Nation at a Glance - Guinea

History

Guinea is at a turning point after decades of authoritarian rule since gaining its independence from France in 1958. Guinea held its first free and competitive democratic presidential and legislative elections in 2010 and 2013 respectively, and in October 2015 held a second consecutive presidential election. Alpha CONDE was reelected to a second five-year term as president in 2015, and the National Assembly was seated in January 2014. CONDE's first cabinet is the first all-civilian government in Guinea. Previously, Sekou TOURE ruled the country as president from independence to his death in 1984. Lansana CONTE came to power in 1984 when the military seized the government after TOURE's death. Gen. CONTE organized and won presidential elections in 1993, 1998, and 2003, though all the polls were rigged. Upon CONTE's death in December 2008, Capt. Moussa Dadis CAMARA led a military coup, seizing power and suspending the constitution. His unwillingness to yield to domestic and international pressure to step down led to heightened political tensions that culminated in September 2009 when presidential guards opened fire on an opposition rally killing more than 150 people, and in early December 2009 when CAMARA was wounded in an assassination attempt and exiled to Burkina Faso. A transitional government led by Gen. Sekouba KONATE paved the way for Guinea's transition to a fledgling democracy.

Location: Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone

Border Countries: Cote d'Ivoire 816 km, Guinea-Bissau 421 km, Liberia 590 km, Mali 1,062 km, Senegal 363 km, Sierra Leone

Total Area: 245,857 sq km Land: 245,717 sq km Water: 140 sq km

Climate: Generally hot and humid; monsoonal-type rainy season (June to November) with southwesterly winds; dry season (December to May) with northeasterly harmattan winds

Terrain: Generally flat coastal plain, hilly to mountainous interior

Natural resources: Bauxite, iron ore, diamonds, gold, uranium, hydropower, fish, salt

Land use: Agricultural land: 58.1% arable land 11.8%; permanent crops 2.8%; permanent pasture 43.5%Forest: 26.5% Other: 15.4% (2011 est.)

Ethnic groups: Fulani (Peul) 33.9%, Malinke 31.1%, Soussou 19.1%, Guerze 6%, Kissi 4.7%, Toma 2.6%, Other/no answer 2.7% (2012 est.)

Languages: French (official)

Religions: Muslim 86.7%, Christian 8.9%, Animist/Other/None 4.4% (2012 est.)

Population: 12,093,349 (July 2016 est.)

Literacy: 30.4%; Male: 38.1%; Female: 22.8% (2015 est.)

Administrative divisions: 7 regions administrative and 1 gouvenorat*; Boke, Conakry*, Faranah, Kankan, Kindia, Labe, Mamou, N'Zerekore

Economy: Guinea is a poor country of approximately 11.7 million people that possesses the world's largest reserves of bauxite and largest untapped high-grade iron ore reserves (Simandou), as well as gold and diamonds. In addition, Guinea has fertile soil, ample rainfall, and is the source of several West African rivers, including the Senegal, Niger, and Gambia. Guinea's hydro potential is enormous and the country could be a major exporter of electricity. The country also has tremendous agriculture potential. Gold, bauxite, and diamonds are Guinea’s main mineral exports. International investors have shown interest in Guinea's unexplored mineral reserves, which have the potential to propel Guinea's future growth.Following the death of long-term President Lansana CONTE in 2008 and the coup that followed, international donors, including the G-8, the IMF, and the World Bank, significantly curtailed their development programs in Guinea. However, the IMF approved a new 3-year Extended Credit Facility arrangement in 2012, following the December 2010 presidential elections. In September 2012, Guinea achieved Heavily Indebted Poor Countries completion point status. Future access to international assistance and investment will depend on the government’s ability to be transparent, combat corruption, reform its banking system, improve its business environment, and build infrastructure. In April 2013, the government amended its mining code to reduce taxes and royalties. In 2014, Guinea also complied with requirements of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative by publishing its mining contracts and was found to be compliant.The biggest threats to Guinea’s economy are political instability, a reintroduction on of the Ebola virus epidemic, and low international commodity prices. Rising international donor support and reduced government investment spending will lessen fiscal strains created by the Ebola virus epidemic, but economic recovery will be a long process while the government continues efforts to prevent an outbreak of the disease. The economic toll of Ebola virus epidemic on the Guinean economy is considerable. Ebola stalled promising economic growth in 2014-15, and the economy will continue to stagnate in 2016. Several projects have stalled, such as offshore oil exploration and the giant Simandou iron ore project. The 240 megawatt Kaleta Dam, which was inaugurated in September 2015, has expanded access to electricity for residents of Conakry. Although the recent political stability has brought renewed interest in Guinea from the private sector, an enduring legacy of corruption, inefficiency, and lack of government transparency, combined with fears of Ebola virus, continue to undermine Guinea's economic viability.Successive governments have failed to address the country's crumbling infrastructure, which is needed for economic development. Guinea suffers from chronic electricity shortages; poor roads, rail lines and bridges; and a lack of access to clean water - all of which continue to plague economic development. The present government, led by President Alpha CONDE, is working to create an economy to attract foreign investment and hopes to have greater participation from western countries and firms in Guinea's economic development.

Agriculture - products: Rice, coffee, pineapples, mangoes, palm kernels, cocoa, cassava (manioc, tapioca), bananas, potatoes, sweet potatoes; cattle, sheep, goats; timber

Industries: Bauxite, gold, diamonds, iron ore; light manufacturing, agricultural processing

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