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.