humanitarian aid to Equatorial GuineaLocated in Central Africa, Equatorial Guinea is a small country that consists of the islands of Bioko and a mainland region where its largest city, Bata, resides. It has a population of about 1.2 million. Per capita, it is the richest country in Africa, with a GDP that ranks forty-third in the world when adjusted for purchasing power parity.

However, this massive wealth is distributed unevenly, and while it may be one of the region’s most powerful oil producers, very few benefit from the oil riches. Its authoritarian government has a streak of terrible human rights abuses, such as human trafficking. Furthermore, because less than half of the population has access to clean drinking water, it often appears as if no significant changes are coming about from humanitarian aid to Equatorial Guinea.

However, this does not mean that there are no groups undertaking vast projects with hopes of improving the country. For example, in 2016 the African Development Bank Group approved a grant of $3.04 million to strengthen the economic connections of Central African countries. This project allowed the creation of a bridge over the Ntem river which will link Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. By reducing transport costs and times, it positively improves the economic ability and is a successful example of humanitarian aid to Equatorial Guinea.

Economic projects are a significant form of success in humanitarian aid to Equatorial Guinea. For example, in 2009 the African Development Bank Group signed a loan and grant agreement in the country worth up to $70 million. $40 million was used to finance a program to train young workers in middle and senior management in different regions.

With another $15 million, Equatorial Guinea supported the development of healthcare, which particularly benefited pregnant women and children under five years of age. By increasing productivity in all sectors, Equatorial Guinea hopes to improve economic growth which will hopefully improve human development and stability.

In 2006, another program, the Social Needs Fund, focused on addressing infrastructure for the poor. While resources may exist to alleviate poverty, there were few mechanisms to implement these resources. Funded by USAID, it assisted the government to improve social planning and investments, specifically for programs in the Ministry of Health, Education and Women’s Affairs. By focusing on different ministries, USAID was able to examine expenditures and monitor budgets to create more effective programs in each sector.

With continued efforts and foreign support, Equatorial Guinea continues to improve gradually. Development projects have helped push economic growth and have created a more stable and equal society in which the poor can navigate with greater ability.

– Nick McGuire

Photo: Flickr

Growing Up in Exile: Who is Monique Macías?Who is Monique Macías? Currently an author, Monique Macías was one of the only foreign students at the prestigious Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang, North Korea. Now out of exile and in her 40s, Monique Macías often depicts her unconventional upbringing as a black African adolescent in articles and memoirs.

Born in Equatorial Guinea in 1970, only two years after the country gained independence from Spain, her father, Francisco Macías Nguema, was the small country’s first elected president. As a new president, Macías sought to form relationships with leaders of other countries such as North Korean President Kim Il-sung.

Monique Macías stated that her father and Kim Il-sung became fast friends because they had “a lot in common”, pointing out that “both fought against colonial powers and both built their support base through nationalism.”

Regardless, Francisco Macías had a short term due to a series of illegal acts he implemented through the Equatorial Guinean government. In the late 1970s. Francisco Macías was overthrown as president of Equatorial Guinea and tried for numerous crimes including genocide, embezzlement and treason. Francisco Macías was executed by firing squad in the late 1970s.

Foreseeing his exile and later execution, Franciso Macías sent his three children to North Korea to live and receive an education. Monique Macías, along with her sister and brother, attended Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang, North Korea, where they learned to shoot Kalashnikov rifles and participated in daily physical drills that involved running and climbing.

Formerly an all-boys school, the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School made a new class for Macías and her sister as an exception. The special treatment often led other students to ask: who is Monique Macías and why do she and her siblings deserve preferential treatment? Macías was not too young to recognize the special treatment that she and her siblings received in Pyongyang:

“[We] were the only Korean-speaking long-term foreign residents during that period. We lived a privileged lifestyle compared to other foreign students and the majority of North Korean people. Throughout those years Kim Il-sung stayed in regular contact with us…”

Macias lived in exile in Pyongyang for 15 years before relocating in 1994.

So, who is Monique Macías outside of exile? Still affected by the conditions in which she spent her formative years, Macías continues to author memoirs and articles about her incredibly unconventional childhood and discusses how living in Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Spain and the United States informed her opinions of the North Korean regime.

“There are people in North Korea who know that this is not the right way to live,” she said in an interview with Reuters. “I don’t think it’s going to collapse easily.”

However, Monique Macías does not shy away from defending the country that took her in upon her father’s death and formed her childhood:

“I have found that Western media normally just focuses on nuclear issues, politics or human rights. Together, all this makes people think that North Korea is an evil country and that its people are simply robots….But having lived there, I am proof that all of these things are not always true.”

In the 2000s, Monique Macías published her memoir “I’m Monique, From Pyongyang” in Korean.

Photo: Flickr

women's empowerment in equatorial guineaLow rates in the labor force, poverty, discrimination and gender-based violence are just some of the adversities that women living in the Central African nation of Equatorial Guinea still face today. However, in the last five years, the government recognized some of these issues and agreed to develop new plans for women’s empowerment in Equatorial Guinea.

Employment

In 2015, the Equatorial Guinean government recognized the low rate of participation of women in the labor force. A report published by the U.N. in 2014 showed how vulnerable employment rates continue to be higher for women than for men. In a vulnerable working environment, women might suffer low incomes, fundamental rights violations and inadequate working conditions.

In 2013, 82 percent of the female working-age population was part of the country’s labor force, compared to 94 percent of the male working-age population. Today, women represent only around 45 percent of the total labor force, and their income is lower than men’s.

Access to Education

Gender plays a role in disparity in school attendance. According to the U.N. Millennium Development Goals report, girls are more likely to be excluded from education than boys and it is more common for girls to drop out of school among poor households. Despite free education, the ratio of school attendees is 92.1 percent for men and 76.4 percent for women.

Women’s empowerment in Equatorial Guinea was also threatened in 2016, when the Ministry of Education issued a ministerial order according to which girl pupils must submit a pregnancy test result prior to enrollment. Pregnant schoolgirls are not admitted by school authorities, forcing teens to seek abortions in many cases.

Gender-Based Violence

Instances of gender-based violence among women in Equatorial Guinea are very high. This includes domestic violence and sexual assaults. In 2011, 63 percent of women 15 and older had suffered some form of violence, with 32 percent being victims of sexual assault. The cultural acceptance of gender-based violence lowers the number of victim reports and legal prosecutions.

Rape is illegal and punishable by 12 to 20 years of imprisonment, but the law does not address spousal rape. Furthermore, in most cases, authorities fail to prosecute the guilty party. According to the U.S. Department of State, police and the judicial system in Equatorial Guinea are more likely to treat domestic violence as a private matter to be resolved in the home.

The Good News

Fortunately, positive steps have been taken for women’s empowerment in Equatorial Guinea. In 2015, the government recognized that, in the past, access to education and some specific careers were “traditionally man dominant,” and it committed to creating better educational and employment opportunities for women. Different projects have also been initiated by cooperation agencies, civil societies and women’s organizations in response to gender-based inequality.

In May 2016, the World Bank Group, in partnership with the Sexual Violence Research Initiative, invested $3.5 million to be spent over five years in different African continents. The investment is for projects which aim to prevent and respond to violence against women. Campaigns and mass demonstrations have also been created in Equatorial Guinea to address gender inequality.

Raising awareness and educating women about their own rights is the first step to obtain women’s empowerment in Equatorial Guinea. It is immensely important that the country’s government and other organizations continue the fight to end women’s inequality.

– Greta Ruffino

Photo: Flickr

Guinea
Equatorial Guinea is one of the largest oil producers in Africa, producing 186,000 barrels of oil per day and ranking 37 out of 98 countries in crude oil production.

Equatorial Guinea’s economy significantly improved after it struck oil in the mid-1990s; its gross domestic product skyrocketed from .254 to 8.663 within eight years. Despite the country’s inherent wealth, over 70 percent of its population lives below the national poverty lines.

The majority of oil money is spent on infrastructure in Equatorial Guinea, leaving little to no funds for health and education. According to the World Bank, Equatorial Guinea spends $80 out of every $100 in its budget on infrastructure and two to three dollars on health and education.

Infrastructure in Equatorial Guinea appears to be a driving force in the country’s political corruption. Human Rights Watch documented the ruling elite’s misdirected spending in a June 2017 report. The elite primarily benefits from the country’s oil wealth by owning stakes in companies that are awarded grossly inflated public infrastructure contracts.

A Parisian court convicted President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo’s son Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, who is also Equatorial Guinea’s vice president, of embezzling millions of euros from his government and laundering it in France. The court seized his assets in France, valued at more than $100 million, in late 2017.

In 2012, the US Department of Justice calculated that Mangue— with an annual salary of less than $100,000 USD— spent $315 million USD between 2004 and 2011. Mangue purchased luxury goods, cars and properties with the $315 million USD— nearly a third more than the Equatoguinean government’s annual spending on health and education combined in 2011.

Mangue exemplifies Equatorial Guinea’s political corruption and its misdirected spending of oil money, but his conviction demonstrates the power of law and accountability. Although infrastructure in Equatorial Guinea remains corrupted, Mangue’s conviction may initiate further investigations into the country’s budget.

– Carolyn Gibson
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Equatorial Guinea

The human rights in Equatorial Guinea are influenced significantly by a nearly omnipotent government. The per capita gross national income is $21,056, which, according to the Human Rights Watch, is the highest in Africa. Unfortunately, much of this is due to citizens who are loyal to President Teodore Obiang Nguema Mbasogo having most of the wealth, whereas the rest of the country is living in poverty.

According to the Human Rights Watch, 26% of all children have stunted growth. Nearly half of elementary school-aged children are not enrolled in school, and half of the ones who are do not finish. A ruling in July 2017 by the Minister of Education, which expels all pregnant students in an effort to discourage pregnancy, exacerbates the situation.

Human Rights Watch puts many of the violations of human rights in Equatorial Guinea on President Obiang, the president since 1979, and his government. He was recently reelected in April 2016, amid much controversy. Many citizens in opposition to Obiang boycotted the election, given the unlikeliness of his defeat. Those who came out in opposition to Obiang were arrested, sometimes en masse, and held in jail without charges for over one week. In the week before the election, for example, Obiang’s government targeted members of the opposition party, Citizens for Innovation. Even outside of the elections, those opposing the Obiang government are swiftly dealt with, usually under “disturbing the peace,” according to Amnesty International. One story involved police arresting two members of another opposition party for passing out leaflets.

Not only are opposition leaders persecuted by the government, but so are their families. An example of this involved the son and nephew of an opposition leader, whom, according to Amnesty International, the government arrested and held for nine months, only charging and convicting them for revealing state secrets at the end of their incarceration.

The government’s influence reaches beyond silencing its opposition. When President Obiang’s son Teodorin was charged with embezzlement by the French government, Obiang responded by making his son vice president and accusing France of violating his immunity.

In spite of the severe violations of human rights in Equatorial Guinea, many organizations have spoken out for government reform. According to the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and six other organizations condemned the government for silencing opposition leaders.

The government is making an effort to improve how it treats the opposition party. In order to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, Equatorial Guinea has to “refrain from actions which result in narrowing or restricting public debate in relation to implementation of the EITI.” In response to this, the government has allowed one of its opposition parties to resume business as of September 2016.

The government is a large complication when it comes to improving human rights in Equatorial Guinea, but there are small signs of improvement, which hopefully will continue into the future.

Cortney Rowe

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Equatorial Guinea
The small country of Equatorial Guinea lies on central Africa’s west coast. Equatorial Guinea is an upper-middle class income country with a Gross National Income (GNI) higher than most other African countries. Much of this is due to the country’s oil production. However, despite the affluence of Equatorial Guinea, it has a comparatively low human development index rating. The water quality in Equatorial Guinea ranks near that of a much poorer sub-Saharan country.

Human Rights Watch reports that, in 2011, up to $125 million dollars was supposed to be spent to improve the water quality in Equatorial Guinea. Instead, the country spent 50 percent of its budget (originally approved for $783 million, but later estimated at $1.5 billion) on urban infrastructure. $80 million was spent on sports, which is more than was first budgeted for that sector. Meanwhile, only $60 million was spent on potable water, education and health combined as of June 30, 2011—a mere three percent of the expenditures that year.

Water quality in Equatorial Guinea is very poor in terms of access. Fewer households in Equatorial Guinea have access to safe water than most other countries. In 2002, just 60 percent of schools had a reliable water source. Sanitation has also been a regular problem area in schools. As of 2009, only 43 percent of Equatorial Guinea’s population had a safe and reliable water source, and only 51 percent had access to proper sanitation.

By 2015, access to clean water had risen by just a few percentage points. Still, just over half of the population had adequate access to water.

The poor often pay the most for and have the least access to clean water. Limited access to clean water and sanitation increases the risk of widespread health issues, especially for young children. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.5 million children die from diarrhea each year worldwide. This figure is composed primarily of children that live in developing countries and are younger than five. Equatorial Guinea’s under-five mortality rate is 8.9 percent higher than the average for sub-Saharan Africa.

Water quality in Equatorial Guinea should be considerably better than it is. There is no larger gap between the Gross National Income and the human development index rating in any African country other than Equatorial Guinea. Spending large amounts of money on infrastructure can be helpful, but only if it benefits rural and urban citizens. The country should make the health of its citizens a higher priority and create a realistic and appropriate annual budget.

Emma Tennyson

Photo: Flickr

Equatorial Guinea's Poverty Rate
Despite being one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies and a major producer of oil, Equatorial Guinea’s poverty rate is high due to institutional weaknesses and corruption that restrict the country’s ability to provide basic services to its people.

With a population of approximately one million people, Equatorial Guinea ranks 138 out of 188 countries in the Human Development Index for social and economic development, despite a per capita gross national income of $21,056 in 2014, the highest in Africa.

Oil has been a source of economic growth in Equatorial Guinea for the past five years, but due to corruption under President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who uses oil revenues to fund the lifestyles of the elite, poverty persists. The government invests an imbalanced ratio between infrastructure and health and education.

While the African Union’s development model prioritizes spending on health and education, the government spends around $80 out of every $100 on infrastructure and only $2 to $3 each on health and education.

The African Union does not prioritize Equatorial Guinea in its efforts to eradicate poverty because of its oil wealth. However, nearly half of the country’s population lacks access to clean water. In 2011, 26% of children were malnourished, and one in four children did not receive vaccinations. In 2016, 42% of children were not registered in primary schools. Only half of children finish primary school, and less than 25% begin middle school.

In a recent Human Rights Watch interview, researcher Sarah Saadoun described the mismanagement and high-level corruption in Equatorial Guinea. Saadoun explained that the display of wealth by the president’s family and other officials next to such poverty shows a contrasting picture of a country’s poverty despite its obvious wealth.

“What we found—unequivocally—is that the government has violated its obligation to realize people’s right to health and education…and it is hampering the government’s ability to deliver education, health and clean water to Equatorial Guineans,” Saadoun stated.

Equatorial Guinea’s poverty rate cannot improve if the country does not tackle corruption from within and invest in its companies and resources and receive foreign investments. Unless new reserves are found, the country’s oil will run out by 2035. Equatorial Guinea can become prosperous through poverty reduction if it makes smart moves before an economic crisis ensues.

Sarah Dunlap

Photo: Flickr


Equatorial Guinea (GQ), a state situated along Africa’s west coast, boasts a population of approximately 760,000 people. HIV/AIDS, diarrhoeal diseases, and malaria are the three most fatal diseases in Africa. Similarly, the top three diseases in Equatorial Guinea are HIV/AIDS, malaria, and lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI).

According to the Central Intelligence Agency, approximately 4.8 percent of adults (about 27,400 people) had HIV/AIDS in 2015. LRTI is most commonly synonymous with pneumonia, but it can refer to bronchitis, bronchiolitis and influenza as well. Viruses, and in some instances bacteria, typically cause LRTI.

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), a research institute that gathers global health statistics, the risk factors that drive the most disability and disease in Equatorial Guinea are child and maternal malnutrition, unsafe sex and air pollution. However, runner-up contributors include dietary risks, high fasting plasma glucose, high systolic blood pressure, high body mass index, alcohol and drug use, unsafe water, sanitation, handwashing and tobacco smoke.

Various programs have assisted in the fight against diseases in Equatorial Guinea. In 2004, a malaria control program was introduced on the island of Bioko, Equatorial Guinea. In 2007, the Equatorial Guinea Malaria Control Initiative (EGMCI) reintroduced a similar program in the four provinces on GQ’s mainland. Though it was smaller in scale because of funding limitations, the study demonstrated that vector control through insecticidal nets and the indoor residual spraying (IRS) of houses resulted in a decrease in the number of mosquitoes and greater protection from mosquitoes in a region.

Studies such as these are imperative to decreasing the number of malaria cases within GQ. Though the number of those infected has severely decreased in recent decades, GQ still has one of the highest malaria rates in the world.

Strategic thinking and pragmatic solutions are necessary for the fight against diseases in Equatorial Guinea.

Rebeca Ilisoi

Photo: Flickr

Horizon 2020The National Economic Development Plan: Horizon 2020 in Equatorial Guinea was launched in 2007 with the goal of overcoming social and economic challenges in the country. The initiative is divided into two phases beginning in 2008 and ending in 2020. The initial phase aims to produce a framework for economic development that would foster development for future generations fueled by the private sector, followed by consolidation within economic sectors.

The Embassy of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea outlined five key goals of the Horizon 2020 initiative: invest in strengthening economic growth, strengthen the development of structured investments, promote and strengthen the development of social policy actions, ensure a transparent social climate and develop the prospects for better monitoring and evaluation of poverty.

Secretary of state for Planning and Development, Hon César Mba Abogo, also cited the declaration of Article 8 in the country’s new constitution that emphasizes a commitment to abide by international laws as they are set forth, as well as the limitations on executive mandates.

Regardless of the restriction, significant amounts of oil revenue were discovered to be invested into private western and offshore bank accounts via an investigation conducted by the United States Senate, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in 2004.

However, constraints on the growth of Equatorial Guinea’s economy have begun to arise in 2016 as a result of decreasing oil output and notably low crude oil prices. Human Rights Watch reported an increase of over 5,000 percent since the country struck oil in 1992.

As a part of the Horizon 2020 in Equatorial Guinea initiative, the government created the Social Development Fund that budgeted $1 billion for spending toward equality, transport, water, education, social welfare and housing infrastructure. Government programs to develop public governance and investment through mobilizing and educating human capital.

An emergency program, Holding Equatorial Guinea 2020, has already been launched as a conduit to foster growth in the economic sector, promote human rights, and secure good hiring and employment practices. The main aims of the initiative are founded in economic stability and the eradication of poverty and the success of such programs exemplify the potential outcome for Equatorial Guinea at the conclusion of the initiatives.

Amber Bailey
Photo: Flickr

The Curse of Oil and its Effects on Poverty in Equatorial Guinea
The discovery of crude oil in the Gulf of Guinea during the mid-1990s resulted in drastic increases in government revenue in Equatorial Guinea. Although the country is one of the wealthiest in Sub-Saharan Africa, two-thirds of citizens live on less than $1 per day, making the rate of poverty in Equatorial Guinea quite high.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is the longest to hold executive office in Africa since taking leadership after a military coup in 1979. Since then, Equatorial Guinea gained the status of the continent’s sixth-largest producer of oil. The country is home to Africa’s highest GDP per capita, while its 2014 rank on the U.N.’s Human Development Index landed at 144 out of 187 states.

Effects of government corruption extend far beyond the economic sector and continue to negatively impact education, child and infant mortality rates as well as access to sanitation. The Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) reports that only 41% of individuals in the most populated areas have access to clean drinking water. The CESR also notes that Equatorial Guinea has the third-highest number of deaths of children under 1 year of age in Sub-Saharan Africa. The rate of children in Equatorial Guinea to finish primary school is under 60%, while the rate of boys enrolled in secondary school is double that of girls, according to CESR findings.

Equatorial Guinea’s per capita income of $26,000 along with 76.8% of the country in poverty is exemplary of institutional inequalities that foster conditions for extreme poverty. High corruption, lack of natural resource revenue and support of regimes are vital contributors to poverty in Equatorial Guinea.

U.S. shift in energy policy during 2001 to focus on attaining oil from African countries without foresight for the future of local societies has been key in fostering the continuation of poverty.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, condemned former Vice President Cheney’s energy plans due to the lack of attention paid to the strategy’s impact on developing nations. The report specifies the potential of U.S. utilization of West African oil as the region was “expected to be one of the fastest-growing sources of oil and gas for the American market.” The Cheney Report’s main aim was to eliminate hurdles to increase the attainment of foreign oil by the U.S., should they regard legal, economic, political or logistical obstacles.

In a study conducted by Elise Aiken, one-third of the planet’s civil wars are happening in countries where oil production dominates. Aiken attributes this to three main factors: “economic instability caused by fluctuating oil prices, support of insurgencies through black market sales or extortion and encouragement of separatism because of wealth imbalance.” She also notes that oil-rich countries are not guaranteed to have outbreaks of conflict and those governments that “limit corruption and put their windfalls to good use rarely face unrest.” African communities are more likely to face strife when oil production is prominent due to scarce educational backgrounds, unstable economies and in areas with minimal law enforcement and high corruption.

A report by Global Witness attributes the “curse of oil” to a lack of transparency of governments to enclose the amount of revenue from oil production. The report also recommends that the catalytic shift in increasing transparency would come from the implementation of U.S. legislation to enact corporate requirements to enclose revenue reports.

Tutu Alicante, native to the island of Annobon in Equatorial Guinea, is the founder of the first human rights advocacy and capacity-building initiative focused solely on the country called EG Justice. Alicante became passionate about taking action when the military came to his village on orders to eliminate young men in opposition to the regime.

The insurgents were arrested, tortured and publicly executed before the military burned down Alicante’s family home. Five months later, he went to the U.S. with a mission to end the violence through his education. After earning a J.D. from the University of Tennessee and an LLM from Columbia University Law School he now works to increase the transparency of income from natural resources and is a legal adviser for human rights organizations worldwide.

Strides made by activists like Alicante to secure human rights, while promoting natural resource revenue reform is vital to altering the infrastructure that fosters corruption and relieving extreme poverty in Equatorial Guinea.

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr