Equitorial Guinea Economy - History

Equitorial Guinea Economy - History

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GDP (2005 est. Purchase power parity): $25.69 billion.
GDP growth rate: 16.6% (2005 est.).
GDP per capita (2005 est.): $50,200.
Inflation rate (2006 est.): 5.2%.

Budget: Income ................ $2.752 Billion
Expenditure ..... $1.424 Billion

Main Crops: Coffee, cocoa, rice, yams, cassava (tapioca), bananas, palm oil nuts, manioc (tapioca); livestock; timber

Natural Resources: Petroleum, timber, small unexploited deposits of gold, manganese, uranium Major Industries: Petroleum, fishing, sawmilling, natural gas

Equatorial Guinea

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2013 est.): $19.68 billion per capita $25,700 (2011 est.). Real growth rate: ?1.5%. Inflation: 6%. Unemployment: 22.3% (2009 est.). Arable land: 4.63%. Agriculture: coffee, cocoa, rice, yams, cassava (tapioca), bananas, palm oil nuts livestock timber. Labor force: 195,200 (2007). Industries: petroleum, fishing, sawmilling, natural gas. Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, timber, gold, bauxite, diamonds, tantalum, sand and gravel, clay. Exports: $15.44 billion (2013 est.): petroleum, methanol, timber, cocoa. Imports: $7.943 billion (2013 est.): petroleum sector equipment, other equipment. Major trading partners: U.S., China, Spain, France, Netherlands, Cte d'Ivoire, Italy, Brazil (2012).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 14,900 (2012) mobile cellular: 501,000 (2012). Broadcast media: state maintains control of broadcast media with domestic broadcast media limited to 1 state-owned TV station, 1 private TV station owned by the president's eldest son, 1 state-owned radio station, and 1 private radio station owned by the president's eldest son satellite TV service is available transmissions of multiple international broadcasters are accessible (2013). Internet hosts: 7 (2012). Internet users: 14,400 (2009).

Transportation: Railways: total: 0 km. Highways: total: 2,880 km (2000 est.). Ports and harbors: Bata, Luba, Malabo. Airports: 7 (2013).

International disputes: in 2002, ICJ ruled on an equidistance settlement of Cameroon-Equatorial Guinea-Nigeria maritime boundary in the Gulf of Guinea, but a dispute between Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon over an island at the mouth of the Ntem River, imprecisely defined maritime coordinates in the ICJ decision, and the unresolved Bakasi allocation contribute to the delay in implementation UN has been pressing Equatorial Guinea and Gabon to pledge to resolve the sovereignty dispute over Gabon-occupied Mbane Island and create a maritime boundary in the hydrocarbon-rich Corisco Bay.


The West African nation of Guinea is bordered to the north by Guinea Bissau, Senegal, and Mali, and to the south by Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Côte d’Ivoire. In 2017, the country had a population of 12.7 million.

President Alpha Condé was re-elected to a second term in office with 57% of the vote in October 2015. In May 2018, President Condé announced a cabinet reshuffle and appointed Kassory Fofana prime minister. Presidential elections are scheduled for 2020.

  • Growth stood at around 10% in 2016 and 2017, before slowing to 5.8% in 2018. Growth nevertheless remains robust, driven by foreign direct investment (FDI) in the mining sector. The mining industry grew at an annual rate of roughly 50% in 2016 and 2017, while the non-mining sector posted a 5.4% growth rate in 2018, with investment in infrastructure and the expansion of the primary and tertiary sectors remaining strong.
  • Inflation, which stood at 9.8% in 2018, approached double-digit levels, owing to an increase in fuel prices and electricity rates.
  • The fiscal balance improved from -2.1% of GDP in 2017 to -1.1% in 2018, owing to reduced subsidies on fuel prices, higher electricity rates, and constraints on hiring and promotions in the public sector.
  • Despite these measures, tax revenue fell by 0.8% of GDP to 12.5% in 2018. An extraordinary transfer of 0.4% of GDP from the Post and Telecommunications Regulatory Agency helped improve the fiscal balance.
  • With respect to expenditure, investments fell by 0.8% of GDP despite an increase in capital expenditure of 0.7% of GDP financed by external resources. The budget deficit was essentially financed by external resources, which was due to the fall in domestic funding.
  • The risk of debt distress remains moderate, even though non-concessional external borrowing increased in 2018. The total public debt-to-GDP ratio fell from 39.6% in 2017 to 37.6% in 2018.

The Guinean economy continues to grapple with two main risks in 2019: the country must sustain macroeconomic and fiscal reforms and ensure social and political stability. The slow pace of infrastructure development could decelerate growth. On the external front, lower commodity prices and a global economic slowdown could undermine growth in Guinea.

Development Challenges

Agriculture and natural resources, as well as the manufacturing and services sectors, are some of Guinea’s economic assets. Agriculture is the country’s main source of employment and is critical for poverty reduction and rural development, providing income for 57% of rural households and employment for 52% of the workforce.

While natural conditions are favorable for growth, Guinea must improve its governance if it hopes to fully realize this potential and step up the structural transformation process. Guinea is becoming increasingly vulnerable to climate change, with an overall rise in average temperatures and a decline in annual rainfall, particularly in the northwestern and northeastern regions.

Guinea is endowed with vast natural resources, especially mining and hydropower resources, which could generate substantial income. Experience shows, however, that mining and hydropower can have serious negative effects, both direct and indirect, on biodiversity and the environment. These potential risks will require careful management.

Another major challenge facing Guinea are the gender gaps in the areas of education and agricultural productivity, and with regard to employment and decision-making opportunities. Taken together, these factors diminish women’s prospects and undermine the country's growth trajectory. Other major constraints include weak human capital (with low literacy rates), a poor health system, a lack of quality agricultural inputs, weak sector and local government management capacity, limited access to finance, and high unemployment, especially among young people.

At the donor conference held with the Guinean Government and Guinea’s development partners in November 2017, a total commitment of $21 billion was made by the country’s partners and the private sector. These funds will support implementation of the new national economic and social development plan. The World Bank pledged $1.6 billion and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), $750 million.

The World Bank’s engagement in Guinea is determined by a new six-year Country Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for FY2018-23. This CPF for Guinea focuses on three pillars:

  • Fiscal and Natural Resource Management
  • Human Development
  • Agricultural Productivity and Economic Growth.

The current World Bank portfolio in Guinea stands at $897.17 million (credits, grants, and trust funds) covering 15 national operations ($538.97 million), 9 regional operations ($358.20 million), and 4 trust funds.

In 2018, the Government of Guinea and the World Bank signed six financing agreements covering such projects as the Guinea-Mali Interconnection project. This project aims to increase the energy supply to Eastern Guinea, enable electricity trade between the two countries, and boost Guinea’s electricity export capability for power exports to the other West African Power Pool countries.

The other projects that were approved during this fiscal year cover the following areas and sectors: strengthening of macroeconomic stability and institutional capacity promotion of the West Africa Unique Identification for Regional Integration and Inclusion program reproductive, maternal, neonatal, and child health agriculture and energy.

In 2019, the Guinean Government and the World Bank signed two financing agreements covering such projects as the Guinea Project for Results in Early Childhood and Basic Education and the Support to MSME Growth, Competitiveness, and Access to Finance Project. The first project is designed to improve access to and the quality of basic education. The second project is set to increase investment in fragile countries by helping create new markets. It is also contributing to the Digital Economy for Africa (DE4A) initiative.

Equitorial Guinea Economy - History

Evidence of prosperity isn’t difficult to find in Equatorial Guinea. Scattered among colonial-era buildings are high-rise office towers, freshly-painted apartment complexes, and ornate government buildings, some lined with marble columns. There are also new hospitals, sports stadiums, four-star hotels, conference centers, and championship golf courses. Older urban areas are linked to new ones through a highway system rivaling those in Europe and the U.S. Everywhere, vacant lots play host to earthmovers, construction cranes, concrete mixers, and piles of building materials. Equatorial Guinea’s expanding infrastructure symbolizes its newfound economic status. Once among the World’s poorest countries, the former Spanish territory boasts the highest per capita gross national product (US $36,270) in Africa (Global Finance 2019). But summary statistics can be misleading. Outside major cities, the landscape appears similar to less developed African countries with the dirt streets of rural villages lined by houses without indoor plumbing. Unemployment and poverty rates are high while literacy and life expectancy are low (Beegle et al. 2016). Lacking access to healthcare and education, a large percentage of the population survives on subsistence agriculture by growing cassava, sweet potato, and bananas. For visitors, the country’s landscape is like a movie set with elaborate façades hiding squalid conditions just beyond view.

Equatorial Guinea’s urban transformation began 25 years ago when geologists with Mobil Oil (now ExxonMobil) discovered substantial petroleum reserves within the country’s territorial waters. Work soon began on drilling and storage facilities and within two years the country’s offshore fields were producing 80,000 barrels per day (bpd)(Oil and Gas Journal 1998). Oil brought a financial windfall. Between 1997 and 2001 the country’s economy was the fastest growing in the World with foreign reserves increasing from US $40,000 to more than $3.1 billion (Frynas 2004). With new capital, the country’s president and ruling party were positioned to expand healthcare, increase access to education, and implement policies to attract foreign investment. However, in lieu of improving the standard of living, new wealth was directed towards infrastructure projects designed to impress international visitors and provide financial benefits for the President and his family. This article traces Equatorial Guinea’s recent history with a focus on oil revenue and its role in transforming the country’s urban landscapes.

An Unlikely Geography

Equatorial Guinea isn’t well-known, even among Africans. The country is noteworthy for having the continent’s longest serving head of state and for being Africa’s only nation with Spanish as its official language. Despite having pristine rainforests and abundant wildlife, the country attracts few international tourists. A distinguishing characteristic of Equatorial Guinea is its unlikely international boundary that encircles widely dispersed islands and a small region on Africa’s mainland. Its two largest islands, Bioko and Annobón, are part of the Bonny Islands, a series of volcanic peaks extending from Mt. Cameroon on Africa’s mainland to the southwest across the Gulf of Guinea. Located 40 kilometers west of Cameroon’s Atlantic coastline, Bioko Island has geographic extremes with a high, rugged interior featuring alpine landscapes and a coastline bordered in places by mangrove swamps. Far to the southwest is Annobón Island, located 350 kilometers west of Gabon’s Cape Lopez and separated from Bioko by the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe. Measuring six by three kilometers, Annobón’s land area is just 18 square kilometers. Named for an estuary of the Utamboni River, the mainland province of Río Muni is bordered to the north by Cameroon and to the south and east by Gabon (Figure 1). The mainland region’s 26,017 square kilometers are part of the Congo Basin, Africa’s largest forested area and the World’s second largest tropical rainforest. Including Annobón Island, the country’s geographic boundaries extend from 4˚ north to 2˚ south latitude and from 5˚ to 12˚ east longitude.

Influenced by its position near the Equator and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, Equatorial Guinea’s tropical climate has pronounced wet and dry seasons with temperatures in the country’s capital city of Malabo ranging from 16 to 33˚C. In terms of flora, the landscape is dominated by dense tropical forests that contain more than 140 types of trees including mahogany, ebony, and rubber. For those traveling away from urban areas, the country’s exceptional biodiversity can be seen in animal life that includes dwarf antelope, hippo, elephant, gorilla, and four species of sea turtle.

History and Settlement

Human occupation of Equatorial Guinea began about 10,000 years ago when early descendants of a Bantu ethnic group known as the Bubi migrated from central Africa to uninhabited Bioko Island (known to the Bubis as Etulá). Early occupants of Río Muni were pygmy and Ndowe peoples who were followed by successive waves of other groups including the Bubi after 1200 and the Fang in the mid-1600s (Lea 2001). Like most African nations, the country’s history has been shaped by colonial occupation. Searching for a route to Asia, the Portuguese were first to reach Bioko in 1471 with the island subsequently named Fernando Pó in honor of the expedition’s leader. The first European settlement on Fernando Pó was a Dutch trading post established in 1642. The island was later occupied by the Portuguese who grew sugar cane for export to Europe. During the sixteenth century, Fernando Pó supported operations for transporting slaves captured on the mainland to destinations in the Americas. In 1778, Portugal traded Fernando Pó Island and commercial rights over a mainland region extending between the Ogooué and Niger Rivers to Spain in exchange for territory in Brazil (Brown 1895).

Spain’s first attempt to establish a permanent colony on Fernando Pó was unsuccessful due to threats from disease. Beginning in 1827, the British leased land on the island, establishing an antislavery base at Port Clarence where Malabo stands today (Sundiata 1996). In 1855, Spain reasserted control over Fernando Pó, designating their West African lands, Territorios Españoles del Golfo de Guinea (Spanish Territory of the Gulf of Guinea) and renaming Port Clarence as Santa Isabel in honor of Queen Isabella II. For the next several decades the territory attracted few European settlers with most economic activities focused on palm oil and cocoa production. For a brief period, the island served as a penal colony for Cubans of African descent and by the end of the Spanish-American War (April 21, 1898 to August 13, 1898) the territory was Spain’s last tropical colony.

By 1900, the economic situation on Fernando Pó showed signs of improvement as profits from cocoa exports began to attract migrants from Spain. A subsequent construction boom was responsible for many colonial-era structures seen today in Malabo including Santa Isabel Cathedral (Figure 2). With much of their attention focused on Fernando Pó, Spanish authorities were slow to pursue economic interests on the mainland. Settlements there were limited to a military garrison at the site of the present-day City of Bata and coastal trading stations at the mouths of major rivers. In 1900, Spain transferred control of more than 300,000 square kilometers on the mainland to France as part of the Treaty of Paris. This left only the 26,017 square kilometer Río Muni region under Spanish control (Roberts 1986).

In 1926, Spanish holdings in the Gulf of Guinea were formally designated the province of Spanish Guinea with residents receiving rights and privileges equal to other Spaniards. Crops were grown on plantations of up to 2,000 hectares called “fincas.” The next several years were prosperous as a result of cocoa, timber, and coffee exports to European countries, especially Spain, the United Kingdom, and Germany. By 1930, Spanish Guinea was the World’s largest exporter of cocoa. After World War II, the Franco government initiated public works and social welfare programs aimed at making Spanish Guinea a model territory (Payne 1987). However, anticolonial sentiments grew as many pushed to break from Spain. In 1968, Equatorial Guinea became independent and subsequently many colonial names were replaced with African ones. For example, Fernando Pó become Bioko Island and Santa Isabel was renamed Malabo (Alvan, Mas-Coma and Carrasco 1996).

Having previously served as Santa Isabel’s mayor, Francisco Macias Nguema was elected the country’s first president through a popular vote. Unfortunately, democracy was short-lived. Within a year, Nguema purged the country’s senior leadership and dissolved opposition parties, declaring himself “president for life” (Maass 2005). Imprisonment, torture, and murder became tools for quelling resistance with thousands sent to Malabo’s infamous Black Beach Prison (Fegley 1981). Purges put the economy into a freefall. By 1974, media outlets and most schools had been shut down and basic services such as electricity and telephone communication became intermittent or unreliable. By the time Nguema was overthrown by his nephew, Lt. Colonel Teodoro Obiang, almost a third of the country’s population had been murdered or forced into exile (McSherry 2006).

Elected to replace Nguema, Teodoro Obiang ended much of the violence but took few steps to advance democracy or restore personal freedoms (Figure 3). Prisoners continued to be used as laborers on construction projects while ordinary citizens were subject to searches, extortion payments, and detention at police checkpoints (U.S. Department of State 2002). Although a multiparty system, Obiang’s ruling party and its allies held nearly all seats in the country’s parliament. Fearing challenges from opposition groups, Obaing took measures to consolidate power and safeguard his position, appointing most military officers and police from his hometown and Esangui Clan (African Confidential 2003). Following an attempted coup in 1980, he assumed control of the Supreme Military Council and appointed himself Minister of Defense and Security, Minister of the Economy and Finances, and Minister of Information. In 1982, the country’s constitution was modified to give him the power to make laws by decree and negotiate and ratify treaties.

The Newest Persian Gulf

Spanish government geologists were first to find evidence of oil deposits in the waters off Bioko Island. However, without a national petroleum company or expertise in deep water drilling, no effort was made to develop oil reserves. Compared to countries with land-based oil production and storage facilities, Equatorial Guinea’s crude oil infrastructure is almost entirely off-shore. The principal production area is the Zafiro Field, located 42 miles northwest of Bioko Island near the coastline of Cameroon (Figure 1). In lieu of constructing offshore platforms, engineers at Zafiro use special “Floating Production, Storage, and Offloading” (FPSO) vessels moored directly over wells. Resembling aircraft carriers, FPSOs provide temporary storage before crude oil can be transferred to tankers bound for European, Asian, or American markets (Appel 2012). With oversight provided by the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons, Equatorial Guinea’s oil interests are managed through its national oil company, Nacional de Petróleos de Guinea Equatorial (GEPetrol).

Oil produced in West Africa offers important advantages over Middle Eastern crude. Along with having a lower Sulphur content, crude oil from the Gulf of Guinea is less viscus, making it easy to pump and store. West Africa is also more geographically accessible to American and West European markets and, compared to the Middle East, there are fewer security issues threatening production. In 2005, oil production at Zafiro reached a record high of 375,000 bpd (Oil and Gas Year 2019). Two years later the government took steps to diversify and expand production through the development of natural gas reserves at the nearby Alba Field. Gas produced at Alba is processed at Marathon Oil’s Punta Europa liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant near Malabo’s International Airport. Along with new infrastructure, oil production brought an influx of foreign workers, leading to a housing shortage in Malabo and Bata. To accommodate newcomers, barracks-style housing was constructed for low-skill laborers, shared dormitories for skilled workers, and apartments and houses for managers. To provide greater security, senior company officials were assigned to homes within gated compounds (Figure 4), some featuring pools, tennis courts, and manicured lawns (Appel 2012).

Corruption, Waste, and Prestige Architecture

The exact amount of oil revenue drained from government coffers will never be known since government spending is a closely guarded secret (Basedan and Lacher 2006). At least some has directly benefitted the president and his family as demonstrated by a lavish presidential palace covering twelve city blocks of downtown Malabo. Several smaller palaces can also be found in the cities of Luba, Bata, Mbini, Evinayong, Micomiseng, and Moka. The President himself has a 90 meter-long “super yacht,” a US $55 million Boeing 737 aircraft equipped with gold-plated restroom fixtures and a US $2.6 million mansion outside of Washington, DC. His son and heir-apparent Teodorin, owns a mansion in Malibu, California and a collection of sports cars (Vines 2009). A few U.S. companies have played a role in hiding of Equatorial Guinea’s oil riches. In 2004, it was revealed that Washington DC-based Riggs Bank assisted with laundering more than US $700 million for Obiang and his family (Obrien 2004).

Most conspicuous has been the impact of oil revenue in reshaping urban landscapes of Malabo and Bata. Prestige architecture is part of the President’s plan to impress visitors and rebrand the country’s international reputation. Hundreds of contracts were awarded to international companies to build apartments, high-rise buildings, government offices, roads, bridges, power plants, and port facilitates (Figure 5). In lieu of using local labor, most construction jobs have gone to foreign workers, many coming from China, Mali, and Senegal. Examples of prestige buildings include the Sede-Edificio de Tesoro (National Treasury) Building and high-rise structures such as the 11-story Hotel Anda China and 14-story GEPetrol Tower (Figure 6). At Malabo’s international airport a new glass and steel terminal serves the increase in traffic, with some passengers arriving on direct flights from Houston, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, and Zurich. Along with a special terminal for VIPs, the airport has added a 3,048 meter long runway that can accommodate Boeing 747 aircraft. Other capital projects include a 15,000 seat sport stadium in Malabo, a 36,000 seat sports complex in Bata, and the Malabo campus of the National University of Equatorial Guinea. Designed by a Spanish architectural firm, Malabo’s National Theater of Equatorial Guinea resembles a crescent-shaped moon when viewed from above. New utility systems have also been built. For example, a gas-fired power plant on Bioko Island contributes to a national power grid maintained by Segesa, the state-owned power company.

Equatorial Guinea’s largest and most conspicuous “prestige” project is its 2,280 kilometer highway (Figure 7). With up to six lanes in cities such as Malabo, the system encircles Bioko Island. On most days the four-lane expressway connecting Bata with border areas adjacent to Cameroon and Gabon is devoid of vehicles. Projects in outlying areas include a US $12 million seaport facility on Annobón Island that serves large tonnage ships and passenger ferries. Infrastructure projects are part of Obiang’s “Horizon 2020 Development Plan,” that has funneled financial benefits to his family through their partial ownership of companies holding monopolies over building materials.

Another project designed to showcase the country’s modernization is Malabo II, carved out of second-growth rainforest and cocoa plantations along the coastline east of Malabo and protected by its own police force. Completed at a cost of more than US $830 million, the city is built around a large conference facility called the Sipopo Congress Center built to host the 2011 African Union Summit (Human Rights Watch 2011). Designed by a Turkish architectural firm, the Center resembles a large glass box surrounded by colorful aluminum screens (Figure 8). Inside the 13,750 square meter building are three large meeting halls and a restaurant. Also impressive is the Medical Center La Paz which includes a 156 bed hospital and adjacent hotel for the families of patients. The hospital remains underutilized because ordinary citizens are not permitted to use it. As a means of encouraging additional construction, large companies doing business in Equatorial Guinea must agree to construct at least one “prestigious building” in Malabo II (Diouf and Fredericks 2014). An example is Noble Energy’s office and apartment complex that features basketball and tennis courts and its own power generation and water treatment systems. Other new buildings in Malabo II include offices for Sonagas, the state-owned natural gas company and buildings for Africa 24 (news agency) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. Most ostentatious are the city’s 52 identical presidential palaces, constructed for each African head of state in advance of the 2011 Summit. Each palace complex includes a presidential mansion and adjacent administrative building. Today, most are empty. Not far from Malabo II is the resort town of Sipopo and elegant Sofitel Hotel featuring an artificial beach, nature walk, and championship golf course (Figure 9).

Ciudad de la Paz – Africa’s Brasilia

Obiang’s most recent initiative has drawn even more criticism as being wasteful and unnecessary. After spending millions of petrodollars on government buildings in Malabo and Malabo II, the President rolled out plans for a new capital city. Named Ciudad de la Paz (also called Oyala and Djibloho), the city is 172 kilometers from Río Muni’s Atlantic coast, near the President’s hometown in eastern Río Muni. Having survived several coup attempts including one seaborne assault, Obiang justifies the new city as necessary for protecting himself and his government. Ciudad de la Paz is entirely carved out of rainforest, drawing comparisons to other planned capital cities such as Nigeria’s Abuja and Brazil’s Brasilia.

Infrastructure to support the city’s projected 200,000 residents includes a Chinese built hydroelectric plant and twin 500 meter suspension bridges crossing the Wele River. The city’s principal streets are the Av de la Paz (Avenue of Peace) and the 81-meter wide Av de la Justica (Avenue of Justice), inspired by the expansive Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. Plans call for a presidential palace, parliament building, opera house, cathedral, conference center, five-star hotel, and golf course. Space has also been assigned for foreign embassies and high and low rent apartment buildings. Now under construction, the new American University of Central Africa will offer courses in English, Spanish and French for students pursuing degrees in architecture, law, business, petroleum engineering, and medicine. Visitors can drive to the city using the highway system or fly into a new international airport located in the nearby city of Mongomeyen. Projected to be completed in 2020, Ciudad del la Paz’s construction costs consumed half of all government spending in 2018. Along with its high cost, the city has attracted attention from environmentalists concerned about the destruction of rainforest lands and impact to biodiversity.

Paradox of Plenty

Forming a sharp contrast with office towers and luxury apartment buildings of Malabo and Bata are living conditions outside urban areas. Surviving on subsistence agriculture, much of the rural population lives in makeshift houses constructed from mud, thatch, and discarded materials (Figure 10). Nearly half of Equatorial Guineans are without access to safe drinking water and only one in four newborns are immunized for polio and the measles (Apple 2012b). Despite a windfall provided by the country’s oil production, spending on health care remains low. With long waiting times, hospitals lack basic medical supplies and operate without properly trained staff. Most visits for medical services must be paid in advance. Support for public education hasn’t fared well either with high teacher to student ratios and poorly maintained school facilities. Nearly half of students don’t complete primary school and less than 25% advance to middle school. The poor quality of public education has prompted families to send children to private schools if they have the financial means. With most living without electricity or potable water, the country’s poverty rate stands at 77 percent (Vines 2009).

Despite its importance to the country’s gross domestic product, oil hasn’t provided many jobs since drilling and production are capital rather than labor intensive. Although opportunities are better in larger cities, the country’s petroleum industry employs few local residents with most jobs going to skilled expatriates. Even low paying positions can be difficult to find with drivers, security guards, and other unskilled positions distributed through “job agencies” controlled by the President’s associates (Waiafe-Amoako 2017). To be hired, workers must belong to the President’s political party and may be required to contribute some of their pay to the hiring agency.

Economists characterize a situation where new wealth fails to translate into improvements in the standard of living of most persons as a “paradox of plenty” or “resource curse” (Karl 1997 Auty 2001). Countries afflicted by the curse experience rapid revenue growth through extractive industries that leads to waste, inflation, and corruption. An often-cited example of the curse is an oil boom within the Netherlands during the 1970s that contributed to widespread inflation, declines in the production of manufactured goods, and high levels of unemployment. Subsequent economic downturns affecting oil producing nations such as Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Nigeria have been dubbed “Dutch Disease” (McSherry 2006).

A byproduct of the curse is that highly profitable sectors of an economy can undercut the development of other industries. For example, when Spanish Guinea became independent in 1968, cocoa production accounted for 75% of the country’s GDP. Within five years of oil being discovered, cocoa production fell 30% (McSherry 2006). Today, only 8% of the country’s land area is used to support the agriculture sector with nearly all basic foodstuffs imported from other countries. Besides petroleum, the country’s major exports include lumber, acyclic alcohols, and wood veneer (OEC 2019). In lieu of contracts going to owned local lumber companies, most logging is done by foreign firms that often overexploit forest resources (Figure 11).

The Need for a Diversified Economy

With Equatorial Guinea’s energy sector dwarfing all other industries, there is a justifiable concern over what the future may bring. Beginning in 2004, production at the Zafiro Field began a steady decline with projections calling for an average of 110,000 bpd being produced between 2018 and 2024 (Rascouet 2018). Given that Equatorial Guinea’s oil reserves are projected to be exhausted by 2035, the development of a dynamic and diversified non-petroleum economy is of paramount importance. Fortunately, the country is endowed with a diverse range of resources including fertile soils, deep water ports, and a large reserve of labor. Coffee and cocoa are still grown but production is a fraction of what it was 50 years ago. The country continues to export forest products and has initiated replanting programs to ensure sustainability. There are also commercially important minerals that could be exploited including copper, bauxite, lead, phosphates, iron, zinc, gold, and diamonds. Another potential area for investment is the country’s commercial fishing industry which is capable of exporting tuna, perch, cod, pike, shark, and crayfish. Presently, industrial capabilities are modest and limited to saw mills and a few plants that produce cement or bleach. A few wholesale and retail operations can be found including factorías managed by Spanish owners. Unfortunately, graft, corruption, and nepotism contribute to an unstable business climate that discourages outside investment. Other problems include property rights that are selectively enforced and cumbersome policies and procedures that create challenges for operating businesses.

Sustainable Ecotourism

Given the country’s exceptional biodiversity, ecotourism offers a possibility for diversifying Equatorial Guinea’s economic situation. Unfortunately, the country’s environmental record is checkered with longstanding issues that include deforestation, water pollution, and desertification (Fa 1992). During the 1980s, Obiang signed agreements with British and U.S. companies for dumping toxic wastes on and adjacent to Annobón Island. However, following the discovery of oil he took steps towards protecting the natural environment and developing tourism by creating protected areas that now encompass 19% of the country’s land area. A new federal agency was also created to manage protected areas, called the Instituto Nacional de Desarrollo Forest y Manejo del Sistema de Áreas Protegodas (National Forest Development Institute and Management of the Protected Areas System). Today, the list of protected areas includes three national parks: Monte Alen and Altos de Nsork National Parks on the mainland and Pico Basilé National Park in the northern part of Bioko Island (Figure 12). There are also two national monuments and two scientific areas. Located within an hour’s drive from Bata, Monte Alen’s 1400 square kilometers provides habitat for more than 100 mammal species including elephant, gorilla, and chimpanzee. Despite receiving federal protection, Equatorial Guinea’s natural areas are subject to significant threats, especially roadbuilding that has enabled logging operations to push deeply into protected areas (Figure 13).

Another problem has been the expansion of illegal hunting that takes place despite a 2007 presidential decree banning the consumption of bush meat. Bush meat is a symbol of wealth and a delicacy often preferred over chicken and pork. Animals taken by commercial bush meat hunters include the blue duiker, pangolin, porcupine, and mandrill. On Bioko Island, the bright orange and maroon colors of the red colobus monkey make it an easy target for hunters. Forested areas have also been impacted by the construction of hydroelectric dams and power lines. At Monte Alen National Park, an anticipated increase in ecotourism has yet to materialize and today, the park’s dilapidated lodge has fallen into disuse (Figure 14). Guides continue leading visitors into the park’s forested areas but overhunting makes it rare to see chimpanzee or other larger primates. Another barrier to expanding ecotourism is a requirement for most foreigners (except US citizens) to obtain a visa.


Not long ago, Equatorial Guinea was little-known backwater with a dismal human rights record. Despite having pristine beaches and exceptional biodiversity, the country drew few international visitors. With a struggling economy, the country exported little outside of a few agricultural products. Virtually overnight, the situation changed with billions of petrodollars raising the country’s per capita gross domestic product to a level matching developed countries such as Italy. But rather than make investments in social welfare, oil revenue was laundered through overseas banks or funneled towards infrastructure projects designed to enhance the country’s international standing and reputation. In total, nearly 80% of the country’s oil income was siphoned-off for personal use or spent on building projects, many with limited social value. As an additional measure, many firms doing business in Equatorial Guinea such as banks, oil companies, and international hotel chains were pressured into constructing their own “prestige” buildings. Unsatisfied with the country’s two major urban areas, the President commissioned new cities, carved out of plantation lands and rainforest. Today, there are two Equatorial Guineas. One has gleaming office towers, lavish hotels, and stately government buildings that convey a sense of progress and hope. But another lurks in the shadows and along edges of the former. Most of the country’s citizens are here, living much as they did before the discovery of oil.

Equatorial Guinea: History, Culture & Economy

Equatorial Guinea, officially the Republic of Equatorial Guinea is a country located in Central Africa. With an area of 28,000 square kilometres (11,000 sq mi) it is one of the smallest countries in continental Africa. It is also the most prosperous, however the wealth is concentrated in government and elite hands, with 70% of the population living under the United Nations Poverty Threshold of $2/day. It has a population of 1,014,999. It comprises two parts: a Continental Region (Río Muni), including several small offshore islands like Corisco, Elobey Grande and Elobey Chico and an insular regioncontaining Annobón island and Bioko island (formerly Fernando Po) where the capital Malabo is situated.

Annobón is the southernmost island of Equatorial Guinea and is situated just south of the equator. Bioko island is the northernmost point of Equatorial Guinea. Between the two islands and to the east is the mainland region. Equatorial Guinea is bordered by Cameroon on the north, Gabon on the south and east, and the Gulf of Guineaon the west, where the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe is located between Bioko and Annobón. Formerly the colony of Spanish Guinea, its post-independence name is suggestive of its location near both the equator and the Gulf of Guinea. It is one of the few territories in mainland Africa where Spanish is an official language, besides the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla.

Equatorial Guinea is the third smallest country in continental Africa in terms of population. It is also the second smallest United Nations (UN) member from continental Africa. The discovery of sizeable petroleum reserves in recent years is altering the economic and political status of the country. Equatorial Guinea has been cited as an example of the natural resource curse [citation needed] its gross domestic product (GDP) per capita ranks 31 st in the world however, most of the country’s considerable oil wealth actually lies in the hands of only a few people.

Out of 44 sub-Saharan countries, Equatorial Guinea ranks 9th in terms of the Human Development Index (HDI) and 115th overall, which is among the “medium” HDI countries.

Equatorial Guinea is in the process of becoming validated as an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Compliant country, working toward transparency in reporting of oil revenues and the prudent use of natural resource wealth. The country is one of 30 Candidate countries and obtained Candidate status February 22, 2008. They met all required obligations to do so, including committing to working with civil society and companies on EITI implementation, appointing a senior individual to lead on EITI implementation, and publishing a fully costed Work Plan with measurable targets, a timetable for implementation and an assessment of capacity constraints. Equatorial Guinea held its 7th meeting of the EITI National Commission on January 30, 2010, during which steps were taken for the advancement of the implementation process.

Equatorial Guinea’s culture on the mainland is heavily entrenched in ancient rituals and songs. This is especially true for the Fang while on the capital island of Bioko has largely been influenced by Spanish customs and traditions during the colonial period. During the colonial period education and health services were developed in the country.

Despite a veneer of Spanish culture and of Roman Catholic religion that is thicker in Bioko than on the mainland, Equatorial Guineans live largely according to ancient customs, which have undergone a revival since independence. Among the Fang of the mainland, witchcraft, traditional music (in which the Fang harp, the xylophone, the great drums, and the wooden trumpet are used), and storytelling survive. Spanish aid is much oriented to educational and health services. Among the Bubi farmers of Bioko, some ancient customs are still followed.

Subsistence farming is the predominant occupation in Equatorial Guinea, although only 5% of the land is arable. Prior to independence, the money economy was based on the production of cocoa (mostly on Bioko) and coffee and timber (in Río Muni). Following severe deterioration of the rural economy, the government has made efforts to increase production of these products to preindependence levels. Other agricultural products include rice, yams, cassava, bananas, and palm oil. Livestock are raised and there is a fishing industry. There is food processing, sawmilling, and the manufacture of basic consumer items.

The discovery and exploitation of large offshore oil and natural gas deposits increased economic growth beginning in the late 1990s, but the oil and gas revenue, largely lost to government corruption, has not significantly improved the standard of living in the generally improverished nation. The country also has unexploited deposits of titanium, iron ore, manganese, uranium, and gold. Both Río Muni and Bioko have substantial road networks there are no railroads.


Subsistence farming is the predominant occupation in Equatorial Guinea, although only 5% of the land is arable. Prior to independence, the money economy was based on the production of cocoa (mostly on Bioko) and coffee and timber (in Río Muni). Following severe deterioration of the rural economy, the government has made efforts to increase production of these products to preindependence levels. Other agricultural products include rice, yams, cassava, bananas, and palm oil. Livestock are raised and there is a fishing industry. There is food processing, sawmilling, and the manufacture of basic consumer items. The discovery and exploitation of large offshore oil and natural gas deposits increased economic growth beginning in the late 1990s, but the oil and gas revenue, largely lost to government corruption, has not significantly improved the standard of living in the generally improverished nation. The country also has unexploited deposits of titanium, iron ore, manganese, uranium, and gold. Both Río Muni and Bioko have substantial road networks there are no railroads. Malabo is the main port.
The value of Equatorial Guinea's exports is considerably higher than the cost of its imports. The United States is the country's largest trading partner, followed by China, Spain, Italy, and France. The main exports are petroleum, methanol, timber, and cocoa the chief imports are petroleum equpment and other machinery, foodstuffs, and beverages. Equatorial Guinea continues to depend heavily on foreign investment
Equatorial Guinea is a small country off West Africa which has recently struck oil and which is now being cited as a textbook case of the resource curse - or the paradox of plenty.

Since the mid 1990s the former Spanish colony has become one of sub-Sahara's biggest oil producers and in 2004 was said to have the world's fastest-growing economy.
However, few people have benefited from the oil riches and the country ranks near the bottom of the UN human development index. The UN says that less than half the population has access to clean drinking water and that 20 percent of children die before reaching five.
The country has exasperated a variety of rights organisations who have described the two post-independence leaders as among the worst abusers of human rights in Africa.
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According to Human Rights Watch, the ''dictatorship under President Obiang has used an oil boom to entrench and enrich itself further at the expense of the country's people''.The corruption watchdog Transparency International has put Equatorial Guinea in the top 12 of its list of most corrupt states. Resisting calls for more transparency, President Obiang has for long held that oil revenues are a state secret. In 2008 the country became a candidate of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative - an international project meant to promote openness about government oil revenues - but failed to qualify by an April 2010 deadline.
A 2004 US Senate investigation into the Washington-based Riggs Bank found that President Obiang's family had received huge payments from US oil companies such as Exxon Mobil and Amerada Hess.
Observers say the US finds it hard to criticise a country which is seen as an ally in a volatile, oil-rich region. In 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hailed President Obiang as a "good friend" despite repeated criticism of his human rights and civil liberties record by her own department. More recently President Barack Obama posed for an official photograph with President Obiang at a New York reception.
The advocacy group Global Witness has been lobbying the United States to act against the President Obiang's son Teodor, a government minister. It says there is credible evidence that he spent millions buying a Malibu mansion and private jet using corruptly acquired funds - grounds for denying him a visa.
Equatorial Guinea hit the headlines in 2004 when a plane load of suspected mercenaries was intercepted in Zimbabwe while allegedly on the way to overthrow President Obiang

Equatorial Guinea — History and Culture

Equatorial Guinea has a long history as a Portuguese colony. It is notable for the Bantu tribes, the Fang, and the Pygmies, and is now one of the world’s oil sources. The country has had its share of political strife and although the past was turbulent, its culture and heritage is well preserved.


In the late 15th century, the Portuguese colonized the area that makes up what is known today as Equatorial Guinea. The Bantu migrated there in the 17th and 19th centuries. The Portuguese eventually handed the territory to the Spanish in 1788, and until 1959, the country was ran as the protectorate of Spanish Guinea. The colony was granted full independence in 1968.

Equatorial Guinea’s first decade of freedom was dark because of the incompetent and brutal rule of the president, Macias Nguema. In 1979, Lieutenant Colonel Teodoro Obiang, his nephew, overthrew President Nguema through a military coup. Conditions initially improved after international aid was administered and the country became a part of the Franc Zone of the CFA.

Obiang continued to oppose the creation of a fair political system in the 1980's while continuing to establish his position through repression. This led other countries—Spain, in particular— to stop sending support. In 1991, a democratic constitution was finally created. Equatorial Guinea’s first multi-party legislative elections were conducted in 1993. Unfortunately, boycotts at the poll influenced and intimidated voters, but Obiang’s PDGE (Partido Democratico Guinea Ecuatorial) earned most of the positions. Placido Mico Abojo was the most recent leader of the opposition, who was imprisoned in 2002 for allegedly planning a coup against the president.

Oil deposits were discovered in the mid-1990's in the Gulf of Guinea, earning Equatorial Guinea international recognition. The discovery also contributed to the country’s economic boost. The development came with a few downsides, though, including a dispute with Nigeria regarding ownership of the island of Biokno, home to many of the latest oil rigs in Equatorial Guinean territory.

Despite progress and growth in recent years, the country is still perceived to be under an abusive and corrupt government. Forced rule is not a new concept in Equatorial Guinea in fact, it has been around since the time of the original inhabitants, the Pygmies. Nowadays, the small group of Pygmies left mainly reside in the north and the Fang tribe remains dominant in Equatorial Guinea.


The mainland’s culture is heavily influenced by ancient rituals and songs, while Bioko Island is ruled by colonial Spanish traditions. Music and dance is at the core of Equatorial Guinea, and they are treated by the natives as religiously significant. Traditional musical instruments include xylophones, big drums, the small thumb bamboo-made piano called, sanza, the harp, and the wooden trumpet. The literary culture is mainly about legends and myths passed down by word of mouth.

Equatorial Guinea has no official religion, but its people are mostly Roman Catholic, while a small percentage of the population practicing animism. Many ancient customs have been preserved by the Bubi. One of the nation’s most famous celebrations is the abira, which is performed to drive evil away by cleansing the community. Traditional dances like balélé can be seen throughout the year and on special occasions like Christmas.

Facts about Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea is 1 of 10 African countries with a population of less than one million, based on projected estimates. The 2015 projected population for this country is listed at only 845,060, however, 2015 census results claim over 1.2 million individuals live here. This conflicting information is common in countries with unstable governments.

President: Col. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (1979)

Prime Minister: Vicente Ehate Tomi (2012)

Total area: 10,830 sq mi (28,050 sq km)

Population (2014 est.): 722,254 (growth rate: 2.54%)

Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Malabo, 137,000

Monetary unit: CFA Franc

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 14,900 (2012) mobile cellular: 501,000 (2012).

Equatorial Guinea is the smallest African country to be a member of the United Nations.

The third largest oil exporter in Sub-Saharan Africa

Equatorial Guinea is the third largest oil exporter in Sub-Saharan Africa. Crude oil accounts for 69% of its export followed closely by petroleum gas, which accounts for 23% of exports. At the current value, this fetches $4.1 billion and $1.3 billion respectively thus leaving it with a handsome trade surplus of $4.2 billion after factoring in its imports of about $1.6 billion.

Equatorial Guinea is the only country in Africa to have Spanish as an official language.

Equatorial Guinea was a Spanish colony on 2 separate occasions: between 1778 and 1810 and from 1844 to 1968. Because of its long influence over the country, Spanish has remained an important language. In fact, Equatorial Guinea is the only country in Africa where Spanish is an official language. Approximately 67.6% of the population can speak it. Spanish is the language used for public administration and education.

Has one of the worst human rights records in the world

Equatorial Guinea’s authoritarian government has one of the worst human rights records in the world, consistently ranking among the “worst of the worst” in Freedom House’s annual survey of political and civil rights.

President Teodoro Obiang seized power through a military coup. He has maintained military grip over the state instruments. Being in charge of an oil-rich country, he ‘naturally’ happens to be a benefactor of international conspiracy to keep him in power just to continue siphoning oil from this rich but impoverished country. The Western powers, who are always so eager to tout democracy as a pretext to get rid of unpleasant regimes, seem to have swallowed a silent conspiracy to keep him on as they benefit from the rich oil exploits.

Right now, they are building a new capital expected to be completed in 2020.

The current capital of Equatorial Guinea is Malabo, which is located in the Bioko Norte province on the island of Bioko, just 25 miles from the coast of Cameroon. This city has a population of over 187,000. The economy here is based on public administration and the fishing industry.
The government of this country is planning a new capital city, however. This city is known as Oyala and is located in the Wele-Nzas province of the mainland region. This site was chosen for its central location, which is near the Mengoyemen airport and between the cities of Bata and Mongomo. Oyala will become the new headquarters location for the police, military, president, administration, government, and Congress. It is expected to cover an area of 20,139 acres that will include several presidential villas and a new Congress building. Estimates suggest it will have a population of around 200,000 once complete.

Equatorial Guinea has a single University,

Universidad Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial, the main campus is 5 miles from Malabo, with a Medical School at Bata on the mainland

Equatorial Guinea is one of the richest countries in Africa.

Equatorial Guinea is one of the largest oil producers in Africa. It has a gross domestic product (GDP) of $31.769 billion (adjusted for purchasing power parity), which makes it one of the richest countries in Africa. When compared to the population size, this country has a GDP per capita, adjusted for purchasing power parity, of $38,699

The president of Equatorial Guinea has been serving since 1979.

Teodoro Obiang is the current President of Equatorial Guinea and has served since August of 1979. As President, he holds a significant amount of powers and serves as both Head of State and Head of Government. His son holds the position of Vice President. Since Obiang has held presidential power, at least 12 attempts have been made to overthrow the government.

Human Rights Watch considers his presidency to be equal to a dictatorship and several organizations claim that the elections held here are fraudulent. Obiang has been at the center of a number of investigations, including those managed by the government of France. He has been accused of using public funds to purchase luxury homes and vehicles in France.

Bata is the largest city in Equatorial Guinea and was formerly the capital city of the country.

Gained independence from Spain in 1968

Equatorial Guinea gained independence in 1968 after 190 years of Spanish rule.

The Spaniards and Portuguese were some of the earliest colonizers in the world. Before the Berlin Conference, which ushered in the ‘scramble for Africa’, Spaniards and Portuguese had already established tiny footholds in several parts of Africa. The only exceptions were the Boers (Dutch settlers) in South Africa.

However, Portuguese were the earliest colonizers. At some point in time, the Spaniards, the French and the Britons were granted territorial rights. This informs the reason as to why, apart from Spanish, Portuguese and French are also official languages.

Wonga coup

In 2004, about 70 mercenaries, including Eton-educated, former member of Britain’s Special Air Services Simon Mann, attempted to overthrow the authoritarian president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. The coup attempt failed, and those involved were arrested and jailed. Mann was convicted in July 2008 and sentenced to 34 years in prison. He was pardoned and released in November 2009.

in a statement read on public radio, Security Minister Nicolas Obama Nchama said: “Mercenaries… were recruited by Equatorial Guinean militants from certain radical opposition parties with the support of certain powers.”

The plot had been prevented thanks to an operation carried out in collaboration with the Cameroon security services, he said.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Polygyny is common among the Fang. Traditionally, upon marriage the husband gives a

Domestic Unit. Extended families often live together. When a couple marries, it is traditional for them to move in with the husband's family.

Inheritance. Tribes follow a custom of primogeniture, passing on inheritance to the oldest male child. Although it is legal for women to inherit property, in actuality this rarely happens.

Kin Groups. The Fang are exogamous (they marry outside the clan), whereas the Bubi are endogamous (they marry within the clan). In ancient times, it was even acceptable for a brother and sister to marry, as long as they did not share the same mother.


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Watch the video: Insights into Equatorial Guineas economy (February 2023).

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