Equatorial Guinea, the only former Spanish colony in Sub Saharan Africa, is composed of a mainland, Rio Muni, and small islands including Bioko where the capital Malabo is located, Annobon, Corisco, Elobey, and others. According to a 2007-08 United Nations estimate, it is one of the smallest countries on the continent with a population of 562,339 people. The country is bound on the north by Cameroon, east and south by Gabon, and west by the Gulf of Guinea. It is well endowed with arable land and mineral resources ranging from gold, oil, uranium, diamond, and columbite-tantalite, and notably petroleum discovered in the 1990s.
The president, Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, is the longest-serving head of state in Sub-Saharan Africa and is expected to retain a tight grip on power. His position was bolstered by his landslide victory in the last presidential election in November 2009. The absence of real checks and balances grants his party (Partido democratico de Guinea Ecuatorial - PDGE) absolute executive power. The country’s constitution was amended following the November 2011 referendum establishing a parliament with the addition of a new 75-member Senate, 15 members of which will be appointed by the president. A new government was appointed in May 2012. The legislative, senatorial and municipal elections are planned to be held in May 2013. Legalized opposition parties continue to voice their discontent of the country’s governance but their capacity to influence policy is limited.
The country has been one of the fastest growing economies in Africa in the past decade, despite a marked slowdown during and after the global economic crisis of 2008-09. After the discovery of large oil reserves in the 1990s, Equatorial Guinea became the third-largest producer of oil in Sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria and Angola. More recently, substantial gas reserves have also been discovered. Hydrocarbon exports increased dramatically in value from US$190 million in 2000 to estimates between US$15 and 17 billion in 2012. Oil prices are forecast to decline modestly in 2013-14.
Strong inflows of foreign investment in the oil and gas sector, together with a sharp rise in oil exports and favorable terms of trade, have contributed to the country’s impressive gross domestic product (GDP) growth, including an average real annual growth rate of 27% from 1996 to 2008. A slowdown in hydrocarbon growth as well as lower world market prices during the global economic crisis of 2008-09 caused overall GDP growth to fall to an annual average of 3.6% between 2009 and 2012. The construction sector, fueled by an ambitious public investment program, has emerged as a significant source of economic activity and growth.
The oil boom has led to inflationary pressures, with an average annual inflation rate of 6.1% over the past decade. In 2011, Atlas gross national income (GNI) per capita was estimated at US$15,670. The government’s development agenda is guided by a medium-term strategy paper, the National Economic Development Plan: Horizon 2020, which targets economic diversification and poverty reduction. The first phase of Horizon 2020, focused on infrastructure development, was concluded in 2012 and the second phase will focus on economic diversification into strategic new sectors such as fisheries, agriculture, tourism and finance.
As the country moves into the second phase of the National Development Plan, the government is planning to redirect public investment from infrastructure towards the development of new economic sectors.
The lack of available data persists and makes it difficult to track progress on socioeconomic indicators. A World Bank Public Expenditure Review carried out in 2010 recommended a reallocation of resources towards human development, especially education and health.
Last updated February 2013