
Three years later, PAIGC won a strong parliamentary majority, with 67 of 100 seats, in the parliamentary election held in November 2008.
In November 2008, President Vieira's official residence was attacked by members of the armed forces, killing a guard but leaving the president unharmed.
On 2 March 2009, however, Vieira was assassinated by what preliminary reports indicated to be a group of soldiers avenging the death of the head of joint chiefs of staff, General Batista Tagme Na Wai
, who had been killed in an explosion the day before.
Vieira's death did not trigger widespread violence, but there were signs of turmoil in the country, according to the advocacy group Swisspeace
Military leaders in the country pledged to respect the constitutional order of succession. National Assembly Speaker Raimundo Pereira
was appointed as an interim president until a nationwide election
on 28 June 2009.
It was won by Malam Bacai Sanhá
of the PAIGC, against Kumba Ialá
as the presidential candidate of the PRS.
On 9 January 2012, President Sanhá died of complications from diabetes, and Pereira was again appointed as an interim president. On the evening of 12 April 2012, members of the country's military staged a coup d'état
and arrested the interim president and a leading presidential candidate.
Former vice chief of staff, General Mamadu Ture Kuruma
, assumed control of the country in the transitional period and started negotiations with opposition parties.
José Mário Vaz
was the President of Guinea-Bissau from 2014 until 2019 presidential elections
. At the end of his term, Vaz became the first elected president to complete his five-year mandate. He lost the 2019 election, however, to Umaro Sissoco Embaló
, who took office in February 2020. Embaló is the first president to be elected without the backing of the PAIGC.
The Presidential Palace of Guinea-Bissau
Public Order Police officer during a parade in Guinea-Bissau
Guinea-Bissau is a republic
In the past, the government had been highly centralized. Multi-party governance was not established until mid-1991.
is the head of state and the prime minister
is the head of government. Since 1974, no president had successfully served a full five-year term, until recently when Jose Mario Vaz
ended his five-year term on 24 June 2019.
At the legislative level, a unicameral Assembleia Nacional Popular
(National People's Assembly
) is made up of 100 members. They are popularly elected from multi-member constituencies to serve a four-year term. The judicial system is headed by a Tribunal Supremo da Justiça
(Supreme Court), made up of nine justices appointed by the president; they serve at the pleasure of the president.
Guinea-Bissau follows a nonaligned foreign policy and seeks friendly and cooperative relations with a wide variety of states and organisations.
A 2019 estimate put the size of the Guinea-Bissau Armed Forces at around 4,400 personnel and military spending is less than 2% of GDP .
Caravela, Bissagos Islands
Typical scenery in Guinea-Bissau
Guinea-Bissau is warm all year round with mild temperature fluctuations; 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.
Seat of the Central Bank of Guinea-Bissau
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 neighbouring 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
The government of Guinea-Bissau continues to be ravaged by illegal drug distribution, according to The Week magazine.
Guinea-Bissau is a member of the Organisation for the Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa
(Left) Guinea-Bissau's population between 1961 and 2003. (Right) Guinea-Bissau's population pyramid
, 2005. In 2010, 41.3% of Guinea-Bissau's population were aged under 15.
According to the 2019 revision of the World Population Prospects
, Guinea-Bissau's population was 1,874,303 in 2018, 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.
Guinea-Bissau present-day settlement pattern of the ethnic groups
The population of Guinea-Bissau is ethnically diverse and has many distinct languages, customs, and social structures.
- 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.
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
These include traders and merchants of mixed Portuguese and Chinese ancestry from the former Asian Portuguese
colony of Macau
Guinea-Bissau's second largest city, Gabú
Port of Bissau
Main cities in Guinea-Bissau include:
Despite being a small country Guinea-Bissau has several ethnic groups which are very distinct from each other, with their own cultures and languages. This is due to Guinea-Bissau being a refugee and migration territory within Africa. Colonisation and racial intermixing brought Portuguese and the Portuguese creole known as Kriol
Although the only official language of Guinea-Bissau since independence, Standard Portuguese
is spoken mostly as a second language, with few native speakers and its use is often confined to the intellectual and political elites. It is the language of government and national communication as a legacy of colonial rule. Schooling from the primary to tertiary levels is conducted in Portuguese, although only 67% of children have access to any formal education. Data suggests that the number of Portuguese speakers ranges from 11 to 15%.
In the latest census (2009) 27.1% of the population claimed to speak non-creole Portuguese (46.3% of city dwellers and 14.7% of the rural population, respectively).
Portuguese creole is spoken by 44% of the population and is effectively the lingua franca among distinct groups for most of the population.
Creole's usage is still expanding, and it is understood by the vast majority of the population. However, decreolisation
processes are occurring, due to undergoing interference from Standard Portuguese and the creole forms a continuum of varieties with the standard language, the most distant are basilects
and the closer ones, acrolects
. A post-creole continuum
exists in Guinea-Bissau and crioulo 'leve' ('soft' creole) variety being closer to the Portuguese-language norm.
The remaining rural population speaks a variety of native African languages unique to each ethnicity: Fula
(5%), Papel (3%), Felupe (1%), Beafada (0.7%), Bijagó (0.3%), and Nalu (0.1%), which form the ethnic African languages spoken by the population.
Most Portuguese and Mestiços speakers also have one of the African languages and Kriol as additional languages. Ethnic African languages are not discouraged, in any situation, despite their lower prestige. These languages are the link between individuals of the same ethnic background and daily used in villages, between neighbours or friends, traditional and religious ceremonies, and also used in contact between the urban and rural populations. However, none of these languages are dominant in Guinea-Bissau.
French is taught as a foreign language in schools, because Guinea-Bissau is surrounded by French-speaking nations.
Guinea-Bissau is a full member of the Francophonie
Men in Islamic garb, Bafatá
There are conflicting reports of religious demographics. The CIA World Factbook has a 2008 estimate of 45.1% Muslim, 22.1% Christian, 14.9% animist, 2% none, and 15.9% unspecified.
In 2010, a Pew Research survey found that the primary affiliation of the population is 45.1% Muslim and 19.7% Christian, with 30.9% Folk religion and 4.3 for other affiliations.
A 2015 Pew-Templeton study claims a different distribution in 2010, consisting of 45.1% Muslim, 30.9% folk religions, 19.7% Christians, and 4.3% unaffiliated.
According to another Pew report, concerning religious identity among Muslims, it was determined that in Guinea-Bissau there is no prevailing sectarian identity. Under this same category were other Sub-Saharan countries like Tanzania, Uganda, Liberia, Nigeria and Cameroon. Other nations around the world claimed to be either predominantly Just Muslim, Mix of Sunni and Shia, or predominantly Sunni (pg. 30).
This Pew research also stated that countries in this specific study that declared to not have any clear dominant sectarian identity were mostly concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Another Pew report, The Future of World Religions
, predicts that from 2010 to 2050 Islam will increase its percent of the population in Guinea-Bissau.
Many residents practice syncretic
forms of Islamic and Christian faiths, combining their practices with traditional African beliefs.
Muslims dominate the north and east, while Christians dominate the south and coastal regions. The Roman Catholic Church
claims most of the Christian community.
of Bissau (up). Students at Biblioteca Jovem, Bairro da Ajuda, in Guinea-Bissau. (down)
Education is compulsory from the age of 7 to 13.
Pre-school education for children between three and six years of age is optional and in its early stages. There are five levels of education: pre-school, elemental and complementary basic education, general and complementary secondary education, general secondary education, technical and professional teaching, and higher education (university and non-universities). Basic education is under reform, and now forms a single cycle, comprising 6 years of education. Secondary education is widely available and there are two cycles (7th to 9th classe
and 10th to 11th classe
). Professional education in public institutions is nonoperational, however private school offerings opened, including the Centro de Formação São João Bosco
(since 2004) and the Centro de Formação Luís Inácio Lula da Silva
Higher education is limited and most prefer to be educated abroad, with students preferring to enroll in Portugal.
A number of universities
, to which an institutionally autonomous Faculty of Law as well as a Faculty of Medicine
is very common.
The enrollment of boys is higher than that of girls. In 1998, the gross primary enrollment rate was 53.5%, with higher enrollment ratio for males (67.7%) compared to females (40%).
Non-formal education is centered on community schools and the teaching of adults.
In 2011, the literacy rate
was estimated at 55.3% (68.9% male, and 42.1% female).
Usually, the many different ethnic groups in Guinea-Bissau coexist peacefully, but when conflicts do erupt, they tend to revolve around access to land.
Carnival in Bissau
National singer Manecas Costa
The music of Guinea-Bissau is usually associated with the polyrhythmic gumbe genre
, the country's primary musical export. However, civil unrest and other factors have combined over the years to keep gumbe, and other genres, out of mainstream audiences, even in generally syncretist African countries.
The word gumbe
is sometimes used generically, to refer to any music of the country, although it most specifically refers to a unique style that fuses about ten of the country's folk music
traditions. Tina and tinga
are other popular genres, while extent folk traditions include ceremonial music used in funerals, initiations
, and other rituals, as well as Balanta
brosca and kussundé, Mandinga
djambadon, and the kundere sound of the Bissagos Islands
Well-known football players who were born in Guinea-Bissau include:
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