Guinea-Bissau is a small independent republic which lies on the bulge of Africa to the north of Guinea and forms part of the West African Region.

The capital city is Bissau. Other major towns are Nova Lamego and Gabu and the ports of Bubaque and Abu. The official language is Portugese but Crioulo is widely spoken. The local currency is the Guinea peso. (US$ / Peso – current exchange rate).

Agriculture is the basis of Guinea-Bissau’s economy. Cashewnuts and groundnuts are the main export crops while tobacco, coconuts, sugar and palm kernels are also grown for export. Food crops include rice, plantains, maize, cassava, sorghum, millet, sweet potatoes and beans, most of which are produced by subsistence farmers. Livestock are also kept in the areas of higher altitude. Although fish and timber are exported at present, both industries hold potential for growth.

The Guinea-Bissau oil industry is dependent on the importation of all petroleum products. There is a fledgling mining industry which offers some investment potential. Although there is potential for gold, phosphate, bauxite and oil mining, at present the costs of exploration are more than the country can afford.

Electricity is provided by the parastatal utility Electricidade et Aguas de Guinee Bissau.

Political disruptions and fighting disrupted the country’s economy in 1998. Prior to this, an IMF structural adjustment program was being implemented, bringing reforms in trade and liberalization of prices.

The international time zone for Guinea-Bissau is GMT and the international dialing code is +245. The principal airline flying to Guinea-Bissau is Air Portugal. A number of regional airlines also serve the international airport at Bissau. As at January 1996 all nationals except those of Nigeria and Cape Verde require visas in order to visit Guinea-Bissau.

Malaria , hepatitis A, typhoid fever, yellow fever (regional), cholera, typhoid fever and schistosomiasis may be contracted while travelling in Guinea-Bissau. The risk of contraction is based on a number of factors including location, individual’s state of health, current immunisation status, and the local disease situation. Travellers should be aware that advance payment for medical services may be required. Prescription medicines and prescriptions should be carried in their original containers. Vaccinations should be obtained before entering Guinea-Bissau.

International banking transactions can be carried out through the Banco Nacional da Guiné-Bissau. Consulting and accounting services can be provided by Ernst & Young (through their Lisbon office); they should also be able to advise on appropriate local legal and other service providers.

Shaun Bakamoso

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