Republic of Equatorial Guinea
Location: Western Africa, bordering the Bay of Biafra. Bordering nations--Cameroon, Gabon.
Area: 28,050 sq. km; slightly smaller than Maryland.
Cities: Capital--Malabo. Other cities--Bata (also capital of Littoral province on the mainland).
Terrain: Varies. Bioko Island is volcanic, with three major peaks of 9,876 feet, 7,416 feet and 6,885 feet. Behind the coastal plain, the mainland provinces are hilly at a level of approximately 2,000 feet, with some 4,000 foot peaks. Annobon Island is volcanic.
Climate: Tropical; always hot, humid. Bata on the mainland is somewhat drier and cooler.
Nationality: Noun--Equatorial Guinean(s), Equatoguinean(s) Adjective--Equatorial Guinean, Equatoguinean.
Population (July 2000 est.): 474,214.
Annual growth rate (2000 est.): 2.6%.
Ethnic groups: The Fang ethnic group of the mainland constitutes the great majority of the population and dominates political life and business. The Bubi group comprises about 50,000 people living mainly in Bioko island. The Annobonese on the island of Annobon are estimated at about 3,000 in number. The other three ethnic group are found on the coast of Rio Muni and include the Ndowe and Kombe(about 3,000 each) and the Bujebas (about 2,000). The pygmy populations have long been integrated into the dominant Bantu-speaking cultures. Europeans less than 1,000, mostly Spanish.
Languages: Official--Spanish, French; other--pidgin English, Fang, Bubi, Ibo.
Religion: Nominally Christian and predominantly Roman Catholic; pagan practices.
Education: Primary school compulsory for ages 6-14. Attendance--unknown. Literacy (1999 est.)--83%. Health (2000 est.): Life expectancy--50 years. Infant mortality rate--105/1,000.
Type: Republic in transition to multiparty democracy (the transition appears to have halted).
Independence: October 12, 1968 (from Spain).
Constitution: Approved by national referendum November 17, 1991; amended January 1995.
Branches: Executive--President (Chief of State) and a Council of Ministers appointed by the president. Legislative--80 member House of People's Representatives (members directly elected by universal suffrage to serve five-year terms). Judicial--Supreme Tribunal.
Administrative subdivisions: Seven provinces--Annobon, Bioko Norte, Bioko Sur, Centro Sur, Kie-Ntem, Litoral, Wele-Nzas.
Political parties: The ruling party is the Partido Democratico de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE), formed July 30, 1987. Numerous other parties, primarily in opposition, were allowed to form in the early 1990s.
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal adult.
GDP (2001 est.): $1 billion.
GDP growth rate: 15% (IMF 2001 forecast).
GDP per capita (2000 est.): $2,000.
Inflation rate (2000 est.): 6%.
Unemployment rate (1998 est.): 30%.
Natural resources: Petroleum, timber, small unexploited deposits of gold, manganese, and uranium.
Agriculture (1999 est.): 16% of GDP. Products--coffee, cocoa, rice, yams, cassava (tapioca), bananas, palm oil nuts, manioc (tapioca), livestock, and timber.
Industry (1999 est.): 75.3% of GDP. Types--petroleum, fishing, sawmilling, natural gas.
Services (1999 est.): 8.6% of GDP.
Trade (2000 est.): Exports--$1,363 million: hydrocarbons (95%), timber (2%-3%), others (3%-2%). Imports--$542 million. Major trading partners--United States, China, France, Spain, Cameroon, Great Britain, and Gabon. The United States is the largest cumulative bilateral foreign investor in Equatorial Guinea. The majority of U.S. exports to Equatorial Guinea consist of energy sector-related transportation and machinery equipment worth $95.93 million. The United States main import from Equatorial Guinea is petroleum $154.72 million. In 1999, the European Union (EU) imported $281.7 million in goods from Equatorial Guinea, 89% of which was petroleum and 7% timber. The European union exported $104 million to Equatorial Guinea. Approximately 20% of these exports were oil and gas-related, and the remaining 80% ranged from agricultural products to clothing to used cars. Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF). Fiscal year: April 1-March 31.
The Republic of Equatorial Guinea is located in west central Africa. Bioko Island lies about 40 kilometers (25 mi.) from Cameroon. Annobon Island lies about 595 kilometers (370 mi.) southwest of Bioko Island. The larger continental region of Rio Muni lies between Cameroon and Gabon on the mainland; it includes the islands of Corisco, Elobey Grande, Elobey Chico, and adjacent islets.
Bioko Island, called Fernando Po until the 1970s, is the largest island in the Gulf of Guinea--2,017 square kilometers (780 sq. mi.). It is shaped like a boot, with two large volcanic formations separated by a valley that bisects the island at its narrowest point. The 195-kilometer (120-mi.) coastline is steep and rugged in the south but lower and more accessible in the north, with excellent harbors at Malabo and Luba, and several scenic beaches between those towns.
On the continent, Rio Muni covers 26,003 square kilometers (10,040 sq. mi.). The coastal plain gives way to a succession of valleys separated by low hills and spurs of the Crystal Mountains. The Rio Benito (Mbini) which it divides Rio Muni in half, is unnavigable except for a 20-kilometer stretch at its estuary. Temperatures and humidity in Rio Muni are generally lower than on Bioko Island.
Annobon Island, named for its discovery on New Year's Day 1472, is a small volcanic island covering 18 square kilometers (7 sq. mi.). The coastline is abrupt except in the north; the principal volcanic cone contains a small lake. Most of the estimated 1,900 inhabitants are fisherman specializing in traditional, smallscale tuna fishing and whaling. The climate is tropical--heavy rainfall, high humidity, and frequent seasonal changes with violent windstorms.
The majority of the Equatoguinean people are of Bantu origin. The largest tribe, the Fang, is indigenous to the mainland, but substantial migration to Bioko Island has resulted in Fang dominance over the earlier Bantu inhabitants. The Fang constitute 80% of the population and are themselves divided into 67 clans. Those in the northern part of Rio Muni speak Fang-Ntumu, while those in the south speak Fang-Okah; the two dialects are mutually unintelligible. The Bubi, who constitute 15% of the population, are indigenous to Bioko Island. In addition, there are coastal tribes, sometimes referred to as "Playeros": Ndowes, Bujebas, Balengues, and Bengas on the mainland and small islands, and "Fernandinos", a Creole community, on Bioko. Together, these groups comprise 5% of the population. There is a growing number of foreigners from neighboring Cameroon, Nigeria, Gabon, and Nigeria. In 2001, there were about 280 Americans residing in Equatorial Guinea.
Spanish is the official language. The Roman Catholic Church has greatly influenced both religion and education.
Equatoguineans tend to have both a Spanish first name and an African first and last name. When written, the Spanish and African first names are followed by the father's first name (which becomes the principal surname) and the mother's first name. Thus people may have up to four names, with a different surname for each generation.
The first inhabitants of the region that is now Equatorial Guinea are believed to have been Pygmies, of whom only isolated pockets remain in northern Rio Muni. Bantu migrations between the 17th and 19th centuries brought the coastal tribes and later the Fang. Elements of the latter may have generated the Bubi, who emigrated to Bioko from Cameroon and Rio Muni in several waves and succeeded former neolithic populations. The Annobon population, native to Angola, was introduced by the Portuguese via Sao Tome.
The Portuguese explorer, Fernando Po (Fernao do Poo), seeking a route to India, is credited with having discovered the island of Bioko in 1471. He called it Formosa ("pretty flower"), but it quickly took on the name of its European discoverer. The Portuguese retained control until 1778, when the island, adjacent islets, and commercial rights to the mainland between the Niger and Ogoue Rivers were ceded to Spain in exchange for territory in South America (Treaty of Pardo). From 1827 to 1843, Britain established a base on the island to combat the slave trade. Conflicting claims to the mainland were settled in 1900 by the Treaty of Paris, and periodically, the mainland territories were united administratively under Spanish rule.
Spain lacked the wealth and the interest to develop an extensive economic infrastructure in what was commonly known as Spanish Guinea during the first half of this century. However, through a paternalistic system, particularly on Bioko Island, Spain developed large cacao plantations for which thousands of Nigerian workers were imported as laborers. At independence in 1968, largely as a result of this system, Equatorial Guinea had one of the highest per capita incomes in Africa. The Spanish also helped Equatorial Guinea achieve one of the continent's highest literacy rates and developed a good network of health care facilities.
In 1959, the Spanish territory of the Gulf of Guinea was established with status similar to the provinces of metropolitan Spain. As the Spanish Equatorial Region, it was ruled by a governor general exercising military and civilian powers. The first local elections were held in 1959, and the first Equatoguinean representatives were seated in the Spanish parliament. Under the Basic Law of December 1963, limited autonomy was authorized under a joint legislative body for the territory's two provinces. The name of the country was changed to Equatorial Guinea. Although Spain's commissioner general had extensive powers, the Equatorial Guinean General Assembly had considerable initiative in formulating laws and regulations.
In March 1968, under pressure from Equatoguinean nationalists and the United Nations, Spain announced that it would grant independence to Equatorial Guinea. A constitutional convention produced an electoral law and draft constitution. In the presence of a UN observer team, a referendum was held on August 11, 1968, and 63% of the electorate voted in favor of the constitution, which provided for a government with a General Assembly and a Supreme Court with judges appointed by the president.
In September 1968, Francisco Macias Nguema was elected first president of Equatorial Guinea, and independence was granted in October. In July 1970, Macias created a single-party state and by May 1971, key portions of the constitution were abrogated. In 1972 Macias took complete control of the government and assumed the title of President-for-Life. The Macias regime was characterized by abandonment of all government functions except internal security, which was accomplished by terror; this led to the death or exile of up to one-third of the country's population. Due to pilferage, ignorance, and neglect, the country's infrastructure--electrical, water, road, transportation, and health--fell into ruin. Religion was repressed, and education ceased. The private and public sectors of the economy were devastated. Nigerian contract laborers on Bioko, estimated to have been 60,000, left en masse in early 1976. The economy collapsed, and skilled citizens and foreigners left.
In August 1979, Macias' nephew from Mongomo and former director of the infamous Black Beach prison, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, led a successful coup d'etat; Macias was arrested, tried, and executed. Obiang assumed the Presidency in October 1979. Obiang initially ruled Equatorial Guinea with the assistance of a Supreme Military Council. A new constitution, drafted in 1982 with the help of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, came into effect after a popular vote on August 15, 1982; the Council was abolished, and Obiang remained in the presidency for a 7-year term. He was reelected in 1989. In February 1996, he again won reelection with 98% of the vote; several opponents withdrew from the race, however, and the election was criticized by international observers. Subsequently, Obiang named a new cabinet, which included some opposition figures in minor portfolios.
Despite the formal ending of one-party rule in 1991, Mr. Obiang's PDGE remains the dominant political party. In the legislative election in March 1999, the party increased its majority in the 80-seat parliament from 68 to 75. The main opposition parties, the Convergencia para la democracia Social (CPDS) and the Union Popular (UP) supposedly won four seats and one seat, respectively, in Parliament; they refused to accept them. Local elections in May 2000 saw the PDGE overwhelm its rivals once again, winning a clean sweep of all major municipalities. However, the main opposition parties rejected the elections as invalid and boycotted them.
The 1982 constitution gives the President extensive powers, including naming and dismissing members of the cabinet, making laws by decree, dissolving the Chamber of Representatives, negotiating and ratifying treaties and calling legislative elections. The President retains his role as commander in chief of the armed forces and minister of defense, and he maintains close supervision of the military activity. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President and operates under powers designated by the President. The Prime Minister coordinates government activities in areas other than foreign affairs, national defense and security.
The Chamber of Representatives is comprised of 15 members appointed by the President and 45 members chosen by indirect elections; the term is 5 years. Adult citizens elect officials by secret ballot in their towns and villages. These officials then become electors who choose the 45 representatives from their own number, one per district, to serve in the national legislature. In practice, the Chamber is not independent and is unable to act without presidential approval or direction.
The President appoints the governors of the seven provinces. Each province is divided administratively into districts and municipalities. The internal administrative system falls under the Ministry of Territorial Administration; several other ministries are represented at the provincial and district levels.
The judicial system follows similar administrative levels. At the top are the President and his judicial advisors (the Supreme Court). In descending rank are the appeals courts, chief judges for the divisions, and local magistrates. Tribal laws and customs are honored in the formal court system when not in conflict with national law. The current court system, which often uses customary law, is a combination of traditional, civil, and military justice, and it operates in an ad hoc manner for lack of established procedures and experienced judicial personnel.
The other official branch of the government is the State Council. The State Council's main function is to serve as caretaker in case of death or physical incapacity of the President. It comprises the following ex officio members: the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, the President of the National Assembly and the Chairman of the Social and Economic Council.
In power since 1979, the Obiang government has made little progress in stimulating the economy. Extremely serious health and sanitary conditions persist, and the educational system remains in desperate condition. Although the abuses and atrocities that characterized the Macias years have been eliminated, effective rule of law does not exist. Religious freedom is tolerated.
Principal Government Officials
President--Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Brig. Gen. (ret.)
Prime Minister--Candido Muatetema Rivas
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation--Santiago Nsobeya Efuman
Ambassador to the United States--Teodoro Biyogo Nsue
Equatorial Guinea maintains an embassy in Washington, D.C. at 1712 I Street NW, Suite 410, Washington, DC 20005 (Tel. (202) 393-0525, Fax. (202) 393-0348). Its mission to the United Nations is at 801 Second Avenue, Suite 1403, New York, N.W. 10017 (Tel. 212-599-1523).
In the period following Spain's grant of local autonomy to Equatorial Guinea in 1963, there was a great deal of political party activity. Bubi and Fernandino parties on the island preferred separation from Rio Muni or a loose federation. Ethnically based parties in Rio Muni favored independence for a united country comprising Bioko and Rio Muni, an approach that ultimately won out. (The Movimiento para la Auto-determinacion de la Isla de Bioko (MAIB) which advocates independence for the island under Bubi control, is one of the offshoots of the era immediately preceding independence). After the accession of Macias to power, political activity largely ceased in Equatorial Guinea. Opposition figures who lived among the exile communities in Spain and elsewhere agitated for reforms; some of them had been employed in the Macias and Obiang governments. After political activities in Equatorial Guinea were legalized in the early 1990s, some opposition leaders returned to test the waters, but repressive actions have continued sporadically.
With the prodding of the United Nations, the United States, Spain, and other donor countries, the government undertook an electoral census in 1995. Freely contested municipal elections, the country's first, were held in September. Most observers agree that the elections themselves were relatively free and transparent and that the opposition parties garnered between two-thirds and three-quarters of the total vote. The government, however, delayed announcement of the results and then claimed a highly dubious 52% victory overall and the capture of 19 of 27 municipal councils. Ironically, Malabo's council went to the opposition. In early January 1996 Obiang called presidential elections to be held in 6 weeks. The campaign was marred by allegations of fraud, and most of the other candidates withdrew in the final week. Obiang claimed re-election with 98% of the vote. International observers agreed the election was not free or fair. In an attempt to ameliorate his critics, Obiang announced his new cabinet, giving minor portfolios to some people identified by the government as being opposition figures.
Since independence, the two Presidents (Macias and his nephew Obiang) have been the dominant political forces. Since 1979, President Obiang has been constrained only by a need to maintain a consensus among his advisers and political supporters, most of whom are drawn from the Nguema family in Mongomo, in the eastern part of Rio Muni. The Nguema family is part of the Esangui subclan of the Fang. Alleged coup attempts in 1981 and 1983 raised little sympathy among the populace.
President Obiang's rule, in which schools were permitted to reopen and primary education expanded, and public utilities and roads restored, compares favorably with Macias' tyranny and terror. It has been criticized for not implementing genuine democratic reforms. Corruption and a dysfunctional judicial system disrupt the development of Equatorial Guinea's economy and society. In March 2001 the President appointed a new Prime Minister, Candido Muatetema Rivas, and replaced several ministers perceived to be especially corrupt. However, the government budget still does not include all revenues and expenditures. The United Nations Development Program has proposed a broad governance reform program, but the Equato Guinean Government was not moving rapidly to implement it.
Although Equatorial Guinea lacks a well-established democratic tradition comparable to the developed democracies of the West, it has progressed toward developing a participatory political system out of the anarchic, chaotic, and repressive conditions of the Macias years.
Oil and gas exports have increased substantially and will drive the economy for years to come. Real GDP growth reached 23% in 1999, and initial estimates suggested growth of about 15% in 2001, according to IMF 2001 forecast. Per capita income grew from about $1,000 in 1998 to about $2,000 in 2000. The energy export sector is responsible for this rapid growth. Oil production has increased from 81,000 barrels per day in 1998 to about 210,000 bpd by early 2001. There is ongoing additional development of existing commercially viable oil and gas deposits as well as new exploration in other offshore concessions.
Equatorial Guinea has other largely unexploited human and natural resources, including a tropical climate, fertile soils, rich expanses of water, deepwater ports, and an untapped, if unskilled, source of labor. Following independence in 1968, the country suffered under a repressive dictatorship for 11 years, which devastated the economy. The agricultural sector, which historically was known for cocoa of the highest quality, has never fully recovered. In 1969 Equatorial Guinea produced 36,161 tons of highly bid cocoa, but production dropped to 4,800 tons in 2000. Coffee production also dropped sharply during this period to bounce back to 100,000 metric tons in 2000. Timber is the main source of foreign exchange after oil, accounting for about 12.4% of total export earnings in 1996-99. Timber production increased steadily during the 1990s; wood exports reached a record 789,000 cubic meters in 1999 as demand in Asia (mainly China) gathered pace after the 1998 economic crisis. Most of the production (mainly Okoume) goes to exports, and only 3% is processed locally. Environmentalists fear that exploitation at this level is unsustainable and point out to the permanent damage already inflicted on the forestry reserves on Bioko.
Consumer price inflation has declined from the 38.8% experienced in 1994 following the CFA franc devaluation, to 7.8% in 1998, and 1.0% in 1999, according to BEAC data. Consumer prices rose about 6% in 2000, according to initial estimates, and there was anecdotal evidence that price inflation was accelerating in 2001.
Equatorial Guinea's policies, as defined by law, comprise an open investment regime. Qualitative restrictions on imports, nontariff protection, and many import licensing requirements were lifted when in 1992 the government adopted a public investment program endorsed by the World Bank. The Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea has sold some state enterprises. It is attempting to create a more favorable investment climate, and its investment code contains numerous incentives for job creation, training, promotion of nontraditional exports, support of development projects and indigenous capital participation, freedom for repatriation of profits, exemption from certain taxes and capital, and other benefits. Trade regulations have been further liberalized since implementation in 1994 of the ICN turnover tax, in conformity with Central African tax and custom reform codes. The reform included elimination of quota restrictions and reductions in the range and amounts of tariffs. The CEMAC countries agreed to replace the ICN with a value added tax (VAT) in 1999.
While business laws promote a liberalized economy, the business climate remains difficult. Application of the laws remains selective. Corruption among officials is widespread, and many business deals are concluded under nontransparent circumstances.
There is little industry in the country, and the local market for industrial products is small. The government seeks to expand the role of free enterprise and to promote foreign investment but has had little success in creating an atmosphere conducive to investor interest.
The Equato-Guinean budget has grown enormously in the past 3 years as royalties and taxes on foreign company oil and gas production have provided new resources to a once poor government. The 2001 budget foresaw revenues of about 154 billion CFA francs (about U.S.$200 million), up about 50% from 2000 levels. Oil revenues account for about two-thirds of government revenue, and VAT and trade taxes are the other large revenue sources.
Year 2001 government expenditures were planned to reach 158 billion CFA francs, up about 50% from 2000 levels. New investment projects represented about 40% of the budget, and personnel and internal and external debt payments represented about one-third of planned expenditures.
The Equato-Guinean Government has undertaken a number of reforms since 1991 to reduce its predominant role in the economy and promote private sector development. Its role is a diminishing one, although many government interactions with the private sector are at times capricious. Beginning in early 1997, the government initiated efforts to attract significant private sector involvement through a Corporate Council on Africa visit and numerous ministerial efforts. In 1998, the government privatized distribution of petroleum products. There are now Total and Mobil stations in the country. The government has expressed interest in privatizing the outmoded electricity utility. A French company operates cellular telephone service in cooperation with a state enterprise. The government is anxious for greater U.S. investment, and President Obiang visited the U.S. three times between 1999 and 2001 to encourage greater U.S. corporate interest. Investment in agriculture, fishing, livestock, and tourism are among sectors the government would like targeted.
Equatorial Guinea's balance-of-payments situation has improved substantially since the mid-1990s because of new oil and gas production and favorable world energy prices. Exports totaled about francs CFA 915 billion in 2000 (U.S.$1.25 billion), up from CFA 437 billion (U.S.$700 million) in 1999. Crude oil exports accounted for more than 90% of export earnings in 2000. Timber exports, by contrast, represented only about 5% of export revenues in 2000. Additional oil production coming on line in 2001, combined with methanol gas exports from the new CMS-Nomeco plant, should increase export earnings substantially.
Imports into Equatorial Guinea also are growing very quickly. Imports totaled francs CFA 380 billion (U.S.$530 million), up from franc CFA 261 million (U.S.$420 million) in 1999. Imports of equipment used for the oil and gas sector accounted for about three-quarters of imports in 2000. Imports of capital equipment for public investment projects reached francs CFA 30 billion in 2000, up 40% from 1999 levels.
Equatorial Guinea's foreign debt stock was approximately francs CFA 69 billion (U.S.$ $100 million) in 2000, slightly less than the debt stock in 1999, according to BEAC data. Equatorial Guinea's debt service ratio fell from 20% of GDP in 1994 to only 1% in 2000. Foreign exchange reserves were increasing slightly, although they were relatively low in terms of import coverage. According to the terms of the franc CFA zone, some of these reserves are kept in an account with the French Ministry of Finance.
Equatorial Guinea in the 1980s and 1990s received foreign assistance from numerous bilateral and multilateral donors, including European countries, the United States, and the World Bank. Many of these aid programs have ceased altogether or have diminished. Spain, France, and the European Union continue to provide some project assistance, as do China and Cuba. The government also has discussed working with World Bank assistance to develop government administrative capacity.
Equatorial Guinea operated under an IMF-negotiated Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) until 1996. Since then, there have been no formal agreements or arrangements. The International monetary Fund held Article IV consultations (periodic country evaluations) in 1996, 1997, and in August 1999. After the 1999 consultations, IMF directors stressed the need for Equatorial Guinea to establish greater fiscal discipline, accountability, and more transparent management of public sector resources, especially energy sector revenue. IMF officials also have emphasized the need for economic data. Since 1999, the Equato-Guinean Government has attempted to meet IMF-imposed requirements. Of late, it has maintained contact with IMF and the World Bank representatives, and agreement was expected in 2001.
Infrastructure is generally old and in poor condition. Surface transport is extremely limited at present, with little more than 700 kilometers of paved roads. The African Development Bank is helping to improve the paved roads from Malabo to Luba and Riaba; the Chinese are undertaking a project to link Mongomo to Bata on the mainland, and the European Union is financing an inter-states road network linking Equatorial Guinea to Cameroon and Gabon. Road maintenance is often inadequate.
Electricity is available in Equatorial Guinea's larger towns thanks to three small overworked hydropower facilities and a number of aged generators. In 1999, national production was about 13,000 KwH. In Malabo, the American company, CMS-Nomeco, built a 10 mega-watts electricity plant financed by the government, which came in line in mid-2000, and plans to double capacity are advancing. This plant provides improved service to the capital, although there are still occasional outages. On the mainland the largest city, Bata, still has regular blackouts.
Water is only available in the major towns and is not always reliable because of poor maintenance and mismanagement. Some villages and rural areas are equipped with generators and water pumps, usually owned by private individuals.
Parastatal Getesa, a joint venture with a minority ownership stake held by a French subsidiary of France Telecom, provides telephone service in the major cities. The regular system is overextended, but France Telecom has introduced a popular GSM system, which is generally reliable in Malabo and Bata.
Equatorial Guinea has two of the deepest Atlantic seaports of the region, including the main business and commercial port city of Bata. The ports of both Malabo and Bata are severely overextended and require extensive rehabilitation and reconditioning. The British company, Incat, has an ongoing project with the government to renovate and expand Luba, the country's third-largest port which is located on Bioko Island. The government hopes Luba will become a major transportation hub for offshore oil and gas companies operating in the Gulf of Guinea. Luba is located some 50 kilometers from Malabo and had been virtually inactive except for minor fishing activities and occasional use to ease congestion in Malabo. Riaba is the other port of any scale on Bioko but is less active. The continental ports of Mbini and Cogo have deteriorated as well and are now used primarily for timber activities.
There are only air connections between the two cities of Malabo and Bata. A few aging Soviet-built aircraft operated by several small carriers, one state-owned, and the others private, constitute the national aircraft fleet. The runway at Malabo (3,200 meters) is equipped with lights and can service equipment similar to DC 10s and Cl3Os. The one at Bata (2,400 meters) does not operate at night but can accommodate aircraft as large as B737s. Their primary users are the national airline (EGA) and a private company (GEASA). Two minor airstrips (800 meters) are located at Mongomo and Annobon. There are international connections out of Malabo to Madrid and Zurich in Europe and to Cotonou, Douala and Libreville in West Africa.
After a slow start, Equatorial Guinea has recently emerged as a major oil producer in the Gulf of Guinea, one of the most promising hydrocarbon regions in the world. The main oil fields, Zafiro and Alba, are both located offshore of Bioko island. In 1999 oil production was about five times its 1996 level; Zafiro field, operated by Exxon Mobil and Ocean Energy, produced about 100,000 barrels/day (b/d), and CMS Nomeco extracted approximately 6,700 b/d. Aggressive field development and promising exploration activities may raise production to nearly 300,000 b/d within 2-3 years (slightly above the current estimated production of Gabon) according to the official sources.
In 1995 Mobil (now Exxon Mobil) discovered the large Zafiro field, with estimated reserves of 400m barrels. Production began in 1996. The company announced a 3-year U.S.$1bn rapid development program to boost output to 130,000 b/d by early 2001. Progress was delayed due to a contractual dispute with the government and by unexpectedly difficult geology. The difference with the government was eventually resolved.
In 1998 a more liberal regulatory and profitsharing arrangement for hydrocarbon exploration and production activities was introduced. It revised and updated the production-sharing contract, which, until then, had favored Western operators heavily. As a result domestic oil receipt rose from 13% to 20% of oil export revenue. However, the government's share remains relatively poor by international standards.
In 1997 CMS Nomeco moved to expand its operation with a U.S.$300m methanol plant. The plant entered production in 2000 and help boost condensate output from Alba field.
In August 1999 the government closed bidding on a new petroleum licensing round for 53 unexplored deepwater blocks and seven shallowwater blocks. The response was small due to combination of factors, including falling oil prices, restructuring within the oil industry, and uncertainty over and undemarcated maritime border with Nigeria (which was not resolved until 2000)
In late 1999 Triton Energy, a U.S. independent, discovered La Ceiba in block G in an entirely new area offshore the mainland of the country. Triton expects a U.S.$200m development program to enable La Ceiba and associated fields to produce 100,000 b/d by late 2001, despite disappointments and technical problems at the beginning of the year.
With an upturn in oil prices, exploration intensified in 2000. In April 2000 U.S.-based Vanco Energy signed a production-sharing contract for the offshore block of Corisco Deep. In May 2000, Chevron was granted block L, offshore Rio Muni, and a further three production-sharing contracts (for blocks J, I, and H) were signed with Atlas petroleum, a Nigerian company.
In early 2001 the government announced plans to establish a national oil company, to allow Equatorial Guinea to take a greater stake in the sector and to facilitate the more rapid transfer of skills. However, critics fear that such a company may become a vehicle for opaque accounting and inertia of the sort that has hindered development in neighboring countries including Angola, Cameroon, and Nigeria.
The military of Equatorial Guinea was reorganized in 1979. It consists of approximately 2,500 service members. The army has 1,400 soldiers, the police 400 paramilitary men, the navy 200 service members, and the air force about120 members. There is a Gendarmerie, but the number of members is unknown. The Gendarmerie is a new branch of the service in which training and education is being supported by the French Military Cooperation in Equatorial Guinea. Overall the military is poorly trained and equipped. It has mostly small arms, rocket launched grenades, and mortars. Almost none of its soviet-style light-armored vehicles or trucks are operational.
In 1988, the United States donated a 68-foot patrol boat to the Equatorial Guinean navy to patrol its exclusive economic zone. The U.S. patrol boat "Isla de Bioko" is no longer operational. U.S. military-to-military engagement has been dormant since 1997 (the year of the last Joint Combined Exchange Training Exercise). Between 1984 and 1992, service members went regularly to the United States on the International Military Education Training program, after which funding for this program for Equatorial Guinea ceased. The government spent 6.5% of its annual budget on defense in 2000 and 4.5% of its budget on defense in 2001. It recently acquired some Chinese artillery pieces, some Ukrainian patrol boats, and some Ukrainian Helicopter Gunships. The Equatoguineans rely on foreigners to operate and maintain this equipment as they are not sufficiently trained to do so.
A transitional agreement, signed in October 1968, implemented a Spanish preindependence decision to assist Equatorial Guinea and provided for the temporary maintenance of Spanish forces there. A dispute with President Macias in 1969 led to a request that all Spanish troops immediately depart, and a large number of civilians left at the same time. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were never broken but were suspended by Spain in March 1977 in the wake of renewed disputes. After Macias' fall in 1979, President Obiang asked for Spanish assistance, and since then, Spain has regained influence in Equatorial Guinea's diplomatic relations. The two countries signed permanent agreements for economic and technical cooperation, private concessions, and trade relations. President Obiang made an official visit to Madrid in March 2001, and senior Spanish Foreign Ministry officials visited Malabo during 2001 as well. Spain maintained a bilateral assistance program in Equatorial Guinea. Some Equato-Guinean opposition elements are based in Spain to the annoyance of the government of Malabo.
Equatorial Guinea has cordial relations with neighboring Cameroon, although there was criticism in Cameroon in 2000 about perceived mistreatment of Cameroonians working in Equatorial Guinea. The majority Fang ethnic group of mainland Equatorial Guinea extends both north and south into the forests of Cameroon and Gabon. Cameroon exports some food products to Equatorial Guinea and imports oil from Equatorial Guinea for its refinery at nearby Limbe.
Equatorial Guinea has warmer relations with Nigeria, and the Nigerian President made an official visit to Malabo in 2001. The two countries have delineated their offshore borders, which will facilitate development of nearby gas fields. In addition, may Nigerians work in Equatorial Guinea , as do immigrants from Cameroon and some West African states.
Equatorial Guinea is member of the Central African Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC), which includes Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo/Brazzaville, and Gabon. It also is a member of the Franc zone. Parallel to the Equatoguinean rapprochement with its francophone neighbors, France's role has significantly increased following Equatorial Guinea's entry into the CFA Franc Zone and the BEAC. France technical advisers work in the finance and planning ministries, and agreements have been signed for infrastructure development projects.
The government's official policy is one of nonalignment. In its search for assistance to meet the goal of national reconstruction, the Government of Equatorial Guinea has established diplomatic relations with numerous European and Third World Countries. Having achieved independence under UN sponsorship, Equatorial Guinea feels a special kinship with that organization. It became the 126th UN member on November 12, 1968.
U.S.-EQUATORIAL GUINEA RELATIONS
The United States is the largest-single foreign investor in Equatorial Guinea, which is the fourth-largest destination in Sub-Saharan Africa for American Investment. With the possible exception of Spain, it has the largest and most visible foreign presence in the country. Equatorial Guinea looks very favorably upon the U.S. Government and American companies. In an effort to attract increased U.S. business, the government recently allowed all persons traveling on American passports to enter the country without visas. The United States is the only country with this privilege.
The United States recognized Equatorial Guinea upon its independence on October 12, 1968 and opened an embassy in Malabo. Due to U.S. Government budget restrictions, the embassy closed in 1995, and diplomatic and consular responsibilities were transferred to the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon. The Department of State established a U.S. Consular Agency in Bata in 2000. Relations between the U.S. and the Government of Equatorial Guinea are good. Equatorial Guinea maintains an embassy in Washington. President Obiang visited the United States and met with senior officials in 2000 and 2001.
The 2001 U.S. State Department Human Rights report on Equatorial Guinea cited shortcomings in basic human rights, political freedom, and labor rights. Equatorial Guinea attributes lapses to excessive zeal on the part of local authorities and promises better control and sensitization. The United States used to have small aid and Peace Corps programs in Equatorial Guinea but these have been discontinued. Equatoguineans visit the U.S. under programs sponsored by the U.S. Government and American oil companies and educational institutions. The Ambassador's Self-Help Fund and the Democracy and Human Rights Funds together finance approximately $30,000 worth of small grassroots projects.
There are growing ties between U.S. companies and Equatorial Guinea, and the U.S. Government's overseas investment promotion agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), has concluded the largest agreement in Sub-Saharan Africa for a major U.S. project in Equatorial Guinea. The U.S. Agency for International Development has no Equatorial Guinea-related programs or initiatives. American-based non-governmental organizations and other donor groups have very little involvement in the country.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--George M. Staples