Facts About Culture, Geography, and History of Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea is a tiny West African country surround by Cameroon to the North, Gabon to the South and the Atlantic Ocean to the West. There are many things to know about this unique country. Nonetheless, we have provided 12 facts to keep you anchored for further exploration.
12. One of the richest countries in Africa, but the wealth is concentrated
Equatorial Guinea is one of the richest countries in Africa. However, the vast majority of its residents live in poverty.
Like the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, Equatorial Guinea suffers from the “curse of natural wealth”. Despite it being a mineral-rich country and one of the few countries in Africa to have a balance of payment surplus and a handsome per capita income, most of its wealth goes to private pockets of the few ruling elites. Majority of its small population live in abject poverty.
11. Same president has served since 1979
The president of Equatorial Guinea has been serving since 1979.
Teodoro Obiang, the current president, is one of the longest-serving presidents in Africa. He has been accused of corruption by many and despite more than a dozen attempts to depose him, he has clung to power. He himself seized power from his Uncle in 1979 in a coup. His uncle, the first president Francisco Macias Nguema, had ruled this tiny country since it gained independence in 1968.
His son Teodorín is the vice president.
10. The third largest oil exporter in Sub-Saharan Africa
Equatorial Guinea is the third largest oil exporter in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Crude oil accounts for 69% of its export followed closely by petroleum gas, which accounts for 23% of exports. At the current value, this fetches $4.1 billion and $1.3 billion respectively thus leaving it with a handsome trade surplus of $4.2 billion after factoring in its imports of about $1.6 billion.
Another Must Read: Oil Producing Countries
9. Has Spanish as the official language
Equatorial Guinea is the only country in Africa to have Spanish as an official language.
After almost two centuries of Spanish colonization, Spanish became the official language. This is one of the curses of colonialism in Africa – where the natives take up the colonialist language in preference for their own local languages as the official language. Of course, in a multi-ethnic society, this becomes a quick fix, but in the long-term, it leaves scars of colonialism and subjugation remaining unattended.
8. Almost 20% of the country is environmentally protected land
The network of protected areas in Equatorial Guinea covers about 19% of the national territory (5,330 square kilometers / 3,310 square miles).
Equatorial Guinea is famed for its pristine beaches. Yet unlike the deserts of most oil-producing countries, it has rich and dense natural vegetation with a diversity of flora and fauna. However, rampant and illegal loggings targeting its highly precious woods and wildlife, protected areas become the only solution against depletion. As such, there are plenty of protected areas. Monte Alen National Park is the largest park and protected area. It is home to elephants, chimpanzees, and gorillas. It has an area of 2,000 square kilometers with 105 different mammal species with primates taking a giant share.
7. Home to the Goliath frog
The Goliath frog, one of the prominent amphibians is found in Equatorial Guinea’s Monte Alén National Park, and is the biggest frog in the world.
Monte Alen National Park is famous for its wildlife. Some of the species include Elephants, chimpanzees, and gorillas. However, the Goliath frog is the most famous of them all. These frogs can grow up to 32 cm long and weigh up to 3.25 kilos.
6. First inhabitants are believed to have been Pygmies
The first inhabitants of the region that is now Equatorial Guinea are believed to have been Pygmies, of whom only isolated pockets remain in northern Río Muni.
Pygmies are native to the central African region covering the Congo basin going upwards to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The Pygmies are known to be quite short and their height rarely goes beyond half that of an average adult. Some of them would only reach the knees of a man of average height.
5. Has one of the worst human rights records in the world
Equatorial Guinea’s authoritarian government has one of the worst human rights records in the world, consistently ranking among the “worst of the worst” in Freedom House’s annual survey of political and civil rights.
President Teodoro Obiang seized power through a military coup. He has maintained military grip over the state instruments. Being in charge of an oil-rich country, he ‘naturally’ happens to be a benefactor of international conspiracy to keep him in power just to continue siphoning oil from this rich but impoverished country. The Western powers, who are always so eager to tout democracy as a pretext to get rid of unpleasant regimes, seem to have swallowed a silent conspiracy to keep him on as they benefit from the rich oil exploits.
A Relevant Read: Corruption in Africa
4. Christianity is the predominant religion
The principal religion in Equatorial Guinea is Christianity, the faith of 93% of the population.
The vast majority of Christians are Roman Catholics (87%), followed at a distance by Protestants (5%) and other religions taking the remaining share.
3. Smallest African nation to be a member of the UN
Equatorial Guinea is the smallest African country to be a member of the United Nations.
The size of this tiny country is just 28,051 square kilometers (10,831 square miles). Conventionally, Africa has big countries. Some, like DRC, Mauritania and former Sudan occupied the size almost enough to fit in entire Western Europe. Thus, it is a rare for a small non-island country like Equatorial Guinea to exist on the African continent.
Yet, despite its small size, it holds natural wealth that supersedes those of many large countries.
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2. Gained independence from Spain in 1968
Equatorial Guinea gained independence in 1968 after 190 years of Spanish rule.
The Spaniards and Portuguese were some of the earliest colonizers in the world. Before the Berlin Conference, which ushered in the ‘scramble for Africa’, Spaniards and Portuguese had already established tiny footholds in several parts of Africa. The only exceptions were the Boers (Dutch settlers) in South Africa.
However, Portuguese were the earliest colonizers. At some point in time, the Spaniards, the French and the Britons were granted territorial rights. This informs the reason as to why, apart from Spanish, Portuguese and French are also official languages.
1. The country is building a new capital, expected completion is 2020
Equatorial Guinea is building a new capital expected to be completed in 2020.
This brand new capital city will be called Oyala.
However, probably, there is some ‘logic’ due to security reasons. The country’s current capital city, Malabo, is the only capital city in the world by a non-island nation not to be located on its mainland but on a tiny island. For security reasons, making a new capital makes sense. From a financial perspective, less so. Nonetheless, there is already an economic capital on the mainland by the name ‘Bata’ city.
Equatorial Guinea is one of the living paradoxes of Africa. It is a country with per capita income bigger than that of UK yet a majority of its citizens survive on less than a dollar a day. It has natural wealth including both black gold (oil) and green gold (rich agricultural lands) plus so many other minerals. It also has pristine beaches and beautiful scenery that attracts foreign income flows.