Egypt – A land of mysteries

Egypt also is known as the Arab Republic of Egypt is a country in North Africa with great significance in the history of humankind. The oldest surviving work in mathematics was written by the ancient Egyptian scribe Ahmes around 1650 B.C. Found on the Rhine Mathematical Papyrus, it is titled “The Entrance into the Knowledge of All Existing Things and All Obscure Secrets. The ancient Egyptians were the first people to have a year consisting of 365 days divided into 12 months who also invented clocks.

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus called Egypt “the gift of the Nile”. This mighty river Nile, which flows north from the heart of Africa to the Mediterranean Sea is Egypt’s pride. For the ancient Egyptians, the Nile was mysterious. Unlike most other rivers, it flows south to north, it floods in the summer, and no one knew where the water came from. Explorers discovered the source of the Nile in East Africa just 150 years ago. Mystery surrounds Egypt’s origin, its religion, and its monumental architecture: colossal temples, enormous Sphinx and the pyramids which are the only remaining wonder of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Even though Mexico, not Egypt, has the largest pyramid in the world in terms of volume, Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza remains popular than The Cholula Pyramid (sometimes referred to as Quetzalcoatl) of Mexico which was built around the year A.D. 100.

Today, Egypt is the world’s most populous Arab country and the third most populous nation in Africa, (Nigeria 1st and Ethiopia 2nd). Located in the north-eastern corner of Africa, where Africa and Asia meet, it links the Muslim countries of southwest Asia with those of North Africa. Cairo is Egypt’s capital and the largest city and the largest city in Africa. Situated on both banks of the Nile, it is Egypt’s commercial and cultural Centre as well as the seat of government. Egypt’s second most important waterway is the Suez Canal, which links the Mediterranean Sea with the Gulf of Suez, an arm of the Red Sea. The canal is one of the world’s chief commercial waterways. The canal and the Isthmus of Suez are the traditional boundaries between Africa and Asia.

Egypt’s economy was highly centralized during the rule of former President Gamal Abdel NASSER but opened considerably under former Presidents Anwar EL-SADAT and Mohamed Hosni MUBARAK. Agriculture, hydrocarbons, manufacturing, tourism, and other service sectors drove the country’s relatively diverse economic activity. Egypt’s economy is growing rapidly. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew to 5.6% in the third quarter of 2019 against 5.4% in the same period of 2017-2018. The North African state is now targeting 6% GDP growth in the 2019/20 fiscal year which runs from 1st July to 30th June. The country’s economic freedom score is 52.5, making it’s economy the 144th freest in 2019 and is ranked 11th among 14 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region. The single biggest donor of Egypt is the US government, which has provided more than USD 25 billion in economic assistance since 1975.

On the “Neil economic scale”, a can of coke cost 3.50 EGP (R 3,18) and the price of litre petrol is 8.75 EGP (R 7,96). Though Egypt’s inflation rate annual inflation rate dropped to 2.4 percent in October 2019 marking the lowest annual inflation rate in recent records. The inflation rate plunged from 17.5 percent in October 2018 to 2.4 percent in October 2019.

It is amazing to imagine that an ancient civilization like Egypt’s invented toothpaste, paper as well as keys and locks. The Egyptians are intelligent people with a glorious history which has left a mark on civilization and we continue to celebrate it through counting and time. We question whether the land of mysteries is a part of this world or a portal to another dimension of life imagine before Facebook came to Egypt to showcase user identification, forensic fingerprint powder had been used for fingerprints, yip, the world’s oldest synthetic pigment produced by yours truly – ancient Egyptians, proud Africa.

South Africa is at major crossways on all fronts

It gives me great pleasure and remains a huge privilege to welcome my readers to the 2020 launch of another stunning year of reflections on African business and economic focus.

May I take the opportunity from the outset to thank all of my readers for the massive support, continued interactions and messages based on the 36 African focus articles of 2019.

I truly look forward in 2020 to a larger response and even larger suggestions on matters that concern and interest you about Africa.

The year starts well for South Africa, as it is in the seat, chairing the African Union (AU) in 2020. Many would argue that, domestically, South Africa is at major crossways on all fronts and indeed matters of leadership, economy and investors confidence, are on the minds of all interested parties.

On a global front, many in the African business sphere, are keeping a very close focus on specifically three countries’ actions and influences on the African continent.

The US, China and Britain, no doubt have huge investment and trade stake holdings in Africa. The US is interesting, as the continued embattled Trump administration needs to declare what 2020 holds for them on their trade policies to African nations.

China, no doubt for the past decade, has been a major player in Africa, in specific funding and construction. With the global economy going through ups and downs and a so-called imminent cease-fire in the US-China trade wars, the rising superpower might wish to advance its expansion into Africa in 2020.

Last, but not least, is the UK, with all eyes focused on the intended Brexit date tomorrow. No doubt with Brexit still pending, the UK will seek more openings in other markets, and it seems there is now a new view on capturing the old markets and trade of the Commonwealth areas. This would make sense, but it is imperative that should a shift be on the cards to renew the old partnership between the UK and Africa, Africa fights for a better deal. Anything less would be a revival of the past colonial era.

One of the greatest challenges facing Africa remains the lack of infrastructure and planning of such projects on the continent. Several countries have major national development plans in progress, but the bankability of these projects is severely lacking.

The AU should be the focus on a master infrastructure plan to connect Africa. Hopefully 2020 will bring a revival to all of the 55 nations in Africa, as they strive for a united Africa.

Algeria – Islands of the Mazghanna Tribe


Algeria is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya, Tunisia, and Western Sahara. Algeria is the tenth-largest country in the world, and the largest in the Arab world and Africa (followed by Democratic Republic of the Congo). Only 12 percent of its land is inhabited with over 90 percent of the country covered by the Sahara Desert. Algiers is the country’s Capital City and an important economic, commercial and financial centre. The name Algiers, is a truncated form of the city’s older name Jazā’ir Banī Mazghanna (جزائر بني مزغنة, “Islands of the Mazghanna Tribe”.

The former French colony which gained its independence in 1962 is well known for its cherries and dates which are amongst the best in the world. There is also a variety of bird species which makes the country an attraction for bird watchers.

The country has an estimated population of 42.2 Million and a GDP of $180 Billion (World Bank 2018). Petroleum and natural gas make up 98 %t of the country’s exports. The country’s crude oil reserves were the 16th largest in the world with 12,200 million barrels of oil reserves (at the start of 2017) and they are the 3rd largest producer of crude oil in Africa (2019). Algeria’s economy is highly dependent on hydrocarbons, and on global oil and gas prices. GDP growth reached 1.5 percent in 2018, compared to 1.4 percent in the previous year, and was sustained at 1.5 percent the first quarter of 2019. Growth in the hydrocarbon sector was slow, with economic activity contracting by 6.5 percent in 2018
During the 1990s – 2000s, Algeria fought a brutal civil war against an Islamist insurgency and the memories of those dark years have often kept demonstrators at bay. The protesters have rejected the vote, the first since former President Bouteflika was forced out by the military amid nationwide demonstrations in April, citing fears that the election is a mechanism for the political elite to retain power.

Algeria’s religion composition is made of Sunni Muslim (state religion) 99%, Christian and Jewish 1%. Women in Algeria, unlike those in other Islamic nations, make up 60 percent of the student population. They also have considerable prominence in society as 70 percent of Algeria’s lawyers and 60 percent of its judges are women. Algerian women make a larger contribution to household income than their male counterparts which is special looking at their religion and culture on gender orientation.

On the Neil Economic Scale, the price of a can of coke is 69.57 Algerian Dinar (DZD) (R8.59) and the price of a litre of petrol is 41.97 DZD (R5.18). The country has an average inflation rate of 2.5%.

Algeria is one of a handful of countries that have achieved 20% poverty reduction in the past two decades. The Algerian government took significant steps to improve the well being of its people by implementing social policies in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The country’s oil boom has enabled the authorities to clear Algeria’s external debt, invest in infrastructure projects, and improve the country’s Human Development Indicators. Algeria has significantly improved its human capital development: its position on the World Bank Human Capital Index (HCI) that measures five key indicators in health and education is 93rd out of 157 countries. Between 2012 and 2017, its HCI value remained more or less constant at 0.52, however in 2017, it was lower than the average for its region and income group. The resignation of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika has also left the country uncertain and the youths hoping for regime and system change.

CHAD – The Dead Heart of Africa

 

Chad, named after Lake Chad, is a landlocked Sahelian country in central Africa which is often referred to as the “Dead Heart of Africa’’ due to its distance from the sea and desert climate. The country is bordered by Cameroon in the southwest, by the Central African Republic in the south, by Libya in the north, by Niger in the west, by North Sudan in the east and it has a border with Nigeria just across Lake Chad. Chad is the largest of the 16 landlocked countries in Africa.

It gained independence from France in 1960, though France still remains a source of Chad’s budget, funding about 30% of the national budget. After independence, Idriss Deby who was an army officer and a graduate from Muammar Gaddafi’s World Revolutionary Center helped Hissen Habre topple Goukouki Oueddei government in 1982. Furthermore, in 1990 after being appointed as the chief military adviser to the Presidency, Idriss Deby toppled the government of President Hissene Habre and he became the president of Chad. Since then he is still Chad’s president making him the 4th longest current serving African President with 29 years in power.

With a population of 15.8 million, GDP of $11.05 billion and the unemployment rate of 5.9%, Chad is one of the world’s least developed countries, with a Human Development Index (HDI) ranking of 186 out of 189 countries and territories (UNDP, 2018). The country is ranked 165 out of 180 countries in the 2018 Transparency International corruption perception index and 182 among 190 economies in the World Bank Doing Business 2019 report.

Chad’s main economic activities are primarily agriculture i.e rearing of livestock, Cotton, Cattle and Gum Arabic which are primary non-oil exports. In 2017 the sector accounted for almost 50% of GDP and it also employees 90% of the population. However, the economy depends heavily on oil, which accounted on average for 78% of total exports in 2016– 18 and 89% in 2018. Oil revenues averaged more than 65% of total non-grant revenues and 60% of the national budget. This dependence on oil revenue affected the public debt which rose up to 49.2 % of GDP in 2018 however, there has been a recovery in the oil prices which might result in an estimated fall to 45.4% in 2020 (AEC,2019). The country is said to have gold deposits, silver, diamonds, quartz, bauxite, granite, tin, tungsten, uranium, limestone, kaolin, and salt (ATA,2019) despite its dependency on oil.

The major exports in 2017 were led by Crude Petroleum which represents 92.3% of the total exports of Chad, followed by Insect Resins, which account for 2.67%. The imports were led by Packaged Medicament’s which represent 6.47% of the total imports of Chad, followed by Soap, which accounts for 3.41%. The top export destinations are the United States, China, the Netherlands, India, and Turkey, and top import origins are China, France, Cameroon, India, and Belgium-Luxembourg.

On the Neil Economic Scale, the price of a can of coke in Chad is 597 CFA (R14.85) and a litre of petrol costs 600 CFA (R14.92). Inflation Rate is -2.8 which is rare in Africa.

Investing in Chad has been difficult due to its limited infrastructure, lack of trained workers, extensive government bureaucracy, and poor governance. The country is also experiencing violence and instability from internal rivalries between ethnic groups, conflicts in neighbouring countries and fighting the extremist group Boko Haram, which have negatively impacted the country’s competitiveness and growth. The government has however made regional integration a pillar of its development strategy and also assisting more than 450 000 refugees from neighbouring countries who make 4% of Chad’s population.

Djibouti – Land of the White Gold

The country named after its capital, Djibouti City, Djibouti lies in northeast Africa on the Gulf of Aden in the Horn Of Africa and at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. Formerly known as French Somaliland (1896–1967) and the French Territory of the Afars and Issas (1967–77), the country took Djibouti as its name when it gained independence from France on June 27, 1977. It borders Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia. The country which is almost the size of Massachusetts, is mainly a stony desert, with scattered plateaus and highlands

With an estimated population of 960 000 people and a GDP of $1.97 Billion (World Bank 2018), the country is home to the 3rd most Saline Body water and 6th in the World called lake Assal. The lake is a crater lake in the Danakil Desert in central Djibouti. Dormant volcanoes and black lava fields back its emerald water.

More than 155m below sea level, it’s the lowest point in Africa and the third-lowest point on Earth after the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. No outflow occurs from the lake, and due to high evaporation, the salinity level of its waters is 10 times than that of the sea. Lake Assal is the world’s largest salt reserve which has been named the “White Gold” and has given life to its nation.

Djibouti has had its geographical location working to its advantage which can be seen in the Developed countries’ interests in setting up either a base or shipping representation in the country. located at the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, the gateway of the Suez Canal – through which 10 percent of the world’s oil exports and 20 percent of all commercial goods travel. The Gulf of Aden/Red Sea is a critical water space, through which a significant amount of global merchant shipping passes, China has advanced in taking advantage of this by setting up a military base in Djibouti in 2017 – a step that elevated the African nation’s status while sparking concerns over China’s military might. This forms China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”, supporting Beijing’s juggling of commercial and military objectives in Africa. It hosts other military bases for France, the United States, Japan, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as well as other foreign countries with forces supporting global anti-piracy efforts.

The country’s economy has been driven by a state-of-the-art port complex, among the most sophisticated in the world. The size of its economy limits its ability to diversify production and increases its reliance on foreign markets, making it more vulnerable to market downturns and hampering its access to external capital. The country has low agricultural productivity as only 4% of the country’s land is arable, hence relying on imports for food supply.

On the Neil Economic Scale, the price of a can of Coke in Djibouti is 90 DJF (Djiboutian franc) (R7.48) and the price of a litre of petrol is 220 DJF (R17.30). The inflation rate is around 2.18%.

Djibouti’s Doing Business ranking improved from 171th in 2016 to 99th in 2018. The government continues to focus on financial-, telecommunications-, and trade-related services, solidifying the country’s position as an important regional business and trade hub in the Horn of Africa. As a result, the economy relies heavily on the service sector, which accounts for some four-fifths of the country’s gross domestic product. The government of Djibouti has maintained a good and stable political environment and governance issues are not part of the list of problems but most significant are environmental problems – deforestation, desertification, water pollution, and the protection of its wildlife. The country remains with great potential bigger and greater than its size.

Sierra Leone – The Lion Mountains

 

Characterised by British Colonial Heritage which came to an end on the 27th of April in 1961, Sierra Leone is an English-Speaking country in West Africa bordered by Guinea in the Northeast, Liberia in Southeast and The Atlantic Ocean in the Southwest.

Named the “Lion Mountains” by the Portuguese Explores, Sierra Leone has an estimated population of 7.6 Million and an estimated GDP of 4 Billion (World Bank 2018). The largest and Economic Hub of the country is its Capital city Freetown. The country has gone through several coups and has had its fair share of unrest, civil wars, and Ebola outbreaks but it remains as one of the most religiously tolerant countries with the 77% Muslim majority coexisting with the 23 % Christian minority with close to nonreligious driven conflict.

Sierra Leone like many of its African compatriots is richly blessed with many natural resources like Diamond, Iron, and Gold. In 1972 On February 14, the country made headlines when the world’s third-largest gem-quality diamond- called the “Star of Sierra Leone”- was discovered in Koidu. Historically the diamonds became the source of unrest as the rebel groups had control of the major diamond deposits and they became known as Blood Diamonds as they fuelled procurement of arms and gave rise to the uprising in the country for more than 4 decades. Today the country remains one of the top 10 largest producers of Diamonds in the world and artisanal mining is still the second-largest employer from agriculture in the country.

Sierra Leone remains dependent on agriculture which can be seen by the 60% contribution to the GDP of the agriculture sector in 2017 with major cash crops like Coffee, rice and cocoa production. The stagnation of the economy in 2018 could be explained the reduction in mining sector output as they were a major disruption in productivity on the Tonkolili and Marampa mines which are major Iron-ore mines. This could persist to 2019 as the government has cancelled major Mining Licenses including Tonkolili and Marampa. Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio, since his election last year, has been reviewing mining contracts and considering changes to the law that would ensure the West African nation benefits from its natural resources.

Electricity supply is still a major constraint in the country and the lack of infrastructure, and an unfavourable business environment will also continue to harm growth. Tourism prospects were also particularly affected by this situation, and China cancelling funding $400m (£304m) for a new airport near the capital in 2018. The IMF has advised the country to avoid huge capital projects which could put the country in a debt trap as the level of public debt (62.99 % of GDP in 2018) is too high.

On the Neil Economic Scale, the price of a can of coke in Sierra Leone is 11407.50 SLL (R17.14) and the price of a liter of petrol is 8,500 SLL (R12.77). The average Inflation rate is 15.2%.

Sierra Leone remains a great country with so much potential of transforming the prospects of its people. The new Government through President Julius Maada Bio has put in place new measures to fight against corruption, improve the quality of life of the population by channelling revenue generated from its natural resources to the development of the country. The estimated $250 Million foreign currency generated from diamond exports could do so much good for the people of Sierra Leone and the government has been trying to improve governance of strategic resources to ensure the beneficiation of the people.

Cameroon – Home of the “Chariot of Gods”

 

Cameroon, commonly known as “Africa in miniature” is a country that is sandwiched between Central Africa and West Africa and bordered by six countries, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, Central African Republic, Chad, and Nigeria. Historically and geographically, the country is in West Africa, although it is not a member state of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). It’s a home of the world’s largest frog known as Goliath Frog, which grows up to 34 cm (a little over 13 inches) in length and weighing up to 3.3 kg (7.3 pounds). Not only that but it’s also a home of the tallest mountain in West Africa, Mount Cameroon and the famous volcano locally know as Mount Faka or the Chariot of Gods which is the country’s main tourist attractions. Finally, it’s a home of Samuel Eto’s Elis, one of the greatest African footballers of all time and one of the best strikers in the world who won African Player of the year 4 times.

After World War 1, the country was divided into two zones one lead by the British (Northern and Southern Cameroon) and the other part lead by France (French Cameroon). In 1960, French Cameroon gained its independence with Ahmadou Ahidjo as the president and the following year, Southern Cameroon joined in to form the Republic of Cameroon while Northern Cameroon chose to join Nigeria. After Ahidjo ruled for 20 years he later resigned and handled overpower to the then prime minister Paul Biya who was sworn-in on the 6th of November 1982. 86 years Paul Biya is still the president of Cameroon making him the 2nd longest current serving Africa president after Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea with 37 years in power.

With a population of over 25 million, of which 90% are people under 25 years (AFD,2019), and unemployment rate of 3.4% Cameroon is a lower-middle-income country ranked 152 out of 180 countries in the 2018 Transparency international corruption perceptions index and 166 out of 190 economies in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report.

Cameroon is endowed with rich natural resources, including oil and gas, minerals, high-value species of timber, and agricultural products, such as coffee, cotton, cocoa, maize, and cassava. It has the most diversified economy in Central Africa, with the primary sectors contributes highly to the domestic economic activities. It’s the fifth-largest producer of cocoa in the world and one of the largest producers of crude oil in Sub Saharan Africa. (World Bank 2019). Its major export is crude oil (contributing 40% of the total export), timber, cocoa, bananas, and coffee and its top imports are refined petroleum, rice, crude petroleum, special purpose ships, and packaged medicament.

On the Neil Economic Scale, the price of a can of coke is 514 CFA (R13) and the price of a liter of petrol costs 630 CFA (R15.53). The average Inflation rate is estimated to be at 2.12%

The country’s GDP rose to $38.05 billion in 2018, an increase of 10.25 % in the previous year. The growth was mainly due to an increase in gas production; a slower contraction in the oil sector; continued dynamism in construction, processing and logging sectors; and a robust service sector (MPO 2019). To reach economic emergence by 2035 and based on the Strategic Document for Growth and Employment (2010–2020), a 10-year strategy for the Vision 2035, the government has implemented a substantial investment program to accelerate growth, create decent jobs, and reduce poverty. (AEO, 2019). However, the conflict between the English minority Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis remains detrimental to the development and growth of the country mainly causing harm to the young population as thousands had been either displaced or killed and out of schools.

Somali – The Ancient Lost Kingdom of Punt

Somali, well known as the ‘Land of Punt’ or the land of the gods by ancient Egyptians, is a country situated on the Horn of Africa, which lies along the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Just across the Gulf of Aden is Saba the land of legendary, eloquent politician and expert theologian Queen of Sheba, who paid a visit to the wise king Solomon to quench her thirst for knowledge.

After Somali gained its independence from Britain in 1960, the country only enjoyed 9 years of parliamentary democracy until 1969, when the military led by Mohamed Siyad Barre overthrew the incipient civilian government in a bloodless coup. After more than two decades, Barre government was late ousted from power by a conglomeration of various clan-based rebel groups in 1991.Late in 2000 after twelve failed attempts to organize a central government, the government of Somali was formed though it is still facing challenges from Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabab insurgents.

With a population of 15 million of which 70% is under 30, an unemployment rate of 14% and a GDP of $7.48 billion, Somali is ranked as the most corrupt country in world by transparency international and is ranked 190 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business. It is classified as a debt distress country with external debt estimate of 77% of 2017 GDP. Its economy is mainly dependent on international Aid, remittances, foreign direct investment and grants which represent more than a quarter of the country’s GDP as a sources of revenue.

The country’s main economic activity is livestock which contribute three-fifths to the economy. As a result its major exports are led by sheep and Goats representing 44.4% of the total exports, followed by Bovine which accounted for 22.1%.Its main imports are Raw Sugar which represent 11.8% of the total imports, followed by Rice, which account for 7.41%. Its major export destinations are Oman, China, Japan, France and Bulgaria and its top import origins are China, India, Oman, Kenya and Turkey.

On the Neil Economic scale, the price of a can of coke in Somalia is 342.20 (SOS) Somali Shillings (R8.67) and the price of a litre of petrol is 493(SOS) Somali Shillings (R12.51). The annual rate of inflation of the country is estimated at 4.5% as at October 2019.

Despite its economy being driven by agriculture; livestock raising and the services sector, the country is reported to hold large, untapped reserves of numerous natural resources such as iron ore, uranium, copper, tin, bauxite, gypsum, salt, and natural gas. According to Sophy Owuor (2019) Somali holds a huge potential of oil reserve because of its proximity to the Gulf of Arab states such as Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The country is also believed to have one of the largest gypsum reserves in the world. In 1960s Somali Uranium reserves were one of the largest in the world and was estimated to be 25% of worlds known reserves. It also had a biggest salt factory in the world which was later destroyed by fire during the British conquest of Italian East Africa. This sector has failed to develop mainly due to the country’s high political instability and poor infrastructure.

Somalia has the potential to be a regional economic hub due to its strategic geographic location and having the longest coastline in Africa. Its key opportunities growths include a vibrant private sector; a diaspora willing to invest in the country; regional integration; import substitution and export promotion; nascent agricultural, agribusiness, and fishing industries, and a young population (AEO 2019).

Gabon – Home of the Free City

With approximately 85 percent of its total land being covered by rain-forests, Gabon, a Country in Central Africa is strategically nestled on the Gulf of Guinea. It’s home to 80 percent of Africa’s gorilla population; 50 percent of all remaining forest elephants in Africa; and thousands of species of birds, reptiles, mammals and plants that you can’t find elsewhere, indeed Gabon heavily endowed with unique flora and fauna. It’s Capital City Libreville, also known as ‘free city’ was the landing place for a ship of freed slaves in the 1800s. It was later in 1849 declared the city for the freed slaves.

Bordered by Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and The Republic of Congo, there is not much known about Gabon prior to European contact in the late 15th century, and this gives the country and air of mystery. Gabon is known for its beautiful and untouched beaches, which only adds to this fact. The 885 kilometres of Atlantic coastline are truly a sight to behold.

Gabon has a population of 2.1 million, with 86 % of Gabonese living in urban areas, it has one of the lowest population densities in Africa. It has unemployment rate of 19.5%, a risk rating of B and classified as an upper-middle-income country by the World Bank.

Gabon economic growth for past five years has mainly been driven by its heavy production of oil and manganese. It’s the Third largest producer of manganese in the world and the fifth largest oil producer in Africa. The oil sector accounted for 80% of exports, 45 % of GDP and 60% of fiscal revenue on average for the past five years (World Bank 2019). It’s also one of the largest exporters of raw wood in Africa and one of the world’s top 10 producers. Gabon’s cash crops are palm oil, cocoa, coffee, and sugar. They are also major exporters of timber. Its major imports are machinery (14% of total imports), boats (14%), electrical machinery (11%), and Poultry meat (6%) (ITC, 2017).

In 2018 Gabon’s GDP growth reached an estimated 2.0%, up from 0.5% in 2017 with a figure of $17.02 billion (IMF). Industry sector accounted for 45.47%, followed by Service Sector 42.65 %, Manufacturing 17.62% and Agriculture 5.27%. Gabon’s GDP per capita income is over four times that of most sub-Saharan African countries, making it one of the highest in the region. In the quest of diversifying its economy, the government has promoted the local processing of timber, palm oil, and manganese which has resulted in the growth of manufacturing sector, contributing 17.62 % to GDP in 2018 compared with 6% in 2012

Its public debt decreased to 58.4% GDP in 2018 from 62.7% GDP in 2017 mainly due to rapidly increasing of large investments, however, its high proportion of external debt is denominated in foreign currencies which remains a source of concern. Fiscal deficit improved from 3.6% in 2017 to an estimated 0.3% in 2018, largely through fiscal consolidation (AFDB)

On the Neil Economic Scale, the price of a can of Coke in Gabon is 400 XAF (Central African Franc) (R9.96) and the price of a liter of petrol is 693 XAF (R17.29). Inflation rate in Gabon is 2.8%.

For over 50 years Gabon had never experience a coup attempt until January the 7th 2019, when the military tried to overthrow the current President, Ali Bongo Ondimba. Bongo came in power in 2009, after the death of his father Omar Bongo who held the presidency for 41 years. The coup, however, was unsuccessful.

Gabon is currently facing serious challenges; Low reserves, low economic activity, infrastructure impediments, a small and vulnerable banking sector, and insufficient protection of vulnerable groups. However, In the context of the three-year extended arrangement under the Extended Fund Facility signed with the IMF in 2017, the government’s priorities for 2019 remain fiscal consolidation and structural reforms (Societe Generale,2019).

Equatorial Guinea – Goliath of Africa

In 1968 Equatorial Guinea claimed independence from Spain making it the youngest Spanish colony in Africa and the only Spanish speaking country in African apart from the tiny Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla which sit on the northern shores of Morocco’s Mediterranean coast. The country’s current capital city, Malabo, is the only capital city in the world by a non-island nation not to be located on its mainland but on a tiny Bioko island.

With a population of 1.3 million, Equatorial Guinea is a high-income country in the West African territory which is comprised of, Río Muni (also known as Continental Equatorial Guinea) and five islands (collectively known as insular Equatorial Guinea). Just a few years before its independence the country’s exports per capita were the highest in Africa. In addition, the country was the 5th largest producer of cocoa on the continent despite its size compared to its neighbouring rivals: Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon. Equatorial Guinea is the third-largest producer of oil in Sub-Sahara Africa after Nigeria and Angola. The country is also rich in mineral resources like gold, oil, uranium, diamond, columbite-tantalite and petroleum which were discovered in the 1990s.

The first President of Equatorial Guinea, was Francisco Macias Nguema who after winning the election in 1971 pushed through a constitution that names him a president for life. However,8 years later, his nephew, Lieut. Col Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo who was the minister of defence led a military coup that overthrew him in 1979.  40 years later, Teodoro Obiang Nguema is still the president of Equatorial Guinea making him the longest current serving non-royal President in Africa, perhaps living the dream of his uncle. In 2009 he won the elections with over 95 percent of the vote and in 2016 he appointed his son Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, as the Vice President.

The economy is heavily dependent on hydrocarbons to which in 2017 accounted for 56% of GDP, 95% of exports and 80% of fiscal revenue. However, in 2018 the economy contracted by 5.8 % due to the reduction in hydrocarbons exports. Its banking sector nonperforming loans stood at about 32 percent of total loans in 2018 and government domestic arrears at 17 % of GDP in 2018. (World Bank, 2019). These have affected economic activity and government ability to use debt finance to support its growth. The GDP as of 2018 was $13.32 billion with industry contributing 56.4% followed by the service sector at 40.5%, manufacturing at 25.39% and Agriculture 2.34%.

On the Neil Economic scale, the price of a can of Coke costs 875 CFA (R21.89) and the price of a liter of petrol is 648 CFA (R16.25). Inflation is standing at 0.7% and the unemployment rate at 7.6 %.

Equatorial Guinea was one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies and also the first to graduate from the Least Developed Country category, however, the economy has been experiencing recession for four consecutive years now with a decline of -5.6% in 5 years annual growth. The economy is expected to remain in recession in the medium-term as an investment in major hydrocarbon projects remains uncertain. (World Bank 2019). Like the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, Equatorial Guinea suffers from the “curse of natural wealth”. Despite it being a mineral-rich country and one of the few countries in Africa to have a balance of payment surplus and a handsome per capita income, most of its wealth goes to private pockets of the few ruling elites yet a majority of its citizens survive on less than a dollar a day making the country one of the living Goliath paradox of Africa.