Guinea, officially the Republic of Guinea, is a crescent-shaped nation on the Atlantic coast of West Africa. Largely unknown to the outside world, Guinea is a nation of surprising beauty with rolling mountain plateaus, wide Sahelian lands, dense rainforests, and plunging waterfalls. Here are some interesting facts about Guinea.
Facts about Guinea
1. Guinea is the 77th largest country in the world.
Occupying a total area of 245,857 km² (94,926 sq mi), Guinea is slightly larger in size than the United Kingdom
2. Guinea shares a land border with six countries.
Guinea is bordered by Senegal (363 km/226 mi) to the north, Guinea-Bissau (421 km/262 mi) to the northwest, Mali (1,062 km/660 mi) to the northeast, Ivory Coast (816 km/507 mi) to the east, Liberia (590 km/367 mi) to the south, and Sierra Leone (794 km/493 mi) to the southwest.
3. Guinea has a total coastline length of 320 km (199 mi).
Along much of Guinea’s 320 km (199 mi) long coastline lie some of Africa’s most exotic beaches.
4. The highest peak in Guinea is Mount Nimba.
Lying along the border between Guinea and Ivory Coast, Mount Nimba (aka Mount Richard-Molard) rises to an elevation of 1,752 m (5,748 ft).
5. Guinea is sometimes referred to as Guinea-Conakry.
There are four countries in the world with the word Guinea in their name: Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Papua New Guinea. Thus, to distinguish it from these other nations with “Guinea” in their names, Guinea is sometimes referred to as Guinea-Conakry.
6. Guinea is named after the Guinea region of West Africa.
Guinea gets its name from the Guinea region of West Africa that lies along the Gulf of Guinea. It is unclear, however, where the name “Guinea” originates. Some trace it to the corruption of an Amazigh (Berber) word meaning “land of the blacks” while others think it once referred to Djenné, a trading city in Mali.
In the 15th century, Portuguese sailors used the word “Guiné” to describe what is now present-day Senegal, By the 18th century, Europeans used “Guinea” to refer to much of West Africa.
7. Between the 6th and 19th centuries, Guinea was part of some of the greatest kingdoms and empires in West Africa’s history.
Parts of present-day Guinea were part of a cavalcade of powerful African kingdoms such as the Ghana Mali, Songhai, Batè, Wassolon, and Futa-Jallon empires at some point in their history.
8. Guinea was part of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
European exploration of Guinea’s coast had begun by the middle of the 15th century; it was led by the Portuguese who developed a slave trade. From the 17th century until the mid-19th century, French, British, and Portuguese traders and slavers competed with one another until the slave trade was outlawed.
9. Guinea is a former French colony and was formerly known as “French Guinea.”
In 1891, Guinea became a French colony and then in 1906, it became part of the French West African Federation. Under French administration, Guinea underwent major political, cultural, social, and economic changes.
10. Guinea attained independence in 1958.
In the 1950s, the pan-African momentum for breaking free from the shackles of colonialism was rapidly catching on in Guinea. Guinea was the only French colony to reject Charles De Gaulle’s offer to remain an autonomous republic in the new quasi-federal French Community. On 2 October 1958, Guinea proclaimed itself a sovereign and independent republic.
11. Guinea is hugely rich in natural resources, owning 30% of the world’s known bauxite resources.
Guinea is blessed with copious amounts of natural resources including a substantial portion of the world’s known bauxite (the main source of aluminum and gallium) reserves. The country is also rich in hematite and other iron ores and has a substantial amount of uranium ores such as pitchblende.
Guinea also has significant amounts of gold and diamonds. Although Guinea’s mineral wealth makes it potentially one of Africa’s richest countries, the country is one of the least-developed countries in the world.
12. The currency of Guinea is the Guinean franc (GNF).
The Guinean franc has been the legal tender in Guinea since 1985 when it replaced the syli.
13. Conakry is the capital of Guinea.
Located on the Camayenne peninsula in the southwest of Guinea, Conakry is the country’s capital and largest city. It is also Guinea’s financial and cultural hub.
14. Guinea is home to about two dozen ethnic groups.
Of the roughly two dozen different ethnic groups in Guinea, three predominate — the Fulani (Peuhl), Malinké (Mandinka), and Susu. Together, these three groups constitute over 80% of the nation’s population. Among the smaller ethnic groups in Guinea are the Kpelle, Kissi, and Toma.
15. French is the official language of Guinea.
As a result of French influence over Guinea, the official language of the nation is French. It dominates the media and is widely used in education and administration. Although not the mother tongue of the majority of Guinea’s population, French serves as a lingua franca among the various ethnic groups.
16. A spate of regional languages are spoken in Guinea.
The eight principal local languages spoken in Guinea are Malinké (Maninkakan), Fulani (Poular), Soussou, Kpelle (Guerzé), Loma (Toma), Kissi, Coniagui, and Bassari, all of which belong to the Niger-Congo language group.
17. A majority of the population of Guinea is Muslim.
Guinea is predominantly a Muslim country, with around 90% of the population practicing Islam. The vast majority of Guinean Muslims are Sunnis.
18. Guinea has the second-highest Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) prevalence rate in the world.
One of the most shocking facts about Guinea is that it ranks number two in the world in terms of female genital mutilation (the non-medical procedure that partially or totally removes the external female genitalia — with extremely harmful health consequences). According to UNICEF and WHO, approximately 90-95% of all Guinean women aged between 15 and 49 have undergone the procedure.
19. Guinea is not at all LGBT-friendly.
LGBT activity is completely illegal in Guinea. Same-sex relations are prohibited by law and are punishable with six months to 10 years imprisonment. Contributing to the lack of acceptance of homosexuals in Guinea is a pervading belief that homosexuals are cursed or bewitched.
20. Traditional healers are still extremely popular in Guinea when it comes to treating illness.
Interestingly, traditional healers are often the first and last line of defense against most illnesses in Guinea for around 80% of the population.
21. From 2013 to 2016, Guinea was one of the worst affected countries by the Ebola virus.
The Ebola epidemic that swept West Africa from 2013 until 2016 and killed over 11,300 people worldwide began in a small village not far from the city of N’zérékoré in Guinea. The virus spread with lightning speed and deadly efficiency through many parts of the country.
By the time Guinea declared itself Ebola-free in 2016, the virus outbreak had cost at least 2,500 Guineans their lives. It also had a crushing impact on the country’s economy and development.
22. Guinea is home to the fourth-largest mosque in Africa and the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa.
One of the lesser-known facts about Guinea is that it is home to Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest mosque. The Conakry Grand Mosque is also Africa’s fourth-largest mosque and has a capacity to accommodate 12,500 worshippers. It opened in 1982 with funding from King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.
23. Guinea has never won an Olympic medal.
Although Guinea first competed at the Summer Olympics in 1968, the nation is still waiting to win an Olympic medal. Guinea is yet to compete at the Winter Olympics.
24. Football is the most popular sport in Guinea.
Like in most of Africa, football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in Guinea. Unfortunately, the country’s men’s national football team has tasted very little success at the international level and has never even qualified for the FIFA World Cup. The Guinean national football team is nicknamed “The National Elephants.”
25. Guinea is home to just one UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The one and only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Guinea is the Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve, which is rich in flora and fauna.
26. Guinea suffers from a low literacy rate.
Only about 30-35% of Guinea’s population is literate, making it one of the least literate countries in the world.