#GetToKnow: Mali
September 21, 2016
Successes And Failures Of The African Union
September 28, 2016

#AfricanLeaders: Guinea Bissau

A former finance minister, Jose Mario Vaz won the presidential election run-off of May 2014 by a big margin. He is the first elected leader since the coup in 2012 which plunged the country already plagued by corruption and cocaine trafficking into chaos.[1]  Mario Vaz, from the dominant African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), defeated rival Nuno Gomes Nabiam, an independent seen as close to the army.[2]

Following its independence from Portugal in 1974, Guinea-Bissau has suffered from frequent political upheavals and repeated economic shocks that have made it difficult to achieve and sustain development outcomes.[3] Guinea-Bissau has a record of military coups, and no elected leader has served a full term since its independence 42 years ago. In a speech following his election win, Mario Vaz vowed to fight poverty and bring stability to the country. However, a year after coming to power, Mario Vaz dismissed his prime minister and party colleague, Domingos Simoes Pereira, following a series of disputes between the two, including the naming of a new army chief. Consequently, Vaz’s actions sparked a political crisis. [4] The country is now one of the poorest countries in the world 173 out of 177 on the Human Development Index.[5]

Today, the nation has massive foreign debt and an economy that relies heavily on foreign aid. During the election, Mario Vaz promised to focus on reducing poverty and increasing investment in agriculture. However, he has failed to achieve these promises since the country has been plunged into a political crisis because of his actions. Mario Vaz has been accused of being involved in the disappearance of €9.1 million in aid donated to the country by Angola, a charge he denies.[6] The intervention of the International community in June this year has helped avert further crisis in the country. However, tensions remain high between the President and the opposition.

Table 1[7]

Independence Year 24 September 1973
President Jose Mario Vaz
Government Republic
Capital City Bissau


GDP (2015) US$1.057 million
Population (2013) 1.6 million
Religion Islam, Christianity, indigenous beliefs
Major Languages Portuguese, Crioulo – a form of Portuguese, African language
Currency CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc
Life Expectancy 47 years (men), 50 years (women)


[1] BBC News. 2016. Guinea-Bissau profile – Timeline. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13579838. [Accessed: 23 September 2016].

[2] Ibid

[3] The World Bank: Guinea-Bissau. 2016. Available at:  http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/guineabissau. [Accessed: 23 September 2016].

[4] African News. 2016. UN ready to intervene in Guinea- Bissau’s political crisis. Available at: http://www.africanews.com/2016/05/15/un-ready-to-intervene-in-guinea-bissau-s-political-crisis/. [Accessed: 23 September 2016].

[5] Country profile: Guinea-Bissau. Guinea-Bissau – Economic Policy Research Institute.

 Available at: http://epri.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/23-Guinea-Bissau.pdf. [Accessed: 23 September 2016].

[6] n1

[7] n3