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Brief History

The Republic of Guinea, belonged to a series of empires until France colonized it in the 1890s, and made it part of French West Africa. Guinea declared its independence from France on 2 October 1958. Since its independence, Guinea has had autocratic rulers who have made Guinea one of the poorest countries. Lansana Conte came to power in 1984 when the military seized the government after the death of the first president, Sekou Toure. By despotic means, Conte clung to power until his death in 2008. On 23 December 2008, Moussa Dadis Camara seized control of Guinea as the head of a junta and suspended the contitution. A year later, he ordered the soldiers to attack people who had gathered to protest any attempt by Camara to become President. The soldiers went on a rampage of rape, mutilation, and murder, and more than 150 people died. In early December 2009 Camara was wounded in an assassination attempt and evacuated to Morocco and subsequently to Burkina Faso. A transitional government has been installed. Today, the president is General Sekouba Konate who replaced Captain Camara following his attempted assassination.

Geography

Guinea, capital Conakry, is located in Western Africa covering an area of 245,857 square kilometers. It forms a crescent by curving from its western border on the Atlantic Ocean toward the east and the south. Its northern border is shared with Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, and Mali, the southern one with Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Côte d'Ivoire. The coastal region and much of the inland area have a tropical climate with a long rainy season of six months, a relatively high and uniform annual temperature, and high humidity. There is a monsoonal-type rainy season from June to November with southwesterly winds, and a dry season from December to May with northeasterly harmattan winds. The Niger River arises in Guinea and runs eastward. The Gambia River and the Senegal River also run throughout the country. Guinea has some natural resources such as bauxite, iron ore, diamonds, gold, uranium, hydropower, fish, and salt.

People

Guinea has a population of 10,324,025 (2010) of approximately 24 ethnic groups. Three are predominate: the Fulani (40%), Malinké(30%), and Soussou (20%). Smaller tribes make up the remaining 10% of the population. Non-Africans include Lebanese, French, and other Europeans. The official language is French. Other significant languages spoken are Maninka Susu, Pular, Kissi, Kpelle, and Loma. The literacy rate is 29.5%. It religions are distributed among 85% Muslims, 8% Christians, and 7% followers of indigenous beliefs.

Government

The government of Guinea is subject to a republic system. Its legal system is based on French civil law system, customary law, and decree. It accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations. The chief of state is General Sekouba Konate -interim leader of the National Council for Democracy and Development- who replaced Captain Camara following his attempted assassination of Camara on 3 December 2009. The head of government, appointed by the president, is the Prime Minister of the Transitional Government Jean-Marie DORE since January 26, 2010. Guinea’s official currency is the Guinean franc, where 5050 francs are equivalent to US$1.

Economy

Guinea is one of the poorest countries in the world. It possesses major mineral, hydropower, and agricultural resources, yet remains an underdeveloped nation. The GDP per capita is US$1,000; it was rated 157th on Human Development Index in 2003.

Agriculture employs 76% of the nation's labor force (2006), and accounts for 24.2% of the GDP (2009). Under French rule, and at the beginning of independence, Guinea was a major exporter of bananas, pineapples, coffee, peanuts, and palm oil. Other agricultural products that the country produces include rice, palm kernels, cassava (tapioca), sweet potatoes, cattle, sheep, goat, and timber. Forestry exists to a small degree and has potential for growth. Agricultural production continues to strengthen as does housing construction and this has positive impact on growth figures. Guinea is also rich in fishery resources, and has an as-yet untapped potential to increase industrial fishing.

The mining industry in Guinea is its most dynamic industry sector and main source of foreign exchange. Guinea has abundant natural resources, including 30% of the world’s known reserves of bauxite, along with diamonds, gold, and other metals. Bauxite and aluminum are currently the only major exports. The country also has great potential for hydroelectric power. Despite excellent economic progress made in the latter nineties, the fall in demand and drop in prices of bauxite and aluminum and the tenuous security situation in neighboring countries dragged down economic performance.

Other industries include processing plants for beer, juices, soft drinks, and tobacco. The oil industry is dependent on the importation of all petroleum products.

Long-run improvements in government fiscal arrangements, literacy, and the legal framework are needed if the country is to move out of poverty. Investor confidence has been sapped by rampant corruption, a lack of electricity and other infrastructure, a lack of skilled workers, and the political uncertainty because of the death of President Lansana Conte in December 2008. Although the reforms of 1984 were largely successful, the economy has been restrained by an underdeveloped infrastructure, including poor transportation and communications systems. High levels of debt, unemployment, and underemployment also hamper economic progress.

In 2000, Guinea qualified for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative established by the World Bank and the IMF, and it was to use the savings for improvements in education, health, rural roads and rural water access.

Domestic air services in Guinea are intermittent, and locals without vehicles rely mainly on taxis. There is some river traffic on the Niger and Milo rivers. Horses and donkeys pull carts, primarily to transport construction materials.

The inflation rate is 9% (2009), and the country’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is estimated to be US$441.85 (2010).


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