The West African nation of Guinea spans an area of 245,860 kilometers and shares borders with Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, and Mali in the north, and with Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cote d’Ivoire in the south. According to an April 2014 population census, Guinea has a population of 10.63 million, with women making up more than half of the population.
The presidential election of November 7, 2010 marked the return of Guinea to constitutional order after the army seized power on December 23, 2008. After a difficult period of military transition, the election of the first democratically elected president, Professor Alpha Condé, and a new political context, paved the way for new economic opportunities in Guinea. Several reforms were introduced and Guinea reached completion point for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative in September 2012. Legislative elections took place on September 28, 2013, and official results were approved by the Supreme Court on November 16, 2013 in spite of allegations of fraud declared by both the opponents and the ruling regime. The political transition should be completed through the organization of local elections which had been postponed several times because of the lack of consensus among the political players.
While necessary, macro-economic stability will nonetheless be largely insufficient to make a significant dent in poverty. Over the last ten years, per capita GDP grew annually by 0.4% on average. Excluding the revenues of the mining sector (shared between foreign investors and the government), per capita incomes are believed to have stagnated in the last decade, or even decreased, as per capita private consumption decreased over the same period.
Guinea’s economic growth has increasingly become dependent on resource extraction, and the computation of adjusted net savings suggests that Guinea’s wealth has been decreasing by the equivalent of more than 20% of gross national income (GNI), (that is $1 billion in 2012) every year since 2007. This indicates that investments have been greatly insufficient to offset mineral rents dissipation in Guinea. Private investments (including residential investments and maintenance) averaged only 15% of GDP between 2007 and 2012, and dropped to a low of 5% in 2010 when foreign investors in the mining sector left the country, frustrated by frequent changes in the terms of contracts. Public investment averaged 5% of GDP over the same period, and its effectiveness was highly questionable -- in particular before 2011 when performance audits revealed that most ongoing investment programs did not comply with procurement rules and procedures.
With elusive and volatile growth, the poverty rate increased from 53% in 2007 to 55% in 2012. Declining average per capita consumption contributed to the increase in poverty, but a mild reduction of inequality, notably in rural areas, somewhat contained the overall increase in poverty. Rural – urban migrations, and the sharp increase in food prices explain why rural areas fared better than urban areas in terms of poverty reduction, even if poverty rates remain higher in rural areas (65% of the population in 2012) than in urban areas (35% of the population in 2012).
Meanwhile, extreme poverty (the inability to satisfy basic food needs) increased from 12.2% to 18.0% between 2007 and 2012. The most important determinants of poverty are location, gender, and education of the head of household.
In February 2014, a strain of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) appeared in Guinea. Several hundred cases (more than 750 by mid-September) have been reported, including close to 500 deaths. In early September 2014, the government announced a new two-month $70 million accelerated health emergency plan aiming to turn the current rising tide and drastically reduce the risk of contamination of the EVD. As the first country hit by the Ebola virus, and despite the swift action by international agencies (Doctors without Borders and the World Health Organization), and by national authorities, the epidemic has had a significant negative impact on the Guinean economy. Economic growth for 2014 initially projected at 4.5% has now been revised downwards to 2.4%. The major impact of Ebola has been felt in the agriculture and services sectors. Projected agricultural growth in 2014 has fallen from 5.7% to 3.3%, while projected growth in the services sector has fallen from 6.7% to 3.8%. Finally, food security is likely to be a critical issue for Guinea during the year to come, particularly during the 2015 lean season, although the consequences can be mitigated if the EVD is eradicated.
While efforts to date have focused largely on medical interventions to contain the EVD outbreak, it seems increasingly clear that a great deal more needs to be done to address secondary effects of the outbreak. Initiatives such as increasing access to food and improving communication with affected communities will help prevent potential social unrest. Prior to the Ebola outbreak, the country had a very low functioning healthcare system, poverty was endemic, malnutrition was rampant, and the road infrastructure made many communities outside of the capital inaccessible. These issues will also need to be addressed to help Guinea recover from the crisis.
Last Updated: Oct 16, 2014