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Equatorial Guinea: Big plans of a developing country

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In early February of this year, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, Malabo, hosted a symposium dedicated to economic diversification; quite relevant following the government’s implementation of the Horizon – 2020 state program aimed at driving Equatorial Guinea on the course of becoming a developing country.

Symposium participants, among whom were businessmen, economists and policy makers from many countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and the United States, agreed that the example set by Equatorial Guinea had great significance to other countries that are exporters of oil. And the investment opportunities offered by Equatorial Guinea are much more attractive than those available in many other developing and even developed countries.

The event was organized by the Government of Equatorial Guinea in close collaboration with the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which spoke about their vision of Equatorial Guinea in the global world.

Gregor Blinker, World Bank Director for Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic, Angola, Sao Tome and Principe said at the symposium that the statistics presented by many mass media publications writing about Equatorial Guinea, "does not reflect the realities of the country." Due to the fact that journalists work with outdated data, in particular, speaking about the problem of poverty, often repeat figures from 2005-2006. And these years have merely been the starting point for a dramatic leap in the development of Equatorial Guinea, linked directly to oil exports.

According to the World Bank, Equatorial Guinea's GDP per capita rose from $371 in 1995 to $24,036 in 2012. Jon Shields, deputy division chief of the International Monetary Fund African Department and mission chief for Equatorial Guinea, who spoke about the need to collect new data and to obtain reliable statistics on the country, agreed with his colleague from the World Bank.

Rodrigo de Rato, former Managing Director of the International Fund, who until 2004 was the Second Vice-Chairman of the Spanish Government and Minister of Economy and Finance of the government of José María Aznar, has recognized the significant progress of Equatorial Guinea, especially in terms of infrastructure. According to Rodrigo de Rato, the economy of Equatorial Guinea today is strong and stable.

The current structure of the economy of Equatorial Guinea is typical of commodity-exporting countries. According to the African Development Bank (ADF), the share of oil exports in Equatorial Guinea is about 80 percent of its GDP. In turn, the income from the remaining so-called non-oil segment are as follows: 65 percent is provided by construction and public works, 9 percent comes from the insurance and real estate markets, 5 percent is the share of trade activity of the hotel and restaurant businesses, 4 percent is produced by agriculture, and 1 percent from transportation, communications, manufacturing and other related activities.

Equatorial Guinea is now the third largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (USEIA) from 2013 analysis, the proven oil and gas reserves in its territory amounts to 1.1 billion barrels and 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, respectively.

Today the government is directing most of the oil revenues for the purpose of building infrastructure. As a result Equatorial Guinea, with a population of less than a million people, has two international airports, which accept daily transcontinental airliners, modern ports where new berths are constantly built, and excellent roads paved through the jungle. It only remains to build an economy that is not related to the export of oil and natural gas.

“We seek cooperation with foreign investors. We are willing to provide them with the guarantee of the safety of their investments, and ensure that they get all kinds of preferences,” said Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of Equatorial Guinea, opening a meeting in Malabo.

Once Equatorial Guinea, the former Spanish colony, was one of the poorest countries in Africa, with nearly all of its inhabitants engaged in the cultivation of cocoa; that all changed in 1995 when its first offshore oil field called Zafiro began production.

In addition to oil, Equatorial Guinea exports liquefied natural gas (LNG). Commissioning of a second LNG plant will make the country the largest gas supplier to Europe and the United States of America and is scheduled to come on line in 2016.

Today companies from the United States of America, Canada, China, Morocco, Lebanon, Turkey, Serbia, Israel, France and other countries are actively involved in Equatorial Guinea. In recent years, the rapidly changing nation has become known as the "pearl of Africa." Nearly every year Malabo hosts meetings of the leaders of the continent as well as various international sporting events.

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