For more than five decades since its independence in 1958, Guinea was West Africa’s forgotten country: never descending into civil war like many of its neighbours, but experiencing little social or economic development and receiving limited support from the international community. For two quarter-century periods of oppression under autocratic rulers, there was negligible investment in infrastructure and basic services for the country’s ten million people, and Guinea was not so much stable as stagnant. In 2008, a military junta seized power by coup d’état and took the country to the brink, violently quashing those who opposed it and emptying the state cash reserves in little more than twelve months.
However, in 2010, Guinea held its first ever free and fair elections. This first step towards democracy was hailed by the Guinean people as an opportunity for the country to reverse its fortunes. The election saw Professor Alpha Condé, a lifelong democratic activist and political opponent of the ruling regimes, elected President.
The challenges facing newly elected President Condé when he came to office in December 2010 were huge. Weak institutions, a degraded civil service, significant national debts, and frozen aid flows meant President Condé had slim resources with which to prove that democracy would bring tangible improvements to people’s lives. Moreover, in Guinea, which is home to half the world’s aluminium ore, government had been a byword for corruption for decades. As he reflected after a few months in office, “I inherited a country, but not a state.”
In a country where peace remains fragile and basic services are very limited it is crucial that Guinea’s first democratically elected government is able to make changes that affect people's daily lives and lay the foundations for long-term development. The government must be able to deliver on its priorities – providing electricity, food security, security sector reform, and starting a long overdue of process national reconciliation.
In early 2011, AGI was invited by President Condé to begin in-depth scoping work in Guinea to see whether we could support the new leadership by strengthening the government’s institutional capacity to implement the programmes that would make their vision a reality. With a strong relationship established between AGI and senior officials in the Government of Guinea, our Guinea project was launched in November 2011 – AGI’s first in a francophone country. Our small team in Conakry is concentrating on strengthening the capacity of the Presidency to deliver its priority projects and helping to improve the overall efficiency of the Presidency and its relations with other parts of government.