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Date : 19th January, 2018
Time : 1h 9’ 34”
Number of runners : 12
Total distance run to date : 1360 km
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2452288827
Media : National television ; national radio
Ever since Denise ‘Da Bees Knees’ Williams joined the team she has taken the line that I should never run alone in any country. Which is great because running with people means that I’m much more likely to fundraise and get across the Run the World message about an active, healthy lifestyle. It’s also a lot less painful running another bloody 10 km if you’ve got some company.
But Guinea Bissau proved a tough nut to crack. Denise tried all the usual channels with no result. We appealed for help on social media. Lots of responses but, again, no result. Denise then instructed to me to talk to everyone I ran with in West Africa to see if they had contacts. Still nothing.
And then, just when it looked like I’d be running on my own, she was introduced to the legendary Jan van Maanen. Jan is a 69 year old Dutch citizen who’s also part-time British consul ; part-time Dutch consul ; part-time importer / trader (“of anything and everything legal”) ; part-time local media magnate ; part-time ‘famous foreigner’ ; and full time great character.
Jan, who’s lived there for 39 years, knows everyone in Bissau, the capital of Guinea Bissau (‘Bissau’ was added to the country’s name to distinguish it from the various other ‘Guineas’ in West Africa.) Including a number of Prime Ministers (the President has something of a revolving door policy when it comes to Prime Ministers so they are relatively thick on the ground.)
He’s also very well connected with the media and national television came down to interview me before the run and, apparently, there was a seven minute piece on national news the following evening. (Unfortunately I haven’t been able to track down a copy – which has at least saved me the usual agony of watching myself and wishing I looked and sounded better on telly.)
There were about 12 of us at the start of the run including a couple of people from Jan’s team and a group from a fitness class. And a number of Brits who were taking part in the ‘Plymouth to Dakar’ rally. This is a slightly less glamorous version of Paris- Dakar and involves buying an old banger for no more than £500. And then seeing if you can drive it from the UK to Dakar.
Our intrepid banger drivers didn’t do much of the run – with most of them heading off for a beer after about 200 metres – but they did donate £100. Thank you guys!
We ran from Praca do Imperio, down Avenida Amilcar Cabral (Cabral was a nationalist leader in the struggle for independence from the Portuguese), past the post office
and main cathedral
to the docks area.
From there we ran along Rua Guerra Mendes past footballers until the cross roads with Estrada da Granjo do Pessube. Where Jan had arranged of us to speak to national radio. Which was the first time I’d stopped part way through a run to do media but you know what they say. When in Guinea Bissau, do it Jan’s way!
We also rehydrated with the plastic bags of water you see all over West Africa. For those who aren’t familiar with them, you tear off the corner of the bag with your teeth, drink the contents and then drop the bag on the ground. Or at least that’s what happens to millions of them. Which is pretty similar to what happens to plastic packaging all over the world. Surely we can all do a little better…
Right, off my plastic high horse and back to the run. From the cross roads we walked through the crowds past the roadside market
and then back to Praca do Imperio for a stretch,
commemorative medals for everyone (courtesy of Jan who thinks of everything)
before a quick(ish) turn around and back to Jan’s place for dinner.
One of Jan’s loves is middle of the road music (needless to say, he used to own a middle of the road radio station) so, after dinner, we watched DVDs of Roger Hodgson, ex lead singer of Supertramp, performing all their old classics. (Emma Reuss, you would have loved it.) And then some Bee Gees.
Sadly I had to leave at 11pm to start the long and painful trip to Cape Verde but it was a brilliant evening. And a top day and run in Guinea Bissau. Jan, I can’t thank you enough. In recognition of all your help and support, here’s Roger Hodgson and ‘Give a Little Bit’. And if that should prompt you, dear reader, to give a little bit to Cancer Research, then so much the better!
Finally, thank you to my fellow runners for the company. Especially the couple who ran hand in hand for a kilometre or so which I found very touching
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And please donate to Cancer Research if you’d like to help fight the global scourge that is cancer.
Facts & Stats
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.
Guinea-Bissau was once part of the kingdom of Gabu, as well as part of the Mali Empire. Parts of this kingdom persisted until the 18th century, while a few others were under some rule by the Portuguese Empire since the 16th century. In the 19th century, it was colonized as Portuguese Guinea. Upon independence, declared in 1973 and recognised in 1974, the name of its capital, Bissau, was added to the country’s name to prevent confusion with Guinea(formerly French Guinea). Guinea-Bissau has a history of political instability since independence, and no elected president has successfully served a full five-year term.
Only 14% of the population speaks noncreolized Portuguese, established as both the official and national language. Portuguese exists in creole continuum with Crioulo, a Portuguese creole spoken by half the population (44%) and an even larger number speaks it as second tongue, the remainder speak a variety of native African languages. There are diverse religions in Guinea-Bissau with no one religion having a majority. The CIA World Factbook (2018) states there are about 40% Muslims, 22% Christians, 15% Animists and 18% unspecified or other. The country’s per-capita gross domestic product is one of the lowest in the world.
Guinea-Bissau’s GDP per capita is one of the lowest in the world, and its Human Development Index is one of the lowest on earth. More than two-thirds of the population lives below the poverty line. The economy depends mainly on agriculture; fish, cashew nuts and ground nuts are its major exports.
A long period of political instability has resulted in depressed economic activity, deteriorating social conditions, and increased macroeconomic imbalances. It takes longer on average to register a new business in Guinea-Bissau (233 days or about 33 weeks) than in any other country in the world except Suriname.[
The country became independent from Portugal in 1974 due to the Portuguese Colonial Warand the Carnation Revolution, the rapid exodus of the Portuguese civilian, military, and political authorities resulted in considerable damage to the country’s economic infrastructure, social order, and standard of living.
After several years of economic downturn and political instability, in 1997, Guinea-Bissau entered the CFA franc monetary system, bringing about some internal monetary stability. The civil war that took place in 1998 and 1999, and a military coup in September 2003 again disrupted economic activity, leaving a substantial part of the economic and social infrastructure in ruins and intensifying the already widespread poverty. Following the parliamentary elections in March 2004 and presidential elections in July 2005, the country is trying to recover from the long period of instability, despite a still-fragile political situation.
Beginning around 2005, drug traffickers based in Latin America began to use Guinea-Bissau, along with several neighboring West African nations, as a transshipment point to Europe for cocaine. The nation was described by a United Nations official as being at risk for becoming a “narco-state“. The government and the military have done little to stop drug trafficking, which increased after the 2012 coup d’état.
World Bank Data
Here’s the latest World Bank data for Guinea Bissau – with the year 2000 as a comparison.
GDP $1.2 bn 2016 $370 m 2000
Population 1.82 m 2016 1.24 m 2000
Primary school enrolment* 114 % 2014 72 % 2000
CO2 Emissions** 0.16 2014 0.12 2000
% below poverty line*** 69 % 2010 65% 2002
Life expectancy at birth 57 yrs 2015 52 yrs 2000
GNI per capita $600 2016 $200 2000
*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students
** Metric tons per capita
***The World Bank notes that the methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country. (While most of the World Bank data generally follows understandable trends, this number often oscillates wildly suggesting that different methodologies are frequently used over time within a given country.)
Greatest Sporting Nation Data
Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how Guinea Bissau performed in the global sporting arena in 2017:
Global Cup – NA
Per Capita Cup – NA
The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80 sports to produce the definitive annual ranking of international sporting success. The Per Capita Cup uses the same data to produce an annual per capita ranking.