Countryaah data, Guinea-Bissau has a population density of 53 residents
per km2. By 2019, 43 percent of the population
lived in rural areas, which means that Guinea-Bissau is one
of the region's least urbanized countries. During the 1990s,
Guinea-Bissau received refugees from other countries in the
region. Those who remain in the country mainly come from
Senegal, but also Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast. The
country's largest city is the capital Bissau (419,000
Guinea-Bissau's population is mainly comprised of a
number of West Atlantic-speaking ethnic groups, which feed
on agriculture with rice as a base crop, supplemented by
coastal and island fishing. The largest is the balance
(265,000) on the coast and north of Bissau. Among the other
groups are mandyako (189,000) in the northwest, pepel
(140,000) on Bissau Island, and bidyogo (31,000) in the
Bijagós Islands. These groups have predominantly maintained
their traditional religions.
In the northern parts of the inland are the male-speaking
Malinka (154,000), who are about half Muslim, and in the
south, at the border with Guinea, the Muslim, livestock-
feeding fulani (272,000). There is also a significant
mestizo population of mixed Portuguese-African descent
(190,000); it speaks creole language.
Portuguese is the official language. The native languages
belong to two different branches of the Niger-Congo
family. Among the Atlantic languages, which dominate along
the coast and on the islands, are noted bijago, mandyako and
balante. In the southeast at the border with Guinea, Fulani
is spoken. Languages in the northern part of the country
dominate the languages of men. The most important of these
In the 12th century, semi-nomadic herdsmen of the
Falunian people came to the area that is today
Guinea-Bissau. When the Mali kingdom expanded in the 13th
century, the Mandinka people came to the area. Both Fulani
and Mandinka brought with them an African version of Islam,
which today an estimated 45% of the population confess to.
Approximately the same number devote themselves to
indigenous traditional religion, while Christians are
estimated to be about 10%, a majority of whom are Catholics.
Portuguese sailors and traders came to the area during the
first half of the 15th century, a European presence that was
largely about slave trade. In 1879, Portugal declared the
area a Portuguese colony, called Portuguese Guinea. The
country became independent in 1973.
One of the reasons why Islam is much weaker in
Guinea-Bissau than in neighboring Guinea and Senegal is that
the Portuguese colonial rule countered the spread of Islam,
while favoring the Catholic mission. As early as 1462,
Catholicism had been established in the country.
Before the liberation, Portugal's constitution was in the
country, which rested on Catholic grounds. Today (2012),
Guinea-Bissau is an atheistic republic (ie, the country has
no state religion), in which the constitution and other laws
guarantee religious freedom, something that the government
respects in practice. In order to operate in the country,
religious communities must have a license, which seems to be
a routine issue.