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Equatorial Guinea

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Equatorial Guinea



Republic of Equatorial Guinea

República de Guinea Ecuatorial

CAPITAL: Malabo (formerly Santa Isabel)

FLAG: The flag is a tricolor of green, white, and red horizontal stripes; a blue triangle joins them at the hoist. The arms in the center of the white stripe hold a cotton tree (the national symbol), six starsone for each physical division of the countryand the motto "Unidad, Justicia, Paz."

ANTHEM: Himno Nacional, beginning "Caminemos pisando la senda de nuestra inmensa felicidad" ("Let us walk on the path of our immense happiness").

MONETARY UNIT: Communauté Financière Africaine franc (CFA Fr), which was originally pegged to the French franc, has been pegged to the euro since January 1999 with a rate of 655.957 CFA francs to 1 euro. CFA Fr1 = $0.00208 (or $1 = CFA Fr480.56) as of 2005. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 CFA francs and notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 francs.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Independence Day, 5 March; Labor Day, 1 May; OAU Day, 25 May; President's Birthday, 5 June; Armed Forces Day, 3 August; Human Rights Day, 10 December; Christmas, 25 December. Movable Christian holidays include Good Friday and Easter Monday.

TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.


Located on the west coast of Africa, Equatorial Guinea consists of a mainland enclave, Río Muni, and five inhabited islands: Bioko (between 1973 and 1979, Macías Nguema Biyogo, and before that Fernando Póo), Annobón (Pagalu during the 1970s), Corisco, Elobey Chico, and Elobey Grande. The total area is 28,051 sq km (10,831 sq mi), of which Río Muni, along with Corisco and the Elobeys, accounts for 26,017 sq km (10,045 sq mi) and Bioko, along with Annobón, 2,034 sq km (785 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Equatorial Guinea is slightly larger than the state of Maryland.

Río Muni is bounded on the n by Cameroon, on the e and s by Gabon, and on the w by the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean), with a length of 248 km (154 mi) enewsw and 167 km (104 mi) ssennw. Bioko, situated 56 km (35 mi) w of Cameroon and about 259 km (161 mi) nw of Río Muni, extends 74 km (46 mi) nesw and 37 km (23 mi) senw. Annobón is 686 km (426 mi) sw of Bioko; Corisco and the Elobeys are off the sw coast of Bioko, within sight of Gabon. The total boundary length of Equatorial Guinea is 835 km (519 mi), of which 296 km (183 mi) is coastline.

The capital city of Equatorial Guinea, Malabo, is located on the island of Bioko (Isla de Bioko).


Bioko and Annobón are volcanic islands that are part of the chain starting with the Cameroon Highlands and outcropping into the Atlantic as far as St. Helena. Río Muni is a fluvial mainland plateau, except for the sandy shore and the ridges of the Sierra Cristal range that separate the coast from the interior plateau. The Muni and Ntem rivers, on the south and north boundaries of Río Muni, are estuaries navigable for about 20 km (12 mi); the Mbini River, midway between them, is typical of the cascading streams that drain all of Río Muni. Bioko has short cascading streams; Annobón has only storm arroyos. Most of the country, including the islands, is tropical rain forest. On Annobón, volcanic deposits restrict agriculture, and the Muni estuarial islands are sandy, but the rest of the country has tropical humus conducive to agriculture.


Equatorial Guinea has a tropical climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. From June to August, Río Muni is dry and Bioko wet; from December to February, the reverse exists. In between there is gradual transition. Rain or mist occurs daily on Annobón, where a cloudless day has never been registered. The temperature at Malabo, Bioko, ranges from 16°c to 33°c (6191°f), though on the southern Moka Plateau normal high temperatures are only 21°c (70°f). In Río Muni, the average temperature is about 27°c (80°f). Annual rainfall varies from 193 cm (76 in) at Malabo to 1,092 cm (430 in) at Ureka, Bioko, but Río Muni is somewhat drier.


Dense tropical rain forest vegetation prevails throughout Equatorial Guinea. There are 140 species of trees, especially palms and hardwoods. Yams and bananas were introduced by the early inhabitants and became staples. Monkeys, chimpanzees, elephants, and gray doves are common.


Equatorial Guinea's most significant environmental problems are deforestation, water pollution, desertification, and the preservation of wildlife. The forests are threatened by agricultural expansion, fires, and grazing. The nation has about 30 cu km of renewable water resource with 6% used for farming purposes. There are three Ramsar wetland sites in the country.

The nation's wildlife is threatened by the expansion of population centers. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 17 types of mammals, 6 species of birds, 2 types of reptiles, 5 species of amphibians, 8 species of fish, 2 species of other invertebrates, and 61 species of plants. Endangered species include the drill (Papio leucophaeus), Preuss's monkey, and the green sea, hawksbill, and olive ridley turtles.


The population of Equatorial Guinea in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 504,000, which placed it at number 160 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 4% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 43% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 98 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 2.3%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory; however, because a high percentage of the population is under 15 years of age, increasing adolescent fertility was expected to become a significant problem. The projected population for the year 2025 was 762,000. The population density was 18 per sq km (47 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 45% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 4.16%. The capital city, Malabo, had a population of 95,000 in that year.


As many as 45,000 Nigerian laborers served in Equatorial Guinea in the early 1970s, mostly working on Bioko cocoa plantations. In 1975, Nigeria began evacuating those contract laborers, charging the Equatorial Guinean government with a long history of mistreating them. These plantations are now short of labor.

The net migration for Equatorial Guinea in 2005 was zero. However, migration to Spain is a traditional and ongoing occurrence. Between 8090% of Equatorial Guinean nationals who go to Spain do not return. There were approximately 1,000 migrants in Equatorial Guinea in 2000. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


The largest single tribe is the Fang (Fon, or Pamúe), who entered Río Muni from the east largely between 1687 and 1926. The earlier Riomunians, who had probably arrived in the 14th century, were forced by the Fang to flee to the coast. The Bubi on Bioko are descendants of the indigenous African Bantu-speaking population that fled from the Cameroonian and Riomunian mainland in the 13th century; they are indigenous to Bioko island and account for about 15% of the population. Coastal tribes, sometimes referred to as Playeros, consist of Ndowes, Bujebas, Balengues, and Bengas. Fernandinosdescendants of mainland slaves liberated by the British navy in the 19th centuryand Europeans, especially Spanish Asturians and Catalonians, have long dominated commerce and government. It is estimated that the 67 Fang clans represent 80% of the population. Europeans, mostly Spanish, number less than 1,000.


Spanish is the official language of the government, commerce, and schools. French is also an official language. The principal vernacular is Fang, which, like all the country's indigenous languages, is a Bantu tongue. Bubi and Ibo are also spoken. Annobón uses the fād'Ambō, a pidgin form of Bantu speech with heavy 16th-century Portuguese inflection. Much petty commerce is conducted in pidgin English (Pichinglis).


Although African traditional religion has left its vestiges among the indigenous tribes, about 93% of the population are Christian. Within the Christian population, 87% are Roman Catholic and about 4.5% are mainline Protestant, primarily Baptist and Episcopalian. Though there is no state religion, a 1992 law established an official preference for the Catholic Church and the Reform Church of Equatorial Guinea, based on the traditional importance of these two denominations in popular culture. Other religious groups must register through the Ministry of Justice and Worship. Religious study (primarily Catholic) is required in public schools.


There are 2,880 km (1,790 mi) of highways in Equatorial Guinea, none of which were paved in 2002. The chief ports are Bata and Mbini in Río Muni and Malabo and Luba on Bioko. Bata, modernized in the 1970s, can accommodate up to four vessels of 20,000 tons each. There is regular service between Malabo and Bata. In 2005, the country had one merchant ship (a cargo vessel of 1,000 GRT or over) in service, totaling 6,556 GRT.

Bata's airport was the first major air transport facility. Malabo's airport was raised to jet standards in 1964 and became the focus of regional air services. A landing strip was built on Annobón in 1968. As of 2004, there were only four airports, with three (as of 2005), having paved runways. Air transport between Bata, Malabo, and Douala, Cameroon, is provided by Equatorial Guinea Air Lines (Algesa). There is international air service to Gabon, Nigeria, Morocco, and Spain. In 1997 (the latest year for which data was available), about 21,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.


Although numerous archaeological discoveries indicate a very early Sangoan (modified Acheulean) culture throughout Equatorial Guinea, the earliest traceable inhabitants were Pygmies, remnants of whom remain in northeastern Río Muni. Bioko was apparently uninhabited when the Bubi came by sea from the mainland in the 13th century. Río Muni seems to have been occupied by the Bantu in a series of waves that superseded the Pygmiesfirst by the Bubi, before 1200; then by the Benga, Bujeba, and Combe, perhaps about 1300; and, finally, by the Fang from the Congo Basin, after 1687. Although Annobón was uninhabited in 1471 when the Portuguese discovered it, it was the only one of the territories later incorporated into Equatorial Guinea that they attempted to develop. The proprietorship of Annobón was ill administered, however, and it was virtually self-governing for 250 years. In 1778, Portugal transferred its nominal claims over Annobón, Fernando Póo, and the entire coast from the Niger Delta to Cape López (in modern Gabon) to Spain, in return for Spain's renunciation of pirate claims in southern Brazil. Later that year, a Spanish expedition of occupation arrived from South America. The expedition withdrew in 1781 after disease and poor administration had cost the lives of 370 of the 547 Spaniards.

The primary Spanish mainland explorations were undertaken between 1875 and 1885. Catholic missionary efforts by the Claretians extended Spanish influence to Annobón (1884), completed the exploration of Fernando Póo (18831924), and began the penetration of Río Muni (18861925). The first effective efforts to penetrate the interior were undertaken in 192627 by Governor Ángel Barrera, who reportedly employed considerable force to subjugate the Fang. The administrative procedure for the colony was defined as the process of reducción (conquest), repartimiento (resettlement), and encomienda (placing in trust) of the indigenous peoplethe policy followed in Mexico and Peru 400 years earlierbut this time, the people were encomendado (entrusted) not to private masters but to the Claretians. After World War II, the Franco government initiated a policy of heavy investment to turn Spanish Guinea into a model colony.

Spanish Guinea became a province of Spain in 1958. In 1964, two provinces (Fernando Póo and Río Muni) were created under an autonomous regional government. Political opposition and Protestant missions, both banned in Spain, were tolerated, and the regional regime of Bonifacio Ondó Edú was virtually self-governing internally. In 1966, independence was promised. Two years later, an opposition faction under Francisco Macías Nguema won the pre-independence elections and organized a sovereign government on 12 October 1968, when the colony became the independent Republic of Equatorial Guinea. Within six months, hostility between Riomunians and Fernandinos had sharpened. The continued presence of Spanish civil servants, troops, and ships and the unchanged influence of Spanish plantation management provoked a crisis in 1969. Two coups failed, the Spanish were evacuated, medical services were suspended (until WHO restaffed them), and fiscal transactions ceased. However, within six weeks a new understanding was reached with Spain, under UN auspices, and Spanish subsidies were restored.

On 23 August 1972, Francisco Macías Nguema was proclaimed president for life; subsequently he assumed ministerial posts of defense, foreign affairs, and trade. An exile group, the Equatorial Guinean Liberation Front, and others charged in December 1974 that more than two-thirds of the National Assembly elected in 1968 had disappeared, and that many prominent persons, especially political opponents of the president, had been assassinated. It was estimated that a quarter of the country's population was in exile in Cameroon, Gabon, and Europe. On 3 August 1979, Macías Nguema was overthrown in a military coup led by his Spanish trained nephew, Lt.-Col. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo; the former president was tried shortly after the coup and executed on 29 September. International human rights organizations estimated that during his 11-year rule at least 50,000 people had been killed and 40,000 had been enslaved on state-owned plantations.

Under Obiang's leadership, the Supreme Military Council became the highest power in the country. The country continued to decay as corruption flourished and political opponents and others were imprisoned or put to death. Soviet influence was reduced, and economic and military cooperation with Spain was restored. A new constitution, approved in a referendum on 15 August 1982, provided that Obiang would remain head of state until 1989, when direct popular elections would take place. Parliamentary elections (based on a single list, with no political parties permitted) were held on 28 August 1983, and the PDGE won all 41 seats in the Chamber of People's Representatives in 10 July 1988 elections. Obiang was elected without opposition on 25 June 1989.

On 17 November 1991, a new constitution was adopted. Opposition parties began to be organized and sought official recognition in 1992. Eventually an election was held on 21 November 1993 and the PDGE won 68 of 80 seats. But the major opposition parties boycotted the election and as many as 80% of the eligible voters refused to participate. The new cabinet was expanded from 34 to 42 members. On 25 February 1996, Obiang was reelected to the presidency for another seven-year term, receiving 98% of the vote. The poll was declared farcical by foreign observers. Despite a boycott of the elections by the three main opposition parties, voter turnout was 86%. Obiang's plan to form a government of national unity failed because the opposition's conditions for participation had not been met.

New wealth from substantial oil and gas reserves discovered off the coast in 1996 boosted the tiny country's impoverished economy, but the wealth did not reach the poor. Government corruption and mismanagement were rampant and some 80% of the wealth was amassed by less than 5% of the population, mostly Obiang's family clan. Growing discontent resulted in at least two coups d'état (the government attributed one in May 1997 to opposition Progress Party leader, Severo Moto) and a rebellion on Bioko island by members of the disenfranchised Bubi ethnic group in January 1998. A military court sentenced 15 of the 215 Bubi activists to death. In September Obiang suspended the sentence, under international pressure.

The ruling PDGE won 65 of the 80 seats in the second multiparty parliamentary elections held on 7 March 1999. In July 1999, the prime minister, Angel Serafin Seriche Dougan, and his government resigned, apparently to pave way for a government of national unity. The president offered to give a cabinet position to each of the opposition parties. Second multiparty legislative elections were held on 7 March 1999. Mainstream opposition parties participated in the elections, but along with the international community, denounced the elections for serious irregularities. The ruling PDGE again won 75 seats. The Convergence for a Social Democracy (CPDS) and the People's Union (UP) respectively got one and four seats.

In elections held 15 December 2002 Obiang officially was reelected with 97.1% to 2.2% of the vote for Celestino Bonifacio Bacale, but as in the past, the elections were marred by fraud, and held little credibility either domestically or abroad.

The judiciary, which often has come under international scrutiny, scheduled a national conference in January 2003. The purpose of the meeting was to improve human rights and strengthen rule of law following criticism by rights groups, the opposition, and the Spanish government of the sentencing of 68 opposition activists for between six and 20 years in jail on charges of plotting to overthrow the president. Among those convicted were the leaders of three opposition parties. In August 2003, 31 of the condemned prisoners received amnesty. In elections held in April 2004, the PDGE and its allies won 98 of 100 seats and all but 7 of 244 municipal posts, but the results were judged not credible by international observers.

Political opponents twice attempted to overthrow the government in 2004. In March Zimbabwe police impounded a plane originating from South Africa with 64 mercenaries on board destined for Equatorial Guinea. Simon Mann, the president of Executive Outcomes and the apparent ringleader, was sentenced to seven years in jail in Zimbabwe for trying to buy arms. In all, 22 people were convicted, including 9 tried in absentia. Allegedly backing the operation were Sir Mark Thatcher, son of Margaret Thatcher, Severo Moto, an Equatorial Guinean politician in exile in Spain, and the Spanish government. In October 2004, the military staged an abortive coup leading to the conviction of 23 soldiers.

Equatorial Guinea ranked 152 out of 159 countries on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index 2005 with almost none of the economic benefits from the oil windfall trickling down to the average Equatorial Guinean. The judiciary was widely considered corrupt and dysfunctional. Further, Obiang's health appeared to be failing, and were he not to finish his third term, or not to seek a fourth term in 2009, his eldest son, commonly referred to as Theodorín, would be his heir apparent. Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue was also forestry minister, but was at odds with influential family members and factions within the elite.


By referendum on 11 August 1968, Equatorial Guineans approved a constitution that became effective on Independence Day, 12 October 1968. The constitution required the country to join the UN and to coordinate Spanish financial, technical, and administrative assistance until total "Africanization" was achieved. Separatist activities on Bioko led to the suspension of the 1968 constitution in May 1971. The president assumed all powers and ruled by decree until a second constitution was approved by referendum in July 1973. Under this constitution, the only legal party, the United National Workers Party, designated deputies to the National Assembly and had the power to remove them. An article requiring election of the president by direct, secret, universal suffrage was suspended for President Francisco Macías Nguema, who had been proclaimed president for life on 23 August 1972. After the 1979 coup, a new constitution was drafted with UN assistance. Approved by 95% of the voters in a referendum on 15 August 1982, this document provided for elections every five years to a National Assembly, for the establishment of a Council of State, and for a human rights, which in practice are poorly defended under the law.

Since adopting the 17 November 1991 constitution, Equatorial Guinea has been a self-declared constitutional democracy with judicial integrity and multiparty elections. In reality, President Obiang Nguema runs the country with an iron fist and his Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) has no serious opposition. Lt.-Col. Obiang Nguema was inaugurated president on 12 October 1982, ran unopposed in 1989, and was reelected in 1996 and 2002. His term expires in 2009. Obiang appoints a prime minister, who nominally is head of government. A unicameral House of People's Representatives or Camara de Representantes del Pueblo with 100 seats performs little or no check on the powerful executive. Members directly elected by popular vote serve five-year terms. The constitution was modified in 1995.


Other than the ruling Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE), there are 12 other registered parties. However, given the dominance of the PDGE, the system functions like a one-party state.

Following an abortive coup in March 1969, all existing political parties were merged into the United National Party (Partido Único Nacional) under the leadership of President Macías Nguema. Political activity outside this party was made illegal. The name of the party was later modified to United National Workers Party (Partido Único Nacional de los TrabajadoresPUNT). After the 1979 coup, all political parties were banned and the ruling Democratic Party for Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) monopolized power and patronage. Among the opposition parties in exile in the mid1980s were the National Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy and the Democratic Movement for the Liberation of Equatorial Guinea. A source of opposition is resentment by Biokans of mainland domination.

The 1991 constitution legalized political parties and a January 1992 law on party formation initiated the process of party organization. But it restricted party membership and activity to those who had lived continuously in Equatorial Guinea for 10 years. Since most opposition politicians had been in exile since independence, the effect was to prohibit serious opposition. Small partiesthe Liberal Democrat Convention, the Popular Union, and the Progressive Democratic Alliancewere recognized in 1992. The Equatorial Guinea Progress Party (PPGE) was legalized after a long delay and, in 1993, the Socialist Party of Equatorial Guinea (PSGE) was approved. By mid-1993, 13 legal opposition parties stood prepared to contest elections, scheduled for 12 September. A number of opposition leaders were even granted amnesty. In 1995, the government reduced the residency requirement for politicians to five years leading up to an election. Political parties, however, continued to face harassment as of 2006.

In June 1997 the Progress Party, perhaps the only party that could constitute an alternative government, was banned by presidential decree. The government accused journalist Severo Moto, leader of the Progress Party, of plotting a coup against Obiang, by linking him to arms intercepted by Angolan authorities on a Russian boat destined for Equatorial Guinea in mid-May. Moto exiled himself to Spain.

The remaining opposition parties participated in the 7 March 1999 elections but rejected the results due to serious irregularities, challenging them in court. They also refused to take up their seats in the House. Once again, the ruling PDGE won an overwhelming majority with 75 of the 80 seats to 4 seats for the People's Union (UP), and 1 seat for the Convergence for a Social Democracy (CPDS). The international community also criticized the conduct of the elections. The opposition's presence in the National Assembly was further reduced when the UP dismissed two of its four parliamentary delegates in April, accusing them of endorsing Obiang's dictatorial government.

In the 25 April 2004 parliamentary electionsamid allegations of fraudthe PDGE and its affiliates took all but two seats in the expanded 100-seat parliament. They also won all but seven of the municipal posts around the country. The next presidential elections were to be held December 2009 with parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2009.


The country is divided into seven provinces, each headed by a governor appointed by the president. The provinces are divided into districts and 244 municipalities.


The court system, based on Spanish civil law and tribal custom, includes a Supreme Court, two appeals courts, lower provincial courts (first instance), military courts, and customary (traditional) courts. The courts apply a blend of traditional law, military law, and Franco-era Spanish law, which leads to some unpredictability in results. Appeals from courts of first instance are rare. A five-member Constitutional Council established in 1993 decides constitutional issues and releases election results. The customary courts composed of tribal elders adjudicate civil claims and minor criminal matters.

Under the 1991 constitution, the judiciary is not independent from the executive branch. In fact, all judges and clerks and other judicial personnel are appointed and dismissed at the will of the President. In addition, corruption is a problem because of low wages for judicial personnel.

Defendants have constitutional rights to an attorney and to appeal. However, in practice, these rights are not always afforded.

In January 1998, the treatment of Bubi ethnic group activists who were arrested after a rebellion, and the conduct of the trial by a military court, which meted out 15 death sentences, was strongly criticized by Amnesty International and the European Parliament, respectively. Obiang suspended the death sentences in September 1998. Reports of serious and systematic human rights abuses in Equatorial Guinea continue.


In 2005, active military personnel numbered 1,320, of which the Army accounted for 1,100, the Navy 120, and the Air Force 100. The Army consisted of three infantry battalions, whose equipment included 10 armored personnel carriers and six reconnaissance vehicles. The Navy had two patrol/coastal vessels, while the Air Force operated five fixed-wing transports and two utility helicopters. Paramilitary forces included the Civil Guard and the Coast Guard. The defense budget in 2005 totaled $7.3 million.


Equatorial Guinea joined the United Nations on 12 November 1969; it participates in ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies. The nation is also a member of the African Development Bank, the ACP Group, the Central African States Development Bank (BDEAC), G-77, and the African Union. In December 1983, it joined the Central African Republic, the Congo, Chad, Cameroon, and Gabon in the Central African Customs and Economic Union (Union Douanière et Économique de l'Afrique CentraleUDEAC); this organization is now known as the Monetary and Economic Community of Central Africa (CEMAC). The nation is part of the franc zone. Equatorial Guinea holds observer status in the WTO and the OAS. The country is part of the Nonaligned Movement. In environmental cooperation, Equatorial Guinea is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


The agricultural industry employs the majority of the population. The country exports cocoa, coffee, and timber, and imports large quantities of foodstuffs. Production of oil began in 1991, and substantial new reserves were discovered in 1995. Trace deposits of a few minerals have been located. Industry is limited to a few processing facilities for agricultural products. In 1990, compliance difficulties with the IMF structural adjustment program and the government's repeated violations of human rights resulted in the suspension of most foreign economic assistance. The arrival of significant oil revenues, however, has caused the economy to be viewed with guarded optimism. Continuing fiscal mismanagement and the lack of economic reforms casts doubt on the government's ability to fully capitalize on the oil revenues. Nonetheless, oil accounts for 90% of exports and over 60% of GDP. Oil production rose from 120,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2001 to 420,000 bpd in 2005. Other natural resources that are undeveloped are titanium, iron ore, manganese, uranium, and gold.

In 1985, Equatorial Guinea joined the CFA franc zone, improving the economic situation. In 1994, France devalued the CFA franc, causing its value to drop in half overnight, and raising the value of exports. Increased export revenue, together with newly exploited petroleum reserves, caused GDP to rise dramatically (over 50%) during 1996 and 1997. Between 2001 and 2005 GDP annual average growth rate was 27.78%, with a high of 65.6% in 2001 and a low of 6% in 2005. The growth rates in GDP were a result of discovery of new oil reserves and increases in the production of oil.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Equatorial Guinea's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $25.7 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $50,200. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 5%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 2.4% of GDP, industry 95.5%, and services 2.2%.


The majority of the population was engaged in subsistence agriculture in 2002. The unemployment rate in 1998 (the latest year for which data was available) was estimated at 30%. There was no data available on the size of the country's workforce.

As of 2005, workers had the right to form unions, but there was no legislation to prohibit antiunion discrimination in the workplace. In 2001, the Small Farmers Syndicate became the first legally recognized union. As of 2005, it was still the country's only legally recognized union, and there was no collective bargaining.

Wages are set by the government and employers, with little or no input by workers. There was a statutory monthly minimum wage of about $100 in 2002 for unskilled workers, with the minimum for oil sector professionals set at 10 times that amount. The legal minimum age for employment is 14, but the government does not enforce this. The standard legal workweek is set at 35 hours, with a 48-hour rest period.


Agriculture is the main economic activity, involving about 71% of the economically active population. An estimated 8% of the land is engaged in crop production. The island of Bioko has year-round rainfall, and the prevailing economic activity is cocoa cultivation. In Río Muni (on mainland Africa), where 80% of the population lives, food crops are the dominant economic activity, and cash crop cultivation is secondary. Agriculture (including forestry and fishing) accounts for about 50% of GDP and 60% of exports. The main food crop is cassava, of which 45,000 tons were produced in 2004. Sweet potatoes are the second-largest food crop, with 36,000 tons in 2004, followed by bananas (20,000 tons).

Before independence, the main cash crops were cocoa, coffee, and palm kernels for palm oil. Guinean cocoa, of excellent quality, had an annual production of 38,000 tons in 1967. However, production experienced a sharp drop in the 1970s, falling to 4,512 tons in 1980. In 2004, production was estimated at 2,400 tons. Coffee of comparatively poor quality is grown in northern Río Muni, along the Cameroon border. The pre-independence production of 8,959 tons in 1967 fell to 500 tons in 1978; the decline was mainly caused by forcible transfer of coffee farmers to the Bioko cocoa plantations. Coffee production was an estimated 3,500 tons in 2004. Actual cocoa and coffee production is higher, but official figures do not take into account quantities smuggled abroad rather than delivered to state marketing agencies.


Cattle and poultry production is rapidly reaching its pre-independence levels of self-sufficiency with the financial help of the African Development Bank. However, production of domesticated animals is hindered by the presence of trypanosomiasis and other tropical deterrents. In 2005 there were 37,600 sheep, 9,000 goats, 6,100 hogs, and 5,000 cattle.


The fishing industry gained strength through the 1980s and is now almost entirely modernized; a tuna processing plant went into operation in 1990. Annobón subsists almost entirely on fishing and retains its traditional preeminence in offshore whaling and turtle gathering. Bioko is also a major fishing center, the chief catches being perch, tuna, mackerel, cod, pike, shark, and crayfish. The country's own catch was about 3,500 tons in 2003.


Timber from Río Muni is Equatorial Guinea's leading export. Forests cover over 62% of the land area. The Río Muni area on the mainland produces okoumé and akoga from rain forests of considerable age. Even though the government has given permission to foreign firms, exploitation is difficult due to infrastructural problems. The government enacted a new forestry action plan in 1990 in an effort to strengthen the sector's development. In 2004, roundwood production was estimated at 811,000 cu m (28.6 million cu ft). In 2004, exports of forest products amounted to $97 million.


Petroleum, the country's leading industry and export commodity in 2004, was associated with Equatorial Guinea's rapid economic growth since 1996; natural gas was the country's fourth-leading industry. Geological surveys indicated occurrences of bauxite, alluvial gold, copper, diamond, titanium-bearing sands, ilmenite beach sands, lead, phosphates, zinc, iron, manganese, tantalum, and uranium in Río Muni; there has been no significant exploitation. A 1981 law stipulated that all mineral deposits were state property. Artisanal miners produced 500 kg of gold in 2004, and clay, gravel, and sand were also presumably produced.


As of 1 January 2003, electric power generating capacity stood at 15.4 MW, of which 20% was hydroelectric and 80% conventional thermal. Production in 2002 was estimated at 30 million kWh, while consumption was placed at 25 million kWh. However, poor management and aging equipment has resulted in prolonged power blackouts. As a result, small gasoline and diesel-powered generators are used as backup power sources.

Since 1995, when significant offshore oil discoveries were made in the Gulf of Guinea, oil has become Equatorial Guinea's most important export. According to World Oil, Equatorial Guinea's proven oil reserves were put at 1.28 billion barrels, as of 1 January 2005. In 2005, oil production was estimated at 420,000 barrels per day, of which crude oil accounted for over 90%. Domestic oil demand and net oil exports in 2004 were estimated at 2,000 barrels per day and 369,700 barrels per day, respectively.

Equatorial Guinea has proven natural gas reserves estimated, as of 1 January 2005, of 1.3 trillion cu ft, according to the Oil and Gas Journal. The country's natural gas reserves are located off Bioko island, which is the site of the nation's capital, Malabo, and mainly in the Zafiro and Alba oil and gas fields. Domestic consumption of natural gas is estimated for 2002 at 45 billion cu ft.


Equatorial Guinea's manufacturing sector is very small. Sawmilling leads industrial production, followed by cement, bleach, and tuna canning plants. Small-scale soap manufacturing and food processing operations round out the industrial sector. The petroleum mining industry is growing rapidly, as large oil reserves have been discovered. Oil in 2004 accounted for over 88.9% of GDP and over 97% of exports. Proven oil reserves are estimated at 563.5 million barrels. Oil production increased from 17,000 barrels per day in 1996 to around 420,000 barrels per day in 2005. There is a methanol plant on Bioko island that processes natural gas. Proven natural gas reserves are estimated at 68.53 billion cubic meters.


Spain, China, and several other countries have provided Equatorial Guinea with technological assistance.


Most interior wholesale and retail trade has been maintained through factorías (small general agencies) managed by individual Spanish owners or the representatives of small firms. Most trade occurs in the major cities of Malabo and Bata.

Consumer price inflation has fluctuated quite a bit throughout the last decade. During the 20012005 period, inflation averaged 6.8% per annum. Recent economic policies are designed to encourage foreign investment.

Normal business hours are 8 am to 12 noon and 4 to 8:00 pm, Monday through Friday, and 9 am to 2 pm on Saturday. Spanish is the dominant business language, while French and English are also spoken.

Current Account -344.0
     Balance on goods -116.7
         Imports -292.0
         Exports 175.3
     Balance on services -179.7
     Balance on income -45.0
     Current transfers -2.6
Capital Account
Financial Account 313.8
     Direct investment abroad
     Direct investment in Equatorial Guinea 376.2
     Portfolio investment assets
     Portfolio investment liabilities
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets
     Other investment liabilities -62.4
Net Errors and Omissions 24.8
Reserves and Related Items 5.5
() data not available or not significant.


Exports were estimated at $6.94 million in 2005, while imports came to $2.92 million leading to a trade surplus of $4.02 billion. Leading exports for 2004 were petroleum (98.7%), timber (1.2%), and cocoa (0.1%). Imports consisted primarily of machinery (77%), building material (7.1%), food and beverages (3.6%), and petroleum products (1.9%). Spain, the United States, and China are Equatorial Guinea's principal export markets. Recent figures from the IMF reveal that exports to China rose rapidly in 2004, from $374 million in 2003 to $889 million.


New oil and natural gas production improved Equatorial Guinea's balance of payments situation since the mid-1990s. Additional oil production that came online in 2001, combined with methanol gas exports from the new CMS-Nomeco plant, increased export earnings in the early 2000s. Imports were growing as well: in 2004, purchases of equipment for the oil and gas sector accounted for over three-quarters of imports. The country's debt service ratio fell from 20% of GDP in 1994 to less than 1% in 2005. Although relatively low in terms of covering the payments of imports, foreign exchange reserves were increasing slightly in the early 2000s. Many of the aid programs Equatorial Guinea benefited from in the 1980s and 1990s had diminished or ceased altogether by 2000. Some project assistance continued to be provided by France and the EU, as well as by China and Cuba.

The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that in 2005 the purchasing power parity of Equatorial Guinea's exports was $6.9 billion while imports totaled $2.9 billion resulting in a trade surplus of $4 billion.


The Bank of Issue of Equatorial Guinea was established on 12 October 1969 as the central bank. In January 1985, the country joined the CFA zone, and the Bank of the Central African States (Banque des États de l'Afrique Centrale-BEAC) became its central bank. In 1993, a supranational supervisory authority was created for BEAC states, called the Commission Bancaire de l'Afrique Centrale (COBAC). The story of commercial banking since independence has been a sorry one, and the lack of cheap and efficient commercial credit is blamed as a major obstacle to economic growth. Banking functions prior to independence were carried out mainly by the Banco Exterior de España (BEE), in association with two smaller Spanish institutions. Spanish banks almost stopped functioning after independence and withdrew altogether in 1972. As of 2002, there were only two banks operating in the country, with net holdings of $53 million.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $65.9 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $88.3 million. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 6.5%.

There are no securities exchanges.


No information is available.


Equatorial Guinea made its first standby loan agreement with the IMF in 1985 and negotiated a structural adjustment agreement in 1988. Government problems with budget overruns and a continuing, structural imbalance of trade frustrated IMF technicians, who stopped payments in 1990. Nonetheless, the government reduced the 1990 budget and enacted key portions of the structural adjustment program: import price liberalization, economic diversification, utility rate increases, clarification of property rights, and private sector stimulus. With these steps taken and with petroleum revenues increasing, the IMF restarted the blocked structural adjustment program in December 1991. By 1994, however, repeated human rights violations and the failure to enact economic reform led to the suspension of most foreign economic assistance. In 1998, the government privatized distribution of petroleum products; petroleum revenues, along with sales taxes and duties, account for two-thirds of government revenues.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Equatorial Guinea's central government took in revenues of approximately $1.9 billion and had expenditures of $711.5 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $1.2 billion. Total external debt was $248 million.


Equatorial Guinea has a standard corporate tax rate of 25%, with a minimum 1% rate on turnover. Capital gains are subject to a 25% tax rate, although the tax can be deferred if all of the proceeds are employed in the purchase of new fixed assets within the country within a three-year period or should a merger take place. Dividends paid to nonresidents are subject to a 40% tax. Interest and royalties (such as from intellectual property and/or patents) are also subject to the 40% rate.


As a member of the six-nation Central African Economic Community (CEMAC), Equatorial Guinea shares customs systems and practices with its neighbors. The CEMAC makes trade with Central African countries much easier and more efficient. The tariff system is based on the CIF (cost, insurance, freight) value of imported goods, and is divided into four simple categories: basic necessities are taxed at a rate of 5%, raw materials and capital goods at 10%, intermediate and miscellaneous goods at 20%, and consumer goods at 30%. There is also a fiscal tax of 1540% charged on all imports except alcohol and tobacco, for which there is a different rate, and a turnover tax of 512%.


Spain and France are the major aid donor countries working with the Equatorial Guinean government. Spain conditioned aid, however, on improvements in the human rights record and progress in the democratization effort. Other donors include China, Nigeria, and several other Western and Middle Eastern countries.

Foreign investment in the petroleum and lumber industries increased sharply during the late 1990s. Timber production increased by 70% in 1997 and petroleum production reached 85,000 barrels per day in the same year. Offshore drilling operations began production in 2000. In 2001, Equatorial Guinea had the world's fastest-growing economy as oil production, with ExxonMobile as the main producer, reached 200,000 barrels per day. The inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) jumped from an average of $22 million a year in 1997 and 1998 to an average of $120 million in 1999 and 2000. FDI inflow was $88 million in 2001. However, between 2002 and 2004 FDI inflow averaged $1.14 billion per year. According to figures from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Equatorial Guinea received the thirdlargest amount of foreign direct investment in sub-Saharan Africa in 2004, totaling $1.66 billion.


During the 1990s, in conjunction with Spain, Equatorial Guinea focused on education, health, administrative reform, and economic infrastructures with little success. According to a 1996 International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, the production base of Equatorial Guinea was extremely small, the level of human capital very weak, and the country had no basic infrastructure. Mismanagement and corruption were widespread in public administration. US oil companies have invested in development of the country's infrastructure.

New oil and gas exploration and development of existing fields resulted in rapid growth in energy exports in the early 2000s. The government sold some state-owned enterprises, and attempted to establish a more favorable investment climate. As of 2005, there had been no formal agreements or arrangements with the IMF since 1996.


Old age, disability, sickness, and work injury laws cover employees, public officials, and military personnel. These programs are funded primarily from employers and the government, with a small contribution from the employee. Family allowances are also paid. Workers' medical benefits include free medical care, hospitalization, and medicine. However, subsistence farmers and agricultural workers are not covered by formal social security systems. The great majority of the population goes without potable water, electricity, basic education, or even minimal health care.

Women have the same legal rights as men, but in practice face discrimination. Male-dominated traditions and customs lead many parents to withdraw their daughters from school. Men are accorded favorable inheritance and property rights. Polygamy is common within the Fang ethnic group. Domestic violence against women is commonplace, and the government does not prosecute perpetrators. As of 2004, forced marriages were customary.

Human rights violations are commonplace. Human rights abuses include incommunicado detention, extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and searches without warrants.


The national health system of Equatorial Guinea consists of four levels: health posts in each village of 600 people, dispensaries in health centers with a qualified nurse at the intermediate level, district level hospitals, and two referral hospitals at the most centralized level. In 2004, there were an estimated 25 physicians, 40 nurses, 1 dentist, 1 pharmacist, and 2 midwives per 100,000 people.

In 2005, the infant mortality rate was estimated at 91.16 per 1,000 live births. The maternal mortality rate in 1990 was 820 women per 100,000 live births. Life expectancy in 2005 was 49.70 years, with an overall death rate of 12.9 per 1,000 people.

Major health problems (1992 data) are preventable diseases, mainly malaria (increasingly chloroquine resistant), parasitic disease, upper respiratory infections, gastroenteritis, and complications of pregnancy. In the continental zone, sickle cell anemia is common. Approximately 61% of the country's children were immunized against measles between 1991 and 1994.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 3.40 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 5,900 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 370 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


In 1995 there were about 50,000 households with an average of eight persons per household.


Education is free and compulsory from 6 to 11 years of age. Primary education is for five years followed by four years of secondary in the first stage and three subsequent years of secondary education in the second stage.

In 2001, about 35% of children between the ages of three and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2001 was estimated at about 87% of age-eligible students; 93% for boys and 81% for girls. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 24% of all age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 45% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 43:1 in 2000; the ratio for secondary school was about 23:1.

The Universidad Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial is the primary institute of higher learning. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 84.2%, with 92.1% for men and 76.4% for women. As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 0.6% of GDP, or 1.6% of total government expenditures.


The Malabo Public Library, housed in three branches, contains some 17,000 volumes. The Claretian Mission at Malabo has about 4,000 volumes of Africana and Guineana, and an archaeological-ethnographic museum. In Santa Isabel, the Mission Ethnological Museum houses a collection of the art of the Bubus people and stone sculptures of the Druids.


In 2003, there were only about 9,600 mainline telephones in use throughout the country. The same year, there were about 41,500 mobile phones in use nationwide.

Equatorial Guinea has two government-owned radio stations broadcasting in Spanish, French, and local languages, including Fang, Bubi, and Combe. The only privately owned radio station is held by Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the president's son. There is one television station, also government-owned. Cable television is also available. In 1997, there were about 180,000 radios and 4,000 televisions nationwide. In 2002, there were 1,800 Internet subscribers served by three service providers.

Poto Poto, published in Spanish and Fang, may be the only daily national newspaper. There were five general-interest newspapers published regularly in 2002. La Gaceta, a monthly publication with informal connections to the Government; El Correo Guineo Ecuatoriano, a bimonthly newspaper published by the Gaceta group; La Opinion, an opposition newspaper published every 2 to 3 weeks; El Tiempo, an opposition newspaper; and Ebano, a twice monthly publication of the Ministry of Information, Tourism, and Culture. Egyptian Mail is a national English-language publication.

Although the constitution of Equatorial Guinea provides for free speech and a free press, the government is said to severely restrict these freedoms in practice, censoring all criticism of the president and security forces. Access to foreign publications is limited.


The government generally restricts the formation of nongovernmental organizations and associations. Apart from official and semiofficial organizations, most non government organizations are religious societies and sports clubs. In 2004, the only recognized labor union was the Small Farmers Syndicate. There is also and Equatorial Guinea Press Association. There is an International Lion's Club and the Red Cross has an active chapter.


Because Equatorial Guinea has undergone many years of international isolation, its tourism industry is very undeveloped, with limited hotel space available in Malabo and Bata. Attractions include the Spanish colonial architecture of Malabo, the beaches, and the tropical rain forests. A certificate of vaccination against yellow fever is required. A valid passport is needed; there are no visa requirements.

In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in Equatorial Guinea at $218 per day.


Francisco Macías Nguema (192479) was president until his overthrow and execution in 1979. His successor, Lt.-Col. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (b.1946), has ruled Equatorial Guinea since 1979.


Equatorial Guinea has no territories or colonies.


Dun and Bradstreet's Export Guide to Equatorial Guinea. Parsippany, N.J.: Dun and Bradstreet, 1999.

Fegley, Randall. Equatorial Guinea. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio, 1991.

Liniger-Goumaz, Max. Historical Dictionary of Equatorial Guinea. 3rd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2000.

Sundiata, I. K. Equatorial Guinea: Colonialism, State Terror, and the Search for Stability. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1990.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

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Equatorial Guinea


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 economic mismanagement of the rule of Francisco Macias Nguema left the economy of Equatorial Guinea in very sad shape by the 1990s. Commercial cocoa production was essentially destroyed and most families in rural areas survived through subsistence farming and through the relatively high levels of foreign aid. But many charities and international lending agencies have ceased providing new funds to the country due to the high level of corruption. With little manufacturing, forestry has been one of the few promising industries which thrived in the early and mid-1990s.

The country is rich in natural resources, specifically oil, gold, titanium, iron ore, manganese, and uranium, although the country has been slow to exploit them. Specifically, the country has only just begun to produce and export oil after finding enormous deposits off Bioko Island in 1991. These oil deposits have attracted a number of multinational corporations the first significant foreign investments into the country.

Although the discovery of oil can be a blessing to a developing country, the government has recognized some of the problems associated with allowing the economy to be based on oil production and hosted a United Nations Conference concerning the proper governance of such an economy. Besides the obvious potential problems of environmental damage and the difficulty of negotiating with powerful multinational corporations, a number of countries in Africa have recognized the political and economic problems associated with natural resource dependent economies. Economically, reliance on oil makes the economy very susceptible to the extremely volatile oil prices and may lead to the lack of incentive to develop other aspects of the economy such as manufacturing and services. Politically, the profits from natural resources can inspire new levels of corruption in the government, both in filling the pockets of politicians and supporters and in helping the ruling elite to maintain power. The issue of corruption is especially striking in Equatorial Guinea. In 1993 the IMF and World Bank suspended a number of loans and grants due to the discovery of high levels of corruption. Although some of these loans have been reinstated in recent years, levels of corruption have not improved dramatically.


In the early 1990s a wave of democracy swept through Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and much of the African continent. While hopes were high that democracy would take hold across the globe, many nations made little progress towards real democracy. In many cases the dictators of the former regimes became the central political figures in supposed multi-party democracies. Unfortunately, Equatorial Guinea was one of these countries.

After the Spanish departed in 1968 and made way for Equatorial Guinean independence, the country suffered harsh political and economic times. The country was ruled by Francisco Macias Nguema, who quickly established a one-party state. Nguema contained any possible opposition, declaring himself president for life and the "Unique Miracle of Equatorial Guinea." Nguema cut off ties to the West and aligned the country with the socialist bloc countries.

The Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE), the country's only political party prior to 1991, was created by Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo after a successful coup in 1979. After the brutal Nguema regime, internal and external pressure forced the ruling elite to reform the constitution and hold democratic elections. Even after a movement towards multi-party democracy along with much of Africa in the early 1990s, the PDGE remained the central political party, retaining the vast majority of parliamentary seats and Obiang the powerful presidency. In the 1999 elections, the PDGE won over 80 percent of the vote and gained 75 out of the 80 seats in the parliament.

Outside of the formal systems of political parties, clan networks complicate the transition to democratic rule. Some groups, such as the minority Bubi population, have been all but left out of politics. These marginalized groups have become more active in recent years. The militant Movimiento para la Autodeterminacion de la Isla de Bioko (MAIB), for example, has been accused of attacking government installations throughout the country.

Obiang's rule continues to be centered on personality, not ideology. Obiang and the PDGE have maintained tight control over the economy, although they have begun to allow higher levels of international investment.

Equatorial Guinea has been a target of human rights activists in recent years. The current regime has been accused of harassing political opponents, limiting freedom of expression, limiting the development of new political parties, and inhumane conditions in the country's prisons. In 1999 Amnesty International, an international human rights organization, issued reports on the arrest of 3 citizens for "insults against the government and the Armed Forces" stemming from their activities with Amnesty International and their attempt to establish a political party.


Fueled by both the revenues from natural resources and the increased demands for power, roads, and harbors to continue the production of natural resources, the country has made large improvements in the vastly underdeveloped infrastructure . This includes upgrading the port at Luba, the airport at Malabo, and many roads linking major cities. The telecommunications revolution has

Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations b Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Equatorial Guinea 4,000 (1996) N/A AM 0; FM 2; shortwave 4 180,000 1 4,000 1 500
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Nigeria 500,000 (2000) 26,700 AM 82; FM 35; shortwave 11 23.5 M 2 (1999) 6.9 M 11 100,000
Cameroon 75,000 4,200 AM 11; FM 8; shortwave 3 2.27M 1 (1998) 450,000 1 20,000
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

slowly been introduced with a new digital network, public phone booths, a cellular system, and even some limited Internet access.

Most of the country's power is generated by a number of oil-fired power plants and a few large dams. The country's power generation capacity will be doubled when a new gas-fired power plant is completed on Bioko. The gas for this power station will be supplied domestically.

These investments in infrastructure have helped increase the attractiveness of the country to foreign investors and have a positive impact on economic development. Unfortunately, the prior political regime left the country's infrastructure in a horrible state. Even with these vast improvements, the lack of developed infrastructure is still a major hindrance to economic development. The country currently has no rail system, few paved roads, and an inefficient communications system. Especially troubling is the lack of physical infrastructure in rural areas.


The oil industry dominates all economic activity in Equatorial Guinea. The oil industry draws most the country's foreign investment, provides most of the exports, and provides the central government with a tremendous amount of revenue. Unfortunately, this industry has not provided a significant amount of jobs. Most citizens survive through subsistence agricultural production on small family plots.

In recent years the timber industry has played more of an important role in the economy and has contributed to country exports, mostly to Asia. Cocoa and coffee production, once the mainstay of the economy, has declined in importance since the 1970s. Today this sector plays a very small role in the economy. The manufacturing and service sectors also have very little impact on the national economy and provide very few jobs.


Although agriculture employs the majority of the population, it contributed to less than 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1998. Most agricultural production is done through subsistence farming. Only a few cocoa and coffee plantations produce agricultural products for sale on the open market. The only efficient agricultural sector is the production and export of timber and timber products. Unfortunately, many environmentalists believe that the level of production may be unsustainable.


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
Exports Imports
1975 .026 .020
1980 .014 .026
1985 .017 .020
1990 .062 .061
1995 .086 .050
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.


The international trade position of the country has improved dramatically. Prior to the discovery of oil, exports were dominated by agricultural production, which declined dramatically under the period of authoritarian rule. The trade balance in the late 1980s and early 1990s was in constant deficit, only to improve with the explosion of oil production in the early 1980s. With a depreciation of the CFA Fr, the price of timber from Equatorial Guinea is less expensive relative to timber from other countries. This depreciation has led to a dramatic increase in timber exports. These 2 industries propelled the country into a surplus in the mid-1990s.

With no real manufacturing base, almost every manufactured good has to be imported. The increased activity in the oil sector has led to a surge in imports to service this industry's needs.

The country's main trading partner is the United States, consuming 62 percent of the country's exports and providing 35 percent of the imports. France, Spain, China, Cameroon, and the United Kingdom are also important trading partners.


In 1985 the country abandoned the national currency, the bikwele, and joined a number of former French colonies in pegging their own national currencies to the French franc and adopting the CFA Fr. The CFA Fr is supported by the French Treasury and is fully convertible. With this financial arrangement and the competent monetary policy of the regional central bank, the Bank of the Central African States, Equatorial Guinea has greatly helped reduce the levels of inflation from almost 40 percent in 1994 to a range of 6 to 12 percent in 1994-1999. Given the extremely fast economic growth of almost 20 percent in recent years, this inflation-fighting performance is impressive.

Exchange rates: Equatorial Guinea
Communaute Financiere Africaine francs (CFA Fr) per US$1
Jan 2001 699.21
2000 711.98
1999 615.70
1998 589.95
1997 583.67
1996 511.55
Note: From January 1, 1999, the CFA Fr is pegged to the euro at a rate of 655.957 CFA Fr per euro.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

Attempts to establish a commercial banking sector following the 1979 coup failed miserably. Only the Banque centrale des Etats de l'Afrique centrale (BEAC) offers commercial financial services, although there are some prospects for new entrants in the commercial center of Malabo.


Even though Equatorial Guinea is one of the wealthiest countries in Africa, with GDP per capita estimated at more than US$2,000 in 1999, the bulk of the citizenry lives in poverty. Official unemployment stands at almost 30 percent, and the government's social safety net does not adequately provide for the unemployed. The massive economic growth rates have been fueled by the production of oil offshore, an industry that has not substantially increased the number of jobs in the country. Timber, on the other hand, has made some contribution to increasing living standards, although this industry currently remains too small to make a significant contribution to the average worker's standard of living. The bulk of the population remains poor and makes a living off subsistence farming. The majority of Equatorial Guineans live without electricity, basic education, adequate health care, or safe drinking water.

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Equatorial Guinea N/A N/A 352 333 1,049
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Nigeria 301 314 230 258 256
Cameroon 616 730 990 764 646
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.


Few studies have examined the working conditions in rural areas. Most people work on small farms for family consumption. Hours can be long and conditions can be harsh due to the lack of advanced farming equipment and farming techniques.

The United States Department of State Human Rights Report (1999) argues that working conditions for employees are substandard in Equatorial Guinea. The current minimum wage, roughly equivalent to US$41 a month does not provide for a sufficient standard of living for families. Labor standards, while officially codified into law, are seldom enforced. Laws declare women to have the same rights as men, but discrimination continues.


1963. Provinces of Fernando Po (Bioko Island) and Río Muni (3 small islands and the mainland) are joined under Spanish rule.

1968. Country gains independence from Spain.

1979. Macias is overthrown by Brigadier-General Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in a violent coup.

1985. Country joins the Franc Zone.

1991. Obiang declares the end of one-party rule.

1991. Large oil and natural gas deposits are discovered.

1994. Investment by Mobil in the oil sector is followed by a number of multinationals over the next couple of years.

1996. Multi-party elections in 1996 are won by Obiang with 98 percent of the vote. This election is widely contested as unfair.

1997. French becomes second official language.

1997. The government claims an attempted coup in May and doubles the size of the military to 2,000.

1998. Attacks on government installations in January. Government blames a militant group for the attacks.

1999. The ruling PDGE increases its majority in parliament.

1999. Border dispute with Sao Tomé and Príncipe is settled by negotiation.

1999. First university established.


The future is mixed for the country and the people of Equatorial Guinea. The aggregate growth prospects for the economy remain fairly bright, with high levels of economic growth being forecast for the future. These growth forecasts are dependent on the recent high prices of oil, which historically have been subject to tremendous price fluctuations. A drop in world oil prices could be disastrous for these future growth prospects.

Perhaps even more troubling is the uneven level of development in the country. While the oil sector has been booming in recent years, the bulk of the population remains dependent on subsistence farming for their livelihood. This large part of the population has been relatively untouched by recent economic successes and most likely would be untouched by further economic growth fueled by the oil sector.

On the positive side, Equatorial Guinea has shown some ability to develop the timber industry and has great potential for development in the mining and tourism sectors. The challenge for the country is to find the means to further develop these sectors.

In recent years the country has made some progress in investing in telecommunications, roads, and rail systems. This is one means of using the government revenues from the economic boom in the oil sector to finance economic development in other parts of the country. While this exhibits some positive signs, much more needs to be done.

In many ways, Equatorial Guinea suffers from the same problems as many other African countries. The country is rich in natural resources, yet poor in essentially all other aspects of economic development. The problems ahead will revolve around issues of how to use these resources to stimulate even economic development.


Equatorial Guinea has no territories or colonies.


Amnesty International. "Equatorial Guinea. No Free Flow of Information. June 2000." <>. Accessed February 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Ghana, Equatorial Guinea. London: EIU, 2000.

Energy Information Agency. "Country Analysis Briefs:Equatorial Guinea October 2000." <>. Accessed February 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. "CIA World Factbook 2000: Equatorial Guinea." <>. Accessed February 2001.

U.S. Department of State. "1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Equatorial Guinea." <>. Accessed February 2001.

Nathan Jensen




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).

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Equatorial Guinea


Republic of Equatorial Guinea

Major City:


EQUATORIAL GUINEA is a small West-Central African country divided into a mainland region and an island region. People of Equatorial Guinea are warm and friendly. The country has a variety of landscapes from pristine white sand beaches to Vermont-like hills on the continent. Equatorial Guinea is a new country and inhabitants are striving to build a stable nation.



The capital of Malabo is a picturesque, small city of 30,000 inhabitants. Spanish architecture predominates, with a lovely view of the ocean from many of the houses. It is a quiet city, with little traffic, and streets which are nearly deserted during the afternoon.

The pace of life is slow, and people seem to have the luxury of being unhurried and able to relax. Malabo is in the process of reconstruction and renovation. Many new houses are under construction but many old houses are falling apart.

A feeling of isolation exists in this small city as well as the inconvenience of not being able to procure many usual and essential commodities. These inconveniences can be overcome with trips to nearby Douala, Cameroon, to make necessary purchases and to enjoy a more varied social life.


Swimming may be enjoyed at any of the several scenic beaches along the coast between Malabo and Luba. A good four-wheel-drive vehicle is needed to get to the better beaches. Snorkeling, boating, and fishing are also common pastimes. The continent also has lovely beaches. The water temperature is always pleasant. Soccer is the most popular local sport. Hunters will not find big game on the island.

Mount Malabo National Park affords a panoramic view of the island and Gulf of Guinea on a clear day. A road goes to the top of the mountain, but permission to go there must be granted by the Government. This can take several weeks. The road along the northern half of Bioko Island is also interesting. It goes by many cocoa plantations, small villages, a large palm plantation, a suspension bridge, and many scenic views of the ocean. The town of Moka is high in the mountains of Bioko Island, and has an Alpine atmosphere. During the growing season, vegetables are available there and local guides can be found for hikes to the volcanic crater lakes. The beaches are the most popular places for foreigners during the weekend. All are within a one-hour drive from Malabo. Insects may make the beaches unpleasant.

It is not possible to take organized tours of the Continental region. The only hotel is in Bata, but the people in the interior have been hospitable to those traveling through. For the more adventuresome, the national ship and private ships make trips to the small island of Annobon. It is a three-day voyage, round trip, with a stay of five to six days on the island. The island is very much a culture in itself, as no currency is used there. There are no hotels, but the people are hospitable and welcome such items as soap, batteries, or garden seeds in exchange for lodging.

It is also possible to tour parts of Cameroon and Gabon while living in Equatorial Guinea.


The Spanish-Guinean Cultural Center in Malabo has art exhibits, movies, programs, and free language instruction for the public. A local movie theater operates and, on special occasions, the theater may be used for other programs. Malabo has some very lively discos and late evening restaurants. Traditional Guinean dancers often perform on local holidays.

Life in Malabo is informal. The small size of the foreign community makes it easy to get acquainted. Spanish is normally spoken at social events with Guineans and Europeans. Social activities usually include private parties or viewing videotaped movies. A person's social life can be active or quiet, depending on personal preference.


Geography and Climate

The Republic of Equatorial Guinea is located in west central Africa and consists of two distinct provinces. The first province is Bioko Island. It is situated in the Atlantic Ocean, about 20 miles west of Cameroon. Rio Muni is a province on the African mainland and is bordered on the north by Cameroon, on the east and south by Gabon, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The provinces of Equatorial Guinea comprise a combined area of 10,832 square miles, slightly larger than Maryland. Bioko Island is a boot-shaped island formed from three extinct volcanoes. Southern parts of the island are steep, rocky and generally undeveloped. In the north, the terrain is less rugged and very fertile due to the presence of volcanic soil deposits. The topography of Rio Muni consists mostly of jungle with a coastal plain rising steeply toward the Gabon border. Interior portions of Rio Muni exhibit a series of valleys separated by low hills. The province is virtually cut in half by the Mbini River. Except for a 12-mile section, the Mbini is unnavigable.

Equatorial Guinea exhibits a tropical climate. Rainfall is very heavy, especially on Bioko. February through March, however, is usually dry. Humidity and temperatures are high throughout the year, although Rio Muni tends to be drier and cooler than Bioko. Equatorial Guinea periodically experiences violent windstorms.


The estimated population of Equatorial Guinea was approximately 477,800 in 2000. Most Equatorial Guineans are of Bantu origin. The mainland province of Rio Muni has 75 percent of the population. Approximately 90 percent of the province's inhabitants are from the Fang tribe, which is comprised of about 67 clans. Small tribes of Bujebas, Balengues, Ndowes, and Bengas live in coastal areas of Rio Muni.

Nearly 60 percent of Bioko Island's population are from the Bubi ethnic group. Small groups of Fang and Fernandinos, a small Creole community, reside on Bioko.

Prior to 1968, Equatorial Guinea had a large contingent of foreign residents. Many foreigners fled during the brutal Macias regime and did not return. Today, less than 1,000 europeans and a few hundred other foreigners live and work in Equatorial Guinea. Most europeans are from Spain, but other foreigners are from Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, and Gabon.

Spanish is the country's official language, although Fang and Bubi dialects are also spoken. The vast majority of the population are Roman Catholic. Traditional native religions are also practiced.

In 2001, estimated life expectancy at birth was 53 years for males, 56 years for females.


Until the mid-20th century, the provinces of Bioko and Rio Muni had separate histories. Bioko was discovered by the Portuguese explorer, Fernando Po. The Portuguese maintained control of Bioko Island, formerly known as Fernando Po, until 1778. In that year, Portugal ceded Bioko and Rio Muni to Spain in exchange for Spanish territory in South America.

During the early 1900s, Bioko Island was used by the Spaniards as a trading center and a transfer point for slaves to North and South America. Also, the Spanish established several profitable cocoa plantations. From 1827-1843, Great Britain maintained a naval base on the island. France also established a base there. However, by the late 1800s, the British and French abandoned their positions on Bioko for bases on the African mainland. The Spaniards became the island's primary European inhabitants.

The mainland province of Rio Muni was virtually unexplored until the early 1920s. The Spaniards had expended most of their time and energy developing cocoa plantations and settlements on Bioko. From the 1920s to the 1940s, attempts were made to develop coffee, cocoa, and palm oil plantations in Rio Muni. Also the Spanish government sought to improve health conditions and educational opportunities in the territory.

On July 30, 1959, Spain united the provinces of Bioko and Rio Muni into one colony known as the "Territories of the Gulf of Guinea." Native inhabitants of Rio Muni and Bioko were not pleased and demanded complete independence from Spain. Two political parties, Monalige (Movimiento Nacional de Liberacion de Guinea Ecuatorial) and Idea Popular de Guinea Ecuatorial (IPGE), were created and went into exile in neighboring Cameroon and Gabon. In 1962, representatives of Monalige and the IPGE appeared before the United Nations and presented a series of grievances against Spain's colonial rule. The Spaniards denounced the two groups as communist agitators. However, in an attempt to obtain international support, Spain enacted the Basic Law in December 1963. The Basic Law granted limited self-government to non-European persons in Bioko and Rio Muni. Also, the country's official name was changed to Equatorial Guinea. Despite these changes, Spain's colonial rule of Equatorial Guinea was nearing its end.

In March 1968, after intense pressure from Monalige, IPGE and the United Nations, Spain announced that it would grant independence to Equatorial Guinea. A convention was held with representatives from the Spanish government and the two opposition parties attending. The delegates, after a series of lengthy negotiations, drafted and approved a constitution. The constitution stated that Equatorial Guinea would be an independent and democratic republic. Presidential elections were held in September 1968. Francisco Macias Nguema defeated Bonofacio Ondo Edu and three other candidates. On October 12, 1968, Equatorial Guinea was granted complete independence from Spain.

Equatorial Guinea's experiment with democracy proved to be short-lived. Shortly after independence, President Macias began to dismantle the country's democratic constitution and instituted a brutal dictatorship. In 1970, Monalige, IPGE and other political parties were banned. In their place, Macias created the Partido Unico Nacional de los Trabajadores (PUNT). PUNT became the country's only legal party and all members were fanatically loyal to Macias. To enforce his policies, Macias established a vicious paramilitary organization. This group, the Juventad en Marcha con Macias, hunted down and executed all suspected political opponents and quelled public dissent. In 1972, Macias named himself President-for-Life. The democratic constitution was formally abolished in 1973 and a new authoritarian constitution enacted. Equatorial Guinea had been plunged into a period of terror and bloodshed.

From 1969-79, the Macias dictatorship was one of the most brutal in the world. Intellectuals, political opponents and their families were ruthlessly hunted down, tortured and executed. Macias suppressed all religious freedom and education was abolished. Up to one-third of the country's 300,000 people were murdered or fled into exile. As skilled citizens and foreigners were killed or left Equatorial Guinea, the country's transportation, health, sanitation, electrical and water systems were devastated by neglect and mismanagement. Macias' reign of terror was finally ended after he was overthrown in a military coup by his nephew, Lt. Col. Obiang Nguema, in August 1979. Macias was captured and executed after a trial supervised by international observers.

Upon coming to power in 1979, Obiang Nguema sought to repair some of the damaged caused by the Macias regime. He released political prisoners and reinstated the freedom of religion and education. He also reestablished diplomatic and economic ties with the outside world, especially Spain. The Spaniards responded by sending massive amounts of financial aid to help rebuild Equatorial Guinea's shattered economy. Obiang Nguema transferred broad governmental powers to a group of military officers who called themselves the Supreme Military Council. Obiang Nguema was named president. Much to the dismay of Equatorial Guineans, political opposition parties were not allowed. In April 1981, an attempt to overthrow the government was unsuccessful. Obiang Nguema responded by arresting 150 civilians, including 30 top army officers. Following the coup attempt, Obiang Nguema decided to draft a new constitution with the help of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. This constitution, which took effect August 15, 1982, provided for the return of a civilian government after a period of seven years. Obiang Nguema was appointed president for seven more years.

Despite this new constitution, Equatorial Guinea continued to experience political upheaval and repression. Two other military coups were foiled in May 1983 and January 1986. In August 1987, Obiang Nguema authorized the creation of a single government-controlled party, the Democratic Party for Equatorial Guinea (PDGE). This move ended a nine-year ban on political parties and raised the hopes of many that multi-party democracy would be granted soon. In June 1989, the first presidential elections since 1968 were held. Obiang Nguema, running as the sole candidate, received 99 percent of the vote.

To date, Equatorial Guinea remains under the grip of a one-party dictatorship. Although more flexible and less brutal than his predecessor, Obiang Nguema continues to delay the return of true multi-party democracy. In 1990 Amnesty International alleged that prisoners are still being tortured in Equatorial Guinea. Although opposition parties are nominally recognized, they boycotted the November 1993 legislative elections, in which only 20 percent of the electorate voted. Boycotts occurred again in the 1999 legislative elections.


Equatorial Guinea's government is comprised of an executive branch, State Council, and a House of Representatives. The executive branch consists of a president and a prime minister. The president wields tremendous powers. He is granted the ability to create and decree laws, negotiate and ratify treaties, command all military forces, call for elections, and dissolve the House of Representatives. Prime ministers are responsible for all governmental activities apart from foreign affairs and military defense.

The State Council is an 11-member committee which has the power to approve or reject any presidential candidate. Also, the State Council is authorized to control all presidential powers should the president die or become incapacitated.

In 1983, a House of Representatives was created. This 41-member body is elected for a five-year term and convenes twice a year for two-month periods. The House of Representatives serves as an advisor to the State Council and the executive branch.

The flag of Equatorial Guinea consists of three horizontal bands of green (top), white, and red with a blue isosceles triangle on the staff side. In the center of the white band is the country's national emblem. The emblem has six yellow six-pointed stars above a gray shield. Under the shield are the words Unity, Peace, Justice.

Arts, Science, Education

Equatorial Guinea's educational system was nearly destroyed during the Macias dictatorship. The 1982 constitution stated that education must be the country's top priority. All children between the ages of six and 14 are entitled to receive eight years of education at government expense. Primary education begins at age six and lasts for six years. At the age of twelve, students enter another six year period of secondary education. Since 1979, Spain has provided teachers and financial assistance to its former colony.

In 1995, an estimated 79 percent of the population age 15 and over could read and write.

Commerce and Industry

Years of brutal dictatorship, international isolation, and mismanagement virtually destroyed Equatorial Guinea's economy. The country is dependent on economic aid from other countries, especially Spain. Industry has grown in recent years, due primarily to the discovery of significant oil reserves. Equatorial Guinea has deposits of iron ore, manganese, uranium and titanium. However, most of these deposits lie undeveloped. American, French, and Spanish companies are engaged in oil exploration.

Equatorial Guinea's economy is heavily based on agriculture. Coffee and timber are harvested in Rio Muni, while Bioko has several profitable cocoa plantations. Most of the country's coffee, timber, and cocoa are exported to Spain, Italy, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Although Equatorial Guinea produces cassava, yams, rice, bananas and palm nuts, foodstuffs must be imported to meet the country's needs. In addition to food, clothing, transport vehicles, machinery and petroleum products are imported from Spain, Italy, France, Cameroon, and the Netherlands.


Bioko has a surfaced road that links Malabo, to the western seaport of Luba and the town of Batete. Malabo is also connected by a surfaced road to Bacake Grande in the east. In Rio Muni, a surfaced road links the seaport towns of Bata and Mbini. Another road connects Bata to the eastern town of Ebebiyin and continues into Gabon. Most other roads are in extremely poor condition and are not considered safe for travel. Few taxis are available, although Bioko has a bus service between the cities of Malabo, Luba, and Riaba.

An international airport is located at Malabo. Equatorial Guinea's national airline went out of business in 1990. Since April 1990, Air Afrique Affaires, a privately owned airline, has taken over the country's international and domestic flights indefinitely. Air Afrique Affaires operates a domestic flight between Bata and Malabo. Weekly flights are available to Nigeria, Gabon, and Cameroon.

There is no rail transportation in Equatorial Guinea, although a weekly boat service between Bata and Malabo is available. The country's deep-water ports are located at Malabo, Luba, and Bata.


Equatorial Guinea has three radio stations, all of which are government-owned. Africa 2000 broadcasts sports and cultural programs in Spanish. Radio Ecuatorial Bata is a commercial station that broadcasts in Spanish and French. Radio Malabo broadcasts programs in Spanish, French, and local African languages. There is a small television station in Malabo, although service is extremely limited.

Two newspapers are published in Equatorial Guinea. Poto Poto is printed in Spanish and Fang. Ebano is published in Spanish. Both of these newspapers are available on a regular basis.

Telephone communications are very unreliable and of poor sound quality. The country has limited telex facilities in Malabo and Bata which also serve as an international telegram service. Telegraph rates are very costly.

Clothing and Services

Some fresh tropical fruits (mangoes, pineapple, bananas, papayas), vegetables (tomatoes, lettuce, beans, potatoes, garlic, carrots, greens, onions, cabbage, eggplant, squash), and fresh fish may be purchased in Malabo. Produce is seasonal and is not always available. Many kinds of Western foods are available, but expensive, in Douala, Cameroon, and may be brought back to Malabo. Food in Malabo is often twice as expensive as in either Douala or the U.S. There is little variety and virtually no selection of brands in Equatorial Guinea.


Equatorial Guinea experienced many years of international isolation, especially during the Macias dictatorship. Consequently, tourism is very undeveloped and most accommodations are rather primitive. Limited hotel space is available in Malabo and Bata. Reservations must be made before arriving in the country. Food is rarely available at the Bata Hotel and, in Malabo, only some of the rooms at the Apartotel Impala are air-conditioned. It is not unusual for electrical service to be interrupted. Therefore, a flashlight, candles and matches are recommended.

Visas must be obtained before entering the country. Two photographs must be submitted to authorities upon arrival. It is important for the traveler to bring extra photographs.

Medical facilities are primitive and there are no dentists or opticians in the country. Cholera and malaria vaccinations are essential while inoculations for typhoid and yellow fever are highly recommended. Malaria suppressants must be taken regularly and travelers should bring a supply of basic medications because Western consumer goods are in short supply. Mold and dampness may exacerbate allergies during the rainy season. Excessive dust in the air during the dry season can aggravate throat or respiratory ailments.

The water in Equatorial Guinea is not safe to drink. Travelers should filter and boil water before drinking, using it for cooking, or making ice. Many travelers bring their own bottled water. All vegetables must be peeled and placed in a disinfecting solution before eating.

Insects abound in Equatorial Guinea. The mosquito is ever present, and 90 percent of the population has malaria. In addition to mosquitoes, there are black flies, house flies, tsetse flies, and "no-seeems" (small, almost invisible biting insects). Cockroaches and rodents frequently appear in houses. Small brownish-green lizards live in the houses and yards and are useful in eating flying insects. There is a fly which lays eggs in wet clothing. The eggs hatch and the worm burrows into a person's skin while the clothing is being worn. All clothing and linens must be thoroughly ironed or dried in dryers after washing.

Diseases endemic to Equatorial Guinea include malaria, measles, tuberculosis, and parasitic diseases. Walking barefoot is not wise as infections and worms are easily contracted. Rabies is present and there is a real danger of measles. American expatriates and travelers have maintained good health by drinking ample amounts of liquids, getting plenty of rest, and eating a well-balanced diet, as well as keeping immunizations up to date.

Western dress predominates. Some clothing is available locally, but quality varies and items sold in stores are not always new. Most American expatriates buy clothes on trips or from mail order catalogs. Dust in the dry season and mud in the rainy season necessitate washable clothing, as there are no dry cleaning facilities available. American men usually wear dress shirts and slacks. Long sleeves may be worn to prevent insect bites. Women need washable dresses, skirts, slacks, and blouses. Girls usually wear dresses. Boys wear shirts and shorts in the city. Long-sleeved shirts and pants are recommended for both boys and girls outside Malabo to prevent insect bites. Many children wear rubber thongs, which are readily available.

The Roman Catholic Church is predominant. In Malabo, the Baptist Church has Sunday services and Sunday school. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church has worship in Spanish in Malabo. A Bahai mission is located in Malabo, and a Presbyterian mission on the continent.

The unit of currency is the Communauté Financière Africaine (CFA) franc.

The U.S. Embassy in Equatorial Guinea is located at Calle de Los Ministros, Apdo. 597, Malabo; telephone: 24-06.


Jan.1 New Year's Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

May 1Labor Day

May 25OAU Day

May/JuneCorpus Christi*

June 5 President Obiang's Birthday

Aug. 3Armed Forces Day

Aug. 15Constitution Day

Oct.12 Independence Day

Nov. 17Feast of Santa Isabel

Dec. 8 Immaculate Conception

Dec. 10 Human rights Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day



These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Decalo, Samuel. Psychoses of Power. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1989.

Equatorial Guinea. Let's Visit Places & Peoples of the World. New York: Chelsea House, 1989.

Fegley, Randall. Equatorial Guinea: An African Tragedy. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1989.

Klitgaard, Robert. Tropical Gangsters: Development & Decadence in Deepest Africa. New York: Basic Books, 1990.

Liniger-Goumaz, Max. Historical Dictionary of Equatorial Guinea. 2nd ed. African Historical Dictionaries Series, no. 21. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1988.

Sundiata, Ibrahim K. Equatorial Guinea. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990.

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Equatorial Guinea
Region: Africa
Population: 474,214
Language(s): Spanish, French, pidgin English, Fang, Bubi, Ibo
Literacy Rate: 78.5%

History & Background

The Republic of Equatorial Guinea is a small West African country that consists of Rio Muni and the five small islands of Bioko, Corisco, Great Elobey, Little Elobey, and Annobon. Its total area is approximately 10,831 square miles (28,052 square kilometers). Equatorial Guinea is a very fragmented country that suffers from internal differences and an unstable economy, both of which are in part attributable to its geographic separation from the other countries of Africa.

The Portuguese first explored Equatorial Guinea some time between 1472 and 1475. Because of the Treaty of Tordesillas (June 7, 1494) the Portuguese maintained control over Equatorial Guinea until 1778, when Spain took control of the colony. Spanish control of Equatorial Guinea was intended to give Spain a direct source of slave labor to use as needed in Spanish America. No occupation of mainland Equatorial Guinea took place at this time, however, as the Spanish left the island of Bioko (then Fernando Po) after a widespread yellow fever epidemic.

From 1827 to 1843 the British leased spaces at Port Clarence (later Santa Isabel, now Malabo) on Fernando Po to use as a base to regulate the abolition of the slave trade. In 1839 the first known school was established in Clarence City with 120 children. Because there was no Spanish administration in the area, the British administered the island and made Spain several offers to buy the island from them. All of these offers were denied, and the British left Fernando Po in 1843 after selling their buildings to a Baptist mission. A second school was established on Santa Isabel by Baptist missionaries some time between 1840 and 1858 (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).

The Baptist missionaries were forced off of the island of Fernando Po in 1858, and a group of Jesuits established themselves there. The Jesuits also opened a school in Santa Isabel, but the revolution in Spain of 1858 put an end to these efforts. In 1870 Primitive Methodists also opened a school, and between 1876 to 1877 an additional school was established and later directed by a Cuban, following the Spanish decision of 1879 to use the island as a penal settlement for Cubans (Liniger-Goumaz 2000). This school, along with the school established by the Methodists, was suppressed following the arrival of many Claretians, members of the Congregation of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which was founded in Spain in 1849. In addition, the American Presbytery Missionary operated schools in Corisco and Rio Benito from the nineteenth century. At the beginning of the twentieth century a school was opened in Bata for 180 boys and girls by the French Fathers of the Holy Spirit (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

After the Spanish-American War, which ended in 1898, Spanish Guinea became Spain's only significant tropical colony. It was around this period that the economic development of Spanish Guinea began, although for the most part it was concentrated on the richer island of Fernando Po. The Spanish budget law of 1902 provided for the creation of undenominational schools. This project lasted until 1909 and was restarted in 1922. In 1914 the Escuela Externa (secondary school for day students only) was founded in Santa Isabel, and in 1927 a school was opened in Evinayong. Vocational schools were also begun in 1931, the first of which was in Santa Isabel (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).

Despite this progress in the field of education, it was only following the Spanish Civil War, from 1936 to 1939, that mainland Spanish Guinea began to receive broad educational consideration from Spain. In August of 1943 the Guinean school system was organized and provided for the following stages: elementary and preparatory education, primary education, lower secondary education, higher vocational education for schoolteachers and administrators, technical and agricultural education, and complementary schooling for male and female natives (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).

In 1959 the status of Spanish Guinea was changed when it was divided into two overseas provinces of Spain. Each province was placed under the control of a civil governor. Under this new system, all citizens, including the Africans, were granted the same rights as those exercised by citizens of Spain. The free elementary education established under Spanish rule was designed to teach the Spanish language and to guarantee patriotic and moral education (Liniger-Goumaz 2000). Even under this system, however, most children did not go beyond elementary school and most teachers were vastly under-qualified.

In 1963 the two provinces came to be known as Equatorial Guinea after a measure that agreed on economic and administrative autonomy was adopted by plebiscite (common vote). Then, on October 12, 1968, Equatorial Guinea gained independence from Spain, after ratifying a constitution on August 11, 1968. At the time of independence, 185 primary and elementary schools existed, with approximately 48,000 students (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).

The first president of Equatorial Guinea following independence was Francisco Macias Nguema. He was elected in 1971 and, following the election, was successful in passing through a constitution that named him president for life. His rule was marked by many arrests and executions, and during his rule the economy in Equatorial Guinea experienced rapid decline.

Macias maintained power until 1976, when he was overthrown by his nephew, Colonel Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. In 1982, a new, more liberal constitution was approved. Presidential elections were held in early 1996 and President Obiang was re-elected to a seven-year term, winning over 97 percent of the vote. The president's party also won the legislative election held in March 1999, although most international observers agree that the elections were fraudulent.

Educational SystemOverview

In 1971, UNESCO inaugurated the Centro de Desarrollo de la Education (CDE) with the mandate to train high school teachers. The project was halted after just a few years by President Macias, however, who was anxious to put an end to anything that threatened his power and that he deemed "intellectual." During President Macias' term in office, the educational system in Equatorial Guinea experienced severe setbacks. Teachers, students, and parents were arrested and, in some cases, several ministers of education and other education officials were executed, arrested, or detained. Beginning in April of 1972 military education became a requirement in all schools, and in April of 1975 political instruction also became mandatory. By 1972 there were 360 primary schools with 578 teachers for 35,902 students. At that time, the teacher-student ratio was 1 to 62 (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).

Following the palace revolution of 1979, the educational system in Equatorial Guinea slowly recommenced operation. Despite assistance from Spain, France, the United Nations, and the World Bank in the forms of textbooks, teachers, and training, the educational system in Equatorial Guinea remains severely hampered by a lack of trained and qualified staff.

Compulsory Education: Education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 18, although it is widely accepted that the government does not enforce the laws concerning compulsory education. It is estimated that only about 79 percent of children actually attend primary school and that only 69 percent of children progress to receive secondary education. Both the primary and secondary levels consist of six years of schooling. The dropout level is very in high in Equatorial Guinea. Illiteracy rates (for 1999) for adult males age 15 and above are estimated at 8 percent while the rate of illiteracy for women age 15 and above is 27 percent (World Bank 1999).

There is rampant discrimination again women in the education system of Equatorial Guinea, as women tend to be constrained by traditional customs reinforcing their secondary social status. It is estimated that the average woman receives only one-fifth the amount of schooling that the average male receives. In addition, there is no national legislation for the protection of children's rights, so discrimination and truancy are overlooked by the state (U.S. Department of State 1999).

Because of the relatively poor conditions of most public schools in Equatorial Guinea, private schools are becoming increasingly more common, although problems still persist with resources and with adequate funding (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).

Higher Education

Higher education facilities are provided mainly through Spanish assistance via the Spanish National University of Distant Education; locations are in the principal cities of Bata and Malabo. Some students who reach the university level also go abroad to study, primarily in Spain and France. In addition, there are five institutions of higher learning in Equatorial Guinea: the National Institute for Health (Bata), the National Institute for Public Administration (ENAP), the National Institute for Agriculture (ENAM), the Santa Isabel and Bata Institutes for Teachers' Training, and the National Centre for Proficiency in Teaching (CENAFOD), financed by UNESCO (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).

Teaching Profession

Teachers in Equatorial Guinea face many challenges, especially their own lack of qualifications. In addition, they are faced with crumbling school buildings, very high student-teacher ratios, and a lack of blackboards, books, and materials. Teachers also face political constraints imposed on them by the Obiang regime and are subject to arrests should they act in ways that are perceived as threats to the regime (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).


The educational system in Equatorial Guinea faces many challenges: the lack of facilities and textbooks, the lack of adequate training for teachers, the centralist control of the curriculum by the state and the bureaucracy, the inability of officials to devise effective long-term educational policies, and an overall lack of funding (Liniger-Goumaz 2000). These problems are all very severe in Equatorial Guinea and must be addressed comprehensively in order to combat educational deficiencies.

Oil was discovered in 1996 off the shores of Equatorial Guinea. Mobil Corporation is the principal oil company involved in Equatorial Guinea, producing 90 percent of the country's oil wealth. Since this discovery of oil, Mobil Corporation has given aid to the government, particularly to be used to improve the educational system. Corruption is a problem in Equatorial Guinea, however; it is very uncertain to what extent profits from the oil reserves will ever reach the population for improving living conditions and the educational system. Because of the lack of transparency within the public finance sectors of the government, it is difficult for the citizens of Equatorial Guinea to hold their government accountable for changes in incomes and expenditures (World Bank 2000). Now that the country has oil wealth, however, Equatorial Guinea also has the potential to choose a developmental strategy that will allow it to grow and prosper.


The Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 2 March 2001. Available from

Liniger-Goumaz, Max. Historical Dictionary of Equatorial Guinea, 3rd ed. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2000.

Strieker, Gary. Oil Brings Promise of Change to Troubled Equatorial Guinea. CNN World News, 29 May 1997. Available from

U.S. Department of State. Equatorial Guinea Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 26 February 1999. Available from

World Bank. World Development Indicators, 3 March 2001. Available from

. Equatorial Guinea, September 2000. Available from

Eleanor G. Morris

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea (gĬn´ē), officially Republic of Equatorial Guinea, republic (2005 est. pop. 536,000), 10,830 sq mi (28,051 sq km), W central Africa. It includes the islands of Bioko (formerly Fernando Po), Annobón, Corisco, Elobey Grande, and Elobey Chico in the Gulf of Guinea, and Río Muni on the African mainland. Río Muni, which includes about 93% of the nation's land area and 75% to 80% of its population, is bordered by Cameroon in the north, by Gabon in the east and south, and by the Gulf of Guinea in the west. Malabo, situated on Bioko, is the capital and largest city, but a new capital, Oyala, is under construction on the mainland. In addition to Malabo, other important cities include Luba (also on Bioko) and Bata and Ebebiyín (in Río Muni).

Land and People

Río Muni, located just north of the equator, is made up of lowland along the coast, which gradually rises in the interior to c.3,600 ft (1,100 m). Río Muni includes three major rivers—the Campo, which forms part of the northern boundary; the Benito, located in the center; and the Muni, which forms part of the southern boundary. There are forests of okume, mahogany, and walnut along the coast and the rivers. Bioko is made up of three extinct volcanoes, the loftiest of which is c.9,870 ft (3,010 m) high. The island has abundant fertile volcanic soil. Corisco and the Elobey islands are located near the the Muni estuary.

Most of the people in Equatorial Guinea belong to the Bantu ethnolinguistic group. The main ethnic group in Río Muni, where most of the population lives, is the Fang. The population of Bioko is primarily made up of the Bubi (the oldest of the modern-day inhabitants), descendants of slaves from W Africa liberated by the British in the 19th cent., and Nigerians and Fangs who migrated there in the 20th cent. Spanish and French are the official languages, but Fang, Bubi, and other indigenous languages are widely spoken. The population is nominally Christian and predominantly Roman Catholic; some indigenous religions are practiced.


Subsistence farming is the predominant occupation in Equatorial Guinea, although only 5% of the land is arable. Prior to independence, the money economy was based on the production of cocoa (mostly on Bioko) and coffee and timber (in Río Muni). Following severe deterioration of the rural economy, the government has made efforts to increase production of these products to preindependence levels. Other agricultural products include rice, yams, cassava, bananas, and palm oil. Livestock are raised and there is a fishing industry. There is food processing, sawmilling, and the manufacture of basic consumer items. The discovery and exploitation of large offshore oil and natural gas deposits increased economic growth beginning in the late 1990s, but the oil and gas revenue, largely lost to government corruption, has not significantly improved the standard of living in the generally improverished nation. The country also has unexploited deposits of titanium, iron ore, manganese, uranium, and gold. Both Río Muni and Bioko have substantial road networks; there are no railroads. Malabo is the main port.

The value of Equatorial Guinea's exports is considerably higher than the cost of its imports. The United States is the country's largest trading partner, followed by China, Spain, Italy, and France. The main exports are petroleum, methanol, timber, and cocoa; the chief imports are petroleum equpment and other machinery, foodstuffs, and beverages. Equatorial Guinea continues to depend heavily on foreign investment.


Equatorial Guinea is governed under the constitution of 1991 as amended. The president, who is head of state, is popularly elected for a seven-year term; a two-term limit was adopted in 2011. The government is headed by a prime minister, who is appointed by the president. The bicameral legislature consists of the 100-seat House of People's Representatives, whose members are elected to serve five-year terms. The Senate (first elected in 2013) has 70 members, 55 of whom are elected; the rest are appointed by the president. Members of the legislature are elected from multimember constituencies on a proportional basis. The legislature has little power, as the constitution vests most authority in the president. Administratively, the country is divided into seven provinces.


Before Independence

Bioko was claimed by (and until 1972 named after) Fernão do Po, a Portuguese navigator, in 1472, and Annobón was also claimed. During the 17th cent. the mainland's indigenous pygmy peoples were displaced by other groups, principally the Fang, who now inhabit the area. In 1778, Portugal ceded the islands, and also the commercial rights to a part of the African coast that included present-day Río Muni, to the Spanish. Hoping to export Africans as slaves to their American possessions, the Spanish sent settlers to the islands, but they died of yellow fever, and by 1781 the region was abandoned by the Europeans.

From 1827 to 1843 the British leased bases at Malabo (then called Port Clarence) and San Carlos from Spain for use by their antislavery patrols, and some freed slaves were settled on Bioko (then called Fernando Po). In 1844 the Spanish reacquired Bioko and began to occupy it. In 1879, a Cuban penal settlement was established there, and some of the convicts remained on the island after being released from prison. The general region of Río Muni was awarded to Spain at the Conference of Berlin in 1885, and its boundaries were defined precisely in a treaty with France in 1900. The islands and Río Muni were grouped together as the colony of Spanish Guinea.

Under the Spanish, economic development was largely confined to Bioko, although some measures were taken in Río Muni beginning in the 1940s. By 1960, about 6,000 Europeans (mostly Spanish) were living in the colony, and they controlled the production of cocoa and timber. In 1959 the colony was reorganized into two overseas provinces of Spain, each under a governor. In a further move to assimilate the region to Spain, three Hispano-Guineans were elected to the Spanish Cortes in 1960. However, nationalists were not satisfied with assimilation and demanded independence.

Independence and Beyond

In 1963, Spain granted the country (renamed Equatorial Guinea) a limited amount of autonomy, and on Oct. 12, 1968, it received complete independence. The first president was Francisco Macías Nguema, a Fang from Río Muni. In 1969, there were violent anti-European demonstrations in Río Muni and most Europeans left the country, thus for a time severely dislocating the economy. In 1970 all political parties were merged into the United National party (PUN), headed by Macías Nguema, who in 1972 was appointed president for life. In 1973 a new constitution was adopted that abolished the nation's two semiautonomous provinces and created a unitary state.

Macías Nguema led a dictatorship characterized by campaigns against intellectuals and all those alleged to be plotting the overthrow of the regime; many were imprisoned, killed, or driven into exile. Nigerian migrant workers demanding higher wages were brutally suppressed, straining relations between Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. Relations with Cameroon and Gabon were also strained as refugees fled to those countries. Equatorial Guinea severed its diplomatic ties with Spain in 1977. Spanish plantation owners shut down their operations, foreign investment declined, and the nation suffered a severe drop in population, with some 25,000 to 80,000 of the country's inhabitants estimated to have been killed by the government.

In 1979 the military staged a coup, executing Macías Nguema and installing his nephew, Lt. Col. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, as head of the military and head of state. Obiang Nguema Mbasogo lifted restrictions on the Roman Catholic Church, freed political prisoners, encouraged refugees to return, and restored diplomatic ties with Western nations. Spain and France began to reinvest, and the European Community helped rehabilitate the road system. These efforts met with limited success.

In 1982 a new constitution was approved that called for a more democratic political structure, and a decade later legislation was passed providing for a multiparty democracy. However, by 1993, when legislative elections were held, only one party, Obiang Nguema Mbasogo's Democratic Party for Equatorial Guinea (PDGE), held significant power, and the regime was widely denounced for its continued repression of opposition groups. In the 1996 multiparty presidential elections, which were boycotted by major opposition parties, the president won a landslide victory. In the late 1990s, over 100,000 citizens lived in exile abroad, and there was wide dissatisfaction with the slow pace of reform.

Obiang Nguema Mbasogo was reelected unopposed in 2002 after opposition candidates, expecting fraud, withdrew. In Mar., 2004, the government foiled an apparent coup attempt involving mainly South African mercenaries. British and South African mercenaries convicted (2004, 2008) of involvement in the attempt were pardoned in 2009. The national legislative elections two months later occurred in a climate of intimidation that assured a new total victory for the PDGE and its allies; a similar outcome followed the 2008 and 2013 elections.

When police blamed Cameroonians for armed robberies in late 2007, hundreds of Cameroonians faced harassment in Equatorial Guinea; Equatoguineans in Cameroon were similarly harassed in revenge. There have been attacks against banks and other targets in Equatorial Guinea by gangs operating out of Nigeria's Niger delta region, most notably a Feb., 2009, assault against the presidential palace in Malabo. Obiang Nguema Mbasogo was overwhelmingly reelected again in Nov., 2009; the result was denounced by the opposition and international human-rights organizations, who called the election unfair and not credible. Corruption involving the president, his family, and government officials is a significant problem.


See M. Liniger-Goumaz, Historical Dictionary of Equatorial Guinea (1988); I. K. Sundiata, Equatorial Guinea: Colonialism, State Terror, and the Search for Stability (1990); R. Fegley, Equatorial Guinea (1991).

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

Official name : Republic of Equatorial Guinea

Area: 28,051 square kilometers (10,831 miles)

Highest point on mainland: Santa Isabel Peak (Pico Basilé) (3,008 meters/ 9,869 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Eastern, Southern, and Northern

Time zone: 1 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: Río Muni: 248 kilometers (154 miles) from east-northeast to west-southwest; 167 kilometers (104 miles) from south-southeast to north-northwest; Bioko: 74 kilometers (46 miles) from northeast to southwest; 37 kilometers (23 miles) from southeast to northwest

Land boundaries: 539 kilometers (334 miles) total boundary length; Cameroon 189 kilometers (117 miles); Gabon 350 kilometers (217 miles)

Coastline: 296 kilometers (183 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Equatorial Guinea is a country in West Africa. The mainland, called Río Muni (or sometimes Rio Mbini), is located south of Cameroon and north of Gabon, with a western coast on the Bight of Biafra in the Atlantic Ocean. The country includes five inhabited islands: Bioko, Annobón, Corisco, and the two Elobey Islands (Islas Elobey): Little Elobey (Elobey Chico) and Great Elobey (Elobey Grande). Annobón is the only part of the country located south of the equator. With a total area of about 28,051 square kilometers (10,831 miles), the country is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland. The country is divided into seven provinces.


Equatorial Guinea has no other territories or dependencies.


As a result of its location near the equator, Equatorial Guinea has a warm, tropical climate that varies mainly by altitude. At Malabo (the capital city, located on Bioko Island), temperatures range from 16°C (61°F) to 33°C (91°F). In the city of Mbini, the average temperature is about 27°C (80°F).

Annual rainfall varies from 193 centimeters (76 inches) at Malabo to 1,092 centimeters (430 inches) at Ureka. The country often experiences violent windstorms and flash floods.


The sandy coastal plain of Río Muni rises to the low hills and spurs of the Crystal Mountains. East of the mountains, most of the country is a large plateau covered by tropical rainforest. The islands are all volcanic in origin.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

The Bight of Biafra separates the mainland from the islands. The Bight is part of the broad Gulf of Guinea, from which the country takes its name. The Gulf is an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Corisco Bay, located at the southernmost point of the coast, receives waters from the Mandiyani, Congüe, Mitong and Untamboni Rivers as they converge into the Muni estuary.

Islands and Archipelagos

The largest island, Bioko, is located 32 kilometers (20 miles) from the coast of Cameroon. It is a volcanic island roughly 2,018 square kilometers (779 square miles) in size. The other islands are also volcanic, but are much smaller than Bioko. For example, Annobón, which is located 350 kilometers (220 miles) from mainland Gabon, is about 18 square kilometers (7 square miles) in size.

Corisco and the Elobey Islands are all located near the southwest coast of Río Muni, off of Corisco Bay. Corisco covers 15 square kilometers (6 square miles) and the Great and Little Elobeys are each about 2.5 square kilometers (1 square mile). Bioko and Annobón are part of the volcanic chain that includes the Cameroon Highlands and stretches into the Atlantic Ocean as far as St. Helena.

Coastal Features

Sandy shores and estuaries make up the coastal mainland. Near Río Muni's southern tip, Cabo San Juan protrudes into the sea to form the Corisco Bay. On Bioko, the coastline is high and rugged in the south but lower and more accessible in the north.


Pot Lake (Lago á Pot) on the island of Annobón fills the central crater of the volcano, now inactive, that formed the island.


The main rivers are the Mbini, the Ntem, and the Muni. The Mbini is the longest river with a length of 248 kilometers (155 miles). It runs east to west, dividing the mainland into two. It is not navigable except for a short stretch of about 20 kilometers (12 miles). The Ntem flows along part of the northern border with Cameroon. The Muni is not really a river at allit is an estuary of several rivers, of which the Utamboni is the most notable. The islands contain several streams and brooks that are mostly filled by rainwater.


There are no desert regions in Equatorial Guinea.


Besides the sandy coastal plains of Rio Muni, there are no other significant plains regions in Equatorial Guinea.


Bioko has two large volcanic formations separated by a valley that bisects the island. In the north of the island is Santa Isabel Peak (Pico Basilé). It is the country's highest point and rises to 3,008 meters (9,869 feet). In the south is Gran Caldera, which has an elevation of 2,261 meters (7,416 feet). All of the other islands are also volcanic, but of much lower elevation. There are no active volcanoes in the country.

The Crystal Mountains on the mainland separate the coast from the inland plateau. The highest peaks are Mount Chocolate at 1,100 meters (3,609 feet) and Mount Chime at 1,200 meters (3,937 feet).


There are no significant caves or canyons in Equatorial Guinea.


The tropical rainforest of the plateau region contains at least 140 species of trees, particularly palms and hardwoods.


There are no significant man-made structures affecting the geography of Equatorial Guinea.



Fegley, Randall. Equatorial Guinea. Santa Barbara, CA: Clio Press, 1991.

Lingier-Goumaz, Max. Historical Dictionary of Equatorial Guinea. 3rd ed. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2000.

World Resources Institute and World Bank. Tropical Forests: A Call for Action. Washington D.C.: World Resources Institute and World Bank, 1985.

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Equatorial Guinea
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 474,214
Language(s): Spanish, French, Pidgin English, Fang, Bubi, Ibo
Literacy rate: 78.5%

Background & General Characteristics

In Equatorial Guinea, a limited number of mostly government-controlled media outlets operate in Spanish, French, and local dialects from bases in the island capital, Malabo (Bioko), and the mainland city of Bata (Rio Muni).

Formerly Spanish Guinea, the Republic of Equatorial Guinea (República de Guinea Ecuatorial) is a small coastal country that gained its independence and current name in 1968. Its 1991 constitution was amended in 1995. Mismanagement and questionable elections in the 1990s are parts of a history of national instability.

On World Press Day 2002, the Paris-based group Reporters without Borders listed Minister Teodoro Obiang Nguema among thirty "predators" worldwide whose actions threatened the principle of a free press.

The population, under a half million, is heavily Roman Catholic and forty-seven percent urban; however, Malabo and Bata had fewer than 30,000 residents each in 1995, following the country's financial collapse and the resulting exodus of many Europeans.

Principal languages are Spanish and Frenchboth officialand native dialects including Fang. Pidgin English operates in commerce. In the mid-1990s, the country had the second highest male literacy rate in Africa, following Zimbabwe.

In 1997, after a rift with Madrid, the government ordered state-run media to use French exclusively.

Media Activity

Newspapers that have been published irregularly and in small press runs (of perhaps one or two thousand copies) at Malabo are Ebano and Unidad de la Guinea Ecuatorial, both in Spanish. In Bata, Poto Poto has appeared in Spanish and Fang. The first government-recognized private newspaper, the weekly El Sol, was started in 1994. Spain's Agencia EFE, operating at Malabo, is the only news agency.

Radio Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial (RNGE) supervises broadcasts in Spanish and local languages over two radio stations at Malabo and one at Bata. Televisión Nacional transmits over a single, government-controlled channel at Malabo. In the 1990s a commercial radio network was operating, and cultural broadcasts were produced with Spanish collaboration. In 1995 citizens owned about 170,000 radios and 4,800 television sets.

Statistics for 2000 show one Internet service provider and about five hundred subscribers.

Significant Dates

  • 1994: First government-recognized private newspaper appears.
  • 1997: Government orders state-run media to use French exclusively.
  • 2002: Reporters without Borders calls Guinean minister a "predator" on the press.


Banks, Arthur S., and Thomas C. Muller, ed. Political Handbook of the World, 1999. Binghamton, NY: CSA Publications, 1999.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Fact-book 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 7 May 2002. Available from

Turner, Barry, Ed. The Statesman's Yearbook: The Politics, Cultures, and Economies of the World, 2000. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2002.

New York: World Almanac Books, 2002.

Roy Neil Graves

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea (formerly Spanish Guinea)


28,050sq km (10,830 sq mi)



capital (population):

Malabo (112,800)


Multiparty republic (transitional)

ethnic groups:

Fang 83%, Bubi 10%, Ndowe 4%


Spanish (official)


Christianity (mainly Roman Catholic) 89%, traditional beliefs 5%


CFA franc = 100 centimes

Republic in w central Africa, consisting of a mainland territory between Cameroon and Gabon, Mbini (Río Muni), and five islands in the Gulf of Guinea, the largest of which is Bioko (Fernando Póo). The capital is Malabo (Bioko).

Land and climate

Bioko is a volcanic island with fertile soils, and Malabo's harbour is part of a submerged volcano. Bioko is mountainous, rising to 3008m (9869ft), and has heavy rainfall. It has varied vegetation, with grasslands at higher levels. There is a marked dry season from December to February. Mainland Mbini (90% of Equatorial Guinea's land area) consists mainly of hills and plateaux behind the coastal plains. Its main river, the Lolo, rises in Gabon. Mbini has a similar climate to Bioko, though rainfall diminishes inland. Dense rainforest covers most of Mbini.


Agriculture employs 66% of the workforce. The main food crops are bananas, cassava, and sweet potatoes. The most valuable export crop is cocoa, grown on Bioko. Forestry is important in Mbini. Timber and coffee are also exported. (2000 GDP per capita US$2000).

History and Politics

Portuguese navigators reached the area in early 1471. In 1778, Portugal ceded the islands and commercial mainland rights to Spain. Yellow fever hit Spanish settlers on Bioko, and they withdrew in 1781. In 1827, Spain leased bases on Bioko to Britain, and the British settled some freed slaves. Descendants of these former slaves (Fernandinos) remain on the island. Spain returned to the area in the mid-19th century and began to develop plantations on Bioko. In 1959, Bioko and Mbini became overseas provinces of Spain. They attained a degree of self-government in 1963, and full independence in 1968. In 1979, Colonel Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo deposed the nation's first president, Francisco Macias Nguema, in a military coup. A 1991 referendum voted to set up a multiparty democracy, consisting of the ruling Equatorial Guinea Democratic Party (PDGE) and ten opposition parties. The main parties and most of the electorate boycotted elections in 1993, and the PDGE formed a government. In 1996 elections, again boycotted by most opposition parties, President Obiang claimed 99% of the vote. Human rights organisations accuse his regime of routine arrests and torture of opponents.

Political map

Physical map


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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

Culture Name

Equatorial Guinean or Equatoguinean

Alternative Names

In Spanish, the official language, the country is called Guinea Ecuatorial


Identification. As a Spanish colony, the area was formerly known as Spanish Guinea. There are two main cultural and ethnic traditions: the Fang, on the mainland, and the Bubi, on the island of Bioko.

Location and Geography. Equatorial Guinea is on the west coast of equatorial Africa, bordered by Cameroon to the north and Gabon to the south and east. The country's total area is 10,830 square miles (28,050 square kilometers; slightly smaller than the state of Maryland). This includes the mainland portion (Río Muni), as well as three coastal islets (Corisco, Elobey Grande, and Elobey Chico) and two islands (Bioko and Annobóon). The larger of these is Bioko, formerly known as Fernando Po. It lies 25 miles (40 kilometers) off the coast of Cameroon, across a bay of the Gulf of Guinea known as the Bight of Biafra, to the northwest of the continental portion of the country. In Río Muni, coastal plains rise to hills, and then to plateaus farther inland. Bioko has three extinct volcanic cones, which contain several crater lakes. Mangrove swamps lie along the coast of the island. Río Muni is mainly tropical rain forest and is home to a variety of animals, including gorillas, chimpanzees, monkeys, leopards, elephants, and crocodiles. However, the wildlife population has suffered greatly as a result of hunting.

Demography. As of 2000, the population is 474,21480 percent of whom live on the mainland, and of that group, 90 percent are Fang. The original inhabitants of Bioko are of a group called Bubi, descendants of mainland Bantu tribes. Bioko also is home to descendants of former slaves who were freed in the nineteenth century. Many Bubi have recently immigrated to the continent, and along with other, smaller Bantu-speaking tribes, comprise the remaining 10 percent of the population in Río Muni. Minority tribes include the Kombe, Balengue, Bujebas, Ibo, and Ibibo. There is a small group of Europeans (fewer than one thousand), most of them Spanish.

Linguistic Affiliation. Spanish and French are the official languages of Equatorial Guinea, although a very small percentage of the population speaks either of them. Pidgin English is also used as a lingua franca, particularly on Bioko. Most people's daily lives are conducted in tribal languages, either Fang, Bubi, or Ibo, all of which are in the Bantu family of languages.

Symbolism. The coat of arms (which is depicted on the flag) has six yellow six-pointed stars, which stand for the mainland and the five islands that comprise the country. It also includes a picture of a silk-cotton tree.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. People of the Pygmy and the Ndowe tribes were the first inhabitants of the area that is today the mainland of Equatorial Guinea. Bantu peoples began to arrive in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, beginning an ongoing history of tribal wars. The Fang, the most prevalent and warlike of these tribes, predominated. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the slave trade by the British, French, and Dutch pushed the Fang inland, away from the coast.

In the thirteenth century, the Bubi settled on the island of Bioko. The Portuguese arrived in the fifteenth century and named the island Fernando Po. This was part of other Portuguese holdings in the Gulf of Guinea, including São Tomé and Príncipe. At the end of the 1700s, Spain acquired a large area of Africa from Portugal in a trade; this area included both Río Muni and Bioko.

Bioko was important as a slave trade center, thanks to flourishing cocoa plantations there, and was one of Spain's most profitable territories in Africa. However, the island was administered by the English from 1827 until 1858, at which point the Spanish takeover became official. Spanish rule of the mainland did not begin officially until 1926, despite their long-standing claim to the area. It was only at this time that they began to expand into the interior of Río Muni, territory previously unexplored by Europeans. When the Spanish Civil War ended in 1939, the Spanish began to invest more in the development of Equatorial Guinea. The country experienced increasing prosperity with the aid of the Spanish government and the Catholic Church. Industry grew, and cocoa and timber contributed to a strong economy.

In 1963 Río Muni and Bioko were officially united as Equatorial Guinea, and Spain granted the country partial autonomy. Independence was declared in 1968. However, when Spain pulled out, they left the country in dire straits; violence and economic upheaval ensued, and the fledgling nation declared a state of emergency. The first president, Macias Nguema, ruled as a dictator for eleven years, outlawing all political parties but his own. In 1972 he declared himself ruler for life, presiding over a regime that killed and tortured thousands of its own citizens. Dissidents were sent to work camps or executed, priests were thrown in jail, and schools and churches were shut down. Journalism was declared a crime punishable by death. During this time, Equatorial Guinea had little contact with the rest of the world. By the time of his ouster and subsequent execution in 1979, Macias had managed to kill or force to flee two-thirds of the population.

The coup in 1979 put in place President Teodoro Obiang Nguema. He is part of the same small Fang subclan as Macias. Today the country is still attempting to rebuild and to establish a degree of political and economic stability. However, its record continues to be marred by human rights abuses. Elections have been held, but there are widespread suspicions of vote-rigging. The first presidential election, held in 1993, saw the arrest and imprisonment of an opposition leader. The government later released him under pressure from a number of Western countries.

National Identity. Equatorial Guineans identify first with their tribe or ethnic group, second with the nation. The current country was formed during Spanish rule, linking the main island of Bioko with the mainland territory, despite the fact that the two were culturally distinct. Since the unification of the two, there has been some intermingling and migration, particularly of mainland Fang to Bubi-inhabited Bioko. The Fang tribe itself is not limited to the Río Muni area, but extends also north into Cameroon and south into Gabon.

Ethnic Relations. Legally there is no discrimination against ethnic or racial minorities, but in practice this is not the case. The Bubi have experienced persecution under the postindependence government. Prior to independence, the group formed a majority on Bioko. However, since 1968, many Fang migrated to the island, and a small subclan, the Mongomo, has dominated the government. There is resentment and violence not only between the Bubi and the Fang but also between the Mongomo and other Fang subgroups. Immigrants from Nigeria, Ghana, and francophone Africa also are victims of discrimination and police harassment.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Thirty-seven percent of the population is urban and 63 percent is rural. On the mainland, the population is dispersed fairly evenly, with the exception of Bata, which is the largest city in the country. Many of its buildings are in the Spanish colonial style and are less than perfectly maintained. Bata is a busy commercial center, with markets, bars, and restaurants. The second-largest town in Río Muni is Ebebiyin in the northeast, near the Cameroon border.

On Bioko, the majority of the population lives in Malabo, which is Equatorial Guinea's capital. The city is fairly clean, and its architecture exhibits Spanish influence. There are shantytowns as well as upper-class neighborhoods, often in close proximity to each other. Luba, with a population of one thousand, is the second-largest town on Bioko.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The main foods are cassava root, bananas, rice, and yams. People supplement their primarily plant-based diet through hunting and fishing. Palm wine and malamba (an alcoholic drink made from sugarcane) are both popular.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Chicken and duck are usually served at special occasions.

Basic Economy. The economy has grown significantly in recent years with the discovery and tapping of oil reserves. Other important contributions to the GDP are forestry, fishing, and farming. Most people support themselves through subsistence farming, growing rice, yams, cassava, bananas, and palm oil nuts. Sixty-six percent of the population works in agriculture, 23 percent in services, and 11 percent in industry.

Land Tenure and Property. Most businesses are owned by government officials and their families.

Commercial Activities. The main goods produced for domestic consumption are agricultural. Bananas, cassava, coconuts, and sweet potatoes are all grown and sold locally. Much local commerce is conducted using the barter system. The country also produces timber and national gas for its own use.

Major Industries. Before independence, Equatorial Guinea's main source of income was cocoa production, but it was grown primarily by Spanish colonists, and with their departure, production fell significantly. Forestry cannot keep pace with its preindependence production rates either, as the departure of the Europeans also meant the departure of funds for the industry. The fishing industry was formerly under the control of the Soviets but is currently being developed by Spain, Nigeria, and Morocco.

Trade. Equatorial Guinea's only exports are petroleum, timber, and cocoa. Its main imports are petroleum and manufactured goods and equipment. The primary trading partners are the United States, Spain, France, China, Cameroon, and the United Kingdom.

Division of Labor. There are few specialized or high-status jobs in Equatorial Guinea. While there is a legal working age of eighteen, this is not enforced, and many children are engaged in farm work and street vending. A significant amount of work is performed by prisoners, who are forced to labor both inside and outside the prisons.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. The vast majority of the population is poor. The few positions of higher status are generally held by members of the Fang tribe, in particular the Mongomo subclan that controls the government.

Symbols of Social Stratification. In the cities in particular, Western dress is not uncommon. Poorer or rural people (women especially) are more likely to wear the traditional West African attire of brightly colored patterns.

Political Life

Government. Equatorial Guinea declares itself a multiparty democracy, although in practice it is a dictatorship under the leadership of the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE). The legislature consists of the unicameral House of People's Representatives, a body of eighty elected officials. The president appoints a cabinet. In practice he exercises strong control over all aspects of the government, including the legislative and judiciary branches.

Leadership and Political Officials. The relationship of the people to their government is one of subjugation and fear; the country has no history of democratic processes, as leadership passed from colonial rule to a dictatorship.

Social Problems and Control. The legal system is based on a combination of Spanish law and the tribal system. Violent crime (and even petty theft) is rare compared to rates in other African nations. The government greatly restricts the rights of its citizens. The judicial system does not ensure due process, and prisoners are often tortured. The government has a record of arbitrary arrest, interference with privacy and family, restriction of movement, and lack of freedom of speech, press, and religion, among other abuses.

Military Activity. The military is made up of an army, navy, air force, rapid intervention force, and national police. Males are eligible to serve beginning at age fifteen. The country spends $3 million (U.S.) annually on its military0.6 percent of its total budget. The armed forces also receive aid and training from Spain.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The family is responsible for most forms of social welfare, including caring for elderly and sick members.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

There are nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), mostly affiliated with the church, such as the Catholic Caritas; however, the government has restricted the functioning of NGOs and does not allow them to act in the area of human rights.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Traditional gender roles still hold sway; it is rare to see women employed outside the home in typically male jobs. They are responsible for domestic labor and child care, although rural women also work in agriculture. The lack of women in professional jobs is perpetuated by inequalities in education: The average female receives only one-fifth as much schooling as the average male.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Although legally granted equal rights, women are in many respects considered second-class citizens. Their status is little higher than that of children, and women are expected to defer to men in general, and to their husbands in particular. Violence against women is common, especially spousal abuse. Women have the right to buy and sell goods, but in actuality women own little property.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Polygyny is common among the Fang. Traditionally, upon marriage the husband gives a dowry to the family of the bride. Women generally become part of their husband's family upon marriage. Men often beat their wives, and while public beating is illegal, abuse in the home is not, and there is no mechanism for prosecuting domestic violence. According to the custom of most tribes, if the marriage breaks up, the wife is obligated to return the dowry. Additionally, the husband receives custody of all children born in wedlock. (The woman keeps any children born prior to the marriage.)

Domestic Unit. Extended families often live together. When a couple marries, it is traditional for them to move in with the husband's family.

Inheritance. Tribes follow a custom of primogeniture, passing on inheritance to the oldest male child. Although it is legal for women to inherit property, in actuality this rarely happens.

Kin Groups. The Fang are exogamous (they marry outside the clan), whereas the Bubi are endogamous (they marry within the clan). In ancient times, it was even acceptable for a brother and sister to marry, as long as they did not share the same mother.


Child Rearing and Education. Among the most important lessons children are taught is to respect and obey their elders. Formal education is mandatory between ages six and fourteen. However, only 70 percent of children attend primary school, and even fewer continue on to the secondary level. There are no provisions for children's welfare, and child labor is an ongoing problem, which the government has not addressed. The literacy rate is 79 percent 90 percent for men and 68 percent for women.

Higher Education. The country has two institutions of higher learning, one in Malabo and one in Bata, both run by the Spanish National University of Distant Education. Often, those who can afford it often send their children abroad to Spain or to France to complete their education.


Greetings are an important and often lengthy form of social interaction. They usually involve shaking hands. People stand close when talking, often touching or holding hands. Elders, professionals, and those in positions of authority are treated with particular respect and deference.


Religious Beliefs. It is necessary for the Ministry of Justice and Religion to approve a religious organization before it is allowed to practice. The government is wary of the Catholic Church, as it has a history of criticizing human rights violations. Nonetheless, Catholic religious study is part of public education, and 80 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. The other 20 percent have held on to their traditional beliefs, and even many who nominally subscribe to Catholicism continue to follow traditional religious practices. There are a few Muslims, mostly Hausa traders in the region. The indigenous beliefs are animist, attributing spiritual energy to natural formations such as rivers, mountains, and trees.

Religious Practitioners. Sorcerers are the leaders of the indigenous religion and occupy an exalted position in the community.

Catholic priests occupy a position not just as religious figures, but often as voices of government opposition as well. Many have been arrested and tortured for speaking out on human rights abuses, social injustice, and corruption.

Rituals and Holy Places. Most rituals involve music and dance. One rite, known as the abira, is intended to purge evil from the community. One Bubi ceremony involves placing a pot of water at the entrance to the village, asking good spirits to protect the people and to bless them with more children.

Death and the Afterlife. In the indigenous religion, ancestors are venerated. They are said to live in a place called Borimo, and are thought capable of exerting influence on the living. Bubi villagers often place amulets such as animal bones, feathers, and shells several hundred meters outside the village in remembrance of their dead.

Medicine and Health Care

Health conditions in Equatorial Guinea are not good, and are made worse by lack of adequate sanitation. There is a high infant mortality rate, and the life expectancy is only fifty-three years of age (fifty-one for men and fifty-five for women). Common problems include malnutrition and malaria. The health system concentrates on preventive medicine, but this cannot compensate for the severe lack of supplies and trained personnel.

Secular Celebrations

These are New Year's Day, 1 January; Armed Forces Day, 3 August; Constitution Day, 15 August; Independence Day, 12 October; and Human Rights Day, 10 December.

The Arts and Humanities

Literature. The literary tradition in Equatorial Guinea is oral rather than written. There is a wide range of myths and legends that are passed on from one generation to the next, some meant to preserve the history of the tribes, others to explain natural phenomena. Sorcerers and witches often figure prominently.

Graphic Arts. Equatorial Guinea has a tradition of sculpture and mask-making. Many of the masks depict crocodiles, lizards, and other animals. Fang art is known for its abstract, conceptual qualities.

Performance Arts. Music and dance are central elements of Equatorial Guinean culture, both Fang and Bubi. Many of the songs and dances have religious significance. Drums are a common instrument, as are wooden xylophones; bow harps; zithers; and the sanza, a small thumb piano fashioned from bamboo. The accompaniment to a dance usually consists of three or four musicians. The balélé dance is usually performed on Christmas and other holidays. The ibanga, the Fang national dance, is popular along the coast. Its movements are highly sexual. The men and women who perform it cover their bodies in white powder.

The State of the Social and Physical Sciences

The few facilities for physical sciences in Equatorial Guinea are affiliated with the fledgling petroleum industry and its development.


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Eleanor Stanford

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea


The people of Equatorial Guinea are called Equatorial Guineans. A number of distinct ethnic groups or tribes share the country. The largest single tribe is the Fang or Fon. Other groups include the Bubi, who are are descendants of native Bantu-speaking tribes; Fernandinos, descendants of mainland slaves freed by the British navy in the 1800s; and Europeans, who dominate commerce and government.

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"Equatorial Guinea." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . 21 Oct. 2016 <>.

"Equatorial Guinea." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . (October 21, 2016).

"Equatorial Guinea." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved October 21, 2016 from