Bissau — Speaking to thousands of people today, the 49 year old technocrat and former World Bank Executive Director announced, "It is with both humility and pride that I, Paulo Gomes stand here today to declare my candidature for President of the Republic of Guinea Bissau."
The declaration took place at the National Institute for Physical and Sports Education (ENEFD) amidst performances by musicians including world renown Ze Manel, and testimonies by young women and men, it was both festive and solemn.
"We are a small country with only 1.6 million people," Gomes said. "There is no excuse for not being able to develop the natural resources we have into wealth. There is no valid reason why most of us do not have access to clean water, basic education, healthcare and people in the city regularly spend weeks without electricity."
Valeriana Morena, a young tourism student who is also an active volunteer in the campaign, hosted the event. "He could have asked any professional to host his declaration, but he asked me, a young woman with not much experience but a lot of will," Morena said in her introduction. "Maybe it is because he was given an opportunity at such a young age that he is so determined to give opportunities to young people," she added.
Bradile Gringue, a 30-year-old primary school teacher from Bissau who spoke right before Gomes, called for Guineans to write a new story, "People keep saying we should turn to a new page. But we have been turning new pages in the same book for 40 years now. We need to burn the book we are reading and start an entirely new book. In that new book, Paulo Gomes is the main character."
"Guinea-Bissau gave me everything. Now is the time for me to give back, put all my knowledge and experience at the service of the country that has given me so much," Gomes said of his motivation to run for president. "I have great ambitions for Guinea Bissau," he announced, before outlining a few presidential projects he would focus on, including a youth employment initiative.
"The Presidential Election affords me the opportunity to pay my dues," added Gomes. "I believe I am in a unique position to unite all Guineans behind a common vision and to steer this country towards a brighter future."
"Although this is what most of us had been hoping, we did not think he would run. So this is a dream come true that Paulo Gomes is running today," said Fatima Djalo a young woman who had come to listen to the declaration from the neighboring market as she walked out of the event.
About Paulo Gomes
Paulo Gomes was born in a family with a long history of struggle and leadership for human rights and dignity. His grandfather was persecuted and arrested several times by the Portuguese during the colonial times. His parents were involved in the liberation movement that led to the Independence of Guinea Bissau in 1973.
At eleven, he was sent to various military boarding schools in Bor, Bafata and Bolama. It is during that time that he was able to develop the camaraderie, rigor and discipline that would come to define his life and career.
After high school, Paulo was admitted at the Institut d'études Libres des Relations Internationales (ILERI), in Paris where he finished with a BA in Economics and International Trade in 1988. He immediately returned to Bissau eager to help the reconstruction of the country. He joined the first team that started working on the economy of the country, assigned to the President's Office for Economic and International Affairs and later serving as the National Strategic Planning Director.
In 1995, Paulo left Bissau for Harvard University. He graduated with a Masters in Public Administration/Masters' degree with Honors in Economic Policy and Management from the Kennedy School of Government. Two years later he was back home again working as the principal advisor to the Minister of Finance.
It is during his tenure at the Ministry of Finance that Paulo was nominated by Guinea Bissau to the World Bank first as Alternate Executive Director and then as Executive Director.
Paulo is on the board of directors of the West African Development Bank (BOAD), Ecobank, Asky Airline, and AFIG Private Equity Fund as well as the founder and President of Constelor Investment Holdings. He is a member of the Green Climate Fund, and the co-founder of the Africa-South East Asia Chamber of Commerce based in Singapore.