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