Guinea-Bissau - Infrastructure, power, and communications

Guinea-Bissau does not have a very developed or well-maintained infrastructure. Since the early 1980s, one of the country's main goals has been to develop its infrastructure. The 4,400 kilometers (2,734 miles) of roads in Guinea-Bissau, of which about 10 percent (453 kilometers, 281 miles) are paved, has attracted foreign aid in the form of sealing the main road to the northern border and constructing a major bridge at Joao Landin. About 85 percent of the population lives within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of a navigable waterway. Guinea-Bissau has many rivers that could be accessible to coastal shipping, but water transport needs vast improvement. Bissau is the main port, and there are plans for a European Union-sponsored deep-water port that will specialize in minerals and will be linked to Guinea by rail. (As of 2000, the country had no railways.)

Since the liquidation of the privatized national airline, Guinea-Bissau has had to rely on foreign-owned carriers. The civil war severely disrupted flights and the main airport only reopened in July 1999. In 2000, the country had about 29 airports, but only 3 had paved runways.

The government has announced its intention to liberalize the telecom industry, which is at present dominated by Portugal Telecom, which has a 51 percent stake in Guinea-Telecom. The government has also announced the extension of telecommunications to the whole country and the introduction of a cellular network, while USAID will provide Internet access. In 1997, there were 8,000 telephones in the country. By 2000, there was 1 Internet service provider and about 1,500 Internet users.

An experimental television service was started in 1989; by 1997 there were 2 television stations. The country's 3 private radio stations broadcast to nearly 49,000 radios in the country in 1997. Since 1991, a number of private newspapers and magazines have been launched, though all depend on the state printing house for publication. In 1998, there were several newspapers: 1 government biweekly, 1 private daily newspaper, and 3 private weeklies. The national printing press had difficulty maintaining enough raw material to print all the newspapers during the civil war, and publication was sporadic. By the end of the war, more regular publication had returned.

Guinea-Bissau has one of the lowest electrification rates in Africa, mostly because of corruption and inefficiency. The country is completely dependent on petroleum products, despite its own high energy potential, especially in hydroelectric power. Construction of a dam at Saltinho could eventually supply the whole country and provide excess electricity for export. After the development of an offshore upstream oil industry had been delayed by border disputes with Senegal, the United Kingdom's Monument Oil and Gas company and the Chilean company, Sipetrol, agreed to acquire the 3,500 square kilometer block with Guinea-Bissau receiving 22.5 percent of the output. In 1998, the state-owned electricity company was put up for a long-term lease to a private company, but little progress has been made.

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