Why are there so many countries in the world with “Guinea” in their name?

What’s with all the “Guineas” in the world? “Guinea” shows up in quite a few country names (four, to be exact). And none of them have anything to do with a furry house pet.

Origins of the word “Guinea”

Though there are many theories on where the word “Guinea” came from, the most popular one is that it was an early word used to collectively refer to the people and region of West Africa. All of the countries that utilize the name Guinea are either located in West Africa, or have ties to the region.

The four “Guinea” countries

Guinea

The modern-day country of Guinea lies on the West coast of Africa. The country was initially colonized by France and was referred to as French Guinea prior to gaining its independence in 1958. Once the country gained its independence, it simply became known as Guinea. Currently, Guinea has 12.8 million people, which the largest population of all four countries with “Guinea” in their name.

Facts about Guinea

Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau, which is located immediately north of Guinea, was previously known as Portuguese Guinea (when it was colonized by Portugal). When the country gained its independence in 1973 – which was 15 years after French Guinea – the name Guinea had already been claimed by the neighboring country. In order to differentiate the two countries from one another, Bissau (the name of the capital of the country), was added to the name.

Though Guinea-Bissau is not the smallest Guinea in terms of size or population, it does have the lowest GDP of all the Guineas. If you’d like to learn more facts about Guinea-Bissau, click here

Facts about Guiena-Bissau

Equatorial Guinea

As you may have guessed, Equatorial Guinea is the closest “Guinea” to the equator. The country borders the Atlantic Ocean in central Africa, and is much further south than Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. Equatorial Guinea is the smallest “Guinea” country in terms of both geography (10,830 square miles) and population (1.35 million people).

Facts about Equatorial Guinea

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is a bit of a wildcard. While the other “Guinea” countries are in Africa, Papua New Guinea is located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, just north of Australia.

The name can be traced back to a Spanish explorer who landed on the island in the 16th century. The explorer thought the inhabitants of the island strongly resembled the inhabitants of West Africa. As a result, “Guinea” was added to the name of the country. Papua New Guinea is the largest “Guinea” country and has an area of 178,704 square miles.

Why Guinea-Bissau is unique

All of these countries may share a name, but they each have their own story. Of all the “Guinea” countries, Guinea-Bissau has the smallest economy and the highest rate of poverty, with a GDP (gross domestic product) of just $1.4 billion USD. By comparison, Equatorial Guinea (which has a smaller population) has a GDP of $10.1 billion USD.  

For people in Guinea-Bissau, life is marked by political instability, low and inconsistent income, and a lack of opportunity. The answer to these problems isn’t handouts or giveaways. Rather it is providing access to opportunity, such as job skills training.


With the skills learned at WAVS vocational schools, West Africans are able to provide for themselves and their families.

You can give young men and women the opportunity to learn a new job skill by helping keep tuition affordable. Each student pays tuition for the courses they take at WAVS vocational schools in Guinea-Bissau, but this only covers a portion of the total cost. The remainder of the costs are covered by generous donors like you. Join the One Student community and make an impact in the lives of young people in Guinea-Bissau, One Student at a time.