French GuianaFrench Guiana is an overseas administrative district of France on the northeastern coast of South America.

French Guiana , an overseas department of France on the northern coast of South America. It fronts on the Atlantic Ocean and is bordered inland by Brazil and Suriname. The area is about 34,750 square miles (90,000 km2). Maximum distances are some 250 miles (400 km) north-south and 200 miles (320 km) east-west.

The coast is low-lying and in many places swampy. Inland, the terrain rises to plateaus and reaches a maximum height of about 2,700 feet (823 m) in the Guiana Highlands in the south. The chief rivers are the Maroni and the Oyapock. Among the few small coastal islands is Devil's Island, site of France's most dreaded penal colony before it was abandoned in the late 1940's. French Guiana is near the Equator and has a hot, humid climate. The temperature averages about 80 F. (27 C.) throughout the year; rainfall averages more than 100 inches (2,540 mm) yearly. Much of the interior is covered by dense tropical rain forests and remains largely unsettled and little explored.

French Guiana's economy has been slow to develop, largely because of the country's small population and almost total lack of inland transportation. Agriculture is of prime importance. Rice, cassava, bananas, and other tropical crops are grown for local consumption; sugarcane and citrus fruits are the only significant cash crops. Lumbering and fishing provide the chief exports—shrimp, logs, and fish. Manufacturing consists mainly of the processing of farm, fish, and forest products. Some gold is mined. Trade is carried on mainly with France and other countries of the European Union and with the United States.

Coastal vessels and a few roads serve the port towns. Inland transport is mainly on the rivers. Cayenne's airport accommodates international air service.

In 1990 French Guiana had a population of 114,808. Cayenne, the capital, had 41,600 inhabitants. Most people are mainly Creole French (French-speaking people with African ancestry), but there are also some people of European, Chinese, and American Indian descent. French is spoken throughout the land. Roman Catholicism is the main religion. Primary education is free.

French Guiana is administered by a 19-member general council and a 31-member regional council, whose members are elected for six-year terms. The French government is represented by an appointed government commissioner. As an overseas department of France, French Guiana is represented both in the French National Assembly (two members) and in the Senate (one). The coastal region makes up one part (arrondissement) of the department; the interior, called Inini, another.