In 2015, Guinea became a partner country of the Belgian Development Cooperation, in coherence with its focus on the least developed countries. In 2018 a first cooperation agreement enters into vigour. Let us take a look at Guinea, one of the most fragile countries in West Africa, which was heavily affected by the Ebola epidemic.
Population and geography
- Capital: Conakry
- Population: 12.5 million
- Area: 245,857 km² (8 times the size of Belgium)
- Borders: Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Atlantic Ocean.
- Climate: tropical, alternating between the rainy season (May-October) and the dry season
Guinea is also known as "Africa's Water tower", since more than 1,300 rivers, including the Niger and Senegal rivers, are born within its territories.
- Ethnic groups: Fulani, Malinké, Soussou and the forest-dependent people.
- Languages: French is the official language of the country and the main spoken languages are Pular, Susu, and Maninka languages.
- Religions: Islam (85%), Catholicism (10%) and Animism (5%).
- Human development index: 183rd out of 188.
- Poverty level: 55.2%
- GDP per capita: 531.32 US dollars
Despite the fact that Guinea has abundant natural resources, the Guinean population lives in widespread poverty. At the present time, the country's economy is largely based on the agricultural sector. In 2015, Guinea was in 11th place of the countries with the smallest GDP per capita. The country is also faced with major difficulties in terms of electricity supply, communication networks and education. Moreover, economic growth was greatly hampered by the arrival of the Ebola epidemic from the end of 2013 onwards, which extracted a heavy toll on the Guinean population, increasing even further the determination of the Guinean authorities to invest in reconstruction.
History and Politics
The Republic of Guinea achieved independence in 1958 and subsequently had a chaotic political history. Democratic elections were held in 2010, but the situation remains turbulent. Alpha Condé, the President of Guinea, was elected in December 2010 and re-elected in 2015. Since his investiture in 2010, Guinea has gradually opened up to democracy. However, the months preceding the 2015 election were marked by clashes concerning the electoral calendar between opposition parties and those of the majority, but political consensus was finally achieved between the different parties. The legislative elections were continually delayed following the presidential election of 2010. The electoral system was at the centre of the controversy due to its technical weaknesses, outdated electoral lists and the exclusion of Guineans living abroad from voting. It was finally thanks to some reorganisation, including the nomination of a mediator and the introduction of a monitoring committee, that the legislative elections were finally held on 28 September 2013. The Rally of the Guinean People, President Condé's party, prevailed with 58 seats.
Today, Condé's government is still facing with political instability. Often violent demonstrations by the opposition concerning the delays in implementing the agreements are the main cause. Other factors which threaten the stability of the country are the ethnic dimension of the political tensions, and the worrying relations between the civil government and the army. Given that the army's budget continues to decrease, there is a risk it may express its dissatisfaction through a rebellion.
Relations with Belgium
Relations between Guinea and Belgium are good, in particular thanks to the company Brussels Airlines, which is one of the few to organise direct flights to Guinea. In 2013, a debt cancellation agreement (2.4 million) for Guinean debt towards Belgium was signed by the Finance Minister Koen Geens. Through this agreement, Belgium cancelled all of Guinea's debts owed to it. Belgium mainly exports transport equipment and machinery, in particular second-hand cars, known under the name "voitures-Bruxelles" (Brussels cars). The main import (representing 84%) from Guinea is diamonds. Statistics from the Foreign Trade Agency show an upwards trend, both for imports and exports.
As part of the fight against the Ebola virus, Belgium has made a significant contribution: Belgium supplied 24 vehicles and allocated funds worth €39.1 million. The Guinean authorities would like to develop further bilateral relations with Belgium and, to that end, an official meeting between President Alpha Condé and the Prime Minister Charles Michel was held in March 2015, in the frame of the Ebola conference in Brussels. Currently, Belgium is represented by a diplomatic post which opened in 2015, following Guinea's addition to the list of partner countries of the Belgian Development Cooperation.
Our country has committed itself through financial contributions and various direct interventions towards Guinea. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo and his Guinean counterpart launched the bilateral cooperation at the start of 2016. After the Ebola epidemic, the Belgian development cooperation intends to provide a structural contribution for the reconstruction of the country.
Belgian Development Cooperation
A first governmental cooperation programme (2018-2022) was signed between Guinea and Belgium on the 30th October 2017 , which revolves around three main topics: urban, rural and women’s entrepreneurship development; sexual and reproductive rights; and a training, study and expertise programme. Implemented by the Belgian development agency (Enabel), this €37.7 million programme will also provide a 420 man-months specialists.
The new programme is thus a follow-up of the €15 million start-up programme signed in the early 2016. The scope of the previous programme was for Belgium to be able to provide quick and concrete solutions to the urgent needs of the Guinean population while also laying the foundation of the current programme.
The new diplomatic office in Guinea will not only follow up the governmental cooperation, but also the interventions from Belgian NGO’s and multilateral organisations with Belgian funds, as well as State to State loans.