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Republic of Guinea

République de Guinée

CAPITAL: Conakry

FLAG: The national flag is a tricolor of red, yellow, and green vertical stripes.

ANTHEM: Liberté (Liberty).

MONETARY UNIT: The syli (s), of 100 cauris, was introduced in October 1972, replacing the Guinea franc (GFr); s1 = 10 old Guinea francs. In January 1986 the Guinea franc (GFr) of 100 centimes was restored on a one-to-one basis with the syli. There are notes of 25, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, and 5,000 GFr. GFr1 = $0.00036 (or $1 = GFr2,810) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Anniversary of Women's Revolt, 27 August; Referendum Day, 28 September; Independence Day, 2 October; Armed Forces Day, 1 November; Day of 1970 Invasion, 22 November; Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-'Adha', and Easter Monday.



Guinea, on the west coast of Africa, has an area of 245,857 sq km (94,926 sq mi), extending 831 km (516 mi) senw and 493 km (306 mi) nesw. Comparatively, the area occupied by Guinea is slightly smaller than the state of Oregon. Bordered on the n by Senegal, on the n and ne by Mali, on the e by Côte d'Ivoire, on the s by Liberia and Sierra Leone, on the w by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the nw by Guinea-Bissau, Guinea has a total boundary length of 3,719 km (2,311 mi), of which 320 km (199 mi) is coastline.

Guinea's capital city, Conakry, is located on the country's Atlantic coast.


Guinea owes its frontiers mainly to the accidents of the late 19th-century partition of Africa and has no geographic unity. The country can be divided into four regions: Lower Guinea (Guinée Maritime), the alluvial coastal plain; Middle Guinea, the plateau region of the Futa Jallon (Fouta Djalon), deeply cut in many places by narrow valleys; Upper Guinea (Haute Guinée), a gently undulating plain with an average elevation of about 300 m (1,000 ft), savanna country broken by occasional rocky outcrops; and the forested Guinea Highlands (Guinée Forestière), composed of granites, schists, and quartzites, including Mt. Nimba (1,752 m/5,747 ft), the highest peak in the country, at the juncture of Guinea, Liberia, and Côte d'Ivoire. The Niger River and its important tributary the Milo have their source in the Guinea Highlands; the Gambia River and Senegal River (whose upper course is called the Bafing in Guinea) rise in the Futa Jallon.


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. Conakry's year-round average high is 29°c (84°f), and the low is 23°c (73°f); its average rainfall is 430 cm (169 in) per year. April is the hottest month; July and August are the wettest. Rainfall in the Futa Jallon is much less (about 150200 cm/6080 in) and more irregular, and temperatures are lower; moreover, the daily temperature range is much greater, especially during the dry season. In Upper Guinea, rainfall is lower than in the Futa Jallon. Rainfall in the highlands averages about 280 cm (110 in) annually; temperatures are relatively equable owing to the altitude.


Dense mangrove forests grow along the river mouths. Farther inland, the typical vegetation of Lower Guinea is woodland dominated by parinari, with many woody climbers and bushes below. Gum copal is common near streams. The Futa Jallon has been subject to excessive burning, and the lower slopes are characterized by secondary woodland, much sedge (catagyna pilosa), and expanses of laterite; the higher plateaus and peaks have dense forest, and some plants found nowhere else in the world have been reported on them. Savanna woodland characterizes Upper Guinea, with only tall grass in large areas; trees include the shea nut, tamarind, and locust bean. There is rain forest along the border with Liberia.

The elephant, hippopotamus, buffalo, lion, leopard, and many kinds of antelope and monkey are to be found in Guinea, as well as crocodiles and several species of venomous snakes. Birds are plentiful and diverse. As of 2002, there were at least 190 species of mammals, 109 species of birds, and over 3,000 species of plants throughout the country.


Centuries of slash-and-burn agriculture have caused forested areas to be replaced by savanna woodland, grassland, or brush. During 198185, some 36,000 ha (89,000 acres) of land were deforested each year. Between 1990-1995, Guinea lost an average of 1.14% of its forest and woodland area each year. Mining, the expansion of hydroelectric facilities, and pollution contribute to the erosion of the country's soils and desertification.

Water pollution and improper waste disposal are also significant environmental problems in Guinea. In 1994, water-borne diseases contributed to an infant mortality rate of 145 per 1,000 live births. The nation has 226 cu km of renewable water resources with 87% used in farming activity. Only about 35% of the people living in rural areas do not have pure water.

In 2003, less than 1% of the total land area was protected by the state. Human encroachment and hunting have reduced Guinea's wildlife, especially its large mammals, and overfishing represents a threat to the nation's marine life. A nature reserve has been established on Mt. Nimba as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are also 12 Ramsar wetland sites. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 18 types of mammals, 10 species of birds, 1 type of reptile, 5 species of amphibians, 8 species of fish, 3 species of invertebrates, and 22 species of plants. Threatened species included the African elephant, Diana monkey, and Nimba otter-shrew.


The population of Guinea in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 9,453,000, which placed it at number 83 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 44% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 105 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 2.7%, a rate the government viewed as too high. Fertility was six births per woman in 2005. The projected population for the year 2025 was 15,806,000. The population density was 39 per sq km (100 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 33% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 4.59%. The capital city, Conakry, had a population of 1,366,000 in that year. Other large towns include Kankan (100,192), Labé, Nzérékoré, Boké, and Siguiri.


After independence from France in 1958, Guineans left the country in increasing numbers, mostly for Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire. In the early and mid-1980s, probably two million Guineans were living abroad, perhaps half of them in Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire. Many of them returned after the end of the Sékou Touré regime in 1984.

In 1997, Guinea had the highest number of refugees of any West African nation. There were around 420,000 Liberians and around 250,000 from Sierra Leone in Guinea. These refugees escaped from the fighting in their respective countries. The voluntary repatriation program begun for Liberians in March 1998 was suspended at the resumption of fighting. Out of the 120,000 who opted for repatriation, some 80,000 were returned before the Guinean-Liberian border was closed. In 2000, conditions in Sierra Leone were not yet conducive to repatriation and 150,000 refugees from that nation remained in Guinea. The total number of refugees remaining in Guinea in 2000 was 427,200. By the end of 2004, this number decreased to 139,252 refugees, mainly from Liberia and Sierra Leone, and 6,310 asylum seekers from Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, and Sierra Leone. However, 4,700 Guineans applied for asylum, mainly to France, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. In that same year 22,473 Liberians were voluntarily repatriated from Guinea. However, a population of 145,569 people, more than half living in camps, remained of concern to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as -2.99 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


Of Guinea's two dozen ethnic groups, three predominate: the Fulani, Malinké, and Soussou. The Fulani (sometimes called Peul), perhaps the largest single group (40% of the population), live mainly in the Futa Jallon. The Malinké, referred to in other parts of West Africa as Mandingo, and related peoples of the so-called Nuclear Mandé group (30%), live in eastern Guinea and are concentrated around Kankan, Beyla, and Kouroussa. The Soussou (20%), with related groups, are centered farther west and along the coast in the areas around Conakry, Forécariah, and Kindia. Related to them are the Dialonké, living farther east in Middle Guinea and western Upper Guinea. Smaller tribes make up the remaining 10% of the population. Toward the southeast, in the Guinea Highlands near the borders of Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire, are various Kru or peripheral Mandé groups; among them are the Kissi around Quéckédou, the Toma around Macenta, and the Koranko near Kissidougou. Notable among the 3,500 or so non-Africans are Lebanese and Syrians.


French is the official language and the language of administration. In 1967, a cultural revolution was announced for the purpose of "de-Westernizing" Guinean education. A literacy program begun in 1968 sought eventually to teach all citizens to speak and write one of the eight principal local languages: Malinké (Maninkakan), Fulani (Poular), Soussou, Kpelle (Guerzé), Loma (Toma), Kissi, Coniagui, and Bassari, all of which belong to the Niger-Congo language group. After the fall of the Touré regime in 1984, French was again emphasized; however, the tribal languages are still spoken.


About 85% of all Guineans, particularly the Fulani and Malinké, are Muslims; about 10% follow various Christian faiths; and most of the remaining 5% practice traditional African religions. Most Muslims belong to the Sunni sect, and practices, particularly public prayers and the prescribed fasts, are often combined with animist beliefs and ceremonies. Christian missions were established in the 19th century, but converts have been few. About 10% of the population are Christian. Among Christian groups are Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, and various other evangelical churches. There are a small number of Baha'is, Hindus, Buddhists, and observers of traditional Chinese religions. About 5% of the population follow traditional indigenous practices and beliefs.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and this right is generally respected in practice. Though there is no state religion, some have claimed that Islam is generally favored by the government. Certain holidays of both Islam and Christianity are recognized as public holidays. The government has met with the Interreligious Council, a group of Anglican, Catholic, and Protestant leaders, to open a dialogue on electoral and governmental reform issues.


Lack of an adequate transportation network has hindered the country's development. As of 2004, Guinea's railroad system totaled 837 km (675 mi) of standard and narrow gauge lines, of which the largest part consisted of a 662 km (412 mi) long, single track narrow gauge (1.000-m) line. Owned by the state, the line runs from Conakry to Kankan and was built between 1900 and 1914. There is also a 175 km (109 mi) standard gauge line. Of 30,500 km (18,953 mi) of roads, some 5,033 km (3,128 mi) were tarred in 2002. There were 23,155 automobiles and 13,000 commercial vehicles in 1995.

Conakry has a natural deepwater harbor that handles foreign cargo (mostly bauxite and alumina). Port modernization is scheduled with aid from the IDA, the African Development Bank, and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). A deepwater port at Kamsar, completed in 1973, handles the output of the Boké bauxite mine, as much as nine million tons a year. There are lesser ports at Kassa, Benty, and Kakande. Most rivers are of little value for navigation. A national shipping line is jointly owned with a Norwegian company. As of 2003, Guinea had 1,295 km (805 mi) of navigable inland waterways accessible by shallow draft native boats.

In 2004, there were an estimated 16 airports in Guinea, only 5 of which had paved runways as of 2005. Conakry's airport, Gbeesia, handles international jet traffic. Gbeesia, three smaller air-fields at Labé, Kankan, and Faranah, and a number of airstrips are served by the national carrier, Air Guinée, which also flies to other West African cities and carried 36,000 passengers on domestic and international flights in 1997 (the latest year for which data was available).


Archaeological evidence indicates that at least some stone tools found in Guinea had been made by peoples who had moved there from the Sahara, pushed perhaps by the desiccation that had occurred in the Saharan region by 2000 bc. Agriculture had been practiced along the coast of Guinea by ad 1000, with rice the staple crop.

Most of Upper Guinea fell within the area influenced by the Ghana empire at the height of its power, but none of present-day Guinea was actually within the empire. The northern half of present-day Guinea was, however, within the later Mali and Songhai empires.

The Malinké did not begin arriving in Guinea until the 13th century; nor did the Fulani come in considerable numbers until the 17th century. In 1725, a holy war (jihad) was declared in Futa Jallon by Muslim Fulani. The onslaught was directed against the non-Muslim Malinké and Fulani; and it led ultimately to the independence of the Fulani of Futa Jallon. It also gave effect to their unity within a theocratic kingdom under Almamy Karamoka Alfa of Timbo.

Meanwhile, European exploration of the Guinea coast had begun by the middle of the 15th century; it was led by the Portuguese. By the 17th century, French, British, and Portuguese traders and slavers were competing with one another. When the slave trade was prohibited during the first half of the 19th century, Guinean creeks became hiding places for slavers harried by the ships of the British Royal Navy. French rights along the coast were expressly preserved by the Peace of Paris (1814), and Frenchas well as British and Portuguesetrading activities expanded in the middle years of the 19th century, when trade in peanuts, palm oil, hides, and rubber replaced that in slaves. The French established a protectorate over Boké in 1849 and consolidated their rule over the coastal areas in the 1860s. This inevitably led to attempts to secure a more satisfactory arrangement with the Fulani chiefs of Futa Jallon. A protectorate was established over the region in 1881, but effective sovereignty was not secured for another 15 years.

Resistance to the French advance up the Senegal and the Niger, toward Lake Chad, came from Samory Touré, a Malinké born in Upper Guinea. He had seized Kankan in 1879 and established his authority in the area southeast of Siguiri; but his attacks had spurred the inhabitants of the area to seek aid from French troops already established at Kita in the French Sudan (Soudan Français, now Mali) in 1882. Samory had signed treaties with the French first in 1886, and also in 1890. But on various pretexts both he and the French later renounced the treaties; so hostilities resumed. His capture in 1898 marked the end of concerted local resistance to the French occupation of Guinea, Ivory Coast (now Côte d'Ivoire), and southern Mali.

In 1891, Guinea was reconstituted as a French territory separate from Senegal, of which it had hitherto been a part. Four years later, the French territories in West Africa became a federation under a governor-general. The federation remained substantially unchanged until Guinea attained independence. In 1946, Africans in Guinea became French citizens, but the franchise was at first restricted to the Europeanized évoulés; it was not replaced by universal adult suffrage until 1957.

The End of Colonial Rule

In September 1958, Guinea participated in the referendum on the new French constitution. On acceptance of the new constitution, French overseas territories had the option of choosing to continue their existing status, to move toward full integration into metropolitan France, or to acquire the status of an autonomous republic in the new quasi-federal French Community. If, however, they rejected the new constitution, they would become independent forthwith. French president, Charles de Gaulle, had made it clear that a country pursuing the independent course would no longer receive French economic and financial aid or retain French technical and administrative officers. Anyway, the electorate of Guinea rejected the new constitution overwhelmingly. Guinea accordingly became an independent state on 2 October 1958, with Ahmed Sékou Touré, then the leader of Guinea's strongest labor union, as president.

During its first three decades of independence, Guinea evolved to become a slightly militant socialist state. The functions and membership of the ruling Parti Démocratique de Guinée (PDG) were merged with the various institutions of government, including the state bureaucracy. Thus, the unified party-state had nearly complete control over the country's economic and political life. Guinea expelled the US Peace Corps in 1966 because of alleged involvement in a plot to overthrow President Touré. Similar charges were directed against France, with which diplomatic relations were severed in 1965 and not resumed until 1975. An ongoing source of contention between Guinea and its French-speaking neighbors was the estimated half-million expatriates in Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire. Some of these were active dissidents who, in 1966, had formed the National Liberation Front of Guinea (Front de Libération Nationale de GuinéeFLNG).

International tension rose again in 1970 when some 350 men, including FLNG partisans and Africans in the Portuguese army, invaded Guinea under the leadership of white Portuguese officers from Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau). The invasion was repulsed after one day, but this was followed by waves of arrests, detentions, and some executions. Between 1969 and 1976, according to Amnesty International, 4,000 persons were detained for political reasons, with the fate of 2,900 unknown. After an alleged Fulani plot to assassinate Touré was disclosed in May 1976, Diallo Telli, a cabinet minister and formerly the first secretary-general of the OAU, was arrested and sent to prison, where he died without trial in November.

In 1977, protests against the regime's economic policy, which dealt harshly with unauthorized trading, led to riots in which three regional governors were killed. Touré responded by relaxing restrictions, offering amnesty to exiles (thousands of whom returned), and releasing hundreds of political prisoners. Ties with the Soviet bloc were relaxed as Touré sought increased Western aid and private investment in Guinea's sagging economy.

Single-list elections for an expanded National Assembly were held in 1980. Touré was elected unopposed to a fourth seven-year term as president on 9 May 1982. According to the government radio, he received 100% of the vote. A new constitution was adopted that month, and during the summer Touré visited the United States as part of an economic policy reversal that saw Guinea seeking Western investment to develop its huge mineral reserves. New measures announced in 1983 brought further economic liberalization; private traders were even allowed to engage in produce marketing.

Touré died on 26 March 1984 while undergoing cardiac treatment at the Cleveland Clinic; he had been rushed to the United States after being stricken in Saudi Arabia the previous day. Prime Minister Louis Lansana Béavogui then became acting president, pending elections that were to be held within 45 days. On 3 April, however, just as the Political Bureau of the ruling Guinea Democratic Party (PDG) was about to name its choice as Touré's successor, the armed forces seized power, denouncing the last years of Touré's rule as a "bloody and ruthless dictatorship." The constitution was suspended, the National Assembly dissolved, and the PDG abolished. The leader of the coup, Col. Lansana Conté, assumed the presidency on 5 April, heading the Military Committee for National Recovery (Comité Militaire de Redressement NationalCMRN). About 1,000 political prisoners were freed.

Conté suppressed an attempted military coup led by Col. Diarra Traoré on 4 July 1985. Almost two years later, it was announced that 58 persons, including both coup leaders and members of Touré's government, had been sentenced to death. However, it is believed that many of them, as well as Traoré, had actually been shot days after the coup attempt. All were identified with the Malinké, who were closely identified with the Touré regime. The military regime adopted free-market policies in an effort to revive the economy.

Multiparty Democracy Initiated

Under pressure locally and abroad, Guinea embarked on a transition to multiparty democracy, albeit with considerable reluctance from the military-dominated government. Government legalized parties in April 1992, but it did not really allow them to function freely. It postponed presidential elections for over a year (until 19 December 1993) and then annulled the results from two Malinké strongholds, claiming victory with 51.7% of the vote. The Supreme Court upheld the Ministry of the Interior's decision despite official protest from the opposition. Though international opinion on the elections was divided, it was generally conceded that the elections administration had been widely manipulated in favor of the PUP candidate, and in several instances the voting process was fraudulent.

The legislative elections were delayed until 11 June 1995. These elections were supposed to have preceded the presidential elections, but the regime switched the order in 1993. The opposition felt that scheduling the presidential election first gave the incumbent an unfair advantage in both elections. International observers found significant flaws in these elections as well, and afterwards, the opposition vowed to boycott the Assembly. Factionalism within the opposition alliance, CODEM, shattered this resolve, and by the time the Assembly was convened, 71 PUP representatives and 43 members representing 8 other parties assumed their seats.

The greatest threat to Conté's power came in February 1996, when mutineers commanded tanks, fired upon the presidential palace, and seized the president. The palace was all but destroyed, and some 30 to 50 people were killed, many of them civilians by stray bullets. Conté did strike a deal with the mutineers, agreeing to establish a multiparty grievance committee; but the committee was disbanded before it could issue its final report. No one received a death sentence, though 38 soldiers received sentences, 34 of them colonels, majors, captains, and lieutenants. Only six were Susu, and four of them received the lightest sentences. Conté gave in to the mutineers' demands by doubling soldiers' pay and taking over the defense department himself.

In December 1998, Guinea held its second round of multiparty elections. Though it was technically more acceptable than previous polling, the PUP marshaled the resources of the state and the public bureaucracy to conduct its campaign up-country. The opposition submitted a report detailing fraudulent and illegal election and campaign practices by the ruling party. Further, the Guinean Human Rights Organization and Amnesty International accused the government of routine torturestripping, tying up, and beating opposition militants.

Before the international borders were reopened, the government seized Malinké RPG leader Alpha Condé for allegedly attempting to cross into Côte d'Ivoire. He and four RPG parliamentarians, and some 70 RPG militants were jailed. The Condé trial was repeatedly delayed, and the charges were changed to "recruitment of mercenaries with intent to overthrow the government." It was suspended shortly after it began in April 2000 when Condé's lawyers and the Court failed to agree on the legality of the arrest and the charges. Condé was being tried along with 48 others in the Cour de Sûreté de l'Etat (State Security Court).

The political climate in May 2000 was uneasy with fear that the Alpha Condé affair would drag on unresolved. Legislative and local elections were scheduled for later in the year, but the opposition renewed its calls to boycott them. Despite this adversity, municipal elections were held in June 2000 accompanied by violence in at least seven cities leading to several civilian deaths. Reports of arrests, beatings, rapes, and torture of protesters followed. The opposition indicated that it would boycott the legislative elections unless a neutral arbiter, such as an independent electoral commission, was established.

In mid-September 2000, the State Security Court convicted Condé of sedition and sentenced him to five years hard labor in prison, though later he was granted clemency. Seven of his 47 coaccused received lighter sentences, while the others were acquitted. The international community overwhelmingly condemned the trial as a mockery of justice. Condé's five-year sentence would eliminate him from running in the presidential elections slated for 2003.

What amounted to a constitutional coup took place in November 2001. In one fell swoop, Conté and the PUP-dominated National Assembly amended the constitution to increase the length of a presidential term from five years to seven, and to remove term limits. The amendment also allowed the president to nominate local government officials. In June 2002 flawed parliamentary elections resulted in the ruling party's gain of a two-third's majority in the Assembly.

Conté's declining health once fueled speculation that that he might not stand for reelection in 2003. Guinea, it was also argued, risked political chaos if Conté failed to run. The army, which is deeply divided by age, ethnicity and other factors, was thought likely to intervene. Conté did run in elections held on 21 December however; and official results indicated that he won a massive 95.3% of the vote. In turn, Mamadou Boye Barry of the UPR captured 4.6%. Since then the Conté administration continued on as it were. As of 2005, soldiers had yet to oust the elected régime. In April 2004, former Prime Minister Sidya Toure and Ba Mamadou of the Union of Democratic Forces (UFDG) were barred from traveling to neighboring Senegal. Both claimed they were on a private mission. In January 2005, Conté survived an apparent assassination attempt, when shots were fired on his motorcade in the capital. Six months later in July 2005, Alpha Condé, head of the opposition Guinean People's Rally (or RPG), returned from exile and was welcomed by thousands of supporters. The next presidential election was due in December 2010.


Guinea is a multiparty republic with a semi-authoritarian executive. Guinea's first constitution took effect on 12 November 1958 and was substantially amended in 1963 and 1974. Under the new constitution promulgated in May 1982 (but suspended in the military coup of April 1984), sovereignty was declared to rest with the people and to be exercised by their representatives in the Guinea Democratic Party (PDG), the only legal political party. Party and state were declared to be one and indivisible. The head of state was the president, elected for a seven-year term by universal adult suffrage (at age 18). A national assembly of 210 members was elected in 1980 from a single national list presented by the PDG; the announced term was five years, although the 1982 constitution and its precursors stipulated a term of seven (the assembly was dissolved after four years, in 1984). The constitution gave Assembly members control of the budget and, with the president, the responsibility to initiate and formulate laws.

Under the Touré regime there was no separation of functions or powers. The legislature, the cabinet, and the national administration were subordinate to the PDG in the direction and control of the nation. The assembly served mainly to ratify the decisions of the PDG's Political Bureau, headed by Touré, who was also president of the republic and secretary-general of the PDG. The assembly and the cabinet (appointed by Touré) implemented the decisions and orders of the party arrived at by the party congress, national conference, and the Political Bureau. Locally, PDG and government authority were synonymous.

The armed forces leaders who seized power after Touré's death ruled Guinea through the Military Committee for National Recovery (CMRN). Following the adoption by referendum of a new constitution on 21 December 1990, the CMRN was dissolved and a Transitional Committee of National Recovery (CTRN) was set up in February 1991 as the country's legislative body.

In 1993, the government created a 114-member national assembly. The assembly members are elected for a term of four years, 38 members in single-district constituencies, and 76 members by proportional representation. In July 1996, Lansana Conté created the post of prime minister; he also appointed his confidante, former Supreme Court chief justice Lamine Sidimé to the post. In December 2002, Conté reshuffled his cabinet. On 4 December 2004, Cellou Dalein Diallo became prime minister following the resignation of Lounseny Fall. Fall had resigned while on a visit to the United States.


From 1945, when political activity began in Guinea, until about 1953, the political scene was one of loose electoral alliances that relied more on the support of traditional chiefs and of the French administration than on political programs or organized memberships. After 1953, however, these alliances rapidly lost ground to the Guinea section of the African Democratic Rally (Rassemblement Démocratique AfricainRDA), an inter-territorial organization founded in 1946. This section, known as the Guinea Democratic Party (Parti Démocratique de GuinéePDG), was formed by Marxists determined to develop an organized mass political movement that cut across ethnic differences and had a strongly nationalist outlook. Their leader was Ahmed Sékou Touré, a prominent trade union leader in French West Africa. Regarded as the great-grandson of the warrior-chief Samory who had fought the French in the late 19th century, Touré had much support in areas where Samory had fought his last battles. But his strongest backers were the Susu in Lower Guinea. In 1957, the PDG won 57 of 60 seats in Territorial Assembly elections.

Convinced that the French Community proposed by De Gaulle would not result in real independence for the people of French West Africa, Touré called for a vote against joining the Community in the referendum of 28 September 1958. Some 95% of those voting in Guinea supported Touré in opting for Guinea's complete independence. In December 1958, the opposition parties fused with Touré's PDG, making it the only political party in the country. The precipitous withdrawal of the French bureaucracy in 1958 led, almost of necessity, to the PDG's inheritance of much of the structure of government.

During the 1960s, the PDG's party machinery was organized down to the grassroots level, with local committees replacing tribal authorities, and sectional, regional, and national conferences ensuring coordination and control. In 1968, a new local unit within the PDG, the Local Revolutionary Command (Pouvoir Révolutionnaire LocalPRL) was organized. By 1973, the PRL had assumed complete responsibility for local economic, social, and political affairs. There were 2,441 PRLs in 1981, each directed by a committee of seven members and headed by a mayor. Each of the 35 regions had a party decision-making body called a Federal Congress, headed by a secretary. A 13-member Federal Committee, headed by the regional governor, was the executive body. The 170 districts had similar bodies, called sections, congresses, and committees.

The Political Bureau, nominally responsible to a Central Committee, was the PDG's chief executive body. Until the military coup that abolished the PDG in April 1984, the Political Bureau was the focus of party and national power, and its members were the most important government ministers and officials, with Touré as chairman. The PDG and its mass organizations were outlawed after the 1984 coup.

Political parties were legalized in April 1992. Within a month, more than 30 parties had been formed, a number by government ministers who helped themselves to state funds and used the state agencies to promote their campaigns. The use of government vehicles for partisan activities and the disbursement of state monies to supporters were commonplace.

By July 1992, government had banned all political demonstrations. This hampered opposition parties preparing for National Assembly elections then scheduled for late 1992 and presidential elections scheduled for early 1993. Elections were delayed. By October 1993, 43 political parties were legally registered. At least a dozen were allied with the government Party for Unity and Progress (PUP) while nearly thirty belonged to a loose coalition, the Democratic Forum, whose objective was to present a common candidate to run against Conté. The Forum dissolved when two of its members admitted they had already made their campaign deposit, which legally entitled them to enter the race. At that point, the field of candidates widened pitting seven opposition leaders against Conté. In December 1993, despite official protests by the opposition, Lansana Conté officially won 51.7% of the vote. International observers noted isolated incidents of violence and destruction of ballot boxes, and further declared the campaigning and balloting unsatisfactory.

In 1993, the most significant national opposition parties were the Rally for the Guinean People (RPG), the Union for a New Republic (UNR), and the Party for Renewal and Progress (PRP). The PRP and the UNR later merged to form the UPR, which presented Mamadou Ba as its candidate in the December 1998 elections. In these elections, Ba took second place with 24.6% of the vote, Alpha Condé (RPG) received 16.9%, Jean-Marie Doré received 1.7% (UPG), and Charles Pascal Tolno (PPG) claimed 1.0%. Again, under protest from the opposition, Conté won on the first round with 54.1% officially. In the elections of December 2003, Conté's share rose to a massive 95%. The next presidential election was due in 2010.

In the National Assembly, 38 seats are elected by single-member district, and 76 are assigned by proportional voting. In elections held in June 2002, all 114 members of the national assembly were elected directly for five-year terms. The PUP won 61.6% of the vote and controlled 85 seats; the UPR captured 26.6% of the votes and 20 seats; while other parties shared 11.8% of the vote and 9 seats between them. The next legislative elections were expected in 2007.


Under the Touré regime, the local units of the PDG, the local revolutionary commands (PRLs), were responsible for the political and economic administration of rural areas. In principle, the PRLs regulated all commerce, farming, distribution of land, public works, and communications, as well as civil life and the people's courts in communities under their authority. Each PRL had a company of militia of 101 members, subdivided into 4 platoons and 12 groups.

In the early 1990s, Guinea embarked upon an ambitious decentralization program. Three hundred and three rural development communities (CRDs) were created each comprising several districts (groupings of villages). The 303 CRDs were divided proportionately among the existing 33 prefectures, and four natural regions. In 1994, the number of regions was increased to seven headed by governors appointed by the president. The prefectures are under the tutelage of appointed prefects, who in turn supervise sub-prefects. A sub-prefecture is the location for public services within a CRD.

CRDs and the districts within them represent the most decentralized political and financial public authority. Elections for CRD councils were last held in 1991, and little investment has made in them. However, through training and other investments, some CRDs have begun collecting hut, market, truck-stop, gravel pit, forestry, and other taxes. They have also begun to establish local development plans for schools, clinics, and mosques.

On 25 June 2000, the government organized municipal elections, which had been postponed from 29 June 1999 to December 1999, and then to June 2000 reportedly for budgetary reasons. The PUP ruling party claimed victory in 31 of Guinea's 38 communes, the Union for Progress and Renewal (UPR) won five local councils, the Assembly of Guinean People (RPG) one, and the Fight for Common Cause (LCC)allied with the PUPtook one. Voter turnout was only 54%, or less than one-third of the adult population.


The judicial system is based on French civil law, customary law, and decree; legal codes are under revision, and Guinea has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction. In 1958 and 1965, the government introduced some customary law, but retained French law as the basic framework for the court system.

The system is composed of courts of first instance, two Courts of Appeal (in Kankan and in Conakry) and the Supreme Court. There is also a State Security Court (Cour de Sûreté de l'Etat), which tried the 1985 coup plotters, and conducted the Alpha Condé trial in 1999/2000. The legality of this court was debated in the February 1996 putsch. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of its validity since it predated the 1990 constitution, and the constitution failed to specifically address its existence. A military tribunal exists to handle criminal cases involving military personnel.

A traditional system of dispute resolution exists at the village and neighborhood level. Cases unresolved at this level may be referred to the courts for further consideration. The traditional system has been found to discriminate against women.

Although the 1990 constitution guarantees the independence of the judiciary, magistrates have no tenure and are susceptible to influence by the executive branch. The penal code provides for the presumption of innocence, the equality of citizens before the law, the right to counsel, and the right to appeal a judicial decision. This code is supported by the constitution, which provides for the inviolability of the home; judicial search warrants are required by law. In reality, police and paramilitary personnel often ignore these legal protections.

In September 1996, the government announced the creation of a discipline council for dealing with civil servants who abuse their positions in the government. In June 1998, a special arbitration court was established to resolve business disputes.


The armed forces numbered about 9,700 active personnel in 2005, including 8,500 in the Army, 400 in the Navy, and 800 in the Air Force. The Army had 12 battalions with 38 T-34 and T-54 main battle tanks among its predominantly Soviet-made equipment. The Navy had 2 patrol/coastal craft, and the Air Force 8 combat capable aircraft, including 4 Soviet-made MiG-21 and MiG-17 fighters. There was a People's Militia of 7,000 and a combined 2,600 in the gendarmerie and Republican Guard. The defense budget in 2005 totaled $72 million.


Guinea was admitted to the United Nations on 12 December 1958 and is a member of ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies. It is a member of the WTO. Guinea also belongs to the African Development Bank, the ACP Group, ECOWAS, G-77, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), and the African Union. Guinea became a partner with Sierra Leone and Liberia in the Mano River Union in 1980, when it also joined Gambia and Senegal as a member of the Gambia River Development Organization. The government is participating in efforts to establish a West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) that would include The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. In addition, Guinea belongs to the Niger Basin Authority and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The International Bauxite Association was established in Conakry in 1974 with Guinea as a charter member. Guinea is part of the Nonaligned Movement.

In environmental cooperation, the country is part of the Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Whaling, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Guinea has extensive mineral deposits, primarily bauxite, and hydroelectric resources, along with soils and climate favorable for producing a diverse array of food and export crops. The country has wide expanses of both natural and cultivated forests, and it has begun to exploit its potential as a producer of timber. Guinea is rich in fishery resources, and has an as-yet untapped potential to increase industrial fishing. Still, Guinea is one of the poorest countries in the world.

For two decades after French withdrawal in 1958 the country was governed according to socialist-style economic management. Agriculture was collectivized and private commerce and industry repressed. In 1984, a major reform movement gained political power and reforms were instituted aimed at developing a modern market economy. The collective farms were abolished, state-owned enterprises were liquidated, compulsory marketing through state agencies was abolished, food prices were decontrolled, and the government began actively to seek foreign investment for sectors other than mining and energy. Although the reforms 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.

As of 2000, 80% of the population engaged in subsistence agriculture. The mining sector accounted for about 75% of exports. Real growth in the GDP was 3.3% in 2001 and was expected to reach 6.5% in 2004. Despite a rise in the world price for bauxite, Guinea's primary export, earnings in the mining sector have been weak. 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. Fighting in Liberia and Sierra Leone has spilled over into Guinea and disrupted its economy.

The economy expanded by 2.7% in 2004, up from 1.2% in 2003, but down from 4.2% in 2002; in 2005, the GDP growth rate was estimated at 2.0%. The inflation has been on the rise since 2002 (when it hovered around 3.0%), and in 2005 it was estimated to have reached 35%. This development was triggered by panic buying after the Liberian and Sierra Leonian conflicts, and it posed serious problems to the economy. In addition, Guinea is not receiving any multilateral aid after the World Bank and the IMF cut off most of the assistance in 2003.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Guinea's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $20.7 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $2,200. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 2%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 35%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 23.7% of GDP, industry 36.2%, and services 40.1%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $111 million or about $14 per capita and accounted for approximately 3.1% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $238 million or about $30 per capita and accounted for approximately 6.6% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Guinea totaled $3.09 billion or about $391 per capita based on a GDP of $3.6 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 3.7%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 29% of household consumption was spent on food, 5% on fuel, 2% on health care, and 9% on education. It was estimated that in 2003 about 40% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


In the latest year for which data was available, over 80% of Guinea's labor force of about three million in 2000 were engaged in agriculture. Services and industry accounted for the remaining 20% of the workforce, that same year. Most of the population relies on subsistence farming. Most of the wage and salary earners work in the public sector; mining is the other major source of salaried employment. Unemployment data was unavailable.

Guinea's Labor Code permits all workers (except military and paramilitary) to create and participate in labor organizations. The General Workers Union of Guinea (UGTG) and the Free Union of Teachers and Researchers of Guinea (SLECG) have emerged since the code ended the previously existing trade union monopoly system. However, the National Confederation of Guinean Workers (CNTG) remains the largest labor organization. Collective bargaining is protected by law. Salaried workers, including public sector civilian employees, have the right to strike, provided that they have given 10 days' notice of an intent to strike and that they are not engaged in an essential service. About 5% of the workforce is unionized.

The minimum working age is 16, and is enforced for large firms working in the formal economy. However, most children work, either in the informal economy or in agriculture. The workweek is technically 48 hours, but most people work longer hours. The labor code has provisions for a minimum wage but the government has yet to establish one, and most workers do not earn a living wage.


Only 2.6% of Guinea's arable land area is cultivated. Agriculture accounts for 22% of GDP and engages 84% of the active population. The agricultural sector of the economy has stagnated since independence. The precipitate withdrawal of the French planters and removal of French tariff preference hurt Guinean agriculture, and drought conditions during the 1970s also hindered production. Since 1985, however, the free market policies of the Second Republic have encouraged growth in agricultural production, with slow but steady increases in output. Guinea is a net food importer, however, importing some 30% of its food needs.

Price controls have also had a dampening effect on output. In theory, until the reforms of the early 1980s, the state controlled the marketing of farm produce. However, even during the late 1970s, when all private trade in agricultural commodities was illegal, only a small amount of agricultural production actually passed through the state distribution system; some 500,000 private smallholders reportedly achieved yields twice as high as government collectives, despite having little or no access to government credit or research and extension facilities. During the 1970s and early 1980s, agricultural exports fell markedly, and food production decreased, necessitating rice imports of at least 70,000 tons a year. (In 1984, a drought year, 186,000 tons of cereal had to be imported.) However, some restrictions on marketing were removed in 1979 and 1981; more recently, prices were decontrolled and many state farms and plantations dissolved. These steps appeared to bring improvements.

The principal subsistence crops (with estimated 2004 production) are manioc, 1,350,000 tons; rice, 900,000 tons; sweet potatoes, 60,000 tons; yams, 40,000 tons; and corn, 90,000 tons. Cash crops are peanuts, palm kernels, bananas, pineapples, coffee, coconuts, sugarcane, and citrus fruits. In 2004, an estimated 430,000 tons of plantains, 280,000 tons of sugarcane, 210,000 tons of citrus fruits, 150,000 tons of bananas, 300,000 tons of peanuts, 53,000 tons of palm kernels, and 22,500 tons of coconuts were produced. That same year, coffee production was estimated at 20,500 tons, compared to 14,000 tons on average annually from 1979 to 1981. Prior to the reforms, a large portion of the coffee crop was smuggled out of the country. Guinea's trade deficit in agricultural products was $164.3 million in 2004.


In 2005, there were an estimated 3,400,000 head of cattle, 1,140,000 sheep, 1,361,000 goats, 67,500 hogs, and 15,000,000 chickens. Almost all the cattle are the small humpless Ndama variety kept by the Fulani in Futa Jallon and Upper Guinea, where sheep and goats also are herded. The Ndama cattle are not susceptible to animal trypanosomiasis and, although very small, their yield in meat is good. Total meat production in 2005 was 58,435 tons.


Guinea's annual ocean fisheries potential exceeds 200,000 tons, according to World Bank estimates. The total catch in 2003 was 118,845 tons, 97% from marine fishing. Domestic artisanal fisherman only catch about 13% of the estimated annual yield. Tuna is the most important catch. Many species found in Guinean waters are among the richest in West Africa and command high value. Exports of fish products in 2003 were valued at $2.3 million. A 1990 agreement with the European Union reflected a growing investment interest in the fishing sector. Since then, several small scale fishing ventures have been established, including a shrimp farming project financed by the African Development Bank, and development of private cold storage facilities in 14 different prefectures.


Forests and woodland make up about 28% of Guinea's land area. The nation's forest resources offer great promise, the major constraint on development being lack of adequate transportation. Logging and sawmill facilities have been built in the Nzérékoré area. Removal of roundwood was estimated at 12.2 million cu m (431 million cu ft) in 2004; about 95% of the harvest was used for fuel. Exports of forestry products totaled $6.0 million in 2004, while imports amounted to $4.5 million.


Guinea's mineral production in 2004 consisted primarily of bauxite, cement, diamonds, gold, and salt. The country also had deposits of graphite, iron, limestone, uranium, nickel and manganese. However, these deposits remained undeveloped. In 2004, Guinea was one of the world's top five bauxite producers and a major source of foreign currency.

The government has claimed that Guinea had 20 billion tons of bauxite reserves, with proven reserves of 18 billion tons. In 2004, Guinea's mine output of bauxite totaled an estimated 17.0 million metric tons wet-basis bauxite (metallurgical plus calcinable ore estimated to be 13% water), and 15.0 million metric tons dry-basis bauxite (wet-basis ore reduced to dry-basis, estimated to be 3% water). There was no recorded production from 2002 through 2004 of calcined bauxite.

In 2004, Guinea produced an estimated 10,700 kg of gold, including artisanal production, down from 16,622 kg in 2003. Artisanal production of gold was sold either directly to the Central Bank of Guinea, or to collectors. Diamond production, including artisanal, in 2004 totaled 740,000 carats, of which 7080% were of gem quality. Artisanal production of diamonds that year accounted for about 700,000 carats. Hydrate alumina production in 2004 was estimated at 9,000 metric tons, with calcined alumina production estimated at 770,000 metric tons. The country also produced cement, clays, salt, sand and gravel, and stone.

Iron ore was mined at Kaloum until 1967. Larger, richer deposits have been found in the Mount Nimba and Simandou mountain areas, along the Liberian border. In 1974, the Mifergui-Simandou and Mifergui-Nimba mining companies were formed to exploit the deposits, with the government retaining half interest in the firms. Reserves were estimated at 300600 million tons. There was no iron ore production recorded in 2004.

The less-than-expected foreign investment was attributed to the country's perceived political and economic risks and decreased availability of financing for junior mining companies, as well as civil disturbances in neighboring countries Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.


Guinea has no known proven reserves of oil or natural gas (as of 1 January 2003), coal, or any oil refining capacity. As a result the country must import whatever refined petroleum products or fossil fuels it consumes. In 2002, consumption and imports of refined petroleum products each averaged 8,730 barrels per day. There were no imports or consumption of natural gas or coal in that year.

Guinea's electric power sector relies on hydropower and conventional thermal fuel to generate power. In 2002, electric power generating capacity stood at 0.284 million kW, of which almost 49% was hydroelectric, with the remainder, based on conventional thermal fuels. In that same year, electric power output totaled 0.773 billion kWh, of which hydroelectric generation supplied 0.443 billion kWh and fossil fueled sources 0.340 billion kWh. Total electric power consumption in 2002 came to 0.719 billion kWh.


Industry accounted for 38% of GDP in 2000, 9% of which consisted of manufacturing. The manufacturing growth rate for 2000 was 4.3%. During the socialist years, a sizeable parastatal industrial sector emerged. Guinea had 234 state-run enterprises in 1985, but fewer than 60 remained in the government's portfolio a decade later. Manufacturing in Guinea consists of three elements: public enterprises with large staffs, producing below capacity; small private businesses, mostly engaged in producing beverages, bread, bricks, carpentry, and boilers/metalwork; and small nonindustrial units informally employing persons in a wide variety of occupations.

The alumina smelter at Fria operated at over 90% capacity, producing 660,000 tons in 1994. Among Guinea's other plants are agro-food processors, including a fruit cannery at Mamou, a fruit juice factory at Kankan, a tea factory at Macenta, a palm oil works at Kassa, a small tobacco factor at Beyla, two peanut oil works, at Dabola and at Agola, rice mills, a sugar complex consisting of two dams, a plantation, and a refinery. A textile complex at Sanoyah, a cement and plastics factories at Conakry, and a number of construction material plants are in operation. There is potential to develop a pharmaceuticals industry in Guinea.

Industry accounted for 36.2% of the GDP in 2005, and was bested by services with a 40.1% share; agriculture was the smallest economic sector (23.7%) and by far the largest employer, with an 80% share in the labor force. Global Alumina, a US based mining company is planning to open a $2.5 billion alumina refinery in Sangaredi. By 2008, the refinery was expected to reach full production and produce 2.8 million tons of alumina per year.


The National Directorate for Scientific and Technical Research is in Conakry. The Center for Rice Research is in Kankan. The Pasteur Institute for Animalculture Research and the Institute for Fruit Research are in Kindia. Five colleges and universities, including the University Gamal Abdel Nasser in Conakry, offer degrees in basic and applied sciences. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 34% of college and university enrollments.

In 2000, there were 286 researchers and 104 technicians per million people, engaged in research and development (R&D).


Commerce was severely controlled through state trading enterprises until the end of the socialist era in 1984. Private Guinean traders can now import freely, the government having ended in 1992 its monopoly on imports of petroleum and pharmaceuticals. Prices for all goods other than imported rice and petroleum products were deregulated in 1986 and the private sector was permitted to engage in all levels of internal and external marketing. However, internal corruption and political conflicts have dissuaded foreign investment which is sorely needed to jump start commercial activity.

Business hours are 7:30 am to 3 pm, Monday through Thursday, 7:30 am to 1 pm on Friday, and 7:30 am to 1 pm on Saturday. Banks are normally open from 8 am to 12:30 pm, Monday through Saturday. French is the official language of businesses.


Export figures for 2000 show that the mining industry accounted for 70% in export earnings, including mostly bauxite and alumina, but also gold. Unused postage, stamp-impressed papers, and checkbooks made up 12% of Guinea's total exports, and aluminum hydroxide exports represented another 11%.

Petroleum products, machinery and equipment, and food top the list of imports at 25%, 19%, and 18%, respectively, while vehicles (8.7%), and chemicals (8.4%) also contributed to total imports, worth approximately $612 million in 2000.

Technically, the government no longer permits counter-trade or barter in international trade. Guinea retains its postcolonial ties with France, importing the large portion of goods from that country (following Côte d'Ivoire as leading provider), and exports the majority of its minerals to France, other European countries, and the United States.

In 2005, exports totaled $612 million (FOBfree on board), while imports grew to $680 million. In 2004, most of the exports went to France (17.7%), Belgium (14.7%), the United Kingdom (14.7%), Switzerland (12.8%), and the Ukraine (4.2%). Imports primarily came from Côte d'Ivoire (15.5%), France (9%), Belgium (6.1%), China (6%), and South Africa (4.8%).


At the beginning of 1999, external debt totaled $3.4 billion, representing 74% of GDP. The country relies on mining exports for

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 525.4 666.5 -141.1
France-Monaco 127.9 107.7 20.2
Ireland 53.5 53.5
Spain 53.4 12.6 40.8
United States 46.3 55.3 -9.0
Germany 42.1 21.7 20.4
Russia 33.8 33.8
Switzerland-Liechtenstein 30.9 8.9 22.0
United Kingdom 29.1 15.7 13.4
Canada 21.6 1.5 20.1
Belgium 20.5 42.6 -22.1
() data not available or not significant.

revenue. Significant debt relief programs are working towards alleviating debt servicing commitments.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2000 the purchasing power parity of Guinea's exports was $694.5 million while imports totaled $555.2 million resulting in a trade surplus of $139.3 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001 Guinea had exports of goods totaling $731 million and imports totaling $562 million. The services credit totaled $103 million and debit $319 million.

Exports of goods totaled an estimated $725 million in 2004, up from $609 million in 2003. Imports grew from $644 million in 2003, to an estimated $688 million in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative in 2003 (-$35 million), and positive in 2004 ($37 million). The current account balance improved from -$187 million in 2003, to -$174 million in 2004. Foreign exchange reserves (excluding gold) increased to $3.5 billion in 2003.


At independence, central banking functions were carried out by the Central Bank of the West African States (Banque Centrale des États de l'Afrique de l'Ouest-BCEAO), and commercial banking by branches of five French banks. On 1 March 1960, Guinea withdrew from the franc zone. The Guinean branch of the BCEAO was abolished, and the Central Bank of Guinea was established. Later that year, four of the five private banks were closed down, and the fifth was nationalized in 1961. All banking activities were taken over by the Central Bank, but by 1962 its functions were decentralized and three new state-owned banks were added.

The National Credit Bank for Commerce, Industry, and Housing, with branches throughout Guinea, handled all commercial banking and made loans to finance commerce, industry, and housing. The Guinean Foreign Trade Bank performed functions related to foreign trade. The National Agricultural Development Bank granted medium and long-term loans for agricultural development. There was also a National Savings Bank. All these institutions except the Central Bank were abolished in late 1985 and were replaced by commercial banks.

There are six commercial banks in Guinea, including the Banque Internationale pour le commerce et l'industrie de la Guinée (BICIGUI); the Societe Generale des Banques en Guinee (SGBG); the Banque Islamique de Guinee (BIG); the Unione Internationale des Banques en Guinee (UIBG); and the International Commercial Bank de Guinée (ICBG), which was launched in Conakry in early November 1996. All involve French or US participation. The government has offered for sale to the general public shares in the BICIGUI. The bank controls roughly 45% of the country's banking resources, supplying one-third of all credits to the private sector and up to 60% of those awarded for international trade. BICIGUI has 12 branches (3 in Conakry).

In 1997, due to financial instability and lack of capital, the government was considering making obligatory the direct transfer of public-sector wages and salaries to designated accounts within the commercial banks. New regulations were created to stabilize the banking system by 2000, but those reforms have been delayed, leaving the banking system in the same state.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $287.1 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $353.6 million. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 16.25%.

Local currency may not be exported or imported. There are no securities exchanges in Guinea.


All insurance companies were nationalized in January 1962. There is a national insurance company, the National Society of Insurance

Current Account -187.5
     Balance on goods -35.0
         Imports -644.3
         Exports 609.3
     Balance on services -173.6
     Balance on income -111.7
     Current transfers 132.9
Capital Account 57.6
Financial Account 58.6
     Direct investment abroad
     Direct investment in Guinea 79.0
     Portfolio investment assets -4.6
     Portfolio investment liabilities
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets -4.4
     Other investment liabilities -11.4
Net Errors and Omissions -157.1
Reserves and Related Items 228.5
() data not available or not significant.

and Reinsurance, and at least five other major companies based in Conakry.


Guinea did not have a formal government budget until 1989. Since then, overly optimistic revenue projections, increasing civil service salaries and military expenditures, and diversion of public funds have resulted in deficits. The government took control of the problematic electricity and water utilities in 2001, giving itself one year to fix the structural shortfalls and then find new partners to operate them.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Guinea's central government took in revenues of approximately $305.6 million and had expenditures of $590.4 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$284.8 million. Total external debt was $3.46 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 1999, the most recent year for which it had data, budgetary central government revenues were GFr895,400 million and expenditures were GFr1,010 million. The value of revenues US dollars was us$645 million, based on a official exchange rate for 1999 of us$1 = GFr1,387.4 as reported by the IMF.


Personal income and capital gains are taxed at 35%, which is also the corporate tax rate. A 15% withholding tax is levied on dividends. Both employees (5%) and employers (18%) contribute to Social Security. In 1996, the government introduced a value-added tax (VAT). In 2003, the standard rate was set at 18%. Exports, international transportation, and basic food items are exempted.


Since 1994, import taxes have steadily increased. Import licenses are required for all imports regardless of country of origin and import duties are levied uniformly. Prohibited imports included

Revenue and Grants 895,400 100.0%
     Tax revenue 534,450 59.7%
     Social contributions 5,260 0.6%
     Grants 320,500 35.8%
     Other revenue 35,190 3.9%
Expenditures 1,010,060 100.0%
     General public services
     Public order and safety
     Economic affairs
     Environmental protection
     Housing and community amenities
     Recreational, culture, and religion
     Social protection
() data not available or not significant. f = forecasted or projected data.

arms, military equipment, and narcotics. There was also an 18% VAT on all imported products. With the exception of gold and diamonds, no export taxes were levied.


Guinea's national identity rests on its proud refusal to enter the French community in 1958 and its offers of economic assistance in exchange for political independence. Even though the country has gone through substantial political and economic liberalization since the passing of independence hero, Sékou Touré, in 1984, the legacy still inhibits the embrace of foreign investment. The only sectors of the economy in which private foreign investment were originally allowed after independence were mining and energy, but in the early 1980s agricultural investment was also being sought. During 198385, direct foreign investment amounted to $2.2 million.

An investment code following the 1984 coup indicated a new emphasis on private investment and incentives. It was replaced by the currently applicable investment code of 1987, as amended in 1995, which pledged national treatment, free repatriation of capital, special incentives for small and medium-size enterprises, nonmining exports, enterprises using over 70% local inputs, and those locating outside of Conakry. In 1989, under donor pressure, the government leased the operation of Conakry's water supply in a 10-year contract to a consortium led by the SARU and Vivendi companies of France operating as the management company SEEG (Société de Exploitation des Eaux de Guinée). After initial gains in efficiency, SEEG could not make further headway against nepotism and corruption and could not devise a way to get the government to pay its bills. Although the contract was renewed in June 2001, the private companies left in frustration. In 2003, under drought conditions, repeated riots in Conakry have protested the scarcity of water and electricity.

In 1992, investment policies were liberalized to permit private ventures in most sectors, including mining and telecommunications, and the Office of Private Investment Promotion (OPIP) was established as a one-stop shop to facilitate the process. By the revised mining code of 1995, foreigners could own up to 85% of mining ventures. The main bauxite mining company in Guinea, CBG (Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée), is owned 49% by the government and 51% by Halco, which is a consortium of foreign companies made up of Alcan (Canada, 33%); Alcoa and its subsidiary, Reynolds (United States, 13%); Pechiney (France, 10%); VAW (Germany, 10%); and Comalco (Australia, 4%). In 2003, the smaller state-owned SBK (Société des Bauxites de Kindia-Debelé) mine, built in the 1970s as part of a barter agreement with the USSR to pay off loans by providing bauxite to a smelter in the Ukraine, was being managed by Russian Aluminum (RusAl). In 2003, RusAl also planned to acquire the Friguia mine, site of the first aluminum smelter in Africa and now badly in need of privatization and modernizing.

In 1992, the postal service was separated from telecommunications to allow outside participation in the latter. In December 1995 Telekom Malaysia Berhad acquired a 60% stake in SOTELGUI, the state telecommunications company. In the mobile sector, SOTELGUI competes against Spacetel (Israel) and Telecel (US-based).

Diamond mining in Guinea has recently attracted explorations by De Beers (South Africa), Hymex and Trivalence Mining Corporations (Canadian), and Aredor Holding Company (Australia). Aredor has a reputation for nontransparent operations in gold mining in Guinea, leaving a few government officials wealthy and the local population with only a degraded and polluted environment. Gold mining in Guinea, like diamond mining, has until recently been mainly traditional and informal (illegal), but the Ghanaian company, Ashanti Goldfields, has operations in Guinea.

In 1995, revisions to the investment code divided the country into four administrative zones to better service foreign investment projects. Significant foreign direct investment projects for 1997 to 1998 included a $200 million railway repair by Slovak Railways, a $45 million gold exploration by Ashanti Goldfields, a $24 million diamond exploration by Société Aurifere de Guinée and Hymex Diamant, a $20 million expansion and modernization project by the government of Iran, and an $8 million diamond operation by De Beers. Foreign direct investment (FDI) averaged $17.55 million in 199798. In May 1999, the government, with the support of OPIP and UNIDO, hosted an investors' forum to which 500 potential investors were invited and over 100 potential investment projects were presented. In 1999, FDI peaked at $63.4 million, whereas for 2000 and 2001, the average was $35.5 million

In 2004, Societe de Miniere de Dinguiraye and Societe Aurifere de Guinee (two expatriate gold-mining companies) made major investments in the mining sector. Global Alumina, a US based company, is planning to open a $2.5 billion alumina refinery in Sangaredi, while Alcoa and Alcan are looking into starting a jointly owned alumina refinery of similar magnitude. Some of the main concerns of foreign investors are the need for a stable judicial and economic framework, and increased stability along Guinea's southern borders.


After independence, French-held financial, commercial, industrial, and distributive organizations were expropriated, and the national economy was divided into three sectors: a state sector, a mixed sector, and a sector for guaranteed private investment. By the mid-1970s, the private sector had become insignificant, and government policy increasingly leaned toward greater government control of the mixed enterprises and the state-sector companies. The 198791 recovery program called for $670 million in spending through 1989, with 42% for infrastructure and 24% for rural development. A major aim was to diversify the economy and reduce the heavy reliance on bauxite.

By 1990, the government had privatized the majority of its 180 public enterprises and closed over 300 state farms. From 1990 to 2000, the pace of structural reform slowed and debts increased as the economy failed to diversify. The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) granted two new loans to Guinea in 1997, and the Paris Club rescheduled a large portion of Guinea's bilateral debt, forgiving 50% of debt to France, and Russia forgave 70% of bilateral debt.

The government in recent years has taken steps to stimulate investment, encourage private-sector commercial activity, reduce the role of the state in the economy, and improve administrative and judicial frameworks. The government has also increased spending on education, health, infrastructure, banking, and justice sectors, and cut the government bureaucracy. Corruption and nepotism hamper economic development.

In 2000, Guinea was granted $800 million in debt relief under the International Monetary Fund (IMF)/World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. In 2001, Guinea negotiated a three-year $81.3 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement with the IMF, geared to support the country's efforts to stabilize the economy, promote growth, improve social services, and reduce poverty.

In 2003, the World Bank and the IMF cut off most of the financial assistance, and currently Guinea is not receiving any multilateral aid. The modest growth registered in 2005 was primarily caused by an increase in global demand and commodity prices on world markets. Although the inflation rate rose rapidly in 2004 and 2005 (to 35%), it was expected to taper off starting 2006. Mining was expected to continue to be the primer growth engine, with most of the other sectors expected to stagnate in the short term period.


There was a regression of social services during the Touré years. Although government sought to establish extensive social programs, they were badly organized and managed and, in the end, the treasury was empty. In 1994, social security legislation was updated, providing pensions at age 55 and cash sickness benefits for employed persons. Work injury laws, initiated in 1932, covers employed persons including agricultural salaried workers, domestic workers, apprentices, interns, and students at technical school. Officially, free medical treatment is available, as well as free care for pregnant women and for infants. In reality, health service is poor, and life expectancy is among the lowest in the world.

Women traditionally play a subordinate role in family and public life. The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, but is not effectively enforced. Violence against women is common, but the courts rarely intervene in domestic disputes. Inheritance customs favor male children over female children. Divorce laws favor men in awarding property and custody of children. Female genital mutilation (FGM), a practice that is both painful and often lifethreatening, continues to be practiced in all parts of the country. In 2004 there was an increase in adherence to conservative Islamic beliefs, which further threatened the rights of women.

Human rights abuses include police abuse of prisoners, arbitrary detention, and torture. The government exercises its power to restrict unwanted political gatherings.


As of 2004, there were an estimated 9 physicians, 43 nurses, and 18 dentists per 100,000 people. Approximately 80% of the population had access to health care services.

The Republic of Guinea lies along the "goiter belt" of the Atlantic coast from west to central Africa. Low iodine intake has led to goiter in predominantly rural areas. Malaria, yaws, leprosy (3,580 cases in 1995), and sleeping sickness (in the forest areas in the Guinea Highlands) have been the major tropical diseases; tuberculosis and venereal diseases are also prevalent. There were 255 cases of tuberculosis in 1999 per 100,000 people. Yellow fever and smallpox have been brought under control, but schistosomiasis remains widespread. In 2000, 48% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 58% had adequate sanitation. The most common diseases for children under five years old in 1994 were diarrhea, respiratory infections, helminthiasis, and malaria. Children up to one year old were vaccinated against tuberculosis, 69%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 53%; polio, 53%; and measles, 56%. Total health care expenditures were 3.8% of GDP.

In 2002 Guinea had an estimated birthrate of 39.5 per 1,000 people. In 2000 the total fertility rate was 5.2 births per woman. Only 2% of Guinean women used some form of contraception. Malnutrition affected 26% of all children under five years old as of 1999. Goiter was found in 62.6% of school-age children in 1996. Infant mortality in 2005 was 91.45 per 1,000 live births and the overall mortality rate was estimated at 17 per 1,000 people in 2002. Average estimated life expectancy was 49.36 years in 2005.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 3.20 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 140,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 9,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

Since 1986, Guinea has been revamping its health care system. Using the Bamako Initiative previously used by other sub-Saharan African nations, Guinea has set up several smaller health centers that offer immunization services, AIDS prevention and control, family planning, and tuberculosis control.


The most common rural dwelling is round, windowless, and made of wattle and daub or sun-dried mud bricks, with a floor of packed earth and a conical thatched roof. Urban dwellings are usually one-story rectangular frame or mud-brick buildings, generally without electricity or indoor plumbing. Conakry has a serious housing shortage. According to the latest available information (198088), the housing stock numbered over one million units, with 5.4 people per dwelling. In 2000, 72% of urban and 36% of rural households had access to improved water sources. About 94% of urban and 41% of rural households had access to improved sanitation systems.


Before Guinea became independent, its educational system was patterned on that of France and French was the primary language of instruction. All schools were nationalized in 1961. In 1968, a "cultural revolution," aimed at de-Westernizing Guinean life, was inaugurated; since then, eight vernaculars have been added to the school curriculum, and village-level programs have been set up to assist in the implementation of the plan. Although the French educational structure and its traditional degrees have been retained, African history and geography are now stressed. Education is free and compulsory between the ages of 7 and 13. Children go through six years of primary and seven years of secondary school. After this, students may choose to attend a three-year vocational school to complete their education. The academic year runs from October to June.

Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 65% of age-eligible students; 73% for boys and 58% for girls. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 21% of age-eligible students; 28% for boys and 13% for girls. It is estimated that about 41% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 44:1 in 2000; the ratio for secondary school was about 30:1. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 20% of primary school enrollment and 12% of secondary enrollment.

The Gamal Abdel Nasser Polytechnic Institute was established at Conakry in 1963. The Valéry Giscard d'Estaing Institute of Agro-Zootechnical Sciences was founded in 1978 at Faranah. The University of Conakry was founded in 1984. The adult literacy rate for 1995 was estimated at about 35.9%, with 49.9% for men and 21.9% for women.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 1.8% of GDP, or 25.6% of total government expenditures.


The chief book collection and main exhibition center are in the National Institute of Research and Documentation (67,000 volumes) at Conakry. The National Library (40,000 volumes) and the National Archives are also located in Conakry. There are also small university libraries in Kankan and Conakry.

The National Museum, at Conakry, has displays of the ethnography and prehistory of Guinea, as well as a collection of art, fetishes, and masks of the Sacred Forest. The capital also has two natural history museums, covering botany and geology. There are regional museums in Kissidougou, Nzérékoré, Youkounkoun, Beyla, and Boké.


Telephone, telegraph, and postal services are government-owned. Submarine cables connect Conakry with Dakar, Freetown, and Monrovia; telecommunication links by satellite are also available. In 2003, there were an estimated 3 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 1,400 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 14 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Radiodiffusion-Télévision Guinéenne broadcasts in French, English, Portuguese, Arabic, Creole, and local languages, as does TV-Nationale, the one television station in Guinea. In 2001, there were 4 AM and 1 FM radio stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 52 radios and 47 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 5.5 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 5 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.

The government-owned Horoya is the only daily paper, with an estimated circulation of 20,000 in 2002. There are also a number of private press weeklies, including La Lance, L'Oeil, Le Democrat, L'Independant, La Nouvelle Tribune, L'Observateur, and the satirical newspaper Le Lynx.

The constitution provides freedom of the press, though in practice the government imposes broad control and censorship. All media are owned or controlled by the government.


Regional farm organizations are leagued in a national union of planters' cooperatives. Mass organizations associated with the RDA include the Youth of the Democratic African Revolution and the Revolutionary Union of Guinean Women. The Guinea Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture has 70 affiliates.

National women's organizations include the Association Guinéenne des Femmes Diplômées des Universitiés and Commission Nationale des Femmes Travailleuses de Guinée. Scouting organizations are active for youth. Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs International, are present. There is a national chapter of the Red Cross Society.


Visitors to Guinea must have a valid passport, visa, and international vaccination record (World Health Organization card). A certificate of vaccination against yellow fever is also required. Malaria precautions are recommended. An annual cultural festival that includes theatrical and dance groups is held in October. In 2003, there were 3,634 tourist arrivals. Tourist receipts totaled $8.1 million in 2001, and in 2002 there were 3,774 hotel rooms with 4,518 beds and a 70% occupancy rate. The average length of stay that same year was three nights.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the average daily expenses to stay in Conakry at $143.


A revered figure of the 19th century is Samory Touré (1830?1900), a Malinké born in Upper Guinea, who conquered large areas and resisted French military forces until 1898. The founder of modern Guinea was his alleged great-grandson Ahmed Sékou Touré (192284), a prominent labor leader and political figure who became Guinea's first president in 1958. Guinea's best-known writer, Camara Laye (192880), wrote the novel The Dark Child (1953). Col. Lansana Conté (b.1934) became president in 1984. In 2004, he appointed Cellou Dalein Diallo (b.1953?) prime minister.


Guinea has no territories or colonies.


Arulpragasam, Jehan. Economic Transition in Guinea: Implications for Growth and Poverty. New York: Cornell University Food and Nutrition Press, 1997.

D and B's Export Guide to Guinea. Parsippany, N.J.: Dun and Bradstreet, 1999.

Dhada, Mustafah. Warriors at Work: How Guinea was Really Set Free. Niwot, Colo.: University Press of Colorado, 1993.

Nkrumah, Kwame. Kwame Nkrumah: The Conakry Years, His Life and Letters. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: PANAF, 1990.

O'Toole, Thomas. Historical Dictionary of Guinea. 4th ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2005.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

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Republic of Guinea
République de Guinée



Guinea lies on the West African coast, bordered by Sierra Leone and Liberia to the south, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal to the north, and Mali and Côte d'Ivoire inland to the east. It has 320 kilometers (199 miles) of coastline, and a land area of 245,857 square kilometers (94,925 miles). Comparatively, the country is slightly smaller than Oregon. The capital of Conakry is on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and has the only international airport.


The population was estimated to be 7,613,870 in July of 2001, a figure which includes up to half a million refugees from the neighboring countries of Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau. According to the United Nations, Guinea is the largest provider of shelter for refugees in the region, with an estimated 650,000 refugees in 2000, and the pattern has been for refugees to drift to the capital, putting pressure on municipal services. The population growth rate in 2001 was estimated at 1.96 percent. The majority of the population is rural, with just 29.6 percent of the population living in urban areas. The capital is home to 1.1 million people, and a further 9 towns have populations of between 25,000 and 100,000.

The population is composed primarily of 3 indigenous ethnic groups: the Peuhl (40 percent), Malinke (30 percent), and Soussou (20 percent). Fully 85 percent of the population are Muslim, while 5 percent are Roman Catholic and the rest follow traditional beliefs. The population is quite young, with 43 percent between the ages of 0 and 14, and 54 percent between the ages of 15 and 64. The life expectancy in the country is 45.91 years (43.49 for men and 48.42 for women).


Guinea is a small economy in terms of the total value of its output. The population is small, at around 7.6 million, and not very productive: the amount of output produced per person is very low at US$540 a year (by way of comparison the U.S. figure is US$29,340 per person, per year). This low output level, combined with poor educational prospects and inadequate access to health care and other human services, has earned Guinea a place near the bottom of the United Nations (UN) Human Development Index, with a ranking of 162 out of 174 countries. The population is growing fairly rapidly, at 1.96 percent a year, with the average woman giving birth to 5.5 children during her lifetime, and this rate adds to the problems of generating higher incomes. Most people 80 percentdepend on agriculture for their livelihoods, mainly on small family farms. Despite these limitations, in the last several decades Guinea's economic output has increased more rapidly than its population, and average living standards have improved. The agriculture and services sectors have performed better, with industry doing less well.

Following independence from France in 1958 all opposition was ruthlessly crushed, and Guinea pursued a Marxist development strategy, which continued until 1984. Inefficient public companies controlled all economic activity, discouraging all private enterprise, and the economy was centrally planned. Vestiges of the old system remain, despite 15 years of support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for economic reforms. Only the mining sector remained productive over this entire period, as it operated mainly in enclaves isolated from the rest of the economy.

Some liberal policies were brought in towards the end of President Ahmed Sékou Touré's First Republic, but his death in March 1984 brought a fundamental change in policy. The new government embarked on an economic and financial reform program with IMF support and foreign creditor banking. Phase One of the program concentrated on removing the worst distortions in the economy. This task involved a massive devaluation of the Guinean franc; the privatization or liquidation of government-owned enterprises; trade liberalization and the removal of price controls ; the abolition of state marketing boards; the creation of a commercial banking system; and the review of civil service employment. The initial success of the program won Guinea partial debt rescheduling in 1986 and further IMF funding in 1987.

A second phase of reforms was designed to change attitudes in the public and private sectors . It included reorganizing the Customs Service, widening the tax net, and introducing stricter budgetary controls. Guinea failed to secure an extension to the 1987 loan, however, because of budgetary overspending, inadequate revenue generation, privatization delays, and a failure to cut public sector employment. Some of the more serious structural problems were addressed in the early 1990s on the signing of a new loan agreement which brought further support and debt relief from the donor community.

In 1992 the IMF had again to address the government's inability to reach targets, and in 1994 it extended its lending for 12 months while it constructed a new package. Performance was good in early 1995 but fell again later in the year. An army mutiny in February 1996 compromised donor aid and business confidence and caused the government to be unable to balance the budget after it gave in to the mutineers' demands for pay increases.

When Sidya Touré, an economist by profession, became prime minister in mid-1996, he led a sustained attempt to stick to IMF targets, especially in the field of budgetary shortfalls, public expenditures, and revenue collection. Thus, the structural adjustment loan was renewed in 1997, and lenders rescheduled Guinea's debts on exceptionally generous terms. However, the appointment of a new prime minister, Lamine Sidime, in 1999 led to further IMF and donor problems because, despite allowances being made for the exceptional circumstances of the period, the reform program had drifted off-track and had been suspended. By late 1999 the donor community felt that the situation had improved enough to release further funds to Guinea, under tight conditions. By the turn of the century, however, Guinea had labored for twenty years to improve the structure of its economy and had little to show for its efforts. Despite millions of dollars of foreign aid and loans, the government is still unable to stick to budgetary schemes, unemployment remains high, and the country remains overly dependent on the mining sector.

Agriculture accounted for 22 percent of the GDP in 1998, but it offered employment to 80 percent of the population. Most people involved in the agricultural sector are engaged in some form of subsistence agriculture, which means that they are producing goods for their own consumption or for barter . Mining provides the largest source of foreign exchange earnings and government revenue, but its share in the economy is declining due to under-investment and falling world prices. Due to the poor state of the government-owned industries, there has been little interest in the government's privatization program, and only 4 percent of the GDP is generated by formal manufacturing. Altogether, industry provided 35.3 percent of the GDP in 1998. There has, however, been large growth in services, with banking reforms stimulating the financial services sector and external financing bringing a boom in trading and utilities. Services contributed 42.4 percent to the GDP in 1998. Together, industry and services employed 20 percent of the workforce in 2000. The informal sector , comprising small-scale manufacturing and services operating from no permanent premises, is also thriving.

Consumer inflation has run in single figures since 1992, after hitting a high of 72 percent in 1986. This rate is mainly due to low price rises for local goods and necessities, a fall in the price of imported rice, and the tight monetary policy of the government.


European traders settled on the coast of Guinea in the 1600s, and the French military laid claim to Guinea in the 19th century after defeating tribal chieftains in the region. Guinea became a colony in 1891, though French forces took until 1898 to consolidate the interior of the country.

Ahmed Sékou Touré led Guinea to independence at the head of the Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG), which he founded in 1947. In 1958 Guinea rejected joining the French African community, and on being granted independence in October 1958, it severed all links with France. Touré set up a Marxist state with a 1-party dictatorship; it is known as the First Republic. Touré's regime quickly became oppressive and totalitarian, and by the time of his death in 1984, about 1 million Guineans lived abroad, while the ruling party enjoyed no popular support. On Sékou Touré's death in 1984, the military seized power, led by Lansana Conté.

Lansana Conté has dominated the political scene in Guinea since 1984. He directed the economy away from socialism . Under Conté, the military government sought to decrease the size of the public sector and increase private ownership and investment in a program of sweeping economic changes. Conté invited prominent exiles back into government. However, Conté's early years retained the pattern of eliminating opponents and engaging in frequent coups, along with regularly changing the cabinet.

In 1989, Conté paved the way for democratic political institutions. The Third Republic began in 1991 with the adoption of a new constitution, under which the president is elected to a 5-year term by popular vote. Conté and the PUP have dominated the New Republic, winning all elections by large majorities. However, questions about how the elections were conducted led to controversy. In February 1996 a group of officers opposed to Conté's regime tried to seize power. Conté was held for some hours until he agreed to certain concessions, including doubling army salaries and conferring amnesty on those involved in the mutiny. In 1998 the presidential election was marred by the arrest of the main opposition party leader, Alpha Condé, on charges of trying to overthrow the government. Local elections in 2000 brought a landslide victory for the PUP and widespread condemnation of how the elections were held.

Cabinet reshuffles have followed every election and the 1996 mutiny. The 1996 mutiny also led to budgetary problems and the cessation of IMF support. Following the mutiny political appointees were replaced with technocrats , and the prime minister became head of government. Prime Minister Sidya Touré, who had restored donor relations, was replaced by Lamine Sidime in March 1999.

Guinea has 40 registered political parties, with 9 being represented in parliament. The PUP has its stronghold in the Soussou-speaking coastal areas, although through patronage, it holds influence in most towns as well. Most other parties have strong regional support, but little else. The main opposition to PUP comes from its own reformers and the traditional political elite.

The 1982 constitution, which was suspended in 1984, was replaced in 1991 by the "Loi Fondamentale." The president is elected by universal suffrage and serves a renewable 5-year term. The president appoints the Council of Ministers to share executive power. Their decisions are subject to approval by the Legislative Assembly, though opposition from the Legislative Assembly may be overruled by decree.

The 114-member People's National Assembly is elected in a complicated way. One-third of the parliament is elected by a simple majority, and two-thirds by proportional representation . The legal system in Guinea is based on French civil law, but with local additions, and may be modified by decree. Guinea was originally supported by the Soviet bloc, but in 1975 Guinea's attitudes changed with the signing of the Lomé Convention (a European Union aid scheme), joining the Economic Union of West African States (ECOWAS), and repairing strained relations with the West, particularly France. Conté has politically realigned the state and has now fully restored Western ties. He is active regionally, and his troops often skirmish with neighbors, as political unrest in Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have created refugees and rebel groups that operate across Guinea's borders.

Mining revenue accounts for 20 percent of government income (including taxes, royalties, and export duties ), but this figure has fallen with falling world prices since 1987. Guinea has also significantly widened its tax net on incomes and profits, goods and services, and trade; in fact, this source of revenue has multiplied tenfold from 1989 to 1999, though this amount has not been enough to offset the reductions in mining revenue and the increased state wage bill. Overall government expenditures have been reduced since 1991, though not enough to consistently balance the budget.


There has been a great improvement since the mid-1980s to Guinea's transport infrastructure . The road network has quadrupled in size and several projects are under way to further expand it. In 1996, about 16.5 percent of the country's 30,500 kilometers (18,953 miles) of main routes were paved. Most routes link urban areas to mining areas, and access to the remainder of Guinea is difficult. Half of the 80,000 vehicles on Guinean roads provide public transport.

The only functioning railway links the ports to the mines and carries no passengers. The Kamsar to Kankan railway line no longer operates. Renovation of the railway system is under consideration.

Conakry port is operating at near saturation levels, handling 94 percent of imports. Plans are afoot to build an inland container terminal and reactivate Benty port. The country has 1 international airport, with Air Guinea operating an erratic regional schedule and internal flights to a dozen airstrips around the country.

Telecoms are handled by Sotelgui, which has been managed by Telekom Malaysia since 1995. The number of telephones increased to 25,000 by 1998, up from 19,000 in 1996. Sotelgui was scheduled to introduce a mobile cellular network in late 1997. The number of telephones

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Guinea N/A 47 41 0.0 3 0.4 2.6 0.00 5
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Nigeria 24 223 66 N/A 0 N/A 5.7 0.00 100
Guinea-Bissau 5 44 N/A N/A 0 0.4 N/A 0.13 2
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

is set to double by the end of 2000, although most are still only used in the capital. However, the system is still inadequate, and most companies continue to rely on their own communication services.

A vigorous independent press competes with a state-run newspaper. However, the broadcast media, especially influential in rural areas, are controlled largely by the state.

Guinea has no proven fossil fuel reserves but enormous hydro-electric potential. Nevertheless, firewood accounts for 85 percent of domestic energy needs, and petroleum products are imported. Of the 320 megawatts of installed energy production capacity, 40 percent is privately owned. Only 6 percent of the population receive grid electricity, and this group is mainly in the capital. Several projects are underway to increase electricity production.


Agriculture generated 22.3 percent of the GDP in 1998, and the major products are rice, coffee, pineapples, and palm kernels. Industry provided 35.3 percent of the GDP. The most important part of the industrial sector is mining, providing approximately 20 percent of GDP. Guinea has major mineral resources and is the world's second largest bauxite producer (bauxite is used to produce aluminum). Services were estimated to provide 42.4 percent of the GDP in 1998.


Agriculture provided 22.3 percent of GDP in 1998, and 80 percent of the employment of the economically active population. Guinea has a climate that allows for a range of activities, but only 15 percent of cultivable land

is farmed, and most production is for subsistence. After independence in 1958, agricultural production stagnated, and growth in production did not meet growth in population as many cash crop plantations were abandoned. Self-sufficiency in food production is still elusive, despite the end of Marxist economic policies in 1984.

There are projects in hand to improve rice production, which is the main staple and covers 50 percent of cultivable land. However, around 40 percent of the national consumption of rice is still imported. The country is self-sufficient in most other foodstuffs and is even able to export some vegetables and fruit to Europe. Oil palm, rubber, and cotton plantations have received foreign investment.

Approximately 30 percent of rural families own livestock, mainly in the Kankan and Labe regions. The UN estimates that there are 2.4 million cattle, 1.5 million sheep, 54,000 pigs, and 9 million chickens in Guinea. Guinea imports 1,500 tons of meat and 10,000 tons of dairy products for urban use every year, though several projects designed to increase production in these items are under way.

Fishing provides less than 1 percent of the GDP, but 6 percent of exports. Industrial fishing provides half of the 120,000 ton catch, and 65 percent of the industrial catch is caught by foreign-registered boats. A lack of infrastructure reduces the domestic market for fish.



Mining is the most important sector in the economy, providing approximately 20 percent of GDP, 90 percent of recorded exports, and 70 percent of government revenue, though world commodity price declines in the 1990s have hurt the industry. A new mining code has been an incentive to investors, and foreign companies are now responsible for 85 percent of new developments.

Guinea has 30 percent of the world's known reserves of bauxite and is the world's second largest producer of the ore. The biggest company in the sector is owned by the U.S. company, Alcoa, and produces 12.5 million tons per year, and through further investment this figure should rise to 13 million. A Soviet-backed company has had erratic production since the downfall of the Soviet system and produced only 1.5 million tons in 1998, though its capacity is 5 million tons per year. There is also a joint venture with Iran, though production has yet to start, as it is still waiting for improvements of the rail links with the capital to make the venture viable.

The parastatal Frigvia has the capacity to produce 700,000 tons per year of alumina (the processed form of bauxite), though heavy losses in the years 1991-96 and internal disputes have caused the French advisers to pull out. The privatization sale of Frigvia to a U.S. company is well advanced, and other nations have also shown interest in other smelting ventures elsewhere in the country.

Small-scale gold-mining takes place throughout the country, and several large ventures are planned or have recently come into production. Gold generates about 13 percent of export revenues according to the official figures, but the amount of small-scale mining and smuggling means that much gold production goes unrecorded, and the importance of gold to the economy is significantly greater than the statistics indicate.

The 1985 ban on small-scale diamond mining, which was designed to encourage large-scale foreign investors, was lifted in 1992, and small-scale operators are now responsible for the bulk of the national production of an estimated 80,000 to 125,000 carats per year. Official diamond exports are about US$40 million a year, but because only 15 percent of diamond mining goes through official channels, the real benefit to the economy is closer to US$250 million. The new mining code has sparked considerable international interest.

Guinea has 6 percent of the world's iron-ore, though plans to exploit the deposits have been held back due to their location near Liberia during a period of regional tension. Other reserves include chrome, cobalt, copper, lead, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, platinum, titanium, uranium, chalk, graphite, and granite. Guinea almost certainly has undiscovered deposits of commercial minerals as only one-third of the country has been surveyed.


Formal manufacturing is small and has fallen from 4.3 percent of the GDP in 1993 to 3.9 percent of the GDP in 2000. The majority of production is in the agro-industry sector, although manufacturing in Guinea also includes brewing, soft drinks, cement, and metal manufacture. The cigarette producer, Entag, closed following a fire in 1999, and most state-run enterprises have closed, and no major enterprise opened in the 1990s. Most manufacturing is concentrated around the capital.

Publicly-funded construction accounts for one-half of total construction, and most of it was concentrated on improving the infrastructure. However, recently the private sector has become more active.


Guinea's financial sector includes the Central Bank, 7 deposit-taking banks, 4 insurance companies, a social security institution, 2 small co-operative banks, and 50 bureau de change (currency exchanges). Most banking is in the capital, and the banking system is slowly gaining in public confidence, and more people are prepared to hold their money in the form of bank deposits.

Interest rate controls were lifted as part of monetary reforms in 1993, which also reinforced banking supervision. Banks may set lending and deposit rates, subject to a maximum spread about the Treasury bill rate. Short-term loans accounted for 83 percent of the US$170 million credit distribution to the private-sector in 1998, with 55 percent going to trading activities. The increasing funding needs of mines and the increase in deposits have led to an increase in medium-term lending.

Guinea's small tourism industry collapsed after independence and is unlikely to be rejuvenated in the near future. Despite government efforts, only 17,000 people visited in 1998, and most of those were for business. Tourism is mainly limited to wealthy locals and expatriates. A new ministry has been set up to deal with hotels and tourism. The capital has 4 international standard hotels.


Guinea's trade balance varies, depending on the output of the mining sector and prices in the international commodity markets. Guinea enjoyed a trade surplus in 1998 of US$135 million, on exports of US$695 million and imports of US$560 million. That surplus jumped to US$186 million on exports of US$820 million and imports of US$634 million in 2000. Bauxite and alumina have contributed approximately 70 percent of official export earnings in recent years, with diamonds and gold contributing 20-25 percent. All other exports come from agriculture and fishing. The main destinations for exports in 1999 were the United States, the Benelux countries (comprised of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg), Ukraine, and Ireland; major importers were France, Belgium, the United States, and Côte d'Ivoire.

The lack of oil deposits and significant manufacturing means that imports are largely fuels, heavy machinery, transport equipment, and consumer manufactures. The increase in mining is reflected in the increase in machinery imports since 1995. Semi-finished goods have also increased, due to the boost in the construction industry.

Developing countries now provide one-third of Guinea's imports, whereas before industrialized countries supplied more than 80 percent. This change is mainly due to the forging of new links and a shift towards new inexpensive suppliers, predominantly the Côte d'Ivoire and China.


Guinea is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Unusual for a former French colony, Guinea did not join the Franc Zone at independence. The exchange rate remained virtually unchanged from independence in 1958 until 1985 at around GF20-25:US$1 but had depreciated substantially to GF1,940:US$1 in 2001.

Since 1985, economic liberalization measures and a tight monetary policy have been undertaken, as advocated by the IMF and World Bank, and by the late 1990s Guinea had succeeded in reducing the rate of inflation, increasing foreign exchange reserves , and raising private investment. Fiscal reform and the elimination of administrative inefficiency and corruption are ongoing concerns.

Consumer inflation has run in single figures since 1992 (but stood at 72 percent in 1986) and this fact is mainly due to low price rises for local goods and necessities, a fall in the price of imported rice, and the tight monetary policy of the government. The inflation rate was estimated to be 4.5 percent in 1999.


Guinea is a poor country by any measure. The GDP per capita (according to the purchasing power parity conversion, which allows for the low price of many basic

Exchange rates: Guinea
Guinean francs per US$1
Oct 2000 1,855.0
2000 1,572.0
1999 1,387.4
1998 1,236.8
1997 1,095.3
1996 1,004.0
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].
GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Guinea N/A N/A N/A 532 594
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Nigeria 301 314 230 258 256
Guinea-Bissau 226 168 206 223 173
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

commodities in Guinea) stood at US$1,300 in 2000. A 1994 survey indicated that 40 percent of the population was below the US$1 per day poverty line. About 80 percent of the labor force is employed in agriculture, most of which is subsistence farming , and the greatest incidence of poverty is in the rural areas.

Education was severely disrupted after independence in 1958, with teachers being one of the first groups to seek exile. The change of government in 1984 brought a greater emphasis on primary education, which, although it is universally compulsory, achieved only 48 percent enrollment in 1996. Secondary education enrollment stood at 12 percent in 1996. Guinea devotes 25 percent of its budget to education and is backed by the IMF and World Bank, with the aim of achieving 60 percent primary enrollment by the end of 2000. Male literacy stands at 50 percent, but the female figure is much lower at 22 percent, according to a 1995 estimate.

Guinea's health statistics are amongst the worst in sub-Saharan Africa. Life-expectancy in 2000 at birth was 46 years. This estimate is an increase from the 1965 figure of 35, although it is far below the sub-Saharan average of 51 years. Moreover, 1 in 6 live births die before the age of one year, and 12 percent die in infancy (between the ages of 1 and 5). Only 45 percent of the population has access to medical care.

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Guinea
Lowest 10% 2.6
Lowest 20% 6.4
Second 20% 10.4
Third 20% 14.8
Fourth 20% 21.2
Highest 20% 47.2
Highest 10% 32.0
Survey year: 1994
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].
Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Guinea 29 18 5 2 9 16 21
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Nigeria 51 5 31 2 8 2 2
Guinea-Bissau N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.


Wages are fixed according to the Government Labor Code. The official maximum working week for industrial workers is 48 hours, but there is little enforcement.

Guinea has a total labor force of some 3 million workers, and according to official 1995 statistics, some 50 percent of the workers had no formal employment. However, estimates that include participation in the informal economy and subsistence agriculture indicate an unemployment rate of between 8 and 11 percent. Unemployment figures have little significance in Guinea. There are very few with no work at all.

The civil service is the largest formal employer, engaging 3.6 percent of the population. An estimated 16.4 percent of the population earns wages from industry, commerce, and services, with 80 percent of the population employed in agriculture, of which most are engaged in subsistence farming. There is no unemployment benefit, and those who do not work rely on support from charities or their families. Many people would like a modern sector job but eke out an existence on family farms or in casual informal sector activities (such as hawking , portering, scavenging) in the urban areas.

The Confederation des Travailleurs de Guinée (Confederation of Guinea Workers, CTG) is the main trade union in Guinea. However, it has done little to improve working conditions and has generally lacked the ability to confront the government or large employers.


1600. European traders settle on the West African coast.

1891. Guinea becomes a French colony.

1898. French troops consolidate the Guinean interior.

1947. Sékou Touré forms the Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) party.

1958. Guinea rejects joining the French African community and becomes independent, with Sékou Touré as the first president.

1984. Sékou Touré dies. Colonel Lansana Conté leads a military takeover of the government.

1984. The constitution is suspended.

1991. The constitution is replaced by the Loi Fondamentale. Multi-party politics are introduced.

1993. Conté is elected as head of state in presidential elections.

1996. A group of officers attempt a military coup but are unsuccessful.

1998. Conté is re-elected as president.


It is very difficult to have economic progress without a platform of political stability, as both domestic and foreign investors are unwilling to risk resources which may not be secure. Conté has improved the domestic environment for business, but conflict with rebels on Guinea's borders with Sierra Leone and Liberia continues to dominate the political scene, though most regional leaders are expected to work together to try to restore stability. Rebel groups from Liberia have destroyed several towns in Guinea. Refugee transfer has started, with the aid agencies struggling to cope with the numbers. ECOWAS troop deployment in the region is attempting to restore order.

Most of the population of Guinea will continue to depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, and progress in this sector is expected to be slow. Guinea's undoubted mineral wealth has created income for only a small section of the community and does little to improve living standards or reduce poverty.

The IMF has pledged further support, and as a highly indebted poor country Guinea is expecting further debt relief. Aluminum companies are showing renewed interest in the country, but realization of investment plans will depend on improving regional stability. The United Nations has asked for stricter diamond controls to keep gems out of the hands of rebel groups in Sierra Leone who are looking for sources of income.


Guinea has no territories or colonies.


Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Guinea. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

"Guinea and the IMF." International Monetary Fund. <>. Accessed October 2001.

La Guinée. <>. Accessed October 2001.

Hodd, Michael. "Guinea." The Economies of Africa. Aldershot:Dartmouth, 1991.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: Guinea, December 1999. < 9912_bgn.html>. Accessed October 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Guinea. <>. Accessed October 2001.

Jack Hodd




Guinea franc (GF). One franc equals 100 centimes. There are notes of 25, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, and 5,000 francs.


Bauxite, alumina, diamonds, gold, coffee, fish, agricultural products.


Petroleum products, metals, machinery, transport equipment, textiles, grain and other foodstuffs.


US$10 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$820 million (f.o.b., 2000). Imports: US$634 million (f.o.b., 2000).

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Republic of Guinea

Major City:

Other Cities:
Boké, Fria, Kankan, Kindia, Labé, Macenta


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated July 1993. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


Most of what is now the Republic of GUINEA was included in the rich and powerful Kingdom of Mali from the 11th through the 16th centuries. From 1810 to 1840, a large section of the country was nominally subject to the Islamic Foulah Empire, which was centered in the Fouta Djallon Mountains.

French penetration along the Atlantic coast began during the 1860s, and most of the country was occupied by the French between 1890 and 1910. The Los Islands (Îles de Loos), a few miles off the coast, were British-controlled from 1815 until 1904. Under France, the country formed the Territory of French Guinea within French West Africa.

Status as a separate entity had been realized in 1946, but a majority vote for total independence came abruptly and dramatically September 28, 1958 when membership in a community of French overseas territories was rejected. Guinea proclaimed itself a sovereign republic four days later.



Conakry, with a population of approximately 1.9 million, is the capital of the Republic of Guinea. It lies on the bulge of Africa, some 450 miles southeast of Dakar (Senegal) and 600 miles north of the equator. The central part of the city, Conakry I, is on Tumbo, formerly an island but now connected to the mainland residential Kaloum Peninsula (Conakry II).

French settlement of Conakry (also written Konakri or Konakry) began in 1855, when it was a tiny fishing village. The present form of the city was laid out in 1905 in rectangular blocks. The broad main streets are lined with magnificent mango and kapok (fromager ) trees, and fine botanical gardens grace the landscape. A few of the buildings were constructed shortly before independence, but most of the architecture is either old French colonial or African.

In the residential suburbs of Kaloum, modern houses occupied by foreigners or Guinean government officials are on or near the sea, interspersed among traditional African structures. The main streets of the city and suburbs are paved, although poorly maintained. Some residences can be reached only by dirt roads.


The International School of Conakry, a small English-language school with a capacity of 50 students, includes kindergarten through grade eight and follows an American curriculum. The school operates a preschool program for three-and four-year olds. French is taught as a foreign language. Extracurricular activities include art and computer instruction. Owing to a small number of students, instruction is highly individualized.

Some resident Americans prefer to enroll their children in the city's French-language school. Following the French system, it comprises kindergarten through high school, and awards the equivalent of an American high school diploma.

The public schools in the capital conduct classes from first grade through high school, and follow the French system of education. Classes are seriously overcrowded; standards of teaching are low, and equipment is old and in short supply. Tuition and supplies (when available) are free. There are no private schools.

No facilities are available for handicapped students.


Opportunities in various individual, group, and spectator sports are limited. Soccer and basketball are the most popular among Guineans, and the international community enjoys volleyball during the dry season (October to May). The nearest golf course is in Freetown, Sierra Leone. There are no golf courses, sports clubs, or health spas in Guinea. Outdoor and indoor games such as badminton, ping-pong, darts, horseshoes, croquet, volleyball, softball, and organized events are popular among expatriates. A farm is located outside Conakry where horses can be rented.

Americans do not swim in the ocean around Conakry, as the waters are badly polluted and are filled with large rocks. No sand beaches are located in Conakry proper. However, during the dry season, swimming is possible at undeveloped beaches located on the Island of Los, just offshore from Conakry. Local boats can be rented for day trips to the islands, although some American expatriates have purchased their own boats.

Except during the height of the rainy season, which extends from May to October, trips are possible to most interior regions of Guinea. The loveliest area for such travel is the Fouta Djallon, where the mountain scenery is magnificent and the climate cooler and less humid than in Conakry. Waterfalls are found near the towns of Kindia (a two-hour drive from Conakry) and Labé(a seven-hour drive). It is possible to camp in these areas, and many Americans do so, but any camping gear must be shipped from home. Another town of interest is Dalaba, which offers a modest hotel and beautiful physical surroundings.

The truly adventurous may travel into the savanna and forest regions, but roads are poor and require four-wheel-drive vehicles, such as Land Rovers. Accommodations are very rustic and must be arranged far in advance of any trip.

The closest major city outside Guinea is Freetown, Sierra Leone, which provides a distinct change of scenery and has shopping facilities superior to those found in Conakry. The six-hour road trip is possible in the dry season, and sometimes during the rainy interval.

Many Westerners in Guinea take advantage of its geographic location to visit Monrovia (Liberia), Dakar (Senegal), Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire), Accra (Ghana), Algiers (Algeria), Bamako (Mali), Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, or the cities of Morocco. All of these are easily reached by air and, although the trips are costly, shopping facilities and excellent hotel accommodations provide a pleasant break from routine.


Almost all entertainment among expatriates in Conakry is in private homes, usually in the form of dinner, bridge, or cocktail parties. Many local theaters feature French and French-dubbed American, Chinese, Indian, and East European movies. Two are air-conditioned and patronized by expatriates.

Expatriates patronize several of the discotheques and nightclubs where modern African and European music is played. Several restaurants in the city specialize in French, Chinese, Lebanese, and Vietnamese cuisine. Some are excellent and range in price from moderate to expensive.

Many international contacts in Guinea are with Western Europeans; most are French-speaking, but often have a limited command of the English language. It is useful to speak German as well as French, since there is a sizable German community in the capital.

It should be noted that Guineans, although friendly and courteous, seldom accept private social invitations. Invitations to official functions should be cleared by the Guinean Ministry of External Affairs, but this is done promptly. Americans are rarely guests in Guinean homes.


BOKÉ is a port town in western Guinea. Located 110 miles northwest of Conakry, Boké is a market center where fish, cattle, rice, oranges, and palm oil are traded. The Boké area is home to various ethnic groups, including the Landuma, Nalu, Fulani, Mikifore, and Baga peoples.

The western town of FRIA is 55 miles south of Conakry and the center of Guinea's bauxite mining region. Guinea's largest industrial enterprise and one of Africa's first alumina-processing plants, the Fria Company, is located near here.

KANKAN is the terminus of a rail center from Conakry, a port on the Milo River (tributary of the Niger), and a highway junction in the eastern part of the country. Situated about 300 miles east of Conakry, Kankan is Guinea's second largest town and the commercial center for the surrounding farming region. It is also the chief trading center of the Malinke and Diula peoples. Crops grown in the area include pineapples, oranges, mangoes, tomatoes, rice, maize, and sesame. There is light industry in Kankan; bricks and fruit juices are made there and there is also a sawmill and a tomato canning factory. Diamonds are mined in the area and Kankan is the site of Guinea's national diamond exchange. It is believed that the city dates back to the 18th century when it was a trade center linking the Atlantic coast and forest belt with the Sudan region. The Muslim religious leader Samory (1835-1900) initiated his military activities in the Kankan area and took the city in 1873. In 1891, Kankan was occupied by the French. Today, Kankan has a polytechnic institute, a national police school, a research center for rice cultivation, and an estimated population of 70,000.

KINDIA is on the rail line, 60 miles northeast of the capital. With an estimated population of 56,000, Kindia is a trade center in a farming region where fruits, vegetables, manioc, and rice are grown; bauxite is also mined in the area. In Kindia, soap is manufactured and tonic water is bottled. Wood is processed there for use in Conakry's furniture factories. The National School of Agriculture is also located in Kindia. The area surrounding Kindia has a large population of Fulani and Susu peoples.

LABÉ is in the west-central area, about 170 miles northeast of Conakry. It is a market center for the surrounding farm region. Cattle is raised, and citrus fruit, bananas, vegetables, and rice are grown. The city became part of the Mali empire early in the 13th century. Following the decline of Mali, Labé became politically and commercially important, serving as a center of Islam from the 16th to 18th centuries. When the Fulani settled there late in the 18th century, the original inhabitants were displaced. Today, Labé is a major collecting point for oranges, which are trucked to Dakar, Senegal. Lemons and jas-mine oil, which is used for making perfume and soap, are also exported from Labé. Labé is Guinea's chief town of Islam and has a population of approximately 273,000.

The town of MACENTA , located in a forested region of southeastern Guinea, is home to the Loma and Malinke peoples. Macenta is in the midst of a rich agricultural area and trading center for coffee, rice, tea, cassava, kola nuts, and palm oil.


Geography and Climate

The Republic of Guinea, with an area of 95,000 square miles, is about the size of Oregon. Roughly kidney-shaped, the country is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mali, the Côte d'Ivorie, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. It is divided into four distinct geographical regions: the lower Guinea coastal strip, about 50 miles wide; the Fouta Djallon mountain region, averaging 1,000 feet above sea level, but with some 6,000-foot peaks; the upper Guinea savanna country; and the tropical rain forest of the southeast.

The climate in Conakry is tropical, with dry and rainy seasons. The long dry interval (October to May) is warm, sunny, and humid; when the rains arrive in the months between May and October, the weather is slightly cooler. During the changes of seasons, sunny weather alternates with violent thunderstorms. Temperatures are fairly uniform, rarely rising above 90°F or falling below the mid-70s. March is the hottest month; August, the coolest. Humidity ranges from 70 to 100 percent, and the annual rainfall averages 160-180 inches.

Americans living in Guinea generally find the climate pleasant, but the prolonged downpours during the rainy season can be monotonous and enervating. Cockroaches, termites, mosquitoes, and a variety of other insects are nuisances in most buildings. Because of the high humidity, mildew is a year-round problem. Take precautions to protect clothing, books, food supplies, and other articles.


Guinea's estimated population of 7.6 million consists of four major ethnic groupsthe Soussous along the coast, the Peuls (Fulani) in the Fouta Djallon mountains, the Malinke (Mandingo) in the savanna region, and the forestial tribes located in the woodland areas and on the coast. An estimated 85 percent of the population is Muslim; 8 percent, Christian; and 7 percent, animist.

French is used for all government business and in the schools. It is also spoken by all officials in larger towns. In ordinary conversation, people use the language of their ethnic groups. Those working or residing in Guinea should have a working knowledge of French.

Guinea's international community is small, but has been growing rapidly since the change of government in 1984. Among the diplomatic missions currently maintained are those of France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, India, the former U.S.S.R., Switzerland, the United States, the United Nations, and several international organizations. Most Eastern European nations also are represented, as well as China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba. Additionally, many African and Middle Eastern nations have missions in the country. Other members of the foreign community include a few Christian missionaries and experts of many nationalities working on bilateral and multilateral assistance programs.

Some Americans and Canadians are employed by Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée (CBG), an international mining consortium at Kamsar, a self-sufficient community a day's drive from Conakry. Many French nationals work at Fria, another bauxite mining camp, about a half-day's drive from the capital. There are also British and other Europeans at a diamond mine in Gbenko. Few Americans have contacts with personnel at these places because of the distances involved.


From 1958 until April 3, 1984, Guinea was a one-party socialist state with a single president. During that time, every aspect of life in the country was state-controlled.

When the Military Committee for National Redressment (CMRN) seized power in a bloodless coup April 3, 1984, it abolished the ruling political body, the Parti démocratique de Guinée (PDG), suspended the constitution, and established the second republic. Control was assumed three days after the funeral of longtime President Ahmed Sékou Touré, who had died in Cleveland, Ohio, following heart surgery. Gen. Lansana Contéwas named as the country's new president.

Conté's early months in power were marked by tremendous upheaval and instability. In July 1985, elements of the Guinean military launched a coup against the government while Contéwas out of the country. The coup attempt was quickly defeated by troops loyal to Conté.

In October 1989, Conté announced that his government was prepared to institute a truly democratic government and embarked on a transition to multiparty democracy. A new constitution, calling for a democratically elected president and an elected unicameral parliament was drafted and approved by referendum on December 23, 1990. In January 1991, the Military Committee for National Recovery (CMRN), which had governed Guinea since the April 1984 coup, dissolved itself and was replaced by the Transitional Committee for National Regeneration (CTRN). Political parties were legalized in 1992, and legislative elections were held in June 1995. In 1999, President Contéwas reelected for another 5 year term.

Guinea is divided into four geographic sections: Maritime, Middle, Upper, and Forest Guinea. These sections are subdivided into 29 administrative regions.

The flag of Guinea consists of three vertical bands of red, yellow, and green.

Arts, Science, Education

A small collection of traditional African arts and sculpture is available for public viewing at the National Museum in the capital. Cultural attractions from other countries appear in Conakry occasionally. Guinea's excellent national dance troupes tour foreign countries, including the U.S., and also perform frequently in Conakry.

Local crafts include delicate leather work such as belts, sandals, coasters, and handbags. Woven and coil-type baskets and other decorative pieces also are available. Tie-dyeing is a Guinean specialty, and lovely pieces of such fabrics can be purchased, as can pottery and handcrafted musical instruments. Small wood sculptures, primarily from up-country sculptors, are often well done.

A scientific research institute is located in Kindia, a small city near Conakry. There, human and animal vaccines are produced, and snake venom is milked for export to European laboratories for conversion into serum. A horticultural research operation and university campus are located nearby at Foulayah. Prominent on the northern horizon of the capital, in Rogbane, is the Oceanographic and Heliophysical Institute (CERESCOR), constructed by the former U.S.S.R., which engages in oceanographic and atmospheric studies there.

Several secondary schools are located in Conakry, the two largest of which are the Lycée Technique and L'École National des Arts et Metièrs. The National University, also in the capital, has programs of study which include humanities, agronomy, agriculture, engineering, basic sciences, architecture, and medicine. Other major university campuses are at Kankan, also the seat of a national vocational secondary school, and at Foulayah and Faranah. Public school education is compulsory at the elementary level, with French the language of instruction. Education at every level is provided at government expense. Guinea's literacy rate is very low. Only 36 percent of the population age 15 and over could read and write.

Commerce and Industry

Although possessing many natural resources and considerable potential for agricultural development, Guinea is one of the poorest countries in the world with a per capita income of $1300 in 2000. Following a change in government, sweeping economic reforms were launched in 1985, as Guinea left behind 26 years of state control and attempted to establish a system of private enterprise. Collective farms were abolished, state-owned enterprises were liquidated, food prices were decontrolled, and foreign investment was sought in a variety of economic sectors.

In spite of the substantial success of these programs, Guinea's infrastructure remains underdeveloped, hampering further economic progress.

Subsistence agriculture employs roughly 80 percent of the population. Currently, only three percent of Guinea's land is arable. The main food crops are rice, corn, vegetables, and cassava. Bananas, coffee, pineapples, cotton, and palm kernels are grown for export. Guinea's agricultural output has been hampered by poor transport facilities and lack of mechanization.

Guinea has a small industrial sector, accounting for approximately 35 percent of GDP. Aluminum smelting, food processing, textiles, and plywood manufacturing are the main industries. Shortages of skilled labor has prevented Guinean industries from reaching their full potential.

Minerals and mining represent the economy's most dynamic sector, providing 25 percent of GDP. Guinea possesses over 30 percent of the world's bauxite reserves. American firms have interests in two joint venture bauxite mines, Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée (CBG) and Friguia, which processes bauxite into alumina. Diamonds are the only minerals being mined and exported on a large scale. Australian, British, and Swiss firms are joint venture partners with the government in AREDOR, a large scale diamond mining company. AREDOR began production in mid-1984 and is mining diamonds that are 90 percent gem quality. Small-scale gold mining is also pursued by the joint venture gold mine Aurifere de Guinee, which is run by the Union Miniere of Belgium. Deposits of copper, manganese, titanium, and uranium have been found but have not been exploited.

Guinea's exports consist mainly of alumina, bauxite, diamonds, coffee, bananas, pineapples, and palm kernels. These exports are sent to the United States, European Community (EC) countries, the former U.S.S.R. and Eastern Europe, and Canada. Petroleum products, transport equipment, machinery, food, and textiles are Guinea's principal imports. These products are provided by the United States, France, and Brazil.

The address of Guinea's Chamber of Commerce is B.P. 609, Conakry.


Air Guinée offers domestic flights to several up-country towns. It also operates international routes with Boeing 737 planes. All aircraft are occasionally used for official government trips, which may temporarily disrupt Air Guinée flight schedules. Several other international airlines also fly into Conakry's airport.

The Guinean national railway, Chemin de Fer de Guinée, no longer operates in the interior. Up-country journeys are made by road or by scheduled Air Guinée service to regional centers. Travel by road sometimes requires a four-by-four vehicle, particularly during the rainy season, but major up-country centers are usually accessible with regular cars having a high clearance. Other points in Africa can be reached by air and, occasionally, by freighter.

Conakry has a modern municipal bus system, but it is overcrowded. Point-to-point taxis are available, but not recommended. Jitney-like taxis that follow regular routes are overcrowded and mechanically unreliable.

Drivers' licenses are issued without tests to those having valid U.S. or other foreign licenses. Driving is on the left-hand side in Guinea.


The telephone system in Conakry and throughout Guinea is being improved, but is still antiquated and overloaded. Telephone service is limited to offices, embassies, and some businesses. Direct-dial service exists between the U.S. and Europe, but is very expensive. Telegraph service is available through the Post and Telegraph Office (PTT). However, telegraph service is costly and often delayed. Guinea is five time zones ahead of eastern standard time.

Airmail from the U.S. is delivered within two weeks, but surface mail usually is two to four months in transit.

Guinea has one radio and television service, state-operated Radiodiffusion-Télévision Guinée. It broadcasts on FM and medium-and shortwave bands in French, English, Portuguese, Arabic and the three major national languages. English-language programming is limited to about forty-five minutes per week. Mediumwave radios also can pick up broadcasts in English from Sierra Leone, in French from Dakar, and in Spanish from Las Palmas. Most Americans in Conakry have shortwave radios that receive Voice of America (VOA), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and other foreign stations. Short-wave radios should be of good quality, battery-powered, tropicalized, and multiband. VCRs (VHS) are widely used among expatriates.

Guinean television programming is limited. No programming is available in English. Occasionally, it is possible to receive programs from Freetown. Sets brought from home must be adjusted for use in Africa.

Few local publications are available. French-language newspapers and magazines sometimes can be found at the major hotels.

Apart from the government-owned, occasionally printed newspaper Horoya, few publications are available locally. French-language publications and occasional copies of the International Herald Tribune and Newsweek are available at various outlets. The U.S. Embassy in Conakry maintains a paperback library of donated books for its personnel. Expensive books brought from home must be carefully protected against high humidity and insect damage.


Government hospitals in the capital are staffed by Guineans and some foreign (largely East European and Chinese) doctors. Lack of equipment, inadequate nursing care, and poor sanitation make these hospitals unsuitable for Americans. Although a few dentists maintain private practices in the city, Westerners needing dental care usually go to Dakar, or Europe. Guinea has no optical testing facilities but these, although expensive, can be found in Dakar.

Guinean public health controls are limited to elementary sanitation and to vaccinations against yellow fever.

City water is treated, but tap water is unsafe to drink. Conakry has an underground sewage system; streets are cleaned and garbage is collected in the city, but not regularly in the suburbs.

Malaria, schistosomiasis, tuberculosis, yaws, leprosy, venereal diseases, and intestinal parasites are all endemic among the Guinean population. With proper precautions, these diseases pose minimal risks to Americans.

Malaria suppressants must be taken regularly, beginning two weeks before arrival in the country and continuing for six weeks after departure. Water for both drinking and cooking must be boiled and filtered, and it is also necessary to soak fruits and vegetables in an iodine solution before consumption. Because of the lack of proper health facilities, it is imperative that anyone planning to live in Guinea have thorough prior medical, dental, and optical examinations, and that all corrective treatment be completed before arrival.

Rabies is prevalent throughout the country; pets should be given a reliable vaccine, preferably the three-day live virus type. Revacci-nations are available through a local veterinarian.

Clothing and Services

Casual clothing is usually the dress mode in Conakry, even for office wear and social functions. The occasional formal event calls for dark wash-and-wear business suits or long, cruise-type dresses. Men's daily wear consists primarily of safari suits (with a high percentage of cotton content), or open-necked, short-sleeved shirts, and slacks. Women wear casual dresses or skirts and sandals. Cotton is the preferred fabric because it is cool and easy to maintain. It is important to have an adequate wardrobe, as daily washing is hard on clothes; there are no dry cleaning facilities. Slacks and shorts are acceptable for house wear, the beach, and other outdoor activities.

Conakry is built on old volcanic outpourings. Thus, the ground is rough and shoes wear out quickly. It is advisable to have a supply of sandals for daytime wear, and rubber thongs for the beach or for use during the rainy season. Leather shoes and bags must be carefully protected from mildew.

Swimsuits and beachwear are essential. Bikinis are acceptable, and swimsuit cover-ups are useful.

Most people find raincoats too hot in this tropical climate; however, some people use rubberized ponchos during the rainy season. Heavy-duty umbrellas are required as the rain is heavy. Heavy clothing is rarely needed in Conakry, but it can get cool up-country. A sweater or jacket should be included in one's wardrobe.

Children's clothing should be simple in style and easy to care for. The most common apparel consists of short pants with colored short-sleeved shirts for boys, and sleeveless shifts (or blouses with shorts or slacks) for girls. Children wear leather or composition sandals or tennis shoes to school.

Almost no equipment, supplies, or repair facilities are available in Conakry. Repairmen are scarce and poorly trained. Cobblers make only simple repairs, using recycled materials; the results are often unsatisfactory. Local tailors make virtually all types of clothing, but quality is erratic. A wide selection of fabrics is available but expensive. Any electrical or mechanical equipment brought to Guinea should be simple, durable, and accompanied by spare parts, as there are no radio or household repairs available. Plumbers, electricians, and radio repairmen are scarce and poorly trained. Some basic services are provided at the U.S. Embassy for its own personnel.

There are barber and beauty shops of varying quality. A good supply of beauty and hair needs, such as permanent kits, cream rinses, tints and colors, hair spray, and cosmetics, should be brought from home.

Domestic Help

Domestic help, a necessity (and nearly always male), is usually hired on the recommendation of other Americans or Europeans. Most are trained in French housekeeping methods and are unfamiliar with American foods or elaborate household equipment. Well-trained servants are not easily found, and all require supervision. The majority speak only a little French and are illiterate. English-speaking servants are rare.

Ordinarily, a houseperson/domestic is employed to do the cleaning, laundry, and shopping. Guards are hired to watch the house at night. Some houses, with large gardens, require the services of a gardener.

Servants rarely live in, and are expected to provide their own food. Uniforms, if desired, are furnished by the employer and must be tailored locally. Most servants expect their employers to provide them with raincoats.


Conakry is served by several international airlines. These include flights from Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Rome, Casablanca, Dakar, Abidjan, Freetown, Bissau, Banjul, Accra, Bamako, and Lagos, with connecting flights to other locations. The most reliable flights are KLM from Amsterdam, SABENA from Brussels, and UTA from Paris. Passenger ships generally do not stop at Conakry ports.

A valid passport and visa (exit and reentry) are required. Travelers stopping overnight in other African cities (such as Dakar, Abidjan, or Freetown) should also obtain visas for those countries. Health records must include documentation of vaccination against smallpox, yellow fever, and cholera, and of other appropriate inoculations (see Health section).

No quarantine is imposed on pets. Generally, they can be cleared through customs without difficulty. Rabies vaccinations and certificates of general health (dated within two months of arrival) must be presented. Dogs and cats are easily obtainable in Conakry.

The following denominations maintain places of worship in Conakry: Roman Catholic (services in French and English), Anglican (services in French, English, and one local language), French Reformed (French and English), and Muslim. There are four American-sponsored Protestant missions: Baptist, Evangelical, Bible Way, and Assemblies of God.

The time in Guinea is Greenwich Mean Time.

The country's currency is the Guinean franc. Those departing from Guinea are allowed to have no more than 5,000 Guinean francs in their possession. Guinean currency is generally not convertible on the world market. All payments within Guinea must be made in Guinean francs. All money or money instruments brought into the country must be declared at the airport upon arrival. Currency can only be exchanged at government-approved sites, generally banks or the international hotels.

The metric system of weights and measures is used.

Special Note: Care should be exercised in taking photographs in Guinea, as officials and other individuals sometimes object even when a permit is presented. Nevertheless, it is wise to have a camera on hand for those infrequent occasions, such as public ceremonies and celebrations, when taking photos is no problem.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Apr. 3 Declaration 2nd Republic

May 1Labor Day

Aug. 15Assumption Day

Aug. 27Anniversary of Women's Revolt

Sept. 28 Referendum Day

Oct. 2 Independence Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Id al-Adah*


Id al-Fitr*

Mawlid an Nabi*



The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Africa South of the Sahara 1992. London: Europa Publications, 1991.

O'Toole, Thomas E. Historical Dictionary of Guinea (Republic of Guinea/Conakry). 2nd ed. African Historical Dictionaries Series, no. 16. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1988.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Guinea
Region: Africa
Population: 7,466,200
Language(s): French
Literacy Rate: 35.9%
Academic Year: October-July
Number of Primary Schools: 3,723
Compulsory Schooling: 6 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 1.9%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 45
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 674,732
  Secondary: 143,243
  Higher: 8,151
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 54%
  Secondary: 14%
  Higher: 1%
Teachers: Primary: 13,883
  Secondary: 4,958
  Higher: 947
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 49:1
  Secondary: 29:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 41%
  Secondary: 7%
  Higher: 0.3%

History & Background

The Republic of Guinea lies on the western coast of Africa. With an area of 94,900 square miles, it is bordered by Senegal and Mali on the north, Côte d'Ivoire on the east, and Liberia and Sierra Leone on the south. The population of 7,600,000 people (January 2001 estimate) is composed of four major tribal groups: 35 percent Peuls (Fulani), 30 percent Malinke, 20 percent Susu, and 14 percent Kissi. French is the official language, but several tribal languages and dialects are also in use. Guinea is 85 percent Muslim, 8 percent Christian, and 7 percent Animist. With a per capita Gross Domestic Product of $1,180 (in 2000), it is one of the poorest nations of Western Africa.

For more than 100 years, Guinea was part of the former French Colonial Empire. It became a protectorate in 1849, a colony in 1898, and a constituent territory of French West Africa in 1904. When France granted independence to its former African colonies in 1958, it also offered a continuing economic, political, and educational relationship with the newly created Communauté, the French equivalent of the British Commonwealth. Guinea was the only former colony that refused such a partnership. After a nationwide referendum, it severed all ties with France and proclaimed its independence as the republic of Guinea on 2 October 1958. Its first president-for-life, Achmed Sékou-Touré, established a single party state, where neither political diversity nor any form of opposition were tolerated. To disengage the country from its former colonial past, Sékou-Touré adopted a radical africanization program that rejected Western values. Guinea soon became an isolated, struggling nation that turned to the former Soviet Union for technical aid. In a sense, the history of the educational system of Guinea is closely tied to its political history and efforts to separate itself from its former colonial occupant. But even after 1960, France still loomed large over the economy and cultural life of its former West African colonies. Efforts to abolish French as the official language of instruction to the benefit of local dialects proved to be a failure, as French remained throughout West Africa the language of diplomacy, commerce, and education. Severing ties with Western Europe also had a catastrophic impact on Guinea's economy, and the promotion of a brutally repressive regime controlled by Sékou-Touré did little to foster a climate in which new educational policies and reforms could flourish. Sékou-Touré died in 1984 after 26 years of unopposed dictatorship, having finally restored closer ties with France in 1975. Colonel (later general) Lansana Conté then seized power and has been Guinea's unopposed leader for the past 17 years. The political climate has improved since diplomatic and economic ties were restored with France and Western Europe. Opposition parties were permitted, and free elections were held in the early 1990s. A 114-member National Assembly was democratically installed in June 1995, representing 21 political parties. Though the nation is still poor, Guinea's economy has shown dramatic improvement after French corporations undertook the rehabilitation of the country's infrastructure, and the Paris Club of Creditor Nations agreed to significant debt relief in the late 1990s.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The constitution of 1958 guarantees free, compulsory, and equal education to every citizen until the age of 15. However, the legal and constitutional foundations of the educational system have been undermined by an early Socialist-inspired plan that often resulted in decrees being directly handed down from the executive branch of the government without any consultation or debate with qualified experts.

Educational SystemOverview

Guinea set a precedent when it became the only former French colony of West Africa to sever ties completely with its past colonial framework. Everything it did, from its economy to its revolutionary educational system, was closely watched as a new African experiment in the making. The French educational system, which had been in place for more than 100 years was dismantled. Western teachers in the primary and secondary schools (including most Catholic missionaries) and French faculty members in higher education were summarily dismissed. French as an official language of instruction was replaced by native dialects, and the new curriculum reflected the president's predilection for socialist educational philosophy. Only the Koranic schools in this mostly Muslim nation were exempted from this radical restructuring of curriculum and objectives. New pedagogical directives were handed down directly by government officials, such as the 1959 decree (number 49) from the Ministère de l'Education Nationale (National Ministry for Education) that spelled out the new ethnocentric policy of radical africanization.

Ultimately, the results proved to be a disaster, and, 20 years later, Guinea lagged behind every other franco-phone African state that had retained the French pedagogical model. By 1985, a national educational conference held in Conakry, the capital, made public these findings:

  • The use of vernacular languages in Guinean education was a failure, mostly because of the lack of standardized syntax and appropriate textbooks.
  • The majority of teachers in the primary and secondary schools were poorly trained or unqualified.
  • Budgetary restrictions compelled secondary schools to remain open without proper sanitation, equipment, or educational materials.
  • Educational planning was ineffective, and the current administration was often unqualified.

Guinea gradually restored its economic and political ties with France in the late 1970s. After Sékou-Touré's death in 1984, most of his socialist educational philosophy and plans for africanization of the curriculum were abruptly abandoned. Though his successor, General Conté, still rules by decree, decisions affecting educational reforms are delegated to qualified professionals. Conté's government has launched two major educational reforms:

Le Plan d'Action Intermédiaire (Intermediate Plan) of 1984 stipulated the following directives:

  • A national program of teacher training and in-service training would be immediately implemented.
  • Major government funding would be allocated to build new schools and to provide much-needed equipment.
  • French was restored as the official language of instruction at all educational levels.

The National Educational Policy Document of 1989 assessed the progress made during the intermediary period between 1984 and 1989 and recommended the implementation of the following steps to meet Guinea's needs: budgetary allocations for education must be increased to represent at least 20 percent of the national budget and, in order to combat illiteracy more effectively, the admission rate for the first year in primary school must be brought up to represent at least 50 percent of the eligible population. Also, by the year 2000, the national education budget was supposed to designate at least 40 percent of its resources for primary education, according to the Policy Document. These reforms were adapted and incorporated in the PASE, or Programme d'Ajustement Sectoriel de l'Education (National Education Adjustment Program), which became the reference policy document for the educational reform of Guinea through the year 2000.

Preprimary & Primary Education

The primary and secondary educational systems are basically carried over from the French national system, which had been implemented in all former colonies of French West Africa. The school year runs from September to July. Officially, primary education begins at the age of seven and lasts for six years. Children from urban areas typically enter primary school around age six, while their counterparts from rural areas may wait until they are almost nine years old.

In 2000, there were 790,497 students enrolled in 4,289 primary schools. Of these, only 39.8 percent were girls. (The disproportionately low percentage of girls and women is an anomaly that is found at every level of public education in Guinea, from primary school to graduate and professional education. The same trend is evidenced among primary and secondary school teachers. It worsens considerably in higher education where the percentage of women shrinks below 5 percent of the faculty. Traditional societal roles, exacerbated by the fact that 85 percent of the population is Muslim, are the most frequently cited explanations for this discrepancy.) These pupils were taught by 17,340 teachers, with 1 teacher for every 45 students. At the primary level, teaching is focused on preparing the majority of students to enter the workforce as quickly as possible. At the end of the sixth grade, the test for the Certificat d'Etudes Primaires (Elementary School Certificate) is administered to all students. Only those who pass the CEP are allowed to continue into the secondary school system (in 2000, the passing rate was 53.2 percent). This elitist system is directly inherited from the French public school system. It creates an early division and orientation between students continuing on to an academic program and those going to technical or vocational schools.

Secondary Education

The secondary school cycle is divided into 2 parts. The first (grades 7-9) leads to the Brevet d'Etudes du Premier Cycle or BEPC (Junior High School Certificate). Those who pass this exam are allowed into the next cycle of secondary education (grades 10-13) leading to the Baccalauréat (High School Diploma). Those students who fail the BEPC or the Baccalauréat are directed into the workforce or to vocational and technical schools. In 2000, there were 129,987 students enrolled in the first part of the secondary school cycle (37.5 percent of them female), taught by 3,782 teachers, with a teacher/student ratio of 1:34 (20 percent female). In the second part of the secondary school cycle (post BEPC), there were 66,665 students enrolled, taught by 1,741 teachers in 399 lycées (academic-track high schools) and colleges (secondary schools with a more technical orientation for students who will not continue at the university level). At that stage, 21,900 students had left the academic track and were enrolled in 64 vocational schools with a teaching staff of 1,510, including adjunct faculty.

After 12 years of compulsory education, the number of Guinean students eventually accepted into a university represents only 1.8 percent of the total population of primary school students. The secondary school curriculum is diversified. Though it retains a central core of subjects common to both the pre- and post-BEPC cycle (French, geography, history, sciences, mathematics, and principles of economics), it incorporates technical and vocational subjects in grades 7 through 9. This provides an applied source of knowledge and skills that can be utilized by those who do not continue their studies beyond the BEPC. In grades 10 through 13, the curriculum shifts to more academic subjects and incorporates social studies, political science, and philosophy.

Higher Education

Higher education in Guinea closely follows the French national system. The names of the two universities and research institutes in Guinea reflect its political past since the country chose its independence from France in 1958. The largest university, l'Université Gamal Abdel Nasser in Conakry, was founded in 1962 and named after the former Egyptian dictator to whom Sékou-Touré had turned for help during the first republic. In 2001, this university enrolled 8,360 students and employed 401 full-time faculty members (including 24 women). It is composed of the School of Arts and Humanities, the School of Law, the School of Medicine and Pharmacy, the School of Science, and the Polytechnic Institute. It also includes two attached research centers: the Center for Environment Study and Research and the Computer Center. The main diplomas awarded are Licence (B.A. or B.S.), Diplôme d'Etudes Supérieures (DES) (M.A. or M.S.), and the Doctorat (Ph.D., or M.D.). The Licence usually takes three years of study, the DES one or two additional years, while the Doctorat requires three to four more years beyond the DES. The M.D. degree is a six-year curriculum that begins after the Baccalauréat. Admission to the programs of study offered by the university is granted upon successful completion of the Baccalauréat and a selective application process.

The University of Kankan is Guinea's second institution of higher education. Initially founded in 1963 as a research institute, it was elevated to university status in 1987. Kankan offers degrees mostly in arts and sciences. In 2001, it enrolled 2,304 students and employed 93 faculty members (including only one woman). At the instructor and assistant professor levels, the teaching staff is mostly comprised of Guinean nationals, while the higher echelon of the faculty is made up of foreigners from France and other French-speaking countries.

There are three main research institutes. One institute is the Institut Supérieur Agronomique et Vétérinaire "Valéry Giscard d'Estaing," (the School of Agricultural Sciences, Forestry, and Veterinary Medicine), founded in 1978 and located in Faranah. In 2001, it enrolled 2,222 students and employed a faculty of 116 (without any women). The Institute was named after the former French president who was instrumental in restoring ties with Guinea. The second is the Advanced Institute of Education at Maneah with 501 students and 71 faculty members (including 4 women). The third institute is the School of Mines, located in Boké, with 769 students and 19 faculty members (no women). Guinea also has eight research institutes, including the Institut de Recherches en Animaculture Pastoria (the former Pasteur Institute, founded in 1923 and nationalized in 1965), a National Museum, the National Archives, and a National Library known for its special collection on slavery. All are located in Conakry.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

The government of Guinea considers education one of the most important issues facing the nation. In March 1998, the 16-member cabinet of Prime Minister Sidya Touré included cabinet-level posts for national education and scientific research, pre-university teaching, communication and culture, and technical education and training. Supervision of secondary education is carried out by the Ministère de l'Enseignement Pré-Universitaire et de la Formation Professionelle (MEPU-FP), which is the National Headquarters for Secondary Education and Vocational Training. It oversees curriculum decisions, administrative and financial affairs, personnel, and the administration of national tests and examinations. Primary schools are inspected by local school inspectors, while secondary schools are inspected by officials from the National Education Institute. There are 5 regional school districts, 33 prefectoral divisions, and 310 subprefectoral units. The Comité National d'Education de Base (CONEBAT), which is the National Committee on Basic Education, is empowered with the supervision of educational reforms and their implementation until the year 2000. In 1996, the Guinean national budget was $947 million, of which 27.5 percent was allocated for education, with half that amount going to teachers' salaries (68 percent for primary schools, 13 percent for secondary schools, 13 percent for vocational and technical schools, and 6 percent for teacher training.) Of the other half of the educational budget, 25 percent is spent on higher education and 25 percent on administrative costs.

Nonformal Education

Illiteracy is an ongoing problem that the Guinean government addresses through regular nationwide campaigns. While progress has been made, the percentage of illiterates among the adult population is still among the highest in West Africa. In 2000, adult literacy rates were 36 percent for males and 22 percent for females. There has been an effort to promote literacy in the national and tribal dialects, but that rate still does not exceed 50 percent.

Teaching Profession

Recruitment and training for primary school teachers is carried out at the five normal schools located in each of the five major school districts. Candidates who have successfully passed the BEPC follow a 2- to 3-year curriculum. Vocational school teachers are trained in the Centres de Formation Professionelle (Vocational Training Centers), where they enroll in a curriculum preparing them for technical, industrial, or health-related fields. Secondary school teachers are recruited selectively by the National Education Institute located in Goyah and Manarah. In-service training courses for primary school teachers are routinely conducted by local school districts and are planned at the regional level. The number of qualified primary school teachers has increased from 7,165 in 1980; to 11,352 in 1996; and to 17,340 in 2000.


The educational system of Guinea has experienced many difficulties since the country declared its independence in 1958, with the majority of these being related to ideological and political interferences. With the adoption of more democratic policies, the situation has improved. Now back to an educational system that is largely copied from the French national model, Guinea has accomplished much in the area of research and higher education. However, the top priorities for the next decade remain the improvement of the literacy rate for the adult population, an increase in primary and secondary school enrollments, the adequate training of qualified teachers, proper funding of the educational budget to represent at least 40 percent of the national budget, and an increase in the participation of women at all levels of the educational system, including staff and faculty.


Annuaire Statistique, 1999-2000. Conakry, Guinée: Service de Statistiques et de Planification. Ministère de l'Enseignement Pré-Universitaire et de l'Education Civique, 2000.

Binns, Margaret. Guinea. Santa Barbara: Clio Press, 1996.

Développement de l'Education, 1994-1996: Rapport National de la République de Guinée. Conakry: Ministère de l'Education Nationale, 1996.

Genre et Fréquentation Scolaire au Primaire en Guinée. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies, 1997.

Livre de Référence sur l'Education en Matière de Population en Guinée. Conakry: Institut Pédagogique National, 1992.

Eric H. du Plessis

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Official name : Republic of Guinea

Area: 245,857 square kilometers (94,926 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Nimba (1,752 meters/5,748 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Western

Time zone: Noon = noon GMT

Longest distances: 831 kilometers (516 miles) from southeast to northwest; 493 kilometers (306 miles) from northeast to southwest

Land boundaries: 3,399 kilometers (2,112 miles) total boundary length; Senegal 330 kilometers (205 miles); Mali 858 kilometers (533 miles); Cote d'Ivoire 610 kilometers (379 miles); Liberia 563 kilometers (350 miles); Sierra Leone 652 kilometers (405 miles); Guinea-Bissau 386 kilometers (240 miles)

Coastline: 320 kilometers (199 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Guinea is located on the coast of the great western bulge of Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean. The country shares borders with Senegal, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Bissau. With an area of about 245,857 square kilometers (94,926 square miles), the country is slightly smaller than the state of Oregon. Guinea is divided into thirty-three prefectures and one special zone.


Guinea has no outside dependencies or territories.


The temperature in Guinea varies according to region and season. Conakry is humid nearly all year-round, with fairly uniform temperatures from 23°C (73°F) to 29°C (84°F). Temperatures in the Fouta Djallon and Forest Highlands are more moderate, and in the dry season they may vary daily by 14°C (25°F).

Conakry and the maritime region receive as much as 430 centimeters (169 inches) of monsoon rains annually, with half of the rainfall in July and August. The Fouta receives about 150 to 200 centimeters (60 to 80 inches), while the Forest Highlands receive 280 centimeters (110 inches) annually.


Guinea has four main geographic regions. Lower Guinea, or Maritime Guinea, consists mainly of a coastal plain that rises steeply to high central plateaus known as the Fouta Djallon, or "The Fouta," in Middle Guinea. To the northeast are broad savannahs in Upper Guinea. To the southeast are a combination of mountains and uplands in the Forest Highlands.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

Guinea's irregular coast is broken up by a number of bays and estuaries facing the Atlantic Ocean.

Islands and Archipelagoes

The Îles de Los, a cluster of small volcanic islands off Conakry, are inhabited and draw tourists during the dry season when seas are calm.

Coastal Features

Mangroves line much of Guinea's coast. The coast is broken at only two points, where spurs of resistant rock formations jut into the ocean. One is found at Cape Verga in the north, and the other is the Camayenne (or Kaloum) Peninsula on which Conakry is situated. Tides are high along the entire coast, reaching fifteen or more feet, which results in brackish water in estuaries many miles inland. Behind the coastal swamps lies an alluvial plain which averages about 48 kilometers (30 miles) wide but is considerably narrower in its central section.


There are no major lakes in Guinea.


Guinea is the "water tower" of West Africa. Over one-half of West Africa's principal rivers rise either in the Fouta Djallon or the Forest Highlands. The longest river in Guinea is the Niger River, at 4,100 kilometers (2,460 miles). It rises in the Fouta Djallon and flows northward into Mali. A little more than halfway through Mali, the river curves to the south and flows through the countries of Niger and Nigeria before reaching the Gulf of Guinea. The Niger River system in Guinea drains more than one-third of the country's total area. During the rainy season flooding occurs frequently along the sluggish rivers in the Niger River basin, including parts of the Niger itself.

Many short rivers, originating either in the Fouta Djallon or in its foothills, cascade through the coastal plain to estuaries along the Atlantic Ocean. Among the most important for navigation purposes are the Rio Nunez and the Fatala River. The Konkouré River, north of Conakry, provides hydro-electric power for the capital.

Tidal marshes and swampy flats surround Atlantic coast estuaries.


There are no significant desert regions in Guinea.


Tall grasses, interspersed with lightly wooded savannah, dominate Upper Guinea. Grasses also have colonized deforested areas of the Forest Highlands.

Dense rainforest, now largely secondary growth, characterizes the Forest Highlands in areas below 609 meters (2,000 feet). Higher areas are more lightly forested. The area around Beyla and Nzérékoré consists of rolling plains that were at one time probably covered by rainforest.


The Guinea Highlands in the Forest Region have general elevations ranging from about 457 meters (1,500 feet) above sea level in the west to over 914 meters (3,000 feet) in the east. Peaks at several points attain 1,219 meters (4,000 feet) and higher. Southeast of Nzérékoré are the Nimba Mountains on the Liberian and Côte d'Ivoire frontiers. Located in this range is Mount Nimba, Guinea's highest point at 1,752 meters (5,748 feet).


There are no major caves or canyons in Guinea.


The Fouta Djallon occupies most of Middle Guinea and consists of a complex, elevated, relatively level plateau. About 12,950 square kilometers (5,000 square miles) of this area reach elevations over 914 meters (3,000 feet). The plateaus are deeply cut in many places by narrow valleys, many of which run at roughly right angles, giving the region a checkerboard appearance. A number of major valleys extend for long distances, providing important lines of communication; the railroad from Conakry to Kankan runs in part through one of these valleys. In the south, foothills occur in steep steps having escarpments well over 304 meters (1,000 feet) high.


The Garifiri hydroelectric dam on the Konkouré River features a 75-megawatt power plant, a reservoir of 2 billion cubic meters (7.51 billion cubic feet), and a spillway that evacuates 2,000 cubic meters (70,580 cubic feet) of water per second.


Guinea is the second-largest bauxite producer in the world, possessing more than 30 percent of the world's bauxite reserves. Bauxite is a main ingredient in the production of aluminum. Major bauxite deposits are found across western and central Guinea. Since these deposits are generally close to the surface, open pit mining operations are typical.



Laye, Camara. The Dark Child. Trans. Eva Thoby-Marcelin. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1954.

Nelson, Harold D., et al, eds. Area Handbook for Guinea. Foreign Area Studies. Washington, D.C.: American University, 1975.

Niane, Djibril Tamsir. Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali. Trans. G.D. Pickett. Essex: Longman, 1965.

O'Toole, Thomas. Historical Dictionary of Guinea. Third Edition. Lanham, MD, and London: Scarecrow Press, 1994.

Web Sites

Wild World: Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World. National Geographic Society. (accessed May, 2003).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Guinea
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 7,466,200
Language(s): French
Literacy rate: 35.9%

Background & General Characteristics

The government essentially runs the news media in the Republic of Guinea (Républic de Guinée), a coastal West African country where the United Nations projects a 2002 population of 7,860,000, including refugees who fled in 2001 from Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Patterns of language and literacy, population distribution, and historical modes of government have all combined against the presence of a strong press. The predominantly Muslim population, about twenty-nine percent urban, inhabits a diverse terrain. A history of colonialism followed by Marxism underlies the weak but improving economy, which is heavily agricultural. The official language is French, but natives also use tribal languages including Malinké (Mandingo). Only some thirty-six percent of Guineans are literate. Conakry, Guinea's coastal capital and communications center, has a population approaching 2,000,000.

Though the Constitution of 1991 is in force, government censorship applies, and critics charge that presidential and parliamentary elections in the 1990s were not open.

Media Activity

The daily newspaper, Fonike, which had a circulation in the twenty thousands in the late 1990s, is state-owned. Horoya (Liberty) is published in French and the local languages. Journal Officiel de Guinée is a fortnightly government organ. A federation of Guinean workers has published Le Travailleur de Guinée, a monthly. L'Indépendant is an independent weekly.

The official news agency since 1986 has been theAgence Guinéenne de Presse (AGP), an offshoot of the UNESCO-supported West African News Agencies Development (WANAD) project. Xinhua, APN, and TASS have representations in Conakry.

The state-controlled Radiodiffusion Télévision Guinéenne broadcasts over eight radio stations in French, English, Portuguese, Arabic, and native dialects; in 1998 citizens owned about 390,000 radios. Interactive instruction by radio has been tried in Guinean classrooms.

State television broadcasts, which started in 1977, were reaching about 87,000 TV sets in the late 1990s. Six TV stations operated in 1997. The Société des Télécommunications de Guinée is forty percent state-owned.

Computer use is growing. In 1995, Guineans owned an estimated one hundred personal computers, but by the year 2000, Internet users numbered about five thousand. In mid-2002 the university at Kankan, isolated in the interior, was getting its own campus computer system and high-speed Internet connection.

Significant Dates

  • 1977: State-sponsored television broadcasts begin.
  • 2002: A college in the interior is wired for the Internet.


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). World Factbook 2002. Directorate of Intelligence, 7 May 2002. Available from

Banks, Arthur S. and Thomas C. Muller, eds. Political Handbook of the World, 1999. Binghamton, NY: CSA Publications, 1999.

Turner, Barry, ed. The Statesman's Yearbook: The Politics, Cultures, and Economies of the World, 2000. 136th ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

USAID, 7 May 2002. Available from

World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2002. New York: World Almanac Books, 2002.

Roy Neil Graves

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Culture Name


Alternate Name



Identification. The origin of the word "Guinea" is unclear. The name came into use among European shippers and map makers in the seventeenth century to refer to the coast of West Africa from Guinea to Benin. Some Guineans claim that the word arose from an early episode in the European-African encounter. In Susu, the language spoken by the coastal Susu ethnic group, the word guinè means "woman." When a group of Europeans arrived on the coast they met some women washing clothes in an estuary. The women indicated to the men that they were women. The Europeans misunderstood and thought the women were referring to a geographic area; the subsequently used the word "Guinea" to describe coastal West Africa.

The French claimed the coast of present-day Guinea in 1890 and named it French Guinea (Guinée française ) in 1895. Neighboring colonies also bore the name "Guinea." The British colony of Sierra Leone to the south was sometimes identified as British Guinea, and to the north, Portugal's colony was named Portuguese Guinea.

After Guinea gained independence, the first president, Sekou Touré, named the country the People's Revolutionary Republic of Guinea. The second president, Lansana Conté, changed the official name to the Republic of Guinea. The capital city is Conakry, and the country often is referred to as Guinea-Conakry to distinguish it from other nation-states with the same name.

Location and Geography. Guinea is located on the west coast of Africa, and is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. Its area is 94,930 square miles (245,857 square kilometers). There are four geographic zones. The coastal maritime region is filled with mangrove swamps and alluvial plains that support palm trees. Lower Guinea receives heavy rains, and Conakry is one of the wettest cities in the world. The coastal belt is home to one of the country's dominant ethnic groups, the Susu, and to many smaller groups, such as the Baga, Landoma, Lele, and Mikiforé. Other important towns include the bauxite mining centers of Fria and Kamsar.

In the interior is the Futa Jallon. This mountainous region has cool temperatures, allowing for the cultivation of potatoes. The Niger, Senegal, and Gambia rivers originate in the Futa Jallon. Many other streams and waterfalls run through this area's rocky escarpments and narrow valleys. The Fulbe ethnic group, also referred to as Peul, is the major population group. Smaller ethnic groups include the Jallonke and the Jahanke. Labé is the largest city, and the town of Timbo was the region's capital in the precolonial era.

To the east of the Futa Jallon is Upper Guinea, a savanna region with plains and river valleys. The Milo and Niger rivers are important for fishing, irrigation, and transportation. Most of the population consists of members of the Maninka ethnic group. Siguiri and Kankan are the major cities, and there are many smaller agricultural settlements in the countryside. Kankan sometimes is referred to as the nation's second capital, although in recent years it has been dwarfed in size by cities in southern Guinea.

The southernmost region is Forest Region. Rainfall is heavy, and the area is dense with rain forests with mahogany, teak, and ebony trees. Agricultural exploitation and the demand for tropical hardwoods have increased the rate of deforestation. Many valuable resources are found, including gold, diamonds, and iron ore. Larger ethnic groups include the Guerzé, Toma, and Kissi. Since the early 1990s, the Forest Region has had a substantial rise in population as refugees from wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone have flooded over the border and doubled the size of the towns of Gueckedou, Macenta, and N'Zerekoré.

Demography. The population is approximately 7.5 million, according to 2000 estimates. The Susu ethnic group accounts for 20 percent of the population; the Peul, 34 percent; and the Maninka, 33 percent. Smaller groups, mostly from the Forest Region, such as the Bassari, Coniagui, Guerze, Kissi, Kono, and Toma, make up the remaining 19 percent. There are about five hundred thousand refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia, although in the year 2000, some started to leave.

Almost half of the population is under the age of fifteen. This generation has known only the rule of the second president, Conté, who came to power in 1984 and is still in office. Fifteen percent of the country was born while the first president, Touré, ruled from 1958 to 1984; only 12 percent of the population witnessed colonial rule.

Many Senegalese merchants, artisans, and tailors live in the country, and they are joined by foreign nationals from other African countries. Some of these are refugees, others come seeking opportunities in Guinea. A substantial number of Europeans and Americans reside in Conakry, most of whom work for embassies and development organizations. Expatriates also live in the mining towns of Fria and Kamsar (bauxite) and Siguiri (gold). An economically influential Lebanese population conducts commerce in the cities. A tiny group of Korean immigrants operates photo development shops in Conakry.

Linguistic Affiliation. More than thirty languages are spoken, and eight are designated as official national languages: Bassari, Guerzé, Kissi, Koniagui, Maninka, Peul, Susu, and Toma. In the 1960s, President Touré wanted to promote African cultures and languages and abolished the use of French. Schoolchildren started to be taught in local languages. President Conté reversed this policy and resuscitated French as the official language in 1985.

Many people, especially men, speak more than one language. In Conakry, Susu is most commonly spoken on the streets and in the marketplaces, although in certain sectors Peul is more common. Elsewhere, Maninka is the preferred language of commerce. French is used in schools and in high governmental and business circles.

Symbolism. Official national symbols include the flag and the coat of arms. The flag has bands of red, yellow, and green and was first flown during Touré's regime. The coat of arms displays the slogan "Work, Justice, Solidarity." The nimba, a wooden headdress that represents fertility among the Bagas in the coastal region, has gained currency as a national symbol. It is found on the Guinean franc and is used as a logo by governmental agencies, businesses, and private organizations. Wood carvers, artisans, and artists reproduce nimbas in various forms and media. Important national sites include the grand mosque in Conakry and the tombs of Alfa Yaya and Samori Touré, two African leaders who confronted the French during the colonial period. The mosque of Dinguiraye in the Futa Jallon is an important monument. Al Hajj Umar Tall, a Muslim state builder in the mid-nineteenth century, constructed the mosque.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Guinea's complex history reflects the diversity of its geographic zones. In the early eighteenth century, Islamic Peul migrants arrived in the Futa Jallon, displacing the ancestors of the Susu, who pushed westward to the coast and encroached on the lands and settlements of coastal peoples, including the Baga and the Landoma. Over the next two centuries, the Susu gained control of the coast by building a series of small states based on clan and town affiliation. The Susu supported themselves by fishing and trading with Europeans. They traded locally produced goods such as beeswax and hides as well as slaves for European cloth, arms, and other manufactured goods. The region participated in but was not a major contributor to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

In the Futa Jallon, the Peuls constructed a centralized theocratic Muslim state. Two families, the Soriyas and the Alfayas, headed the government of the Futa Jallon. Male members of those families occupied the position of Almamy, or leader, for alternating terms of two years. The Futa Jallon was divided into nine diwals, or provinces, and people supported themselves through cattle herding, farming, and trade. Slaves lived in small hamlets and did most of the heavy labor.

The savanna of West Africa has been the site of great Maninka kingdoms since the eighth century. The exploits of Sundiata, the builder of the Mali Empire in the thirteenth century, are still recounted by griots, or bards, throughout Upper Guinea. Islam also has played an important role in Upper Guinea's history. In the seventeenth century, Muslim migrants came to the banks of the Milo River and formed the small city-state of Baté, with the town of Kankan as its capital. Baté emerged as an enclave of Islam and became a magnet for Muslim traders and scholars. Slaves supported agricultural and commercial activities. Animist Maninka populations tended to have fewer slaves, whom they incorporated into the household. Slaves owned by Maninka Muslims often resided in separate farming villages.

In the Forest Region, political and social affiliations functioned on a small scale because of the density and fragility of the rain forest. Because the ecosystem could not support large population centers, the forest's populations lived in dispersed villages of about one hundred to two hundred people. These villages, often situated on the top of a high hill, could be moved or replaced easily in response to environmental challenges or warfare. The forest stimulated isolated independence. Islam did not make significant inroads in this area.

In the nineteenth century, warfare intensified in several geographic regions. In the 1870s, a Maninka warrior, Samori Turé, created a vast empire through Upper Guinea and present-day Mali. Samori provisioned his armies and administration by trading cattle and slaves for European arms. The French, who were moving eastward to the interior from Senegal, clashed with Samori in the 1880s. They drove him out of Upper Guinea in 1891 and captured him in northern Côte d'Ivoire in 1898. Samori is remembered as a great colonial resistor. In the Futa Jallon, civil war in the 1890s arose over French annexation of Middle Guinea. The French built alliances with disaffected elites and incorporated the area to French Guinea by treaty in 1896. In 1900, the French fixed the borders of the colony.

The French set up a bureaucracy to administer the colony and collected taxes and requisitioned forced labor. The tried to capitalize on the area's natural resources, such as gold, but were largely unsuccessful. The French built schools, courts, and medical clinics. While they brutalized some sectors of the population, colonialism was ameliorated by the lack of French personnel. The French depended on local chiefs and institutions for the day-to-day administration of the colony; as a result, colonial policies were often implemented incompletely.

Sekou Touré led the nation to independence in the 1950s. A postal clerk and union activist, Touré was head of the Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG), which drew support from market women and low-level African bureaucrats. Declaring, "We prefer poverty in freedom to riches in chains," Touré conducted a campaign against the proposed French Union, which would have kept French colonies in a federation.

In September 1958, France's president, granted the nation's independence and ordered a swift withdrawal. All French personnel were deployed back to France, public works in progress were demolished, and the medicines, textbooks, and records used in colonial hospitals, schools, and offices were removed or destroyed. Taking office as the country's first president in 1958, Touré faced immense challenges. Only a handful of doctors, lawyers, engineers, and accountants were left, and the country had only two high schools and no university. Having created an enemy in a powerful Western nation at the height of the Cold War, Guinea was thrust into international isolation.

Touré turned to the Soviet Union and later to the People's Republic of China for help. Those countries provided financial support and expertise and opened their universities to Guinean students. Touré embarked on a socialist program, which he termed African communalism. Advocating unity, egalitarianism, parity between the sexes, and Guinean cultural production, Touré attempted to blend indigenous African institutions with a Marxist agenda. Touré used his presidency to strengthen ties to other African leaders and was hailed internationally as a spokesperson for pan-Africanism. The country's situation varied under those programs of economic centralization, improving with the export of bauxite starting in 1960 but suffering as schemes to collectivize markets and agricultural production foundered in the 1970s. In implementing his programs, Touré tolerated no dissent. He outlawed other political parties and punished his critics severely. Some dissidents lived in exile, and others were interred in detention camps. Economic and political repression prompted many people to flee to neighboring countries.

When he died in 1984, Touré was remembered internationally for his firm stance against colonial rule. But in Guinea, some members of the population celebrated his death. After a brief period of political disarray, Conté, a military general, seized power. After constitutional reform in 1990, Conté instituted civilian rule. Under the auspices of the Party for Unity and Progress, he advocated economic liberalization and privatization, which brought Western donors and aid agencies to the country.

National Identity. At the time of Touré's death, the standard of living was one of the worst in the world, but some people contend that they owe their identity as citizens of a common country to Touré. His legacy is tangible. Buildings, roads, and schools, as well as professionals who speak Chinese, Russian, and Romanian, testify to the assistance he extracted from Eastern bloc nations. Guineans born during Touré's regime who are able to read and write in their own language are proof of Touré's commitment to the use of African languages.

Ethnic Relations. Despite Touré's attempts to minimize ethnic divisions, poverty, a feeble economy, a weak infrastructure, and limited educational and medical resources have exacerbated ethnic tensions. President Conté's has been accused of favoring his own ethnic group, the Susu.

Ethnic and national tensions have coalesced around the issue of refugees. Conté initially welcomed the victims of the Sierra Leonean and Liberian wars in the early and middle 1990s. However, when the country's border towns were attacked in 2000, Conté made a radio address in which he accused the refugee population of harboring rebels and ordered the refugees to leave the country. In the days after that speech, Sierra Leoneans and Liberians were attacked and robbed, and many tried to leave the country.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Colonial rule left an imprint on cities and towns, as did the assistance given by the Soviet bloc. The older sections of Conakry are built in a grid pattern interspersed with boulevards and round points. Newer buildings, such as Palace of the People, built by the Chinese, reflect the architecture of the Eastern bloc countries. Conakry radiates fifteen miles outward from the narrow downtown peninsula. Most residential structures there are low buildings with one to four rooms, although some families live in government-owned and privately-owned apartment buildings. Wealthier residents reside in modern, luxurious homes.

Older forms of African and French architecture are better preserved in the interior cities. French-built sections of Kankan, Dalaba, and Siguiri reveal the colonial concern with plotting buildings, houses, and market centers along straight lines. Quarters of towns that were not subject to French intervention reflect the priorities of Africans in arranging their physical space. In Kankan, many people live in small mud huts with thatched roofs, structures that are cool and easy to maintain. Members of the same household often sleep in separate dwellings, but their doors open onto a communal space where cooking and social interaction take place. These family compounds accommodate the large extended families and polygamous marriages that are common among the Maninka ethnic group. This arrangement is repeated in other cities and towns.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. An array of taboos and customs affect food consumption. It is impolite to eat while walking. A visitor who arrives in a compound while a meal is in progress will be invited to join in the meal. Food often is served in large communal bowls and eaten with spoons. In large families, the men will eat from one bowl and the women from another.

The main meal typically is served in the middle of the day and consists of a sauce placed over a staple carbohydrate such as rice or millet. The sauce and staples differ according to region, season, and the wealth of the household. Rice, sorghum, millet, and cassava are common foods. Sauces are made with groundnuts, okra, and tomatoes. They may contain fresh or smoked fish, meat, or poultry. Many people can afford to eat only once a day. Their meals are frequently low in protein, and many children and adults suffer from malnutrition.

Little pork is eaten except in the Forest Region, where there are fewer Muslims and bush pig is favored. Variations in region, ethnicity, and wealth also affect milk and bread consumption. In Middle Guinea, milk is made into a yogurt like sauce that is sweetened and served alone or over sorghum or millet. Wealthier families often eat bread as a morning meal, accompanied by instant coffee or tea with sweetened condensed milk or sugar and powdered milk.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Meals often are served at weddings, baptisms, and funerals. Among the wealthier people in large cities, meals on special occasions may include expensive imported goods such as canned peas and costly locally-produced staples such as potatoes. Ramadan is observed, and Tabaski is celebrated with the slaughtering of a sheep, goat, or chicken. Alcohol usually is not served at family celebrations, except for in the Forest Region, where palm wine is frequently consumed.

Basic Economy. Guinea is one of the world's poorest countries. Despite its natural resources and abundant rainfall, Guinea has low life expectancy, a low doctor-patient ratio, and a high rate of infant mortality. The country remains largely rural, and 80 percent of the population is involved in agricultural production. The farming and cattle-herding sectors of the Futa Jallon support 40 percent of the population, while 11 percent of the people are employed in industry and commerce, 5 percent in the service industry, and 4 percent in the civil service. These statistics mask the strategies that people use to support themselves. Many civil servants own livestock or a small store, and some agriculturalists migrate to urban centers to work as day laborers or trade in the dry season.

Land Tenure and Property. A ruralurban divide affects land access and ownership. In rural areas, land is abundant and ownership usually is dictated by local custom. These traditional laws are often highly complex, and in the Futa Jallon, efforts by nongovernmental agencies and the government to streamline property rights have had little success. In urban areas, especially Conakry, demand for land is greater than supply and residents rely on the civic code and legal titles to determine land ownership. Conflict over land rights caused a devastating confrontation in Conakry in 1997, when the government clashed with residents over the building of a road.

Commercial Activities. Most people are not employed in the formal sector, and those who do not engage in agriculture earn a living in an array of occupations. These occupations include auto and motorcycle repair, iron and leather working, marketing, and selling prepared meals.

Major Industries. Guinea has the second largest known deposits of bauxite and produces 25 percent of the bauxite used in the world. The mine in Kamsar was opened in 1960; in the 1990s, bauxite constituted 75 percent of the country's exports. There are also reserves of iron ore, gold, and diamonds. British interests have built a gold mine in Siguiri, but the depressed price of gold has damaged its prospects. Guinean interests have kept careful control over the country's diamond mines, but intermediaries sell to international diamond buyers. Beer, cigarettes, and soft drinks are manufactured in Conakry for local consumption. Tourism is minimal.

Trade. The major export is bauxite. Aluminum, coffee, diamonds, fish, and fruits and vegetables also are exported. Manufactured goods are imported from China, Europe, and the United States. Regional trade networks deal in locally produced agricultural goods, such as potatoes, rice, shea butter, and kola nuts. China supplies bedding, bicycles, buckets, kerosene lamps, motorcycles, and pots, but the abysmal transportation system hinders commerce. The rainy season, aging bridges and roads, and interregional conflicts slow and sometimes stop the movement of goods and people through the country. As a result, the price of goods imported by sea increases dramatically from Lower Guinea to Upper Guinea and the Forest Region. In rural areas, people depend largely on what they can produce or accumulate to support themselves.

Division of Labor. Labor traditionally is divided along lines of class, level of education, gender, and age. Literacy and formal schooling tend to separate manual laborers and petty traders from bureaucrats and professionals, although many successful businesspeople are neither literate nor highly educated. In agricultural settings, boys usually herd livestock, men plow, and women and girls weed and plant gardens for petty trade. The division of labor within a household often is complicated by marital hierarchies and the needs and contributions of elderly parents and grandparents.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. While Western education and employment in the formal sector have limited the strength of traditional social orderings, the legacies of caste groupings and domestic slavery continue to shape social relations. In Middle and Upper Guinea, professional artisans such as blacksmiths, leatherworkers, and bards form a social caste. Precolonial social categories are also evident in areas where the descendents of slaves live in the farming villages that were inhabited by their bonded ancestors. In most of the country, marriage between noble women and men of lower status is frowned upon. These traditional rankings have weakened as education, employment, and monetary wealth have created new social hierarchies.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Under the regime of Touré, most people were poor and corruption and embezzlement were forbidden and punished. With the opening of the country under President Conté, the gap between rich people and poor people has increased. A small but significant segment of the population has benefitted from the investment programs that have been started since the mid-1980s. Automobiles and large houses, sometimes equipped with electric generators and swimming pools, symbolize the wealth of the elite sector. Expatriate professionals form a significant part of this sector. The affluence of the wealthy contrasts sharply with the lifestyle of the rest of the people, many of whom do not have access to electricity, running water, and sanitary services.

Outside of Conakry, symbols of success vary according to region and relative means. In small villages, a wealthy household may invest in a concrete house with a corrugated aluminum roof. In this setting, acquiring a bicycle or a motorcycle can demonstrate prosperity while fulfilling practical needs. Sometimes villages or neighborhoods pool their resources to build mosques or schools. In both urban and rural areas, men may use their wealth to take another wife.

Political Life

Government. The constitution, the Loi Fundamental, was ratified in 1990. The government is based on the French Napoleonic civil law system and traditional law. The president is democratically elected to five-year terms, and the holder of this office appoints the prime minister and the other ministers. Representatives to the People's National Assembly, the unicameral parliament, are elected by popular vote.

Leadership and Political Officials. Postcolonial Guinea has had only two presidents: Touré (19581984) and Conté (1984present). Under the leadership of Conté, the country went from a one-party state to a multiparty democracy with constitutional reform in 1990. A bill legalized political parties in 1992. Some have questioned whether these reforms have been put into effect, in light of the alleged fraud that marred the presidential elections of 1993 and the parliamentary elections of 1996. Government corruption has increased during Conté's regime, and well-paid contacts are needed to get results from the lethargic and inefficient bureaucracy.

Social Problems and Control. Theft is a problem, and fraud ranges from the banal to the brutal. The regional flood of arms has increased the incidence of armed robbery and other forms of violence. Government officials, particularly soldiers, customs officials, and low-level police officers, sometimes extort money and goods from people. Many Guineans believe that payoffs and embezzlement characterize the country's governance at higher levels. When people have disputes, some seek redress through governmental authorities; others try to settle their differences by resorting to the practices and rules common to their ethnic group or region.

Military Activity. The government is heavily militarized. Conté came to power through the army, and the armed forces continue to be an important source of his support. Soldiering offers a viable, if low-paying, form of employment for many young men, and regional hostilities have reinforced the nation's investment in training and arming its forces. Guinean troops have served in peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone and with the United Nations.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Aid from Western donors has increased significantly during Conté's presidency. Projects initiated by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the European Union have privatized utilities, such as water and electricity, and improved the infrastructure. Local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have set up programs that target health, education, and women's and business issues.

The dispersal of donor money and governmental assistance programs varies by region. Historically, Lower and Middle Guinea have received more assistance, and the Forest Region and Upper Guinea have received less. This pattern shifted in the Forest Region in the 1990s as international relief organizations such as the United Nations High Commission of Refugees arrived to contend with the refugee crisis.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

While aid organizations and international donor agencies play a large role in the economy, other types of associations thrive. Many ethnic groups practice initiation rights that ritualize the passage to adulthood. Churches and mosques mobilize their members for projects such as the construction of new buildings and schools. A driver's union negotiates the fares charged for long-distance transportation. Veterans clubs testify to the high number of men who served as soldiers in the French army in World War II. Women's trade associations lend money and advocate for demands involving access to and rental of market stalls in major marketing centers.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Divisions of Labor by Gender. Women are on average less educated and less financially secure than men. A woman often spends part of her life in a polygamous marriage and has only a 22 percent likelihood of being literate. She will live on average forty-eight years and have five children, one of whom will die in infancy. In rural areas, women contribute to the household by weeding the fields, planting garden plots, doing the cooking and cleaning, and looking after the children. In urban areas, women constitute a major component of the informal marketing sector.

President Touré recognized the importance of women to cultural, social, and economic production, and instituted programs to promote the education and prosperity of women. Some of Touré's strongest supporters were market women, who, however, successfully led a strike against his marketing reforms in 1972. Touré promoted equal access to education and the enrollment of females in primary, secondary, and professional schools climbed to nearly half in some regions. Touré was the first postindependence leader in Africa to appoint women to key ministerial positions. During the regime of President Conté, these strides have slowed. Women are much less prominent in government, and the rate of female education has declined significantly. Currently, only about 10 percent of students at the university level are women.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. There is a persistent bias in the social hierarchy toward males, and boys are more likely to be educated and as adults are more likely to have a range of economic and employment options. Household heads are almost always men and custom allows them to exercise absolute authority over their wives, sisters, and daughters. These patriarchal structures conceal the power that many women wield on a day-to-day level in family compounds and market stalls, in raising children, earning an income, and allocating household resources.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriage is considered a union of two families, not the choice of two individuals. Family approval and ritual gifts are considered very important in laying a firm marital foundation. The groom typically pays bridewealth to the family of the bride in some combination of cash, cloth, and livestock.

Marriage customs vary widely by region, ethnicity, and social status. In the Futa Jallon, a marriage may be arranged while the wife is still an infant. The couple does not take up residence together until the wife has reached puberty. It is not unusual for a wedding ceremony to take place in the absence of the groom, especially if he lives in a different region than his betrothed. After the ceremony, the bride is sent to her husband. In urban areas, some couples go to the mayor's office to sign official documents, but most couples do not seek civil recognition of their unions. Divorce is not uncommon, and local custom typically prevails over the civil courts.

Domestic Unit. The domestic unit is frequently large and composed of many generations. Polygamy is common and can both complicate and strengthen a household. Custom dictates that the first, or senior, wife mediates conflicts and oversees the division of labor within the household. In rural areas in particular, harmonious polygamous households help ensure sufficient allocations for child care, cooking, marketing, and working in the fields. These large households function less well in urban settings, where space is limited and more challenges exist in dividing scarce material and monetary resources. Tensions, favoritism, and jealousy in either setting can jeopardize a household's viability. Some women, as well as men, reject polygamy. Monogamous unions are most common among Christians and western-educated men and women.

Inheritance. Titles and property typically pass through the male members of a family, from father to son or from brother to brother. Specific patterns and customs of inheritance vary by ethnic group. According to Islamic law, which is sometimes followed, a man inherits the wife or wives of his deceased brother. This rule of inheritance is not always implemented, but this practice can produce results that range from the disastrous to the beneficial for a widow and her children.

Kin Groups. Different types of kin groupings affect social relations. Many people have the same last name and share a common ancestor in the lineage's founder. Family names often inspire jokes and camaraderie; they also can serve as the basis for assumptions about the status and class of their bearers.

Terms such as "cousin" and "sister" frequently are applied to people who are not blood relations. These terms convey respect and affection or indicate certain commonalties. Distance often expands kin relationships: Two acquaintances from the same village in Upper Guinea may refer to each other as "cousin" in the streets of Conakry, and a Guinean studying in France may introduce a neighbor from Conakry as a sister. To distinguish fictive kin from blood ties, people frequently explain their exact relationship to their "real" brothers or sisters. A man may describe his blood brother as having the "same mother, same father" or his half sister as having the "same father, different mother."


Infant Care. The mother is typically the primary caretaker of a child, although it is not unusual for a grandmother, aunt, or sister to take charge of the child of one of her relations. Children usually breast-feed until two years of age, a practice that helps them remain healthy while promoting birth spacing. According to custom, a man is not supposed to have intercourse with a woman who is breast-feeding.

At birth, children are given charms to wear around the wrist and waist to protect them from evil spirits. Infants spend most of their waking and sleeping hours with their primary caretaker, usually the mother. A mother typically ties her baby on to her back in a wrapper and carries the child as she goes about her daily tasks.

Child Rearing and Education. Many children, particularly girls, do not have the opportunity to attend school because families cannot afford school fees and uniforms, and because the family needs the child's labor in the fields or the family compound. Girls are more likely than boys to stay home. Children who cannot attend a governmental school may be sent to an Islamic school to learn the Koran. Regardless of whether they are enrolled in school, children tend to work very hard at a young age. Children carry water and firewood, help with food preparation, and go to the market to buy and sell.

Children are brought up by their elders, not just their parents, and are supposed to show respect to their elders at all times. This means that it is culturally acceptable for relatives, friends, and acquaintances to reprimand a child who misbehaves. It is rare for a child to openly confront or contradict an adult.

Higher Education. There are universities in Conakry and Kankan. Students are awarded university scholarships on a competitive basis, but lack of funding severely constrains the universities. Library and computer resources are scarce, and strikes by dissatisfied students and underpaid professors are common. These limitations on higher education mean that students often spend many years completing their university degrees.


Greetings are very important, and it is rude to ask a question or make a request without first inquiring about someone's health and the well-being of his or her family. These questions are formulaic and may be repeated several times. These questions and responses are accompanied by a firm handshake or, among the upper classes, by brief kisses on the cheeks. People still sometimes refer to each other as "comrade," a legacy of Touré's efforts to promote equality and eliminate social hierarchies. It is impolite to use the left hand in any social interaction, whether to shake hands, point, pay, or hand an item to someone.

Rules of etiquette also dictate intergenerational communication. It is not proper for young people to look straight into the eyes of a respected elder; they should instead cast their eyes downward. Under certain circumstances, elders must be approached through an intermediary. A son-in-law is always supposed to approach his mother-in-law with great respect and never treat her with familiarity. It is considered unlucky to compliment the beauty of an infant, and people may instead tell a mother that her child is ugly.


Religious Beliefs. The vast majority of the population (85 percent) identifies itself as Muslim, while 8 percent of the people are Christians and 7 percent practice traditional religions. Most of the Christians are Roman Catholics. Friday afternoon prayers are widely attended and Muslim holidays are observed. With very rare exceptions, Muslim women do not live in seclusion (purdah ) or wear the full covering worn by women in other Islamic countries. Most Christians are either from the Forest Region or the Coastal Region, where Catholic missions were more successful. While few people adhere exclusively to animist beliefs, many traditional beliefs are widely practiced and combined with other forms of religious worship. It is not uncommon for a Muslim or a Catholic to wear an amulet or charm.

Medicine and Health Care

There are both traditional and Western practitioners of medicine. Medically-trained doctors and nurses staff government clinics and a few private clinics throughout the country. Every district has a medical dispensary, although many lack supplies and medicine. In recent years, "pay as you go" reforms have placed Western medical care out of the reach of many members of the population. Traditional health practitioners may use a combination of herbal treatments, magic, and counseling to treat patients. Many people are not reluctant to use both traditional and Western methods of care in healing themselves, and some are forced to for financial reasons.

Secular Celebrations

Independence Day is celebrated on 2 October.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Poverty and scarce material resources compel the vast majority of artists and craftspeople to produce goods that serve a practical purpose.

Literature. Traditional literature, particularly among the Maninka, is preserved in a body of oral traditions that are remembered and passed down by bards. Radio broadcasts and recordings of epic tales and local histories told by leading griots have helped transport this literature into the twenty-first century. Authors and academics use the printed word to convey their message, such as Camara Laye, the author of Dark Child, a novel about a boy growing up in the colonial era.

Graphic Arts. Woodworkers build and carve furniture such as stools, cabinets, and chairs. Metal workers collect and melt old aluminum cans to make utensils and pots. Villagers weave mats and baskets and dry out and decorate gourds that they use for household tasks. Weavers and dyers sell their cloth to men and women, who take it to tailors to make it into clothing. Most of the graphic arts are thus born of necessity and are evident in daily life.

Performance Arts. A thriving music industry supports a wide range of music. Some artists specialize in traditional music, accompanied by stringed instruments. Others combine the musical forms of their ethnic group or region with influences from Europe or the Middle East. Cassette tapes are cheaper in Guinea than in the rest of West Africa and most of the world, making Guinea a mecca for buyers of recorded music. Festivals and celebrations, whether public or private, usually feature dancing and music. In the 1960s, Touré founded Les Ballet Africains to highlight Guinea's rich cultural tradition. This dance troupe continues to tour nationally and internationally.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The physical and social sciences are not strong as a consequence of a weak and impoverished educational system. The government has developed a program at Conakry's university to train engineers and geologists to work in bauxite, diamond, and gold mines. But many of the Guinea's best students and scholars in all fields seek education and employment outside the country. Those who are able to often move to France, other European countries, the United States, or to the Middle East or Asia.


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Web Sites

CIA World Factbook

Camp Boiro


Emily Lynn Osborn

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"Guinea." Countries and Their Cultures. . 17 Jan. 2018 <>.

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guinea a former British gold coin that was first minted in 1663 from gold imported from West Africa, with a value that was later fixed at 21 shillings. It was replaced by the sovereign from 1817.

It was named after Guinea in West Africa as being intended for the Guinea trade and made with gold from that source; the first coins were minted ‘in the name and for the use of the Company of Royal Adventurers of England trading with Africa’; these pieces were to bear for distinction the figure of a little elephant.

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"guinea." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . 17 Jan. 2018 <>.

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Guinea (archaic term for Africa's west coast)

Guinea (gĬn´ē), an archaic term for the west coast of Africa. In its widest sense it has been applied to the region from Angola to Senegal. Parts of the region bore names originating in early colonial trade, notably Grain Coast, Ivory Coast (see Côte d'Ivoire), Gold Coast (see Ghana, country), and Slave Coast. Characteristic of the coast are dense tropical forests, heavy rainfall, and a hot, humid climate. Today the term refers to the Republic of Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Equatorial Guinea.

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"Guinea (archaic term for Africa's west coast)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 17 Jan. 2018 <>.

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guinea name of a portion of the west coast of Africa, applied to things derived thence (or, with vague reference, from some other distant country) as Guinea fowl (XVIII), guinea hen (XVI), Guinea pig (XVII), Guinea worm (XVII). The gold coin named guinea was first struck in 1663 ‘in the name and for the use of the Company of Royal Adventurers trading with Africa’, being intended for the Guinea trade and made of gold from Guinea.

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"guinea." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . 17 Jan. 2018 <>.

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guin·ea / ˈginē/ (abbr.: gn.) • n. Brit. the sum of £1.05 (21 shillings in predecimal currency), now used mainly for determining professional fees and auction prices. ∎ hist. a former British gold coin that was first minted in 1663 from gold imported from West Africa, with a value that was later fixed at 21 shillings. It was replaced by the sovereign from 1817.

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"guinea." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . 17 Jan. 2018 <>.

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The people of Guinea are called Guineans. There are about twenty-four ethnic groups. The three largest are the Fulani (profiled here), the Malinké, and the Susu. For more information on the Malinké, see the chapter on Liberia in Volume 5.

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"Guinea." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . 17 Jan. 2018 <>.

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guineablini, cine, Finney, finny, Ginny, guinea, hinny, mini, Minnie, ninny, pinny, Pliny, shinny, skinny, spinney, tinny, whinny •kidney, Sidney, Sydney •chimney •jitney, Whitney •Disney •aborigine, polygeny, polygyny •androgyny, homogeny, misogyny, progeny •Gemininiminy-piminy, Rimini •dominie, hominy, Melpomene •ignominy • Panini • larceny • telecine •satiny • destiny • mountainy •mutiny, scrutiny •briny, Heine, liny, piny, shiny, spiny, tiny, whiny •sunshiny •Bonnie, bonny, Connie, johnny, Lonnie, Ronnie, Suwannee •Rodney •Cockney, Procne •Romney • Novotný • Grozny •brawny, corny, horny, lawny, mulligatawny, scrawny, tawny, thorny •Orkney • Courtney •brownie, browny, downy, townie

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