Economic Diversification in Guinea-Bissau
Guinea-Bissau is a small West African country with a poverty rate of more than 60 percent. Poor infrastructure and a stagnant business climate fostered a reliance on its main income producer, subsistence farming. Despite this, its GDP growth rate has remained fairly high. Real GDP growth rate in 2017 was 5.9 percent, one of the highest in Africa. Though a recession increased debt and caused Guinea-Bissau to seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the country has slowly rebounded. The nation stands to benefit from a diversified economy.

Current State of the Economy

Guinea-Bissau consistently ranks among the top 10 poorest countries in the world. About 80 percent of the population works in agriculture, while industry and services make up the remaining workforce. As is typical for a developing country, many residents rely on subsistence farming. Cashew production is an important export and source of income for Bissau-Guineans, making up more than 80 percent of income. Economic diversification in Guinea-Bissau could add jobs, begin infrastructure developments and lead to further investment in health and education.

A Cashew Economy

In a visit to Guinea-Bissau in January of this year, an IMF team led by Tobia Rasmussen discussed the importance of favorable cashew prices and production. “Ensuring a transparent and competitive cashew marketing season will be critical,” stated Rasmussen. Cashew production and pricing are important to most Bissau-Guineans. The issue, as with most developing countries, is an over-reliance on the agriculture industry.

Although economic diversification in Guinea-Bissau could be partially achieved by emphasizing crops other than cashews, there would still be a more widespread effect by focusing on services and other industries that have been left untapped. Further investment in the agriculture industry, such as through equipment and green technology, could also provide some relief to poverty-stricken residents.

Areas for Development

Guinea-Bissau lacks strong energy infrastructure and general infrastructure. Adding roads, bridges, railways, ports, hospitals and schools are examples of infrastructure developments that don’t just benefit the native population. Both tourists hoping to visit and business people interested in investing in a country that has the potential for growth stand to benefit, as well. Mineral resources, such as phosphates, mineral sands, bauxite, diamond and gold all are untapped. There are currently only small-scale mining of construction materials, such as clay, granite and limestone. Further development, as well as additional funding by the government in infrastructure, would provide a suitable foundation for the basis of a developed country. Infrastructure, such as roadways, is a necessary beginning to a developing economy. To demonstrate the current state of roadways in the country, only 10 percent of the national road network is tarred.

Energy Infrastructure

Only 21 percent of the population has electricity. There are also no telephone lines. Opening investment to the energy sector, especially to external corporations, is often foundational for further development. Current President of Guinea-Bissau Jose Mario Vaz has promised to reduce poverty and drug trafficking, both of which are rampant. At the 73rd United Nations Assembly President Vaz stated he wished to “eradicate poverty and hunger, combat major endemic diseases, as well as guarantee education and potable water for all.”

Promising Ports

The key location of the country is often overlooked. Guinea-Bissau is a western port of Africa that enables it to be a strategic location for trade. Fishing is usually grouped with the agriculture industry but could become a new income source for the 60 percent of Bissau-Guineans in poverty. Advancements in fishing, such as sonar technology that allows the user to find fish, is one example that provides simple and modern solutions to poor countries.

External Investment

China is a major investor in Africa and has announced it would invest more than $60 billion to help developing countries. One way it achieves this is through investment in infrastructure. China has built Guinea-Bissau’s parliament building, a government palace and a national stadium. The most economical investment China has made for Guinea-Bissau is its $184 million investment in a 30-kilowatt biomass power plant. The partnership is a major step in providing electricity to its residents while also adding to economic diversification in Guinea-Bissau.

With a continued focus on economic diversification and energy infrastructure Guinea-Bissau holds the potential for boundless development. The aforementioned initiatives and investment products indicate that positive change is already occurring in the West African nation.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

lowest life expectancy in the world
Out of the established 224 countries on the earth, these are the bottom five with the lowest life expectancy in the world. The countries listed below range from an average lifespan of 52.1 years to 50.6 years old.

Five Countries with the Lowest Life Expectancy in the World

  1. Swaziland
    Swaziland has the fifth-lowest life expectancy in the world at an average of 52.1 years. Swaziland is the only country on this list with men living, on average, longer than women. As of 2016, the top two reasons for deaths were HIV/AIDS and lower respiratory infections.However, Swaziland is one of the countries receiving help from USAID. One of the top priorities of USAID is fighting against HIV/AIDS by preventing sexual transmission, increasing the prevalence of male circumcision, improving institutions and training, lessening the impact of HIV/AIDS and decentralizing care and treatment. With USAID’s continued assistance and its partnerships within the African nation, there is a chance that the average lifespan in Swaziland can increase above 52.1 years.
  1. Gabon
    With an average lifespan of 52.1 years, Gabon is ranked number four for the lowest life expectancy in the world. Despite being rated so low, Gabon has a robust oil-dependent economy, making it a middle-income country.Due to this income status, it is ineligible for relief programs such as Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. This ineligibility may be why HIV/AIDS and heart disease are the top two reasons for death in the country, contributing to the low life expectancy.
  1. Afghanistan
    The only country not in Africa, Afghanistan is ranked at number three with an average lifespan of 51.7 years. This ranking may increase over time through help from USAID.In Afghanistan, USAID is working to promote health and education, both critical factors in raising life expectancies. USAID and its partners are making substantial strides to improve the healthcare for Afghans. For example, in 2016, the organization began a project to help reduce malnutrition and increase access to safe water and sanitation.USAID is also working toward making essential health services available and improving the quality and quantity of medicines. These resources, once available to Afghans, grant the nation a high potential to no longer be one of the countries with the lowest life expectancy in the world.
  1. Guinea-Bissau
    The second-to-last country with the lowest life expectancy in the world is Guinea-Bissau, averaging about 51 years of life. Aid for Africa is working in Guinea-Bissau with programs that help improve health and education, create businesses and protect wildlife.Another program through Aid for Africa, called Tostan, works by using local languages and traditions to promote democracy, problem-solving, human rights, hygiene and health. Through this program, successful countries have become more prosperous as well as healthier. With the continued implementation of programs such as these, Guinea-Bissau could improve its quantity of life.
  1. Chad
    Chad has the lowest life expectancy in the world at an average lifespan of 50.6 years. The life expectancy in this nation is so low because it has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality and high infant mortality as well.USAID has several programs to help those living in Chad. USAID and the U.N. World Food Programme are working together to distribute food and make sure access to food is readily available all over the country.Starting in 2018, programs such as In-Kind Food Aid, Local and Regional Food Procurement, Cash Transfers for Food and Food Vouchers all will be funded to help citizens. With these various programs helping improve health and nutrition, sources are working with Chad to increase the average lifespan.

World life expectancy continues to increase on the whole, but these five countries are still lagging behind. In order to increase the longevity and potential of their citizens’ lives, they will require targeted aid and a focus on infrastructure and healthcare.

– Amber Duffus

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Guinea-BissauSome people live to be 100 years old. But if you’re in Guinea-Bissau? You might want to cut that in half.

Located in sub-Saharan Africa, the country finds itself with one of the greatest rates of death in Africa, ranking fourth on the latest HealthGrove estimates. The bulk of fatal threats to the country are diseases, whether communicable, maternal, neonatal or nutritional. They include, but are not limited to, lower respiratory disease, malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and neonatal disorders.

Cardiovascular diseases, which fall under non-communicable diseases, also constitutes 12 percent of fatalities in the state. These diseases are followed closely by strokes and ischemic heart disease.

There also exists several risk factors that pose the greatest threat to citizens. This includes a number of environmental and metabolic risk factors. However, the two most threatening to the people of Guinea-Bissau are behavioral: maternal/child malnutrition and unsafe sex.

So what can be done to increase life expectancy from the current low measure of 55 years?

At the moment, the U.S. assists Guinea-Bissau through the distribution of monetary aid, with the aid reaching close to $1.6 million. One of the main partners of this aid is listed as the International Partnership for Human Development and the goal is to focus on basic health initiatives.

However, if the end goal is to aid Guinea-Bissau in reducing poverty as well as creating an impact in the health issues it faces, the current aid alone is not enough. Currently, there are several pieces of legislation being considered by the government, that relates to U.S. aid and health: the Reach Every Mother and Child Act as well as the Global Health Innovation Act.

If you want to make a difference to the people of Guinea-Bissau, you can exercise your right as a citizen and get in touch with your member of Congress by calling and/or emailing to voice your support of these pieces of legislation. It is a quick and easy way to use your voice and make a difference.

Maleeha Syed

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Guinea-Bissau
While the nation does possess legitimate political rights, including free and fair elections, lack of human rights in Guinea-Bissau continues to make victims out of its citizens. As of 2016, these included abuses such as corruption of government officials as well as violence and discrimination of women and children.

The list continues on, according to the U.S. Department of State. Other abuses included unfair and abusive treatment of detainees, lack of due process and human trafficking. No effective action was taken against the perpetrators of human rights in these situations.

In particular, prisoner detention stands out as one of the most grotesque human rights abuses. The conditions of detention facilities are life-threatening, according to the state departments.

“Cells lack running water, adequate heating, ventilation, lighting and sanitation. Detainees’ diets were poor and medical care was virtually non-existent,” stated the human rights report in 2016. The means by which detainees arrive in these deplorable conditions often violates another human right, lack of due process, as authorities often “arbitrarily” arrest and detain people.

Police are, for the most part, ineffective and corrupt, which might result be a result of their lack of regular payment by the state. Lack of funding results in insufficient of training as well as scarce resources for police to carry out their duties properly. Unfortunately, almost all levels of law enforcement are susceptible to coercion, threats and bribes, including the attorney general’s office.

Consequently, unlawful arrests continue to be made, violating human rights in Guinea-Bissau. These include arrests without warrants and the holding of detainees for longer than the permitted period of time. Additionally, military detainees were often not informed of charges against them.

To add to the human rights abuses conducted throughout the justice system, the independent courts, including judges, were “poorly trained, inadequately and irregularly paid and subject to corruption.”

It appears that those accused of suspected of crime in the state have very little security, as human rights in Guinea-Bissau are not enforced. Furthermore, there continues to be no administrative means of addressing human rights violations.

Little progress had been made in improving these conditions, and the justice system remains extremely weak to this day. One of the only few actions of accountability undertaken by the state was in July 2015 in the Oio region, where three officers were sentenced to imprisonment for human rights abuses.

Investigations continue to be made by human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International. The citizens of Guinea-Bissau are desperately in need of intervention from the international community.

Melanie Snyder

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Guinea-Bissau
Guinea-Bissau is a small country located south of Senegal. Guinea-Bissau has had tough economic times ever since its independence in 1973. As of 2010, the rate of poverty was 70 percent. Causes of poverty in Guinea-Bissau include political and economic instability.

Political instability is the root of most evils in Guinea-Bissau. There is unrest because there is lack of successful governance. No prime minister has lasted more than a few consecutive months, which shows the uncommitted approach that that has led to a country unable to develop out of dreary conditions. Guinea-Bissau has experienced two coups and a civil war, both of which have affected the political atmosphere in extreme ways. The political atmosphere, in turn, affects the economy. Citizens are not given adequate services or wages, and there is very little regulation of the economy and agricultural practices. In this way, the main causes of poverty in Guinea-Bissau stem from political instability. When a country does not have a functioning government, its economy cannot function either.

Most of the country’s agricultural sector is focused on the production and exportation of cashew nuts. The cashew nut industry provides 85 percent of all jobs, so when this production slows so do a number of jobs available. The number of exports has declined because of competing countries that export the same commodity and the overall underdevelopment of the industry. Production could triple with the implementation of new infrastructure and technology and still be behind international competitors.

The lack of exportation in the cashew nut industry causes economic difficulties on many scales. On a small scale, families are not given as many work opportunities, making it difficult to generate enough funds to live. On a larger scale, funds from the exportation of commodities, such as cashew nuts, are lacking. Unable to generate sustainable revenue, Guinea-Bissau’s economy is underdeveloped.

The main causes of poverty in Guinea-Bissau are most closely associated with political unrest and an insufficient economy. Guinea-Bissau is unable to be economically successful, relying mainly on foreign aid. Agricultural practices can be improved with the implementation of modern infrastructure that speeds up the process and develops the industry. It is important for the U.N. and international financial institutions to coordinate in the absence of a functioning government in order for Guinea-Bissau to further develop.

Lucy Voegeli

Photo: Flickr

Guinea-Bissau is positioned on the west coast of Africa, south of Senegal. In recent years, the total number of asylum applicants from Guinea-Bissau has increased significantly. Among the 1,467 people fleeing persecution, 99 percent of applicants are being rejected from European asylum. To understand why these people are fleeing and why no one will take them in, here are 10 facts about Guinea-Bissau refugees.

  1. The country of Guinea-Bissau has been plagued with corruption and drug trafficking for decades. It is involved with the South American cartels, specifically those involving cocaine. Guinea-Bissau is vulnerable to trafficking. A number of the drugs coming into Guinea-Bissau are becoming more difficult to track because drugs are often brought in by sea and not by plane. The police do not have the capabilities to intercept boats.
  2. The total influx of refugees worldwide has made it difficult for wealthy European countries to take in any more people. There are simply not enough resources for every application for asylum to be granted. Applications are not being put through because the capacity has been reached in prominent European nations.
  3. The anti-immigrant sentiment that some European countries possess is directed mainly at those from Africa and Asia. Many applications are being rejected because of this prejudice, making it more difficult for African refugees to be accepted into their new country. Studies show that applicants with foreign-sounding names are less likely to get a job.
  4. Studies show that in recent years the number of recognized refugees from Guinea-Bissau has decreased dramatically. In contrast, the number of rejected refugees has increased substantially since 2010.
  5. There is little political stability in the country. Guinea-Bissau has a record of military coups (the most recent in 2012), making it difficult for one leader to meet a full term. There were four changes in the position of prime minister in just over a year.
  6. The probability of dying between ages 15 and 60 is 31 percent for males and 24 percent for females.
  7. Life expectancy for both men and women is well below the African average: 57 for males, 60 for females.
  8. Just over 20 percent of the population falls below the minimum level of dietary energy consumption.
  9. Improper sanitation and waste treatment are serious public health challenges. A large amount of the population is malnourished. Malaria is widespread and entails high mortality rates. A large number of health concerns stem from cholera, schistosomiasis, filariasis and leprosy.
  10. Guinea-Bissau is now one of the world’s poorest countries, ranking 178 out of 188 in the U.N.’s human development index. This is a measure of average achievement in valuable dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and having a decent standard of living.

These 10 facts about Guinea-Bissau refugees show that there are many considerable issues surrounding the people of Guinea-Bissau, making their case for asylum compelling. However, many European countries are unable to integrate them into their culture. This refusal by affluent European countries leaves thousands of refugees with nowhere to go and their applications for asylum rejected. The lives of these refugees are valuable, yet they have not been treated as such. Many are stuck in their home country without adequate living conditions.

However, improvements have been made. Regarding health and sanitation, The World Health Organization has seen a drop in malnutrition since 2010 and a significant decrease in infant mortality in the last decade. Changes are being made, and, slowly but surely, the lives of people in Guinea-Bissau are improving. As long as affluent countries such as the United States keep giving, Guinea-Bissau will see less emigration and a higher ranking in the U.N.’s human development index.

Lucy Voegeli

Photo: Flickr

6 Things to Know About Hunger in Guinea-Bissau
Located on the Atlantic coast of West Africa, the Republic of Guinea-Bissau lies between Senegal and Guinea. Since establishing independence from Portugal in 1974, the fledgling nation has struggled to maintain a stable government, most recently experiencing a military coup in 2012. Constant infighting among the country’s leading political factions and the Civil War of 1998, have exacerbated issues of hunger in Guinea-Bissau.

  1. Since Guinea-Bissau gained its independence more than 40 years ago, no elected leader has served a full term. Military coups and constant political upheaval have plagued the fragile democracy. Without a steady government, promises to eradicate poverty and hunger, like the one made by current President José Mário Vaz in a speech following his election win in 2014, have gone unfulfilled.
  2. Sixty-nine percent of Bissau-Guineans live below the poverty line used by the World Bank and over a quarter of the population suffers from chronic malnutrition. According to UNICEF, chronic malnutrition is a form of growth impediment that occurs over a long period of time, showing how persistent food insecurity and hunger in Guinea-Bissau has led to harmful long-term effects for its residents.
  3. In addition to subsistence farming in Guinea-Bissau, agriculture is the main source of income for approximately 85 percent of the population, with cashew nuts as the primary crop. Since many Bissau-Guineans depend on farming for income, irregular rainfall and volatility in the cashew market lead to periods of severe food insecurity.
  4. According to the World Food Programme, 11 percent of homes in Guinea-Bissau are food insecure, meaning they lack reliable access to proper nutrition. Issues of food insecurity in Guinea-Bissau are worsened by political instability, which disrupts governmental nutrition programs.
  5. In coordination with the government of Guinea-Bissau, the U.N. implemented a strategic five-year plan in 2015, aimed at promoting government and community collaboration in programs that improve nutrition and food security. The U.N. program is part of the Zero Hunger Challenge and the World Food Programme’s Regional Roadmap for West Africa.
  6. To support local agriculture production, the World Food Programme subsidizes the production of fresh vegetables like spinach and okra, and purchases locally produced rice for school meals. This support makes farmers less vulnerable to volatile price changes.

In 2014, Guinea-Bissau held its first elections since the military coup in 2012, and former finance minister José Mário Vaz won easily. As long as he is leading the country, foreign aid will be vital in keeping President Vaz committed to his people and solving hunger in Guinea-Bissau.

Yosef Gross

Photo: Flickr

Top Diseases in Guinea-Bissau
Known as the Slave Coast when it was part of the Portuguese Empire, Guinea-Bissau is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 178th out of 188 countries in the Human Development Index, which encompasses life expectancy, education and income. While the rate of infectious diseases has decreased recently, current life expectancy in Guinea-Bissau is still only about 55 years for men and about 56 years for women. Here are the top diseases in Guinea-Bissau.


According to UNICEF, almost four percent of the adult population of Guinea-Bissau lives with HIV. Because of its prevalence, HIV/AIDS accounts for over 12 percent of deaths in the country, making it the second leading cause of death and one of the top diseases in Guinea-Bissau. By partnering with research institutions such as the Aarhus University in Denmark, the World Health Organization (WHO) introduced antiretroviral therapy to treat patients with HIV. This treatment has saved thousands of lives and advanced the quality of clinical treatment across the country. At the same time, health officials are spreading awareness about methods of prevention, hoping to lower the prevalence of the disease among the population.

Influenza and Pneumonia

The leading cause of death in Guinea-Bissau, influenza and pneumonia account for more than 13 percent of total fatalities. Although Guinea-Bissau suffers greatly from the diseases, improved health infrastructure and wider distribution of vaccines could significantly reduce their negative effects. By partnering with international organizations like the WHO, Guinea-Bissau can make important strides in eliminating these diseases.


Transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, malaria is another major killer in Guinea-Bissau. According to the WHO, malaria accounted for almost nine percent of total deaths in the country. Unfortunately, it is extremely prevalent among children under the age of five, although only about half of the infected children are treated with anti-malarial drugs. In addition to using preventative measures, such as sleeping under a mosquito net, improving health facilities will allow for better treatment of one of the top diseases in Guinea-Bissau.

These combined efforts will continue to aid in making the much needed improvements to health in Guinea-Bissau.

Yosef Gross

Photo: Flickr

Guinea-Bissau is a country in West Africa with an estimated population of 1.8 million. The country gained independence from Portugal in 1974 and has since been marred by high levels of political unrest with repeated changes in government. No elected president in the country’s history has successfully served a full five-year term. The political instability and poverty in Guinea-Bissau has resulted in a lack of development throughout the country.

Guinea-Bissau is one of the poorest countries in the world with a gross domestic product (GDP) based on purchasing-power-parity (PPP) per capita of 1,568 dollars. The country’s economy is highly reliant on subsistence farming, foreign assistance and the export of cashew nuts. International aid to the country has been suspended on several occasions due to concern over governance and the rule of law. Guinea-Bissau has become a way station for drugs bound for Europe due to lack of strong governance, poor economy and its geographical location.  There are fears that Guinea-Bissau is becoming the first narco-state in Africa.

Guinea-Bissau has a Human Development Index (HDI) value of 0.42, which puts the country in the low human development category, ranking 178 out of 188 countries. Life expectancy in the country has increased somewhat but is still around 55 years. The adult literacy rate is 56 percent. In addition, the average number of years that people go to school in Guinea is only 2.8 years. Nearly 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

A major contributing factor to poverty in Guinea-Bissau is the fact that almost 85 percent of the population depends on agriculture as the main source of income. This is not a stable form of income due to several factors, such as political instability, irregular rainfall and volatile prices of imports and exports. As a result, 11 percent of households in Guinea-Bissau are classified as food insecure and in some regions, this figure is as high as 51 percent.

While Guinea-Bissau has one of the slowest growing economies in Africa, there is potential for growth in several untapped sectors. This includes adding value to raw exports like cashew nuts and timber, as well as exploring untapped mineral deposits of bauxite and phosphates.

However, effectively addressing poverty in Guinea-Bissau and reaching sustainable economic growth will require long-term political stability.

Helena Kamper

Photo: Flickr

Breastfeeding Advocacy Initiative
Only 38 percent of infants are exclusively breastfed for their first six months of life. Improper and insufficient breastfeeding contributes to nearly 800,000 preventable child fatalities every year. A breastfeeding advocacy initiative would not only challenge the social pariah of the practice but also contribute to the improvement of mother and children health worldwide.

Breast milk contains all of the nutrients that babies need in their first six months and has the ability to strengthen a child’s immune system to protect against illness. Breast milk has also increased children’s physical and cognitive development.

The benefits of breastfeeding extend beyond a baby’s health. Mothers who breastfeed reduce their risk of suffering from postpartum hemorrhage, which is a leading cause of death among new mothers. Mothers also find themselves at reduced risk for diabetes and breast cancer.

Why Breastfeeding is No Longer the Norm

So why then are such a small percentage of babies exclusively breastfed? One reason for low breastfeeding rates is the issue’s generally low prioritization by political leaders and policy makers.

Women also feel that breastfeeding is looked down upon in the workplace and the public sphere. For instance, if women cannot find a comfortable place to breastfeed at work, then their child is less likely to receive his or her’s natural source of nutrients. Additionally, there are many companies that sell formula and aggressively market the concoction as being a better alternative to breastfeeding.

To improve breastfeeding statistics, there is a global breastfeeding advocacy initiative underway with support from organizations such as UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Initiatives focus on educating mothers and communities about the benefits of breastfeeding, and supporting policies and programs that spread this message.

In the west African nation of Guinea-Bissau, one in ten children will die before they reach five years of age. Organizations such as UNICEF and the non-governmental organization CARITAS work tirelessly to improve this statistic, and a fruit of their labor has been the nutrition bungalows that now exist in Guinea-Bissau.

Nutrition Bungalows

At these bungalows, mothers of children under five years old are invited to gather monthly for information sessions. The sessions are often interactive and they focus on promoting health for mothers and children. Mothers can also have their children measured and weighed to ensure that they are meeting developmental milestones.

These nutrition bungalows and all other projects incorporating a global breastfeeding advocacy initiative aim to spread awareness and increase support for exclusive breastfeeding in both the political and social spheres. In doing so, lives of mothers and children can be saved and their quality of life improved.

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Pixabay