Guinea-Bissau, officially known as the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, has a rich history of kingdoms, colonialism and political instability. Different regions of the country were once ruled by the Kaabu and Mali Empires. Later, the Portuguese Empire came and held colonial rule from 1474 until 1974.
Several coups and civil wars have created a fragile state and a weak society with high unemployment and widespread poverty. The absence of educational infrastructure, materials and qualified teachers makes it difficult to educate the next generation.
In this blog, I will cover some brief, but important facts about Guinea-Bissau.
- There is a population of approximately 1.9 million (2017).
- Bissau is the capital and largest city.
- Bissau-Guineans can be divided into the following ethnic groups:
- Fula people, who live in the north and northeast.
- Balanta people, who live in the southern coastal regions.
- Manjaco people, who live in the central and northern coastal regions.
- The official language of Guinea-Bissau is Portuguese, although only 14% of the population speak it. It is the only language with official status and comes from colonial rule.
- Guinea-Bissau Creole is the most widely spoken language.
- French is also taught in schools because Guinea-Bissau is surrounded by French-speaking countries.
- A variety of other native African languages are also spoken.
- Guinea-Bissau’s population has a diverse ethnic background and they are a mix of different tribes with distinct languages, social structures and customs.
- Music is an important aspect of life in Guinea-Bissau. Gumbe, Tinga and Tina are the most popular genres and are often accompanied by rhythmically complex dances.
- Today, the majority of the population practice Islam, followed by Christianity and other indigenous religions.
- The national flag combines red, yellow, green and black. The black star stands for the unity of Africa, red stands for the blood shed during the struggle for independence, yellow stands for the sun and green represents hope.
- The economy depends mainly on farming and fishing.
- The main income resources are subsistence agriculture, cashew nut exports and foreign assistance.
- Cashew exports are the main source of income for many rural communities and represent more than 80% of all exports.
- Two out of every three people live below the poverty line.
- The official currency is the CFA franc.
- Only 3.5% of the population have access to the internet.
With the renewal of foreign aid, Guinea-Bissau’s economy is expected to recover from instability and make steps toward economic growth. However, long-term progress will depend on political stability and a commitment to economic reform programs.