A West African country with an Atlantic coast, bounded on the north by Senegal and Mali, on the east by Côte d'Ivoire, and on the south by Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Inland from the marshy coast is a plain with large bauxite deposits. This rises to a sandstone plateau, the Fouta Djallon. Southward is the source of the Niger River; and further south still (the country bends like a hook) are large reserves of iron ore.
Guinea has a broadly based agricultural economy: the chief crops include cassava, rice, pineapples, coffee, and palm oil. The major exports are bauxite, alumina, gold, and diamonds. Iron-ore mining is being developed.
From the 5th to the 8th centuries ad, the far north of modern Guinea formed part of the kingdom of Ghana. This area of the country was incorporated in the Mali Empire in the 16th century. From 1849 onwards, French encroachment upon the region increased, leading to conflict with the empire of Samori Touré in eastern Guinea c. 1879–91, when Guinea became a French colony. In 1895 Guinea was made part of the huge territory of French West Africa, and remained a French colony until 1958, when a popular vote rejected membership of the French Community, and Ahmed Sékou Touré became first President. His presidency was characterized by severe unrest and repression, and almost complete isolation from the outside world, although before his death in 1984 a degree of liberalization was introduced. This trend has continued under the military rule of President Lansana Conté, whose regime boosted the mining of bauxite. In 1990 Conté established a Transitional Committee for National Recovery, following a referendum for a new constitution. The slow pace of democratization, however, together with an IMF-imposed austerity programme, led to a general strike in 1991, after which the government introduced a multiparty system. In 1993, in the country's first multiparty elections, Conté was re-elected. In 1996 the post of Prime Minister was established; the first holder was Sidia Touré, who was re-elected in 1998 and 2003.
Source: MAPS IN MINUTES™ © RH Publications (1997)
245,857 sq km (94,926 sq miles)
1 Guinean franc=100 cauris
Muslim 85.0%; traditional beliefs 5.0%; Christian 1.5%
Mande 48.0%; Peul 28.0%; Mande-fu 11.0%
French (official); Malinke; Poulor; local languages
UN; AU; ECOWAS; Non-Aligned Movement; WTO
Subjects: History — African Studies.