Failed coups, danger money, bushmeat and buckets of oil – you could say Equatorial Guinea has something of a reputation. It has beautiful black-and-white shores, primates with painted faces, clouds of butterflies and colourful insects.
Though the country is dripping in oil wealth, many people’s taps run dry. Poverty permeates ordinary life, making a trip to Malabo – alive with the flames of oil rigs and the buzz of rapid construction – at once hedonistic and heartbreaking.
Beyond Malabo, on Bioko Island, are volcanic views, fishing villages, rain forests full of endangered primates and shores of nesting sea turtles. On the mainland are white beaches, forest paths and jungle scapes.
But be prepared to hack and bribe and hold tight to bush taxis, and don’t forget to pack all your patience – you’ll be stopped often by the military and government officials wanting something.”
Official name. Republic of Equatorial Guinea
Largest city. Bata
Languages. Official: Spanish (national language), French, Portuguese. Recognised regional languages: Fang, Bube, Combe, Pidgin English, Annobonese, Igbo
Ethnic groups. 81.7% Fang, 6.5% Bubi, 3.6% Ndowe, 1.6% Annobon, 1.1% Bujeba (Kwasio), 5.4% Igbo and others
Demonym. Equatorial Guinean, Equatoguinean
Government. Dominant-party presidential republic. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Independence from Spain 12 October 1968
Area. Total 28,050 km2 (144th)
Population. 2015 estimate 1,222,442
GDP (PPP) 2016 estimate Total $23.744 billion. Per capita $28,923
GDP (nominal) 2016 estimate Total $7.884 billion. Per capita $9,604
MONEY Central African CFA franc (XAF)
VISAS US/American Samoan citizens are unique as they are the only exempted country where its citizens do not require a visa for entry, this was done in a sucessful attempt to promote U.S. business interest in Equatorial Guinea. However U.S./American Samoan citizens do need the following to present when entering EG: 2 visa applications, 2 passport photos, bank statement noting a minimum of $2,000 in your account, & proof of smallpox, yellow fever, & cholera vaccinations.
All others need to submit to an Equatorial Guinea embassy all of the above (plus passport) in order to receive a visa.
Equatorial Guinea is a country located in Central Africa, with an area of 28,000 square kilometres (11,000 sq mi). Formerly the colony of Spanish Guinea, its post-independence name evokes its location near both the Equator and the Gulf of Guinea. Equatorial Guinea is the only sovereign African state in which Spanish is an official language. As of 2015, the country has an estimated population of over 1.2 million.
Equatorial Guinea consists of two parts, an insular and a mainland region. The insular region consists of the islands of Bioko (formerly Fernando Pó) in the Gulf of Guinea and Annobón, a small volcanic island south of the equator. Bioko Island is the northernmost part of Equatorial Guinea and is the site of the country’s capital, Malabo. The island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe is located between Bioko and Annobón. The mainland region, Río Muni, is bordered by Cameroon on the north and Gabon on the south and east. It is the location of Bata, Equatorial Guinea’s largest city, and Oyala, the country’s planned future capital. Rio Muni also includes several small offshore islands, such as Corisco, Elobey Grande, and Elobey Chico.
Since the mid-1990s, Equatorial Guinea has become one of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest oil producers. With a population of almost three quarters of a million, it is the richest country per capita in Africa, and its gross domestic product (GDP) per capita ranks 69th in the world; However, the wealth is distributed very unevenly and few people have benefited from the oil riches. The country ranks 144th on the UN’s 2014 Human Development Index. The UN says that less than half of the population has access to clean drinking water and that 20% of children die before reaching the age of five.
The country’s authoritarian government has one of the worst human rights records in the world, consistently ranking among the “worst of the worst” in Freedom House’s annual survey of political and civil rights. Reporters Without Borders ranks President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo among its “predators” of press freedom. Human trafficking is a significant problem, with the US Trafficking in Persons Report, 2012, stating that “Equatorial Guinea is a source and destination for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.” The report rates Equatorial Guinea as a “Tier 3” country, the lowest (worst) ranking.
The country is a member of the African Union, Francophonie and the CPLP.
Equatorial Guinea is in west central Africa. The country consists of a mainland territory, Río Muni, which is bordered by Cameroon to the north and Gabon to the east and south, and five small islands, Bioko, Corisco, Annobón, Elobey Chico (Small Elobey), and Elobey Grande (Great Elobey). Bioko, the site of the capital, Malabo, lies about 40 kilometers (25 mi) off the coast of Cameroon. Annobón Island is about 350 kilometers (220 mi) west-south-west of Cape Lopez in Gabon. Corisco and the two Elobey islands are in Corisco Bay, on the border of Río Muni and Gabon.
Equatorial Guinea lies between latitudes 4°N and 2°S, and longitudes 5° and 12°E. Despite its name, no part of the country’s territory lies on the equator—it is in the northern hemisphere, except for the insular Annobón Province, which is about 155 km south of the equator.
Climate. 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 occurs. 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 (61 °F) to 33 °C (91 °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 (81 °F). Annual rainfall varies from 1,930 mm (76 in) at Malabo to 10,920 mm (430 in) at Ureka, Bioko, but Río Muni is somewhat drier.
Ecology. Equatorial Guinea spans several ecoregions. Río Muni region lies within the Atlantic Equatorial coastal forests ecoregion except for patches of Central African mangroves on the coast, especially in the Muni River estuary. The Cross-Sanaga-Bioko coastal forests ecoregion covers most of Bioko and the adjacent portions of Cameroon and Nigeria on the African mainland, and the Mount Cameroon and Bioko montane forests ecoregion covers the highlands of Bioko and nearby Mount Cameroon.
The São Tomé, Príncipe, and Annobón moist lowland forests ecoregion covers all of Annobón, as well as São Tomé and Príncipe.
Pygmies likely formerly lived in the continental region that is now Equatorial Guinea, but only isolated pockets in southern Río Muni now remain of this people. Bantu migrations between the 18th and 19th centuries brought the coastal ethno-linguistic groups as well as the Fang. Elements of the latter may have generated the Bubi, who migrated from Cameroon to Río Muni and Bioko in several waves and succeeded former Neolithic populations. The Annobón population, native to Angola, was introduced by the Portuguese via São Tomé island.
First European contact (1472). The Portuguese explorer Fernando Pó, seeking a path to India, is credited as being the first European to discover the island of Bioko in 1472. He called it Formosa (“Beautiful”), but it quickly took on the name of its European discoverer. The islands of Fernando Pó and Annobón were colonized by Portugal in 1474.
In 1778, Queen Maria I of Portugal and King Charles III of Spain signed the Treaty of El Pardo which ceded Bioko, adjacent islets, and commercial rights to the Bight of Biafra between the Niger and Ogoue rivers to Spain. Spain thereby tried to gain access to a source of slaves controlled by British merchants. Between 1778 and 1810, the territory of Equatorial Guinea was administered by the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, based in Buenos Aires.
From 1827 to 1843, the United Kingdom had a base on Bioko to combat the slave trade that was moved to Sierra Leone upon agreement with Spain in 1843. In 1844, on restoration of Spanish sovereignty, the area became known as the “Territorios Españoles del Golfo de Guinea.” Spain had neglected to occupy the large area in the Bight of Biafra to which it had Treaty rights, and the French had been busily expanding their occupation at the expense of the area claimed by Spain. The treaty of Paris in 1900 left Spain with the continental enclave of Rio Muni, a mere 26,000 km2 out of the 300,000 stretching east to the Ubangi river which the Spaniards had initially claimed. At the turn of the century, the plantations of Fernando Po were largely in the hands of a black Creole elite, later known as Fernandinos. The British had settled some 2,000 Sierra Leoneans and freed slaves during their brief occupation of the island in the early nineteenth century, and a small current of immigration from West Africa and the West Indies continued after the departure of the British. To this core of settlers were added Cubans, Filipinos and Spaniards of various colours deported for political or other crimes, as well as some assisted settlers.
There was also a trickle of immigration from the neighbouring Portuguese islands, in the form of escaped slaves and prospective planters. Although a few of the Fernandinos were Catholic and Spanish-speaking, about nine-tenths of them were Protestant and English-speaking on the eve of the First World War, and pidgin English was the lingua franca of the island. The Sierra Leoneans were particularly well placed as planters while labour recruitment on the Windward coast continued, for they kept family and other connections there and could easily arrange labour supplies.
From the opening years of the twentieth century, the Fernandinos were put on the defensive by a new generation of Spanish immigrants. New land regulations in 1904-1905 favoured Spaniards, and most of the big planters of later years arrived in the islands from Spain following these new regulations. The Liberian labour agreement of 1914 favoured wealthy men with ready access to the state, and the shift in labour supplies from Liberia to Rio Muni increased this advantage. In 1940, it was estimated that only 20 per cent of the colony’s cocoa production came from African land, nearly all of it in the hands of Fernandinos.
The greatest constraint to economic development was a chronic shortage of labour. Pushed into the interior of the island and deciby alcohol addiction, venereal disease, smallpox, and sleeping sickness, the indigenous Bubi population of Bioko refused to work on plantations. Working their own little cocoa farms gave them a considerable degree of autonomy. Moreover, beginning in the late nineteenth century, the Bubi were protected from the demands of the planters by the Spanish Claretian missionaries, who were very influential in the colony and eventually organised the Bubi into little mission theocracies. Catholic penetration was furthered by two small insurrections protesting the conscription of forced labour for the plantations, in 1898 and 1910, which led to the Bubi being disarmed in 1917 and left them dependent on the missionaries.
Between 1926 and 1959 Bioko and Rio Muni were united as the colony of Spanish Guinea. The economy was based on large cacao and coffee plantations and logging concessions and the workforce was mostly immigrant contract labour from Liberia, Nigeria, and Cameroun. Between 1914 and 1930, an estimated 10,000 Liberians went to Fernando Po under a Labour Treaty that was stopped altogether in 1930. With the ending of Liberian imports, the cocoa planters of Fernando Po turned to Rio Muni. It was no coincidence that campaigns were mounted to subdue the Fang people in the 1920s, at the time that Liberia was beginning to cut back on recruitment. There were garrisons of the colonial guard throughout the enclave by 1926, and the whole colony was considered ‘pacified’ by 1929.
Rio Muni had a small population, officially put at a little over 100,000 in the 1930s, and escape over the frontiers into Cameroun or Gabon was very easy. Moreover, the timber companies needed growing amounts of labour, and the spread of coffee cultivation offered an alternative means of paying taxes. Fernando Po thus continued to suffer from labour shortages. The French only briefly permitted recruitment in Cameroun, and the main source of labour came to be Igbo smuggled in canoes from Calabar, Nigeria. It really permitted Fernando Po to become one of Africa’s most productive agricultural areas after the Second World War.
Politically, one can divide the post-war colonial history into three fairly distinct phases: up to 1959, when its status was raised from ‘colonial’ to ‘provincial’, taking a leaf out of the approach of the Portuguese Empire; between 1960 and 1968, when Madrid attempted a partial decolonisation which should, as it was hoped, conserve the territory as an integral segment of the Spanish system; and onwards from 1968, when the territory became an independent Republic. These divided the population into a vast majority governed as ‘natives’ or non-citizens, and a very small minority (together with whites) admitted to civic status as emancipados, assimilation to the metropolitan culture being the only permissible means of advancement.
Independence (1968). Independence was conceded on 12 October 1968 and the region became the Republic of Equatorial Guinea with Francisco Macías Nguema elected as president. In July 1970, Nguema created a single-party state and made himself president for life in 1972. He broke off ties with Spain and the West. In spite of his condemnation of Marxism, which he deemed “neo-colonialist”, Equatorial Guinea maintained very special relations with socialist countries, notably China, Cuba, and the USSR. He signed a preferential trade agreement and a shipping treaty with the Soviet Union. The Soviets also granted loans to Equatorial Guinea.
The shipping agreement granted the Soviets permission to establish a pilot project of fishery development and a naval base at Luba. The USSR was in return to supply fish to Equatorial Guinea. China and Cuba also gave different forms on financial, military, and technical assistance to Equatorial Guinea, which gave them a measure of influence in Equatorial Guinea. For the USSR, despite the unsavoury background of Macias Nguema, there was an advantage to be gained in the War in Angola by having access to Luba base and later on to Malabo International Airport.
Towards the middle 1970s the Macias regime came under grave accusations of being guilty of mass killings. In 1974 the World Council of Churches affirmed that large numbers of people had been murdered since 1968 in a ‘reign of terror’ which continued. The same body claimed that a quarter of the whole population had fled abroad, while ‘the prisons are overflowing and to all intents and purposes form one vast concentration camp’. On Christmas 1975, Macías Nguema had 150 alleged coup plotters executed. Out of a population of 300,000, an estimated 80,000 were killed. Apart from allegedly committing genocide against the ethnic minority Bubi people, he ordered the deaths of thousands of suspected opponents, closed down churches and presided over the economy’s collapse as skilled citizens and foreigners left the country.
Teodoro Obiang deposed Macías Nguema on 3 August 1979, in a bloody coup d’état. Macias Nguema was tried and executed soon after.
In 1995 Mobil, an American oil company, discovered oil in Equatorial Guinea and the country has subsequently experienced rapid economic development. Nevertheless, the earnings from the country’s oil wealth have not been distributed amongst the population and the country ranks low on the UN human development index, 20% of children die before age 5 and more than 50% of the population lack access to clean drinking water. President Teodoro Obiang is widely suspected of using the country’s oil wealth to enrich himself and his associates and in 2006 Forbes estimated his personal wealth at $600 million.
In 2011, the government announced it was planning a new capital in the country, named Oyala.
As of February 2016, Obiang is Africa’s longest serving dictator.
The current president of Equatorial Guinea is Teodoro Obiang. During the three decades of his rule, Obiang has shown little tolerance for opposition. While the country is nominally a multiparty democracy, elections have generally been considered a sham. According to Human Rights Watch, the dictatorship of President Obiang has used an oil boom to entrench and enrich itself further at the expense of the country’s people. Since August 1979 some 12 real and perceived unsuccessful coup attempts have occurred. The ‘real’ coup attempts were often perpetrated in an attempt by rival elites to seize the state’s economic resources.
According to a March 2004 BBC profile, politics within the country are currently dominated by tensions between Obiang’s son, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, and other close relatives with powerful positions in the security forces. The tension may be rooted in a power shift arising from the dramatic increase in oil production which has occurred since 1997.
Equatorial Guinea hit the headlines in 2004 when a plane load of suspected mercenaries was intercepted in Zimbabwe while allegedly on the way to overthrow Obiang. A November 2004 report named Mark Thatcher as a financial backer of the 2004 Equatorial Guinea coup d’état attempt organized by Simon Mann. Various accounts also named the United Kingdom’s MI6, the United States’ CIA, and Spain as having been tacit supporters of the coup attempt. Nevertheless, the Amnesty International report released in June 2005 on the ensuing trial of those allegedly involved highlighted the prosecution’s failure to produce conclusive evidence that a coup attempt had actually taken place. Simon Mann was released from prison on 3 November 2009 for humanitarian reasons.
A 2004 US Senate investigation into the Washington-based Riggs Bank found that President Obiang’s family had received huge payments from US oil companies such as Exxon Mobil and Amerada Hess. In 2006, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hailed Obiang as a “good friend” despite repeated criticism of his human rights and civil liberties record. The US Agency for International Development entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Obiang, in April 2006, to establish a Social Development Fund in the country, implementing projects in the areas of health, education, women’s affairs and the environment.
In 2006, Obiang signed an anti-torture decree to ban all forms of abuse and improper treatment in Equatorial Guinea and he commissioned the renovation and modernization of Black Beach prison in 2007 to ensure the humane treatment of prisoners. However, human rights abuses have continued. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International among other non-governmental organizations have documented severe human rights abuses in prisons, including torture, beatings, unexplained deaths and illegal detention.
The anti-corruption lobby Transparency International has put Equatorial Guinea in the top 12 of its list of most corrupt states. Freedom House, a pro-democracy and human rights NGO, described Obiang as one of the world’s “most kleptocratic living autocrats,” and complained about the US government welcoming his administration and buying oil from it. Dismissing the international voices that call for more transparency, Obiang has for long held that oil revenues are a state secret. In 2008 the country became a candidate of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative – an international project meant to promote openness about government oil revenues – but failed to qualify by an April 2010 deadline. The advocacy group Global Witness has been lobbying the United States to act against Obiang’s son, Teodorin, who is vice-president and a government minister. It says there is credible evidence that he spent millions buying a Malibu, California mansion and private jet using corruptly acquired funds – grounds for denying him a visa.
Obiang was re-elected to serve an additional term in 2009 in an election deemed by the African Union as “in line with electoral law”.
Under Obiang, the basic infrastructure of Equatorial Guinea has improved. Asphalt now covers more than 80% of the national roads and ports and airports are being built by Chinese, Moroccan and French contractors across much of the country. However, when a British parliamentary and press entourage toured the country as guests of the president in 2011, the The Guardian newspaper reported that very few of Equatorial Guinea’s citizens seem to be benefiting from improvements, with reports of empty three-lane highways and many empty buildings.
The Obiang regime is an ally of the USA. During a meeting on the sidelines of the recent United Nations General Assembly, Obiang urged the US to strengthen the cooperation between the United States and Africa. President Barack Obama posed for an official photograph with President Obiang at a New York reception.
In November 2011, a new constitution was approved. This constitution was voted although the text to be approved was not distributed nor was its content revealed to the public before the vote. Under the new constitution the president was limited to a maximum of two seven-year terms and he would be both the head of state and head of the government, therefore eliminating the figure of prime minister. The new constitution also introduced the figure of a vice president and it also called for the creation of a 70-member senate with 55 elected by the people and the 15 remaining designated by the president. Surprisingly, during the following cabinet reshuffle it was announced that there would be two vice-presidents in clear violation of the constitution that was just taking effect.
In October 2012, during an interview with Christiane Ammanpour on CNN, Obiang was asked whether he would step down at the end of the current term (2009–2016) since the new constitution limited the number of terms to two and he has been reelected at least 4 times before. Obiang answered he refused to step aside because the new constitution was not retroactive and the two term limit would only become applicable from 2016.
The 26 May 2013 elections combined the senate, lower house and mayoral contests all in a single package. This, as all the previous elections, was denounced by the opposition and it too was won by Obiang’s PDGE. During the electoral contest, the ruling party decided to have their own internal elections which were later scrapped as none of the president’s favorite candidates was leading the internal lists. At the end, the ruling party and its satellites of the ruling coalition decided to run not based on the candidates but based on the party. This created a situation where during the election the ruling party’s coalition did not provide the names of their candidates so effectively individuals were not running for office, instead the party was the one running for office.
The May 2013 elections were marked by a series of events including the popular protest planned by a group of activists from the MPP (Movement of Popular Protest) which included several social and political groups. The MPP called for a peaceful protest at the Plaza de la Mujer square on 15 May. The MPP coordinator Enrique Nsolo Nzo was arrested and the official state media portrayed him as an individual who was planning to destabilize the country and depose the president. However, and despite speaking under duress and with clear signs of torture, Enrique clearly stated that they were planning a peaceful protest and had indeed obtained all the legal authorizations required to carry out the peaceful protest. In addition to that, and despite the repeated attempts of the state media to link Enrique to an illegal political party, he firmly stated that he was not affiliated with any political parties in the country. The Plaza de la Mujer square in Malabo was occupied by the police from 13 May and it has been heavily guarded ever since. The government embarked on a censorship program that affected social sites including Facebook and other websites that were critical to the government of Equatorial Guinea. In their censorship efforts, they would redirect all the searches performed online to the official government website.
Shortly after the elections, the opposition party CPDS announced that they were going to protest peacefully against the 26 May elections on 25 June. The interior minister Clemente Engonga refused to authorize the protest on the grounds that such an event could “destabilize” the country and CPDS decided to go forward with the peaceful protest claiming it was a constitutional right. On the night of 24 June, the CPDS headquarters in Malabo were surrounded by heavily armed police officers in order to keep those inside from leaving and thus effectively blocking the protest. Several leading members of CPDS were detained in Malabo and others in Bata were kept from boarding several local flights to Malabo.
Pre-independence Equatorial Guinea exported cocoa, coffee and timber mostly to its colonial ruler, Spain, but also to Germany and the UK. On 1 January 1985, the country became the first non-Francophone African member of the franc zone, adopting the CFA franc as its currency. The national currency, the ekwele, was previously linked to the Spanish peseta.
The discovery of large oil reserves in 1996 and its subsequent exploitation have contributed to a dramatic increase in government revenue. As of 2004, Equatorial Guinea is the third-largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its oil production has risen to 360,000 barrels per day (57,000 m3/d), up from 220,000 only two years earlier.
Forestry, farming, and fishing are also major components of GDP. Subsistence farming predominates. The deterioration of the rural economy under successive brutal regimes has diminished any potential for agriculture-led growth.
In July 2004, the United States Senate published an investigation into Riggs Bank, a Washington-based bank into which most of Equatorial Guinea’s oil revenues were paid until recently, and which also banked for Chile’s Augusto Pinochet. The Senate report, as to Equatorial Guinea, showed that at least $35 million were siphoned off by Obiang, his family and senior officials of his regime. The president has denied any wrongdoing. While Riggs Bank in February 2005 paid $9 million as restitution for its banking for Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, no restitution was made with regard to Equatorial Guinea, as reported in detail in an Anti-Money Laundering Report from Inner City Press.
Equatorial Guinea is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA). Equatorial Guinea tried to become validated as an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)–compliant country, working toward transparency in reporting of oil revenues and the prudent use of natural resource wealth. The country was one of thirty candidate countries and obtained candidate status in 2008. It was then required to meet a number of obligations to do so, including committing to working with civil society and companies on EITI implementation, appointing a senior individual to lead on EITI implementation, and publishing a fully costed Work Plan with measurable targets, a timetable for implementation and an assessment of capacity constraints. However, when Equatorial Guinea applied to extend the deadline for completing EITI validation, the EITI Board did not agree to the extension.
According to the World Bank, Equatorial Guinea has the highest GNI (Gross National Income) per capita of any Sub-Saharan country. It is 83 times larger than the GNI per capita of Burundi which is the poorest country.
Transportation. Due to the large oil industry in the country, internationally recognized carriers fly to Malabo International Airport which, as of May 2014, had several direct connections to Europe and West Africa. There are three airports in Equatorial Guinea — Malabo International Airport, Bata Airport and the new Annobon Airport on the island of Annobon. Malabo International Airport is the only international one in the country.
Every airline registered in Equatorial Guinea appears on the list of air carriers prohibited in the European Union (EU) which means that they are banned from operating services of any kind within the EU. However freight carriers provide service from European cities to the capital.
The majority of the people of Equatorial Guinea are of Bantu origin. The largest ethnic group, the Fang, is indigenous to the mainland, but substantial migration to Bioko Island since the 20th century means the Fang population exceeds that of the earlier Bubi inhabitants. The Fang constitute 80% of the population and comprise around 67 clans. Those in the northern part of Río Muni speak Fang-Ntumu, while those in the south speak Fang-Okah; the two dialects have differences but are mutually intelligible. Dialects of Fang are also spoken in parts of neighboring Cameroon (Bulu) and Gabon. These dialects, while still intelligible, are more distinct. The Bubi, who constitute 15% of the population, are indigenous to Bioko Island. The traditional demarcation line between Fang and ‘Beach’ (inland) ethnic groups was the village of Niefang (limit of the Fang), east of Bata.
In addition, there are coastal ethnic groups, sometimes referred to as Ndowe or “Playeros” (Beach People in Spanish): Combes, Bujebas, Balengues, and Bengas on the mainland and small islands, and Fernandinos, a Krio community on Bioko Island. Together, these groups compose 5% of the population. Some Europeans (largely of Spanish or Portuguese descent, some with partial African ancestry) also live in the nation. Most ethnic Spaniards left after independence.
A growing number of foreigners from neighboring Cameroon, Nigeria, and Gabon have immigrated to the nation. According to the Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations (2002) 7% of Bioko islanders were Igbo, an ethnic group from southeastern Nigeria. Equatorial Guinea received Asians and black Africans from other countries as workers on cocoa and coffee plantations. Other black Africans came from Liberia, Angola, and Mozambique. Most of the Asian population is Chinese, with small numbers of Indians.
Equatorial Guinea has also been a destination for fortune-seeking European settlers from Britain, France and Germany. Israelis and Moroccans also live and work here. Oil extraction since the 1990s has contributed to a doubling of the population in Malabo. After independence, thousands of Equatorial Guineans went to Spain. Another 100,000 Equatorial Guineans went to Cameroon, Gabon, and Nigeria because of the dictatorship of Francisco Macías Nguema. Some Equatorial Guinean communities are also found in Latin America, the United States, Portugal, and France.
For years, the official languages were Spanish (the local variant is Equatoguinean Spanish) and French, Portuguese was also adopted as an official language later in 2010. Spanish has been an official language since 1844. It is still the language of education and administration. 67.6% of Equatorial Guineans can speak it, especially those living in the capital, Malabo.
Aboriginal languages are recognized as integral parts of the “national culture”. Indigenous languages include Fang, Bube, Benga, Ndowe, Balengue, Bujeba, Bissio, Gumu, Pichinglis, Fa d’Ambô and the nearly extinct Baseke. Most African ethnic groups speak Bantu languages.
Fa d’Ambô, a Portuguese creole, has vigorous use in Annobón Province, in Malabo (the capital), and among some speakers in Equatorial Guinea’s mainland. Many residents of Bioko can also speak Spanish, particularly in the capital, and the local trade language Pichinglis, an English-based creole. Spanish is not spoken much in Annobón. In government and education Spanish is used. Noncreolized Portuguese is used as liturgical language by local Catholics.
In 2010 Portuguese was named an official language to improve its communications, trade, and bilateral relations with Portuguese-speaking countries. It also recognizes long historical ties with Portugal, and with Portuguese-speaking peoples of Brazil, São Tomé and Principe, and Cape Verde.
—Spanish is the language of education and administration, and is spoken fluently by roughly 68% of of the population. Despite the fact that French and standard Portuguese are official languages, they are not widely used.
Fa d’Ambô (a Portuguese creole) – replaces Spanish as the main language on the island of Annobón,,. The language is widely spoken in Malabo and among some people on Equatorial Guinea’s mainland. Many residents of Bioko can also speak the local trade language Pichinglis, an English-based creole.
Indigenous languages: Fang, Bube, Benga, Ndowe, Balengue, Bujeba, Bissio, Gumu and the nearly extinct Baseke. Most African ethnic groups speak Bantu languages.
English – spoken by few people, even in the capital city. Anglophone ethnic group in Bioko
Roman Catholic 87%, Other (indigenous beliefs / Baha’i) 5%, Protestant 5%, Islam 2% mainly Sunni.
Health. Equatorial Guinea’s innovative malaria control programs in the early 21st century have achieved successes in reducing malaria infection, disease, and mortality in the population. Their program consists of twice-yearly indoor residual spraying (IRS), the introduction of artemisinin combination treatment (ACTs), the use of intermittent preventive treatment in pregnant women (IPTp), and the introduction of very high coverage with long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets (LLINs). Their efforts resulted in a reduction in all-cause under-five mortality from 152 to 55 deaths per 1,000 live births (down 64%). The drop occurred rapidly and timed directly with the beginning of the program.
In June 2014 four cases of polio were reported, the country’s first outbreak of the disease.
Education. Under the regime of dictator Francisco Macias, education had been significantly neglected, with few children receiving any type of education. Under President Obiang, the illiteracy rate dropped from 73% to 13%, and the number of primary school students has risen from 65,000 in 1986 to more than 100,000 in 1994. Education is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 14. An international 2006 study estimated the average IQ of the country is at 59.
The Equatorial Guinea government has partnered with Hess Corporation and The Academy for Educational Development (AED) to establish a $20 million education program through which primary school teachers participate in a training program to teach modern child development techniques. There are now 51 Model Schools.
In recent years, with change in economic/political climate and government social agendas, several cultural dispersion and literacy organizations have been founded in the country, chiefly with the financial support of the Spanish government. The country has one university, the Universidad Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial (UNGE), with a campus in Malabo and a Faculty of Medicine located in Bata on the mainland. In 2009 the university produced the first 110 national doctors. The Bata Medical School is supported principally by the government of Cuba and staffed by Cuban medical educators and physicians. Equatorial Guinea predicts that it will have enough national doctors in the country to be self-sufficient within the next five years.
Media and communications. The principal means of communication within Equatorial Guinea are three state-operated FM radio stations: BBC World Service, Radio France Internationale and Gabon-based Africa No 1 broadcast on FM in Malabo. Television Nacional, the television network, is state operated. There are two newspapers and two magazines.
Equatorial Guinea ranks at position 161 out of 179 countries in the 2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. The watchdog says the national broadcaster obeys the orders of the information ministry. A “news blackout” was imposed on reporting of uprisings in Arab states in North Africa in 2011, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Most of the media companies practice heavy self-censorship, and are banned by law from criticising public figures. The state-owned media and the main private radio station are under the directorship of the president’s son, Teodor Obiang.
Landline telephone penetration is low, with only two lines available for every 100 persons. There is one GSM mobile telephone operator, with coverage of Malabo, Bata, and several mainland cities. As of 2009, approximately 40% of the population subscribed to mobile telephone services. The only telephone provider in Equatorial Guinea is Orange.
Music. There is little popular music coming out of Equatorial Guinea. Pan-African styles like soukous and makossa are popular, as are reggae and rock and roll. Acoustic guitar bands based on a Spanish model are the country’s best-known indigenous popular tradition.
Sports. Equatorial Guinea was chosen to co-host the 2012 African Cup of Nations in partnership with Gabon, and hosted the 2015 edition. The country was also chosen to host the 2008 Women’s African Football Championship, which they won. The women’s national team qualified for the 2011 World Cup in Germany.
Equatorial Guinea is famous for the swimmers Eric Moussambani, nicknamed “Eric the Eel”, and Paula Barila Bolopa, “Paula the Crawler”, who had astoundingly slow times at the 2000 Summer Olympics.
Air. There are two paved airports, one a few miles from Malabo (SSG), and one in Bata (BSG). The country’s main airline is
Ecuato Guineana de Aviación – national and international flights out of Malabo International Airport. Other airlines flying to Malabo airport
Iberia (from Madrid)
JetAir (from Gatwick airport in London)
Air France (from Paris)
Lufthansa flies direct from Frankfurt to Malabo.
Car. The capital is on an island. However, the mainland may be accessed from Gabon via paved(tarmac) roads and from Cameroon via dirt tracks (inaccessible in rainy season). Roads in EG, however, are in a very dilapidated state (even for W. Africa) and 4×4 is necessary many months of the year.
Note that the entry from Campo can be often closed. Also, the entry from Kye-Ossi and Ebebiyin may deny entry for visa-free Americans if sufficient reason for entry is not presented or if one is not ethnically Caucasian.
Local people are very hospitable and have a certain affection for everything related to Spain. You should not forget that until 1968 was a Spanish province (the short lived democracy in the country was installed by the Spaniards), taking the last century as the beginning of the presence of settlers in the inland areas of the country where had a large number of farms in particular. In addition, half of the country’s population immigrated to Spain between 1966 and the 1990s. There are lots of beaches
Equatorial Guinea currently has no UNESCO World Heritage Site nor any tentative sites for the World Heritage List. The country also has no documented heritage listed in the Memory of the World Programme of UNESCO nor any intangible cultural heritage listed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
Río Muni (Bata) – all of the mainland
Bioko (Malabo) – island in the Gulf of Guinea, includes the capital city
Annobon – small island in the south of Sao Tome Island out in the Atlantic
Malabo – the capital, on Bioko
Bata – the major city on the mainland
Ebebiyin – a major access point in the far northeast corner
Luba – another town on Bioko
Buy. Costs – Everything is extremely expensive in Equatorial Guinea. A decent room with very limited amenities (bring all the necessary stuff like towel, soap, shampoo, etc as the hotel may not have any) will be at the range of USD75 to USD300. A simple lunch will cost at least USD20 (without drinks like wine, beer or soft drinks) in a clean and air-conditioned restaurant.
There are several good places to go to eat particularly in Malabo. The coffee shop at Hotel Sofitel (located just across the Cathedral along the north coast) offers French cuisine. Hotel Bahia’s main restaurant is also a favourite destination for both local and expats. If you like pizza and pasta, the Pizza Place is the best place in town. For Asian cuisine, Restaurante Bantu offers authentic Chinese cuisine. For Morrocan and other European food, try La Luna. Try An Equatorial Guinean cuisine such smoked beef with a black pepper. There is also a roast duck with cheese and onion leaf.
Drink. Ebebiyin is known for its large number of bars. They drink a lot of wine.
Due to the influx of foreign workers and foreign investment in Malabo as well as in the continent, there is an ample choice of hotels.
Taking photos of any government properties is strictly prohibited without permission. Don’t photograph airports, government buildings, or anything of military or strategic value. Local folks including children are generally averse to foreigners taking their picture. As a general rule, it is not advisable to bring a camera while walking around town as this can cause real trouble with the police.
Avoid any and all conversation related to politics. Criticizing the ruling clique, and especially the president, will lead you to trouble really quickly. Your local contacts will suffer a worse fate. If you feel that you are being dragged into a political conversation, or if you are asked for your opinion regarding local politics, find a way to politely avoid the situation. In the worst case, lie.
Equatorial Guinea has tropical weather and is normally very hot. It is best to wear lightweight clothing. Avoid wearing dark colours due to mosquito concerns.
Equatorial Guinea despite being a country with enough resources and is the country with the highest economic growth in Africa, does not provide any legal certainty for European, American or Asian working within the country.
You must visit with a guide and need special permits in some locations. Consult to the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where information using extended over the areas of risks.
An organized tour is recommended to avoid unpleasant situations with military checkpoints on the roads especially in the island of Bioko, where the presence of Westerners is obvious and therefore the risk is particularly evident.
Equatorial Guinea is, overall, a safe place to visit, especially in Malabo and Bata.
Food/Water: There are no drinkable or clean water sources in Equatorial Guinea. Travellers should drink only bottled water. Take care when consuming any fruits or vegetables that may have been washed or drinks that may contain ice cubes or ‘water’ additives such as coffee, tea, lemonade, etc.
Wear Shoes: Beaches in Malabo and Bata are beautiful however, due to discarded trash and unsafe sand bugs it is a good idea to always wear shoes. This applies to walking on carpeted areas as well.
Malaria Medicine: Malaria is a leading cause of death in this country.