REPUBLIC OF EQUATORIAL GUINEA
Equatorial Guinea (Spanish: Guinea Ecuatorial,[a] French: Guinée équatoriale, Portuguese: Guiné Equatorial), officially the Republic of Equatorial Guinea (Spanish: República de Guinea Ecuatorial, French: République de Guinée équatoriale, Portuguese: República da Guiné Equatorial), is a country located in Central Africa, with an area of 28,000 square kilometres (11,000 sq mi). Formerly the colony of Spanish Guinea, its post-independence name evokes its location near both the Equator and the Gulf of Guinea. Equatorial Guinea is the only sovereign African state in which Spanish is an official language. As of 2015, the country has an estimated population of over 1.2 million.
Equatorial Guinea consists of two parts, an insular and a mainland region. The insular region consists of the islands of Bioko (formerly Fernando Pó) in the Gulf of Guinea and Annobón, a small volcanic island south of the equator. Bioko Island is the northernmost part of Equatorial Guinea and is the site of the country’s capital, Malabo. The island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe is located between Bioko and Annobón. The mainland region, Río Muni, is bordered by Cameroon on the north and Gabon on the south and east. It is the location of Bata, Equatorial Guinea’s largest city, and Oyala, the country’s planned future capital. Rio Muni also includes several small offshore islands, such as Corisco, Elobey Grande, and Elobey Chico. The country is a member of the African Union, Francophonie and the CPLP.
Since the mid-1990s, Equatorial Guinea has become one of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest oil producers. It is the richest country per capita in Africa, and its gross domestic product (GDP) adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita ranks 43rd in the world; However, the wealth is distributed very unevenly and few people have benefited from the oil riches. The country ranks 144th on the UN’s 2014 Human Development Index. The UN says that less than half of the population has access to clean drinking water and that 20% of children die before reaching the age of five.
The country’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. Reporters Without Borders ranks President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo among its “predators” of press freedom. Human trafficking is a significant problem, with the US Trafficking in Persons Report, 2012, stating that “Equatorial Guinea is a source and destination for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.” The report rates Equatorial Guinea as a “Tier 3” country, the lowest (worst) ranking: “Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.”
Pre-independence Equatorial Guinea exported cocoa, coffee and timber mostly to its colonial ruler, Spain, but also to Germany and the UK. On 1 January 1985, the country became the first non-Francophone African member of the franc zone, adopting the CFA franc as its currency. The national currency, the ekwele, was previously linked to the Spanish peseta.
The discovery of large oil reserves in 1996 and its subsequent exploitation have contributed to a dramatic increase in government revenue. As of 2004, Equatorial Guinea is the third-largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its oil production has risen to 360,000 barrels per day (57,000 m3/d), up from 220,000 only two years earlier.
Forestry, farming, and fishing are also major components of GDP. Subsistence farming predominates. The deterioration of the rural economy under successive brutal regimes has diminished any potential for agriculture-led growth.
In July 2004, the United States Senate published an investigation into Riggs Bank, a Washington-based bank into which most of Equatorial Guinea’s oil revenues were paid until recently, and which also banked for Chile’s Augusto Pinochet. The Senate report, as to Equatorial Guinea, showed that at least $35 million were siphoned off by Obiang, his family and senior officials of his regime. The president has denied any wrongdoing. While Riggs Bank in February 2005 paid $9 million as restitution for its banking for Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, no restitution was made with regard to Equatorial Guinea, as reported in detail in an Anti-Money Laundering Report from Inner City Press.
From 2000 – 2010, Equatorial Guinea saw the highest average annual increase in GDP (Gross Domestic Product), with an increase of 17%.
Equatorial Guinea is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA). Equatorial Guinea tried to become 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 was one of thirty candidate countries and obtained candidate status on 22 February 2008. It was then required to meet a number of 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. However, when Equatorial Guinea applied to extend the deadline for completing EITI validation, the EITI Board did not agree to the extension.
According to the World Bank, Equatorial Guinea has the highest GNI (Gross National Income) per capita of any Sub-Saharan country. It is 83 times larger than the GNI per capita of Burundi which is the poorest country.
Due to the large oil industry in the country, internationally recognized carriers fly to Malabo International Airport which, as of May 2014, had several direct connections to Europe and West Africa. There are three airports in Equatorial Guinea — Malabo International Airport, Bata Airport and the new Annobon Airport on the island of Annobon. Malabo International Airport is the only international one in the country.
Every airline registered in Equatorial Guinea appears on the list of air carriers prohibited in the European Union (EU) which means that they are banned from operating services of any kind within the EU. However freight carriers provide service from European cities to the capital.