Posts

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

Hunger in Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea stands out in Africa as the only nation on the continent that speaks Spanish. It is also unique in its fight against hunger in Africa, even as hunger in Equatorial Guinea itself persists.

The country made news for making the first donation of $30 million to the Africa Solidarity Trust fund, created in 2013. The fund is intended to promote development in neighboring countries. It is not intended to supplant existing aid programs, but make rural African communities more resistant to drought and natural disasters that often lead to food shortages.

This is not to say that hunger in Equatorial Guinea does not exist and is not a consistent issue there. On the contrary, the country’s social safety net is weak, despite the fact that a good number of Guineans are subsistence farmers. About 17.5 percent of the population, or 1.9 million people, are food insecure. Furthermore, natural disasters such as flooding are a continual threat to agriculture.

Additionally, the 2014 Ebola outbreak exacerbated a number of issues in the country, including ethnic tensions and economic inequality. Equatorial Guinea also has a refugee crisis brought on by the instability of some of its neighbors, causing about 4,800 refugees to relocate to the country and putting an extra strain on food and resources.

Income inequality is another less-discussed contributor to hunger in Equatorial Guinea. While the country has a wealth of oil, diamonds and gold, the riches generated from these resources have mostly stayed with the most wealthy members of Guinean society, including authoritarian president Teodoro Obiang. Obiang’s tenure has been marked by political repression and a dim record on human rights.

One of the biggest issues Equatorial Guinea has faced is a lack of visibility to the wider world. Activists are hoping to bring the country’s situation to light, and by extension hunger in Equatorial Guinea. The writer and intellectual Juan Tomas Avila Laurel has written the president of the Spanish legislature requesting that Spain help Equatorial Guinea transition to democracy. Spain and France have brought several corruption cases against members of the government, including one of Obiang’s sons.

Hunger in Equatorial Guinea, exacerbated by corruption, remains a serious issue. Still, it is clear that the situation no longer persists in the dark, and the attention of the world is now on this African nation.

Andrew Revord

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Equatorial GuineaThe 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 percent 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 of 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 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 the 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 percent of children were malnourished, and one in four children did not receive vaccinations. In 2016, 42 percent of children were not registered in primary schools. Only half of children finish primary school, and less than 25 percent 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 2020
The 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 in 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. 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

Ebola VirusIn January, officials in Sierra Leone confirmed a new death from the Ebola virus in the country, days after Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea declared themselves Ebola-free.

According to NewsWeek, the World Health Organization (WHO) said last Thursday that “it was the first time all three West African countries had held the Ebola-free status simultaneously…effectively bringing to an end the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history that has claimed lives of some 11,300 people.”

The Ebola virus disease is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. It is transmitted to individuals from human to human transmission, or from wild animals. There are currently no licensed Ebola vaccines and the average EVD case fatality rate is around 50 percent, according to the WHO.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been the largest and most complex outbreak since the deadly disease was first discovered in the late 70’s.

Said the WHO, “The most severely affected countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, have very weak health systems, lack human and infrastructural resources, and have only recently emerged from long periods of conflict and instability.”

A test center in Sierra Leone announced that the tests on the patient who died a few days ago confirmed that his death was due to the deadly virus. To reduce further threats, Sierra Leone officials are currently investigating how the individual became infected and who may have been in contact with him.

The World Health Organization also emphasized that future flare-ups of the deadly virus are probable.

Bruce Aylward, the Ebola correspondent in the organization said that the “risk of re-introduction of infection is diminishing as the virus gradually clears from the survivor population, but we still anticipate more flare-ups and must be prepared for them.”

According to NewsWeek, recent investigations have found that the virus can remain in the male survivor’s semen for up to nine months. Hence, the WHO suggests Ebola survivors and their sexual partners abstain from sex or practice extremely safe sex.

“There is as yet no proven treatment available for EVD. However, a range of potential treatments including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies are currently being evaluated,” said the WHO. Additionally, two potential vaccines re undergoing human safety testing.

The World Health Organization suggests that in order to prevent and control this deadly threat, community engagement is the key to successfully control the outbreaks. “Raising awareness of risk factors for Ebola infection and protective measures that individuals can take is an effective way to reduce human transmission.”

Isabella Rolz

Sources: NewsWeek, World Health Organization
Photo: Bloomberg Business

Poliovirus Spreads to Equatorial Guinea
The Polio Global Eradication Initiative announced that “a new wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) case was reported in Equatorial Guinea” on April 16 2014.  The country has reported three known cases and due to the genetic sequencing of the virus, health officials believe the virus spread from neighboring country, Cameroon.

This poliovirus outbreak contradicts Equatorial Guinea’s statistics in previous years. The UNICEF Annual Report 2012 for Guinea Bissau declared, “Guinea Bissau has been “polio-free” since 2009…due to vaccination campaigns through child health days and strengthened routine immunization.” According to NPR’s article “Polio Hits Equatorial Guinea, Threatens Central Africa” report, however, the country currently has a vaccination rate of only 39 percent, suggesting that routine immunization programs have decreased since 2009.

Similarly, in Cameroon, the origin of this outbreak, the World Health Organization calculated that 40 percent of children are inadequately vaccinated against the poliovirus. Immunization prevents the spread of the poliovirus, which is an infectious disease with no cure that can cause permanent paralysis. It is communicable via person-to-person contact. Children under the age of 5 are especially susceptible to contracting the virus, making proper immunization campaigns are essential to elimination of an outbreak.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), from January 2014 to April 2014 ten countries reported a total of 61 polio cases.  When an outbreak of the poliovirus began in Cameroon in October 2013, the country conducted immunization campaigns in response. On March 17 2014, however, Cameroon confirmed new cases of the poliovirus.  In the WHO’s “Poliovirus in Cameroon update”, the WHO elevated “the risk assessment of international spread of polio from Cameroon to very high.” Despite the organization’s attempt to contain the outbreak, the poliovirus spread to Equatorial Guinea.

In an April 24, 2014 UNICEF news note, UNICEF Representative in Equatorial Guinea, Dr. Brandão Có, stated, “Stopping the transmission of polio in Equatorial Guinea is a key priority in order to ensure children, families and communities are protected against this terrible and crippling disease that also has enormous social costs.” UNICEF also reported that a campaign to vaccinate 300,000 children against the virus commenced on April 24, 2014.

— Jaclyn Ambrecht

Sources: NPR, Polio Global Eradication Initiative,, UNICEF(1), UNICEF(2), World Health Organization

Equatorial Guinea
Being one of the last remaining colonies of the once expansive Spanish Empire, Equatorial Guinea became independent in 1968 during the rule of Spanish General Francisco Franco. This West African nation is very interesting in many aspects. Its capital is located on an island faraway from the mainland, it is the only Hispanophone country in West Africa—barring the territory of West Sahara—and it also has the highest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in Sub-Saharan Africa.

However, in this relatively prosperous country, approximately two-thirds of the population lives in extreme poverty.

Despite the discovery of oil and other natural resources that the countries of West Africa have been bequeathed with by their geographical locations and an extremely small population of less than a million people, it is rather paradoxical that the richest country in Sub-Saharan Africa and the region’s third-largest oil producer whose size is roughly the same as Massachusetts allows more than half of its people to fall into abject poverty.

In neighboring Cameroon, where the GDP per capital is only a tenth of that of Equatorial Guinea, for example, much less than two-thirds of the entire population lives in extreme poverty. To put it in comparison, Equatorial Guinea’s GDP per capita is greater than those of Italy, South Korea or Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, other statistics regarding the country’s standard of living are also equally — if not more — frustrating. Only about half of the country’s population has access to clean drinking water, overcrowded living condition is—surprisingly given the country’s low population density—rampant and very few children enjoy the advantages of urban life such as education, medical services and recreational facilities.

Despite the grinding poverty suffered by hundreds of thousands, Equatorial Guinea seems to often escape the radar of global attention due to the highly distorted numerical means, which shows the country in good standing in terms of GDP per capita. However, in reality, there is a flagrant discrepancy that is indicative of a rather stark disparity between the have and the have-not.

To make this inequity even more unsettlingly palpable and conspicuous, the country is also building a brand new and expensive capital city on the mainland, hundreds of miles away from where the majority of the already sparsely populated country lives. Currently, Malabo, situated on an island to the far northern reaches of the country, is the capital, while Bata, an Atlantic seaport, serves as the country’s largest city.

However, Oyala—under construction—will serve as Equatorial Guinea’s President (and Africa’s longest-ruling dictator) Teodoro Obiang’s new capital. What is his supporting rationale? His government’s and his own safety and security. This project is expected to cost billions of dollars before it finishes in a country where over 60 percent of the population is struggling to live on less than $1 per day.

It is clear where at least some of the immense amount of wealth of this nation goes. In 2012, the French police sent out an arrest warrant of Teodorín Obiang, the son of the Equatoguinean president who had to escape Paris back to his own country. Upon investigation, they found evidence of an obscene accumulation of wealth. Teodoro Obiang—his father and the country’s leader—is also leading an extremely corrupt government. A criminal investigation launched in Spain revealed that there are 11 families with close ties to the Obiang family who are amassing most of the country’s wealth.

Equatorial Guinea is a tragic archetype of a country that could have been highly developed and whose citizens could have enjoyed a very high standard of living. However, the lack of democracy has allowed only a handful of individuals to accumulate most of the country’s vast wealth.

– Peewara Sapsuwan

Sources: Europa Press, International Business Times, IEACH, Open Society Foundations
Photo: World Rainforest Movement