French Guiana Economic Conditions

Management of natural resources

As the manager of nearly 8 million hectares of tropical rainforest and one of the most fishy marine areas in the world, French Guiana, which is subject to EU environmental regulations, plays a very special role in the European environmental context. For example, Parc Amazon is the Guyane of Europe’s largest national park with its 3.4 million hectares of tropical rainforest. Such a position commits, and France devotes relatively large resources to protection, research, and facilitation for the indigenous population.

Illegal gold mining

Unlike in other parts of the Amazon, deforestation as a result of commercial logging or clearing of land for plantations is not an issue in French Guiana. By contrast, illegal gold digging is a significant problem. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) estimates that this illegal activity, most often conducted in the murky and inaccessible environment of gold diggers from Brazil and Suriname, is responsible for deforestation of several hundred acres of rainforest annually. In addition, the activity pollutes the rivers, thereby damaging the wildlife and indigenous peoples who are exposed to, among other things, mercury poisoning. The gold extracted is, according to WWF, mostly laundered in Brazil.

Focusing on the environmental and social consequences of the illegal gold mining has led the French authorities to step up the fight against the business, but despite an increasing number of military operations and increased cooperation with Brazil to prevent money laundering, illegal gold digging is a growing problem.

Oil Adventure?

In early 2011, important oil deposits were found about 165 kilometers offshore off the coast of French Guiana. After three years of exploration, however, it has emerged that this first discovery is the only driving force among those that have been made. Therefore, if the analyzes of data are positive, the exploration phase is likely to be extended to 2016, and no large-scale production has therefore been started.

Politically, the debate continues about the impact of oil activities on society and the environment. It is first and foremost the desire to secure the local community income that is being discussed. This will require adaptation of the French legislation which today does not give local authorities the right to decide on their own resources. Indirect ripple effects will require infrastructure development, such as ports, which today are not adapted to this type of business.

On the environmental side, it is argued that little has been done to protect the country’s fragile ecosystem from the consequences of a possible oil spill.

Small role regionally

According to, the role of French Guyanese regionally in Latin America is minimal. The reasons are first and foremost the strong economic and cultural ties with France and Europe, lack of local trade agreements, poor road connections and few routes to other countries in the region, as well as the difference in living standards that make regional exports unpopular. However, there are close links between French Guiana and the French Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, both economically and culturally.

Politically, the desire for regional contact is relatively high, and the construction of a bridge between French Guiana and Brazil in 2011 must be seen as a result of this. However, the bridge is not yet in use due to lack of infrastructure on the Brazilian side. In addition, a number of cooperation agreements with Brazil and the countries of the Guyana Plateau have been signed in recent years. They cover a wide range, from space and nuclear energy to climate monitoring, combating deforestation through the forest conservation program REDD +, biodiversity and scientific/ cultural exchange.


Capital: Cayenne
Population: 250 109 (2013)
Life expectancy: 81.8 (France, 2016)
Infant mortality: 3.3 per 1000 (France, 2016)
GDP per capita: US $
19,828 Religion: Catholicism and Indigenous religion.
Official languages: French
Currency: euro
Exports: minerals, wood, fish, meat.