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Equatorial Guinea – Persistent Poverty

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Despite high per captia income and oil wealth the country is performing poorly in wider social development.

Comparatively, across the African continent, Equatorial Guinea boasts some of the highest levels of per capita income, and with a largely oil dependent economy, it has often escaped mention in discussions of poverty. However, Foreign Minister Agapito Mba Mokuy said despite wealth the country was performing poorly at social development.

According to reports from 2015 still around half of the country’s population lacks access to clean water, and life expectancy and infant mortality are below the average for sub-Saharan Africa. Similarly, half of the children who start primary school never end up finishing.

The problems in part stem from the fact that much of the wealth has been accumulated by senior government officials and a lack of investment in the country, as many officials have turned to overseas investments, drawing allegations of money laundering.

There seems to be, following investigations, systemic corruption at the highest levels of government. Through infrastructure projects the government pours huge amounts of oil money into construction projects, with contracts awarded to companies often owned or closely associated with high-level government officials.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports and high-level interviews show that the conflicts of interest allegedly lead to inflated contract prices and dubious investments in “white elephant” projects. The government does not make public its budgets, or track health and education spending, so the only data available is that collected by the IMF and World Bank.

Between 2009 and 2013, Equatorial Guinea took in an average of US$4 billion annually in oil revenue, and spent $4.2bn on infrastructure such as roads, buildings, and airports. However in 2011 the country only spent $140m on education and $92m on health, while the only other year for which data is available, 2008, $60m was spent on education and $90m on health, reported All Africa.

In comparison Uganda and Tanzania spend around a third of their budgets on education each year, while Ghana spends around a quarter, according to the World Bank.

Despite efforts to eradicate poverty and promote inclusive growth, these principles of the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063, are fruitless without efforts to tackle corruption.

The oil reserves in Equatorial Guinea, which have supplied billions of dollars in revenue over the last three decades are expected to run out by 2035, which will only deepen the crisis in the country.

In a recent case the eldest son of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema is facing an ongoing trial after accusations of plundering money from government funds to buy a mansion in Paris, France, allegedly embezzling around Euro 100m, according to Deutschewelle.

Teodorin Obiang is also a vice-president of the small oil-rich state on the African west coast. However his trial was recently postponed giving Obiang an additional six month to prepare his defence. According to Transparency International, this was a delay tactic.

Human rights groups have long bemoaned Equatorial Guinea for its record on civil liberties, unlawful killings and torture, alongside allegations of bribery and corruption.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

EQUATORIAL GUINEA – FRANCE: President’s Son on Trial
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21521C–21522B

EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Weak Performance
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 52, Issue. 7, Pp. 20926A–20926C

EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Co-Investment Fund
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 51, Issue. 1, Pp. 20278B–20278C

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