Republic of Equatorial Guinea
República de Guinea Ecuatorial
Equatorial Guinea is a small West African nation of 28,051 square kilometers (10,830 square miles), roughly the same size as Maryland. It consists of a mainland enclave called Río Muni, on the west coast of Africa bordering Cameroon and Gabon, and 5 small islands off the coast of Cameroon in the Bight of Biafra: Bioko, Annobón, Corisco, and the 2 small islands known together as Islas Elobey. Total boundary length of Equatorial Guinea equals 835 kilometers (519 miles). The capital city, Malabo, is on the island of Bioko.
Estimated at 472,214 in July 2000, the population is growing at a rapid rate of 2.47 percent, which will result in the population increasing to over 600,000 by 2010. This fast rate of growth is attributed to the very high fertility rate of 4.94 children per woman, although this is combined with a very high infant mortality rate of 111 per 1,000. The high rate of population growth is reflected in the age distribution of society where over 43 percent of the population is under the age of 14 years old. Equatorial Guinea residents have an average life expectancy of 50 years. The health problems limiting many residents' lives are preventable diseases, including malaria, parasitic disease, upper respiratory infections, gastroenteritis, and pregnancy-related problems.
Decades of economic stagnation have prevented urbanization. There has been some population movement towards the capital in recent years due to the search for jobs in the booming oil industry, although a considerable amount of the population still resides in rural areas.
Although French and Spanish are the official languages, Europeans make up a very small percentage of the population. The primary ethnic groups include Bioko (Bubi and Fernandinos) and Río Muni (Fang) and languages associated with these groups are commonly spoken.
Equatorial Guinea has a literacy rate of 78.5 percent, much higher than the Sub-Saharan African average of 55 percent. Unfortunately, the economic collapse of the 1970s and 1980s left many workers with little skills and very few individuals with high levels of education. The first university in the country was established in 1999 and prior to that very few individuals could afford to study at overseas universities.
The once thriving cocoa and coffee industry were devastated by years of economic mismanagement under authoritarian rule. Cocoa and coffee production in 1969 stood at an impressive 36,161 tons and 7,664 tons, respectively. By the mid-1990s cocoa production had plummeted to less than 3,000 tons (1993) and coffee production to under 200 tons (1996). Obscured in these numbers is the decline in the quality of the products, which has been especially glaring in the quality of cocoa. With only a few large and inefficient plantations still producing coffee and cocoa, coupled with declining cocoa prices due to the European Union's (EU) loosening of regulations on the percentage of cocoa needed for chocolate production, the future of these 2 industries is bleak.
Timber exports have been increasing rapidly in recent years due to government promotion of the industry and available capital from oil revenues. By 1997 trade in tropical wood exports alone amounted to almost 6 percent of GDP. The economic success of this industry has been a mixed blessing, increasing economic growth and employment, but threatening serious environmental damage. While environmentalists have become increasingly active on this issue, the most serious challenge to this industry remains the weakening of markets in Asia due to the recent financial crisis. This crisis has both reduced exports to the region and, with the weakening of the Asian currencies, has been followed by a drop in the price of timber from other exports in Asia. The Economist Intelligence Unit argues that the competition from Asian timber exports was felt as early as 1998, decreasing sales substantially. Even with this competition, the recent investments in infrastructure (especially the roads and port systems) may greatly help the timber industry.
The small island of Annabón is situated in the midst of one of the richest fishing areas in the Atlantic Ocean. The 300,000-square-kilometer area around the island is an exclusive maritime fishing zone, although the government of Equatorial Guinea has granted concession to the EU for the use of this zone. Few reliable figures exist on the size of current production, but it is clear that the rich fishing waters offer a substantial opportunity for the development of a large domestic fishing industry.
The manufacturing industry of Equatorial Guinea contributes only a 0.6 percent of GDP. Manufacturing is limited to the mainland processing of timber and a water-bottling plant at Bata. The Economist Intelligence Unit paints a gloomy picture for the prospects of developing a manufacturing industry: "Despite the high overall growth rates, the lack of skills and capital, the small size of the local market, and the weakness of national infrastructure make any significant growth in the manufacturing sector unlikely."
In the late 1980s and early 1990s the economy of Equatorial Guinea was fueled by international aid; it is now fueled by oil. The country has emerged as the sixth largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, an amazing feat for such a small country. This sector has attracted a number of significant international investments. These investments have ranged from a joint-venture between local producers and a U.S. partner to produce diesel and methane gas, to contracts for foreign firms to explore for oil offshore, to the pumping of crude oil from existing oil deposits. Oil remains the largest export and is the potential key to further economic development. Profits from the oil industry have been used for the upgrading of the country's infrastructure.
The country is believed to have large deposits of gold, diamonds, uranium, bauxite, iron ore, titanium, manganese, and copper. Little domestic production has occurred in this sector, but new mining codes were issued in 1995 to attract investments in the sector. Efforts to negotiate mining contracts with multinational corporations has been much more complex than expected. The lack of infrastructure, less severe for the development of oil resources, is especially damaging to this sector due to the need to ship produces through rural areas to coastal ports. At the very least, the mining sector will take years to develop.
The pristine environment and rare animals offer the country a tremendous amount of potential for tourism. To date, tourism has made very little contribution to the local economy, although investments in infrastructure and the recent establishment of Mt. Alen National Park may help attract tourists. The recent construction of a number of hotels in Malabo offers some sign of the future significance of tourism to the economy.
|Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Equatorial Guinea|
|SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.|
Equatorial Guinea has no territories or colonies.
Amnesty International. "Equatorial Guinea. No Free Flow of Information. June 2000." <http://www.amnesty.it/ailib/aipub/2000/AFR/12400400.htm> . Accessed February 2001.
Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Ghana, Equatorial Guinea. London: EIU, 2000.
Energy Information Agency. "Country Analysis Briefs:Equatorial Guinea October 2000." <http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/eqguinea.html> . Accessed February 2001.
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. "CIA World Factbook 2000: Equatorial Guinea." <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ek.html> . Accessed February 2001.
U.S. Department of State. "1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Equatorial Guinea." <http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1999_hrp_report/eqguinea.html> . Accessed February 2001.
Communauté Financiére Africaine franc (CFA Fr). One CFA Fr equals 100 centimes. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 CFA Fr and notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 CFA Fr. [The country is part of the "Franc Zone," which includes a number of former French colonies in Africa that share a common currency that is pegged to the French franc. The Communauté Financiére Africaine franc was introduced in 1985.]
Petroleum, timber, cocoa.
Petroleum, manufactured goods, and equipment.
US$960 million (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).
Exports: US$555 million(f.o.b., 1999). Imports: US$300 million (f.o.b., 1999).