French Guiana 

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First settled by the French in 1604, French Guiana was the site of notorious penal settlements until 1951. The European Space Agency launches its communication satellites from Kourou.


Northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Brazil and Suriname

Geographic coordinates:

4 00 N, 53 00 W


total: 91,000 sq km
land: 89,150 sq km
water: 1,850 sq km

Land boundaries:

total: 1,183 km
border countries: Brazil 673 km, Suriname 510 km


378 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm


tropical; hot, humid; little seasonal temperature variation


low-lying coastal plains rising to hills and small mountains

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Bellevue de l'Inini 851 m

Natural resources:

bauxite, timber, gold (widely scattered), petroleum, kaolin, fish, niobium, tantalum, clay

Land use:

arable land: 0.13%
permanent crops: 0.04%
other: 99.83% (90% forest, 10% other) (2005)

Irrigated land:

20 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:

high frequency of heavy showers and severe thunderstorms; flooding

Geography - note:

mostly an unsettled wilderness; the only non-independent portion of the South American continent


199,509 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 28.9% (male 29,540/female 28,210)
15-64 years: 64.8% (male 69,302/female 59,980)
65 years and over: 6.3% (male 6,350/female 6,127) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 28.6 years
male: 29.6 years
female: 27.4 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

1.96% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

20.46 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

4.88 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

4.01 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.16 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.04 male(s)/female
total population: 1.12 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 11.76 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 12.58 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 10.89 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 77.27 years
male: 73.95 years
female: 80.75 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

2.98 children born/woman (2006 est.)


noun: French Guianese (singular and plural)
adjective: French Guianese

Ethnic groups:

black or mulatto 66%, white 12%, East Indian, Chinese, Amerindian 12%, other 10%


Roman Catholic




definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 83%
male: 84%
female: 82% (1982 est.)

Country name:

conventional long form: Department of Guiana
conventional short form: French Guiana
local long form: none
local short form: Guyane

Dependency status:

overseas department of France



Administrative divisions:

none (overseas department of France)


none (overseas department of France)

National holiday:

Bastille Day, 14 July (1789)


4 October 1958 (French Constitution)

Legal system:

French legal system


18 years of age; universal

Legislative branch:

unicameral General Council or Conseil General (19 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve six-year terms) and a unicameral Regional Council or Conseil Regional (31 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve six-year terms)
elections: General Council - last held in March 2000 (next to be held March 2006); Regional Council - last held 21 and 28 March 2004 (next to be held in 2010)
election results: General Council - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PSG 5, various left-wing parties 5, independents 7, other 2; Regional Council - (second election results) percent of vote by party - PS 37.24%, UMP 31.58%, FDG/Walwari 31.18%; seats by party - PS 17, UMP 7, FDG/Walwari 7
note: one seat was elected to the French Senate on 27 September 1998 (next to be held September 2007); results - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; 2 seats were elected to the French National Assembly on 9 June-16 June 2002 (next to be held in 2007); results - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - UMP/RPR 1, Walwari Committee 1

Judicial branch:

Court of Appeals or Cour d'Appel (highest local court based in Martinique with jurisdiction over Martinique, Guadeloupe, and French Guiana)

Economy - overview:

The economy is tied closely to the much larger French economy through subsidies and imports. Besides the French space center at Kourou (which accounts for 25% of GDP), fishing and forestry are the most important economic activities. Forest and woodland cover 90% of the country. The large reserves of tropical hardwoods, not fully exploited, support an expanding sawmill industry that provides sawn logs for export. Cultivation of crops is limited to the coastal area, where the population is largely concentrated; rice and manioc are the major crops. French Guiana is heavily dependent on imports of food and energy. Unemployment is a serious problem, particularly among younger workers.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$1.551 billion (2003 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$8,300 (2003 est.)

Labor force:

58,800 (1997)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 18.2%
industry: 21.2%
services: 60.6% (1980)

Unemployment rate:

22% (2001)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

1.5% (2002 est.)


revenues: $225 million
expenditures: $390 million; including capital expenditures of $105 million (1996)

Agriculture - products:

corn, rice, manioc (tapioca), sugar, cocoa, vegetables, bananas; cattle, pigs, poultry


construction, shrimp processing, forestry products, rum, gold mining

Electricity - production:

465.2 million kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

432.6 million kWh (2003)

Oil - consumption:

6,600 bbl/day (2003 est.)


$155 million f.o.b. (2002 est.)

Exports - commodities:

shrimp, timber, gold, rum, rosewood essence, clothing

Exports - partners:

France 62%, Switzerland 7%, US 2% (2004)


$625 million c.i.f. (2002 est.)

Imports - commodities:

food (grains, processed meat), machinery and transport equipment, fuels and chemicals

Imports - partners:

France 63%, US, Trinidad and Tobago, Italy (2004)

Debt - external:

$1.2 billion (1988)

Currency (code):

euro (EUR)
note: on 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions within the member countries

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

51,000 (2001)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

138,200 (2002)

Telephone system:

general assessment: NA
domestic: fair open-wire and microwave radio relay system
international: country code - 594; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 2, FM 14 (including 6 repeaters), shortwave 6 (including 5 repeaters) (1998)

Television broadcast stations:

3 (plus eight low-power repeaters) (1997)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

107 (2005)

Internet users:

38,000 (2005)


11 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 4
over 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 1 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 7
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 5 (2005)


total: 817 km (1998)


3,760 km
note: 460 km navigable by small oceangoing vessels and coastal and river steamers, 3,300 km by native craft (2003)

Ports and terminals:

Degrad des Cannes

Military branches:

no regular military forces; Gendarmerie

Disputes - international:

Suriname claims area between Riviere Litani and Riviere Marouini (both headwaters of the Lawa) in French Guiana

Illicit drugs:

small amount of marijuana grown for local consumption; minor transshipment point to Europe