Startups in Guinea-Bissau.

Guinea-Bissau is one of 10th poorest countries on Earth. Economically it relies on fish, cashews and ground nuts production and export. Guinea-Bissau also serves as the major West-African entry point for South American drug dealers.

In 16th century the Port of Bissau had been one of the Portuguese slave traders’ main posts. After 300 years of colonial rule, Guinea-Bissau obtained its independence in 1973 with the dissolution of Lisbon’s Estado Novo. In 1980th Bissau became the socialist state. Under the leadership of Luis Cabral it implemented the extreme version of centralized planned economy, which was military supported by USSR and Castro’s Cuba.

Socialists experiment led this country right to the edge of economical collapse. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1990th, Guinea-Bissau served as the arena for several successive coups d’etat. In 2012 the transitional regime of General Mamadu Ture Kuruma was established. Acting President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo was sworn to office a couple of month after that.

Guinea-Bissau is one of the least hospitable countries to private businesses in the World. For example, an average time to register a new enterprise there exceeds 200 days (second only to Suriname).

Guinea-Bissau is one of those places where startup entrepreneurs are faced by the whole collection of economic, political, administrative, legal and personal safety challenges. Internet users in this small, over-regulated, poor and insecure country are scarce and their demand is mostly reduced to micro-payments and communication services on mobile platforms. The further growth of local startup ecosystem is unlikely without major economical and political reforms. However, some niche opportunities are always to be found in such non-competitive markets with low entry barriers and growing young population.

Business Notes for Startups Founders:

  • political climate: not friendly;
  • economic climate: not friendly;
  • regions to focus: locally;
  • industries to focus: FinTech, e-commerce, marketplaces;
  • major limitations: small, low-income population (less than 2 million people earning less than $40 a month), subsistence agriculture based economy (GDP is around $1.2 billion), high level of political instability, high administrative and legal barriers for SME, very low fixed Internet penetration rate (under 4%), absence of seed and VC investments;
  • stimulus: low competition, growing mobile networks;
  • opportunities: to build e-marketplaces in niche markets on mobile platforms.