General background: 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.
Area comparative: Slightly smaller than Indiana.
Climate: Tropical; hot, humid; little seasonal
Terrain: Low-lying coastal plains rising to
hills and small mountains.
Population: 182,333 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Black or Mulatto 66%, White
12%, East Indian, Chinese, Amerindian 12%, other 10%
Religions: Roman Catholic
Government type: NA
Legal system: French legal system
Economic overview: The economy is tied closely
to the French economy through subsidies and imports.
Besides the French space centre at Kourou, 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.
Communication/Telephone system: Fair open wire
and microwave radio relay system.
Places of interest: