CONAKRY, Guinea — Due to an abundance of minerals, Guinea has the potential to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Yet, political instability and economic and environmental challenges keep poverty in Guinea quite high — the people living there some of the poorest in the world.
Poverty in Guinea is not a new development. The first democratic election since the country’s independence from France in 1958 was held in 2010, but poverty has run rampant since the beginning. Prior to democracy, the country was ruled by socialistic and authoritarian regimes, and the history of political conflict has brought Guinea to a state of ethnic divide.
The election of President, Alpha Conde in 2015 was plagued by tension and logistical problems. President Conde belongs to the Malinke ethnic group and his runner-up belongs to the Peul ethnic group. There were reports of excessive force by police and military on protesters of the Conde presidency.
Political instability in Guinea lies behind the use of government for personal advancement — instead of focusing on development and the supply of public goods, political leaders use the platform as a way to promote their own ethnicity and personal interests.
The economy of Guinea has lagged for many years and political instability is a large contributor. The country holds nearly a quarter of the world’s supply of the mineral bauxite, 1.8 billion metric tons of iron ore and large quantities of diamond, gold and uranium. In 2014 and 2015, low prices for mineral commodities and the Ebola crisis hit the economy with substantial force. The Ebola crisis killed more than 11,000 people and severely damaged the health system.
In the aftermath of the stagnation of 2014 and 2015, the GDP deficit fell to 1.6 percent from 8.9 percent for 2016. Growth for 2017 is projected at 4.4 percent. The inflation rate is still high, and has caused problems with food insecurity and poverty in Guinea.
In Guinea, the majority of the population relies on subsistence farming for their livelihoods. Due to conflict in neighboring countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone, refugees have inhabited the forest region of Guinea; as a consequence, deforestation occurred at an alarming rate. It is estimated that 40 percent of the forest population now experiences food insecurity.
Another environmental challenge feeding into poverty in Guinea is the nation’s susceptibility to natural disasters. There have been excessive floods in the Niger basin as well as irregular rainfall patterns and climate change.
Help and Hope for the Future
These factors can quickly put a lot of people into a state of food insecurity, but thankfully efforts are being made to combat these major poverty contributors. Organizations such as the World Food Program have made incredible strides in reducing poverty in Guinea, such as through the creation and implementation of their School Feeding Programme, Emergency Food Aid Programme and a plethora of other efforts.
Guinea may have many obstacles to overcome, but with sufficient effort, focus and adaptive measures, the government and various organizations can help Guinea rise up to its economic potential.
– Madeline Boeding