The COVID-19 pandemic forces the global economy into its worst recession since World War II. The full impact of health related economic and social consequences is yet to be seen, but Guinea-Bissau is ill-prepared to absorb this major exogenous shock and risks a major setback of some of the development gains obtained during the past decades. The disease accentuates the weaknesses of the public service provision and institutional setup in Guinea-Bissau as well as the overall vulnerability of the economy, exposing its dependency and lack of diversification. The little progress on vital reforms and institutional strengthening caused by political instability for the past decades are a heavy burden on the country, becoming ever more visible during this crisis.
The domestic ability to cope with the health crisis is very limited. The prevalence of many diseases and poor infrastructure makes the outbreak of COVID-19 a complex emergency for Guinea-Bissau. Low testing capacities and under-resourced hospitals will quickly push the health system to its limits. Economic activity is highly informal and substantially driven by exports of raw cashew nuts. Lockdowns delayed the annual cashew campaign, the main economic event of the year, affecting the incomes of 80% of the population. The very limited existence of social protection schemes and depleted public finances leave the government with little ability to provide a safety net for its population or to deliver a stimulus