Short Focus on Equatorial Guinea:
Prepared by Scherzando Karasu
Equatorial Guinea’s economy, once negligible, has grown at an incredible 40% annually since 1996 when the former Spanish colony struck oil and the hydrocarbon boom began.
A few years ago, the streets of the capital, Malabo, were quiet. Now, Malabo's pretty Spanish colonial architecture bristles with satellite dishes, and the streets, bathed at night in an orange glow from gas flared at a nearby methanol plant, are lined with sports cars, and tropical palaces. Consisting mainly of an island that hosts the capital and a largely forested mainland, it is little known to outsiders but at last years Fortune Global Forum – which brings together the Fortune 500 CEOs and many heads of state – The President of the Republic; Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo laid down the foundations of his ambitious Horizon 2020 program which aims to propel his country emerging country status by that year.
His vision, set out in a five-point plan was; firstly to pursue Equatorial Guinea’s membership of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the development of the country’s social sectors, the reform of judicial institutions, maintenance of close relations with international human rights organizations and a firm commitment to ensure the country’s environmental preservation.
The country has grown exponentially to become the fourth-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa (behind only Angola, Nigeria, and Sudan). With its production rising to 360,000 barrels per day and become a magnet for foreign investment in the hydrocarbons sector.
With a new licensing round opened at the end of 2010 the country is now looking to double its output of natural gas to serve gas-hungry Europe and become a greater source of regional electricity supply, ramping up activity throughout the sector with new investment and attracting more FDI throughout the sector’s entire value chain.
As well as developing the country’s potential as a West African oil services hub by investing heavily in its infrastructure with roads, ports, airports, and housing projects constructed at break-neck pace over the last few years. Forestry, farming, and fishing are also earmarked as major future components of GDP.
The international profile of the county has grown in concert with this financial growing muscle and enhanced geo-strategic importance with Barack Obama reaffirming his commitment to Mr. Nguema as an ally of America, whose firms pump out much of the oil.
China, which has built a big embassy in Malabo, is cosying up too. And Spain has also been currying favour with Repsol, a Spanish firm with historic Equatorial links, saying is returning to the country after nearly 30 years.
Equatorial Guinea’s overt public relations efforts are beginning to reap results. Once diplomatically isolated the country has begun to be talked of by some as a potential, “Costa Rica of Africa”