Guinea-Bissau needs serious attention from Portugal. Why? Three reasons:
First: 65 percent of the population lives on less than 2 dollars per day (2003 data: who knows what the situation is now?). You read well: almost two thirds live in extreme poverty. It has the 4th largest maternal death rate in the world, the 6th largest infant mortality rate in the world.
Second: It is a small country, with just over 1.5 million people. Portuguese is the official language. It has drug-dealing and looks unstable. The important countries of this world are not interested. Even people at international donor institutions look at Guinea-Bissau as a career spoiler. Nobody really cares.
Third: Portugal needs to care about the long term of Portuguese-speaking Africa. That is an important part of the future of Portugal, be it European-Portugal or Atlantic-Portugal. For that, it needs to start investing now. And it needs to have good foreign policy.
What is good foreign policy for Guinea Bissau today?
First : Bring world attention. Guinea-Bissau had a coup. The prime-minister (photo) and the president were kidnapped (!). Did I see it in the front-page of the Financial Times? No, I did not. Portugal got Timor to the front-page of the Financial Times. Why not Guinea-Bissau?
Second: Be inflexible with the military. It is well known the military constitute a source of instability around Africa. However, over the last 15 years Africa has seen an important reduction in armed conflict. Why? There is no doubt about that: because the international community has been intransigent about providing security to serious, democratically-elected institutions. Very often security from a country’s own military. Why not Guinea-Bissau?
Third: Have a plan. Guinea-Bissau needs serious help. Portugal needs to nurture its future. In fact, by chance, today’s Portugal also has many skilled people that do not have a job, and many good firms that have no growing market. Why not Guinea-Bissau?
Written by Pedro C. Vicente, NOVAFRICA Scientific Director and Head of Economic Development Unit.