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 overthrown in a bloodless military 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, but he passed away in January 2012 from an existing illness. A military coup in April 2012 prevented Guinea-Bissau's second-round presidential election - to determine Sanha's successor - from taking place.


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
  • 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 Jose Mario Vaz (since 17 June 2014)
  • head of government: transitional Prime Minister Rui Duarte Barros (since 16 May 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


  • 1,693,398 (global rank: 152)
  • growth rate: 1.93% (global rank: 56)


  • noun: Guinean(s)
  • adjective: Guinean

Major Cities:

  • Bissau (capital): 423,000

Ethnic Groups:

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


  • Muslim 50%, indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 10%


  • Portuguese (official), Crioulo, African languages

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 49.87 years (global rank: 221)
  • male: 47.87 years
  • female: 51.93 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 90.92 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 5)
  • male: 100.59 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 80.97 deaths/1,000 live births


  • adult prevalence rate: 3.9% (2012 est.) (global rank: 17)
  • people living with AIDS: 41,300 (2012 est.) (global rank: 66)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 55.3%
  • male: 68.9%
  • female: 42.1%


Overview: Guinea-Bissau's legal economy is based on farming and fishing, but trafficking in narcotics is probably the most lucrative economic activity. 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 nuts are the main source of income for rural communities and the country's main export crop. Cashew sector performance helps to determine the overall macroeconomic situation of the country and food security status of rural areas. In 2013 cashew production and exports were disrupted as a result of the March 2012 coup. Guinea-Bissau is heavily reliant on foreign aid, which has not recovered to pre-coup levels.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $2.005 billion (global rank: 193)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $1,200 (global rank: 214)
  • real growth rate: 3.5% (global rank: 91)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 58%, industry: 13.5%, services: 28.5%


  • currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine Franc (XOF)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 500.7

Agricultural Products:

  • rice, corn, beans, cassava (manioc, tapioca), 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: 8.3%
  • permanent crops: 6.92%
  • other: 84.78%

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): 8,445 (Senegal)
  • human trafficking: Guinea-Bissau is a country of origin and destination 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 are transported to southern Senegal for forced manual and agricultural labor; girls may be subjected to forced domestic service and child prostitution in Senegal and Guinea; both boys and girls are forced to work as street vendors in cities in Guinea-Bissau and Senegal
  • illicit drugs: increasingly important transit country for South American cocaine en route to Europe; enabling environment for trafficker operations thanks to pervasive corruption; archipelago-like geography around the capital facilitates drug smuggling

Published: Friday, March 13, 2015

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.