Country FilesCentralEquitorial Guinea Country Profile 2015: Obiang's game to play


Posted on Tuesday, 24 November 2015 09:00

Equitorial Guinea Country Profile 2015: Obiang's game to play

By The Africa Report

altEquatorial Guinea will not have another presidential election until 2016, and President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, 72, is following a common script of attempting to stay in power for as long as he can while making as few compromises as possible.

November 2014 brought a political dialogue that Obiang initiated in order to co-opt the opposition and make the regime appear to be more democratic. As oil production declines, natural gas is gaining greater importance, and the government continues to talk about the need for economic diversification, which cannot come soon enough for a weakened economy.

Analysts expect a familial succession in Equatorial Guinea, with vice-president Teodoro 'Teodorín' Nguema Obiang Mangue, who is in charge of defence and national security, taking over from his father.

Teodorín has received a cold reception from Washington and Paris but signed a deal with US authorities in October to forfeit some of his property there in order to avoid a corruption trial, thus improving bilateral relations.

Talks break down

In November, President Obiang's government launched talks with representatives of legal and illegal opposition parties located at home and in exile in order to strengthen the country's democracy.

Many in the opposition dismissed this overture, as the government routinely prohibits protests and arrests opposition leaders on dubious charges. Most parties insisted on pre-conditions before participating, and in October the government issued an ill-defined general amnesty for political prisoners and politicians facing charges.

Most of the parties that agreed to participate walked out on the second day of talks, arguing that they were unlikely to alter the autocratic systems of the Obiang government. Not all of the regime's opponents are set to benefit from the amnesty.

Cipriano Nguema Mba, a former lieutenant colonel who was kidnapped in Nigeria and brought to Equatorial Guinea, is still set to face trial on the charges of threatening state security.

The economy has been in recession since 2013 and prospects for a recovery dimmed in late 2014 when the price of a barrel of oil dropped below $80 from more than $100 earlier in the year.

altEquatorial Guinea was the only African country expected to have a negative economic growth rate in 2014, demonstrating why the government is seeking to broaden the country's economic base.

The dropping price of oil led the African Development Bank to estimate that the budget deficit would rise to 11.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014 and 12.8% in 2015. Oil accounts for almost 90% of GDP, while the agriculture sector struggles to meet 30% of domestic demand.

Glaring inequalities

The country's rapid economic growth since the oil boom of the 1990s has not improved livelihoods across the board. In spite of Equatorial Guinea's GDP per capita of $19,787, only 14% of the population uses the internet, according to the UN Development Programme. That is below the sub-Saharan African average of 15.2%.

The government has been rapidly financing infrastructure such as roads and power plants over the past several years. It also has ambitious plans for the gas sector.

Ophir Energy is set to make an investment decision soon on its plans to build a floating liquefied natural gas plant. If things go according to plan, Ophir will select a contractor for the plant by the end of 2014 and production at a rate of 3m tonnes per annum will begin in 2019.

Another gas project is the construction of a petrochemicals plant at Riaba on the eastern coast. Malabo signed a deal with the companies in blocks I and O to provide gas to the plant and hired India's Archean Fertilizer to produce plans for the complex in 2014.

In early 2014, Malabo organised a conference on the subject of the diversification of its economy. At the conclusion of the summit, it announced the launch of a co-investment fund of $1bn that will be devoted to working with foreign investors outside of the petroleum sector. The priority investment areas are agriculture, tourism and banking.

In order to better understand what policies will encourage specific sectors, the government has launched a housing, agriculture and employment census that should be completed by the end of 2015.


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