Guinea-Bissau has had a troublesome history starting with liberation war against Portuguese colonial powers, turning into civil war and various oppressive and dictatorships. After a military coup d'état, a short civil war erupted. A Senegalese intervention in 1998 ended the civil war. Since then, a democratically elected government is working on rebuilding the country, but instability remains amidst widespread poverty. Upon independence, the name of its capital, Bissau, was added to the country's official name in order to prevent confusion between itself and the Republic of Guinea.

A neighbour of Senegal and Guinea in West Africa, on the Atlantic coast, Guinea-Bissau is a low-lying coastal region of swamps, rain forests, and mangrove-covered wetlands, with about 25 islands off the coast. The Bijagos archipelago extends 30 mile (48 km) out to sea.

The first European to encounter Guinea-Bissau was the Portuguese explorer Nuño Tristão in 1446. Colonists in the Cape Verde Islands obtained trading rights in the territory, and it became a center of the Portuguese slave trade. The African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (another Portuguese colony) was founded in 1956, and guerrilla warfare by nationalists grew increasingly effective. The military coup in Portugal in April 1974 brightened the prospects for freedom, and in August the Lisbon government signed an agreement granting independence to the province. The new republic took the name Guinea-Bissau. In November 1980, João Bernardo Vieira headed a military coup that deposed Luis Cabral, president since 1974. In May 1999 rebels deposed Vieira. Following a period of military rule, Kumba Yalá, a former teacher and popular leader of Guinea-Bissau's independence movement was elected president in 2000. In 2005, former president Vieira returned from six years of exile in Portugal and won the presidency in the July 2005 elections.

One of the 10 poorest countries in the world, Guinea-Bissau depends mainly on farming and fishing. Cashew crops have increased remarkably in recent years and the country now ranks sixth in cashew production. Guinea-Bissau exports fish and seafood along with small amounts of peanuts, palm kernels, and timber. Rice is the major crop and staple food. However, intermittent fighting between Senegalese-backed government troops and a military junta destroyed much of the country's infrastructure and caused widespread damage to the economy in 1998; the civil war led to a 28% drop in GDP that year, with partial recovery in 1999-2002. Before the war, trade reforms and price liberalization were the most successful part of the country's structural adjustment program under IMF sponsorship. The tightening of monetary policy and the development of the private sector had also begun to reinvigorate the economy. Because of high costs, the development of petroleum, phosphate, and other mineral resources is not a near-term prospect. However, offshore oil prospecting has begun and could lead to much-needed revenue in the long run. The inequality of income distribution is one of the most extreme in the world. The government and international donors continue to work out plans to forward economic development from a lamentably low base. In December 2003, the World Bank, IMF, and UNDP were forced to step in to provide emergency budgetary support in the amount of USD107 million for 2004, representing over 80% of the total national budget. Government drift and indecision, however, have resulted in continued low growth in 2002-05.

President Joao Bernardo Vieira
Prime Minister Aristides Gomes

Quick Facts

Official Name

Republic of Guinea-Bissau


Western Africa






Indigenous beliefs (Tribal), Muslim, Christian


Portuguese (official), Criolo, African languages

National Holiday

September 24, (1973 Independence declared unilaterally from Spain)/Recognised September 10, 1974



Head of State

President Joao Bernardo Vieira

Head of Government

Prime Minister: Aristides Gomes


Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFA franc)

Import Partners

Senegal, Portugal, China

Export Partners
India, US, Nigeria