total: 28,051 sq km
land: 28,051 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Total: 528 km
border countries (2):
Cameroon 183 km,
Gabon 345 km
Coastline: 296 km
Total: 824 km
always hot, humid
coastal plains rise to interior hills; islands are volcanic
mean elevation: 577 m
elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pico Basile 3,008 m
petroleum, natural gas, timber, gold, bauxite, diamonds, tantalum, sand, and gravel, clay
agricultural land: 10.1%
arable land 4.3%; permanent crops 2.1%; permanent pasture 3.7%
other: 32.4% (2011 est.)
Population – distribution:
only two large cities over 30,000 people (Bata on the mainland, and the capital Malabo on the island of Bioko); small communities are scattered throughout the mainland and the five inhabited islands
People and Society
The population of Equatorial Guinea in 2017 was estimated by the CIA at 778,358, which placed it at number 164 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2016, approximately 7% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 55% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 98 males for every 100 females in the country. The UN estimated that 45% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005 and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 4.16%. The capital city, Malabo, had a population of 95,000 in that year.
Equatorial Guinea is one of the smallest and least populated countries in continental Africa and is the only independent African country where Spanish is an official language. Despite a boom in oil production in the 1990s, authoritarianism, corruption, and resource mismanagement have concentrated the benefits among a small elite. These practices have perpetuated income inequality and unbalanced development, such as low public spending on education and healthcare. Unemployment remains problematic because the oil-dominated economy employs a small labor force dependent on skilled foreign workers. The agricultural sector, Equatorial Guinea’s main employer, continues to deteriorate because of a lack of investment and the migration of rural workers to urban areas.
About three-quarters of the population live below the poverty line. Equatorial Guinea’s large and growing youth population – about 60% are under the age of 25 – is particularly affected because job creation in the non-oil sectors is limited, and young people often do not have the skills needed in the labor market. Equatorial Guinean children frequently enter school late, have poor attendance, and have high dropout rates. Thousands of Equatorial Guineans fled across the border to Gabon in the 1970s to escape the dictatorship of MACIAS NGUEMA; smaller numbers have followed in the decades since. Continued inequitable economic growth and high youth unemployment increase the likelihood of ethnic and regional violence.
778,358 (July 2017 est.)
Fang 85.7%, Bubi 6.5%, Mdowe 3.6%, Annobon 1.6%, Bujeba 1.1%, other 1.4% (1994 census)
Spanish (official) 67.6%, other (includes French (official), Fang, Bubi) 32.4% (1994 census)
nominally Christian and predominantly Roman Catholic, pagan practices
Ethnicity, Language, and Religion
The majority of the people of Equatorial Guinea are of Bantu origin. The largest ethnic group, the Fang, is indigenous to the mainland, but substantial migration to Bioko Island since the 20th century means the Fang population exceeds that of the earlier Bubi inhabitants. The Fang constitute 80% of the population and comprise around 67 clans. Those in the northern part of Río Muni speak Fang-Ntumu, while those in the south speak Fang-Okah; the two dialects have differences but are mutually intelligible. Coastal groups, such as the Kombe, Mabea, Lengi, Benga, and others, have been in contact with European traders much longer, and a limited amount of intermarriage between European and African ethnic groups has taken place, especially on the island of Corisco. Spanish ethnographers refer to these coastal peoples as players (“those who live on the beach”). Both the Fang majority and the playero groups are Bantu peoples.
For years, the official languages were Spanish and French. Portuguese was also adopted as an official language later in 2010. Spanish has been an official language since 1844. It is still the language of education and administration. 67.6% of Equatorial Guineans can speak it, especially those living in the capital, Malabo. Each ethnic group speaks its own language; among the most prominent of these languages are Fang and Bubi. The official languages of the country, however, are Spanish and French. Spanish is taught in schools and used by the press; it is the primary means of communication common to both Bioko and the mainland. As a result of Equatorial Guinea’s closer economic association with Francophone countries begun in 1983, French became a compulsory subject in schools in 1988 and an official language in 1997. In addition, an English-based creole is used extensively in petty commerce and forms the lingua franca on Bioko, and a Portuguese patois is spoken on both Bioko and Annobón.
Although African traditional religion has left its vestiges among the indigenous tribes, about 93% of the population are Christian. Within the Christian population, 87% are Roman Catholic and about 4.5% are mainline Protestant, primarily Baptist and Episcopalian. Though there is no state religion, a 1992 law established an official preference for the Catholic Church and the Reform Church of Equatorial Guinea, based on the traditional importance of these two denominations in popular culture. Other religious groups must register through the Ministry of Justice and Worship. Religious study (primarily Catholic) is required in public schools.
The literacy rate in Equatorial Guinea is 92.1% for men and 76.4% for women. This disparity is explained by the fact that girls, for one reason or another, are more likely to drop out of school than boys, despite free education from the pre-school program to the secondary school level, and the government support to education in the country. The educational system is supervised by the Ministry of Education and Sciences and is focused on the country’s transformation into a high-quality source of well-educated young men and women, the development of the youth not only with skills needed for the socio-economic advancement of the country, but also to be highly competitive in the global economy. A plan for the country also includes giving priority to basic education, especially the pre-school and primary levels, and to girls’ education to discourage, among others, rampant marriages and pregnancies among the young undergraduate women.
The pre-school program admits children from three to six years of age. It is divided into two parts: the nursery and kindergarten devoted mostly to games, creative activities, and other children events. The primary education is for five years while the secondary education has four years in the first stage and three years in the second stage. This level is a preparation for admission to college or the higher institution of higher learning. The primary school has also two levels, namely: the first for children aged six to 10, and the second for children aged 10 to 12.
The secondary school has two cycles to earn a baccalaureate degree. The first cycle consists of four years of study, and the second cycle, three years. The advanced cycle or college education has three levels: (1) three years of study (2) two years of specialized study, and (3) three years devoted to research.
Higher education facilities are provided mainly through Spanish assistance via the Spanish National University of Distant Education; locations are in the principal cities of Bata and Malabo. Some students who reach the university level also go abroad to study, primarily in Spain and France. In addition, there are five institutions of higher learning in Equatorial Guinea: the National Institute for Health (Bata), the National Institute for Public Administration (ENAP), the National Institute for Agriculture (ENAM), the Santa Isabel and Bata Institutes for Teachers’ Training, and the National Centre for Proficiency in Teaching (CENAFOD), financed by UNESCO
The country has been one of the fastest growing economies in Africa in the past decade. After the discovery of large oil reserves in the 1990s, Equatorial Guinea became the third-largest producer of oil in Sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria and Angola. More recently, substantial gas reserves have also been discovered. However, the country macroeconomic and fiscal situation has deteriorated following the oil price drop. Exploitation of oil and gas deposits, beginning in the 1990s, has driven economic growth in Equatorial Guinea; a recent rebasing of GDP resulted in an upward revision of the size of the economy by approximately 30%. Forestry and farming are minor components of GDP.
The government’s development agenda is guided by a medium-term strategy paper, the National Economic Development Plan: Horizon 2020, which targets economic diversification and poverty reduction. The first phase of Horizon 2020, focused on infrastructure development was concluded in 2012. The second phase will focus on economic diversification, targeting strategic new sectors such as fisheries, agriculture, tourism, and finance.
As the country moves into the second phase of the National Development Plan, the government is planning to redirect public investment from infrastructure towards the development of new economic sectors. Equatorial Guinea is largely dependent on oil. The significant economic impact of the recent drop in international oil prices has underscored the importance of promoting non-oil growth and increasing the efficiency of spending.
Although pre-independence Equatorial Guinea counted on cocoa production for hard currency earnings, the neglect of the rural economy since independence has diminished the potential for agriculture-led growth. Subsistence farming is the dominant form of livelihood. Declining revenue from hydrocarbon production, high levels of infrastructure expenditures, lack of economic diversification, and corruption have pushed the economy into decline in recent years and limited improvements in the general population’s living conditions. Equatorial Guinea’s real GDP growth has been weak in recent years, averaging -0.5% per year from 2010 to 2014, because of a declining hydrocarbon sector. Inflation remained very low in 2016, down from an average of 4% in 2014.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$29.38 billion (2017 est.)
$31.73 billion (2016 est.)
$35.13 billion (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$10.07 billion (2017 est.)
GDP – real growth rate:
-7.4% (2017 est.)
-9.7% (2016 est.)
-9.1% (2015 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP):
$34,900 (2017 est.)
$38,600 (2016 est.)
$44,000 (2015 est.)
Gross national saving:
0.9% of GDP (2017 est.)
0.5% of GDP (2016 est.)
17.6% of GDP (2015 est.)
GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
services: 41% (2017 est.)
Agriculture – products:
coffee, cocoa, rice, yams, cassava (manioc, tapioca), bananas, palm oil nuts; livestock; timber
petroleum, natural gas, sawmilling
Population below poverty line:
44% (2011 est.)
revenues: $3.186 billion
expenditures: $3.431 billion (2017 est.)
Agriculture accounts for 2.5 % of GDP. While this represents a considerable decline in the importance of agriculture in GDP vis-à-vis the pre-oil period, this is still an increase compared to the last decade (in 2008 the share of agriculture in GDP was 0.9 %). This figure masks the real dependence of the population on subsistence agriculture, which remains vital for a large part of Equatorial Guineans. The sector is also faced with rural exodus, with Equatorial Guineans increasingly turning to the hydrocarbons sector for employment.
Bioko is home to marginal cash crops (cocoa, coffee), that can be cultivated thanks to regional climate. They are heavily subsidized by the State, which itself recognizes that this strategy to boost agriculture has not paid off. The government now wants to develop a professional agriculture capable of ensuring food security and limiting imports. For this, farmers will benefit from training and literacy programs. Logging in the mainland is being carried out by large foreign companies that tend to overexploit the country’s reserves. The conditions used by the government to grant concessions are obscure and seem rather biased.
Equatorial Guinea has considerable fishery potential thanks to its marine territory. Increasing the productivity of this sector is a priority of the economic diversification policy. The Government is also seeking to increase the capacity of fish processing activities to become a hub for regional trade.
Equatorial Guinea has a high potential for the development of agricultural production. It has a favorable climate for all kinds of tropical and subtropical crops, fertile soil, favorable rainfall and abundant water reserves. This sector offers unique opportunities for the development of small local industry initiatives. The crops grown in Equatorial Guinea include, among others:
population without electricity: 300,000
electrification – total population: 66%
electrification – urban areas: 93%
electrification – rural areas: 48% (2013)
Electricity – production:
425 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – consumption:
395.3 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – exports:
0 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – imports:
0 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – installed generating capacity:
334,000 kW (2015 est.)
Electricity – from fossil fuels:
55.1% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Electricity – from nuclear fuels:
0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Telephones – fixed lines:
total subscriptions: 10,989
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 1 (July 2016 est.)
Telephones – mobile cellular:
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 74 (July 2016 est.)
Internet country code:
percent of population: 23.8% (July 2016 est.)
Industry and Mining
Recent large oil discoveries are structurally changing the economy making Equatorial Guinea one of the most oil-dependent countries in the world. 2001 and 2002 should be another two years of exceptional growth of GDP, owing to the sharp increase in oil production during the period. oil production likely to reach one-fifth of Nigeria’s oil production in a few years, the country’s main challenge consists of the management of such a rapid and large wealth inflow. Indeed, the spectacular abundance of oil revenues has strained Equatorial Guinea’s undersized administration capacity. Lack of consistent and credible data on macroeconomic and financial flows is a significant example of this lack of capacity.
Equatorial Guinea is the fifth largest producer of African oil, with 289,000 barrels per day in 2015, compared with 358,000 barrels a day in 2005. With reserves of 1.1 billion barrels, and this production pace this country will no longer be able to produce oil in 10 years. The country is now seeking to issue new exploration permits. The operation may prove complicated, as several large companies have already withdrawn from their contracts due to lack of results. The country has natural gas reserves of 1,340 billion cubic feet. Equatorial Guinea is also a producer of methanol.
The value for Manufacturing, value added (current LCU) in Equatorial Guinea was $1.3 billion of 2016. As the graph below shows, over the past 10 years, this indicator reached a maximum value of $3 billion in 2012 and a minimum value of $677 million in 2006. The value for Manufacturing, value added (annual % growth) in Equatorial Guinea was -33.39 as of 2016. As the graph below shows, over the past 9 years, this indicator reached a maximum value of 66.78 in 2009 and a minimum value of -40.21 in 2010. Manufacturing, value added (% of GDP) in Equatorial Guinea was 11.62 as of 2016. Its highest value over the past 10 years was 19.15 in 2009, while its lowest value was 7.01 in 2008.
Banking and Finance
The banking sector consists of five banks, three of which hold 84 percent of total assets. 2 The rest of the financial sector consists of three micro financial institutions and three insurance companies. All institutions are supervised by the COBAC, the regional supervisory agency, except the insurance sector which is supervised by the National Directorate of Banking and Insurance, under the Ministry of Finance, which implements at the national level the policies of the Regional Insurance Control Commission (CRCA). 3 Regional bond markets are shallow, and the Equator-Guinean government has only recently taken initial steps toward tapping this potential source of financing. Given the small size of microfinance, its limited partnership with banks, and the apparent profitability of the insurance sector,4 financial stability is largely determined by the banking sector.
Equatorial Guinea’s financial development gap is the highest among African oil-exporters, at one-fifth the level predicted by its income and other fundamentals.5 (Text Figure 1). Financial deepening, as measured by deposit- and loan-to-GDP ratios is less than a third of the EM average. The shallowness of the financial sector is mostly due to persistent structural bottlenecks, which include limited information on potential borrowers’ credit history and high collateral requirements. Furthermore, limited efforts to promote the micro-financial sector constrains the size of micro-financial services, thereby impeding access to financial services by low-income populations. Very little progress has been achieved in recent years to implement the country’s long-standing financial sector reform agenda, which includes establishing credit bureaus, upgrading collateral registries, strengthening contract and creditor rights enforcement, and improving SME access to financial services.
Stress tests show that liquidity and solvency are highly sensitive to macroeconomic shocks. Given the protracted oil shock, Equatorial Guinea should encourage the regional supervisor to put in place action plans to ensure bank compliance with prudential norms and provisioning against accumulated NPLs, and cooperate with the COBAC to undertake an asset quality review and in closely monitoring of government-guaranteed loans; The COBAC and the BEAC should develop a regional strategy to better monitor and tackle macro-financial spillovers through parent-subsidiary linkages; And improving the quality and timeliness of financial stability indicators is indispensable for accurate assessment and timely intervention. Implement crosscutting financial sector structural reforms to close the financial development gap, support the transformation plan, and allow banks to play a more supportive role in economic growth.
A mix of beautiful scenery and rich vegetation, Equatorial Guinea promises travelers a variety of enticing attractions. It’s rare that a feel of the African tropics, volcanic landscapes, relaxing coastal escapes, and Spanish colonial towns can all be enjoyed in one destination. Tourists generally start in the big cities like Bata and Malabo where they can find contemporary comforts and explore the culture at the markets and try local cuisine before venturing out to the surrounding areas where the wilderness awaits. Getting around may be a bit challenging but enjoyable for the adventurous, whether by bicycle, four-wheel drive vehicle or public transportation.
Consisting of two parts, an island region consisting of the islands of Bioko and Annobó, and the mainland region of Río Muni, Equatorial Guinea offers stunning and varied landscapes, picturesque beaches and spectacular virgin rainforests. For those who relish new experiences, Equatorial Guinea offers a true adventure. On Bioko Island, you will find volcanic views, rainforests full of endangered primates and shores of nesting sea turtles. The capital city is Malabo, based in the island region of Bioko. It has retained much of its colonial-era architecture, with historical buildings including the former Palace of the Government, cathedral, City Hall and Casa Verde.
Place of Attraction
Catedrál de Santa Isabel; On the west side of the Plaza de España, this gracious, apricot-hued building is the most beautiful in the country. The architect, Llairadó Luis Segarra, had some input from Antonio Gaudí. Construction began in 1887 and it was consecrated in 1916. The style is Gothic Revival and it is flanked by two 40m-high towers and has three naves. It has recently been restored.
Monte Alen National Park; Monte Alen is one of Central Africa’s best-kept secrets, and reason enough to visit Equatorial Guinea. A protected area covering 2000 sq km, the park is an excellent place to experience the lush rainforests and wildlife of Rio Muni.
Arena Blanca; Arena Blanca is a lovely beach close to Luba, with white sand. It is known for its clouds of breeding butterflies. You’ll find the beach is cleaner the further away from the car park you walk.
Other attractions include Arena Blanca, Luba Mirador, Moka Mirador, Evaluate, Malabo National Park, Plaza del Reloj, Benito River Bridge, Equatoguinean Cultural Centre, Catedral de Santiago Apóstol y Nuestra Señora del Pilar, Casa Verde and more.
Although numerous archaeological discoveries indicate a very early Sangoan (modified Acheulean) culture throughout Equatorial Guinea, the earliest traceable inhabitants were Pygmies, remnants of whom remain in northeastern Río Muni. Bioko was apparently uninhabited when the Bubi came by sea from the mainland in the 13th century. Río Muni seems to have been occupied by the Bantu in a series of waves that superseded the Pygmies—first by the Bubi, before 1200; then by the Benga, Bujeba, and Combe, perhaps about 1300; and, finally, by the Fang from the Congo Basin, after 1687.
The island of Bioko (formerly Fernando Po) was sighted by the Portuguese explorer Fernão do Pó, probably in 1472. At first, it was called Formosa (“Beautiful”). Annobón was probably sighted by Ruy de Sequeira on a New Year’s Day (hence the name, which means “good year”) between 1472 and 1475, most likely that of 1474. By the Treaty of Tordesillas (June 7, 1494), the Portuguese had exclusive trade rights in Africa, and it was not until 1778 that they agreed to cede to Spain the islands of Annobón and Fernando Po as well as rights on the mainland coast between the Ogooué and Niger rivers. These sessions were designed to give Spain its own source of slaves in Africa for transport to Spanish America, where, in exchange, the Spanish confirmed the rights of the Portuguese west of the 50° W meridian in what is now Brazil. The Spanish were soon decimated by yellow fever on Fernando Po, and they withdrew in 1781. No European occupation was made on the mainland.
From 1827 to 1843 the British leased spaces at Port Clarence (later Santa Isabel, now Malabo) on Fernando Po to use as a base to regulate the abolition of the slave trade. In 1839 the first known school was established in Clarence City with 120 children. Because there was no Spanish administration in the area, the British administered the island and made Spain several offers to buy the island from them. All of these offers were denied, and the British left Fernando Po in 1843 after selling their buildings to a Baptist mission. A second school was established on Santa Isabel by Baptist missionaries sometime between 1840 and 1858 (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).
The End of the British Rule
In the first half of the 19th century, they lease harbors in Fernando Po to the British (for their campaign to suppress the slave trade). Finally, from the 1850s, they begin to establish a Spanish presence in their African colony. Minor explorations are made inland from the coast. the Spanish had expelled the British Baptists from Fernando Po in 1858, and in 1879 they began to use it as a penal settlement for Cubans. Following the Spanish-American War (1898), Spanish Guinea remained as Spain’s last significant tropical colony. Profiting from the weakness of Spain, France was able to confine mainland Spanish Guinea to its present limited extent. Economic development started only at that time and was concentrated on the richer and healthier Fernando Po. The mainland received significant attention from Spain only after the Spanish Civil War (1936–39).
The plantations of Fernando Pó were mostly run by a black Creole elite, later known as Fernandinos. The British occupied the island briefly in the early 19th century, settling some 2,000 Sierra Leoneans and freed slaves there. Limited immigration from West Africa and the West Indies continued after the British left. To this were added Cubans, Filipinos, and Spaniards of various colors deported for political or other crimes, as well as some assisted settlers. There was also a trickle of immigration from the neighboring Portuguese islands, escaped slaves and prospective planters. Although a few of the Fernandinos were Catholic and Spanish-speaking, about nine-tenths of them were Protestant and English-speaking on the eve of the First World War, and pidgin English was the lingua franca of the island.
The opening years of the twentieth century saw a new generation of Spanish immigrants. Land regulations issued in 1904–1905 favored Spaniards, and most of the later big planters arrived from Spain after that. The Liberian labor agreement of 1914 favored wealthy men with ready access to the state, and the shift in labor supplies from Liberia to Rio Muni increased this advantage. In 1940, an estimated 20% of the colony’s cocoa production came from African-owned land, nearly all of it was in the hands of Fernandinos.
From the opening years of the 20th century, the Fernandinos were put on the defensive by a new generation of Spanish immigrants. New land regulations in 1904-5 favored Spaniards, and most of the big planters of later years arrived in the islands from Spain following these new regulations. The Liberian labor agreement of 1914 favored wealthy men with ready access to the state and the shift in labor supplies from Liberia to Rio Muni increased this advantage. In 1940, it was estimated that only 20 percent of the colony’s cocoa production remained in African hands, nearly all of it in the hands of Fernandinos.
Between 1926 and 1959 Bioko and Rio Muni were united as the colony of Spanish Guinea. The economy was based on large cacao and coffee plantations and logging concessions and the workforce was mostly immigrant contract labor from Liberia, Nigeria, and Cameroun. Military campaigns were mounted to subdue the Fang people in the 1920s, at the time that Liberia was beginning to cut back on recruitment. There were garrisons of the colonial guard throughout the enclave by 1926, and the whole colony was considered ‘pacified’ by 1929.
With Liberian workers were no longer available, planters of Fernando Po turned to Rio Muni. Campaigns were mounted to subdue the Fang people in the 1920s, at the time that Liberia was beginning to cut back on recruitment. There were garrisons of the colonial guard throughout the enclave by 1926, and the whole colony was considered ‘pacified’ by 1929. Rio Muni had a small population, officially a little over 100,000 in the 1930s, and escape across the frontiers into Cameroun or Gabon was very easy. Also, the timber companies needed increasing numbers of workers, and the spread of coffee cultivation offered an alternative means of paying taxes. Fernando Pó thus continued to suffer from labor shortages. The French only briefly permitted recruitment in Cameroun, and the main source of labor came to be Igbo smuggled in canoes from Calabar in Nigeria. This resolution to the worker shortage allowed Fernando Pó to become one of Africa’s most productive agricultural areas after the Second World War.
Struggle for independence
In 1959 the status of Spanish Guinea was changed, and the region was reorganized into two provinces of overseas Spain, each of which was placed under a civil governor. The post-war political history of the colony can be divided into three fairly distinct phases: up to 1959, when its status was raised from ‘colony’ to ‘province’, taking a leaf out of the approach of the Portuguese Empire; between 1960 and 1968, when Spain attempted a partial decolonisation which was hoped would conserve the territory as an integral segment of the Spanish system; and after 1968, when the territory became an independent republic.
The first of these phases consisted of little more than a continuation of previous policies; these closely resembled the policies of Portugal and France, notably in dividing the population into a vast majority governed as ‘natives’ or non-citizens, and a very small minority (together with whites) admitted to civic status as emancipados, assimilation to the metropolitan culture being the only permissible means of advancement. The first local elections were held in 1959, and the first Equatoguinean representatives were seated in the Cortes Generales (Spanish parliament). Under the Basic Law of December 1963, limited autonomy was authorized under a joint legislative body for the territory’s two provinces. A paradoxical effect of this autonomy was that Guineans could choose among several political parties while metropolitan Spaniards were under a single-party regime. The name of the country was changed to Equatorial Guinea. Although Spain’s commissioner general had extensive powers, the Equatorial Guinean General Assembly had a considerable initiative in formulating laws and regulations.
Nationalism began to emerge during this “provincial” phase, chiefly among small groups who had taken refuge from General Franco’s paternal hand in Cameroun and Gabon. They formed two bodies: the Movimiento Nacional de Liberación de la Guinea (MONALIGE), and the Idea Popular de la Guinea Ecuatorial (IPGE). Their pressures were weak, but the general trend in West Africa was not. A decision of 9 August 1963, approved by a referendum of 15 December 1963, introduced the territory to a measure of autonomy and the administrative promotion of a ‘moderate’ grouping, the Movimiento de Unión Nacional de la Guinea Ecuatorial (MUNGE). This proved a feeble instrument, and, with growing pressure for change from the UN, Spain gave way to the currents of nationalism. Independence was conceded on 12 October 1968 and the Republic of Equatorial Guinea came into being with Francisco Macías Nguema elected as president.
Independent Equatorial Guinea
In July 1970, Macias created a single-party state and by May 1971, key portions of the constitution were abrogated. In 1972 Macias took complete control of the government and assumed the title of President for Life. The Macias regime was characterized by abandonment of all government functions except internal security, which was accomplished by terror; this led to the death or exile of up to one-third of the country’s population. Due to pilferage, ignorance, and neglect, the country’s infrastructure—electrical, water, road, transportation, and health—fell into ruin. The private and public sectors of the economy were devastated. Nigerian contract laborers on Bioko, estimated to have been 60,000, left en masse in early 1976. The economy collapsed, and skilled citizens and foreigners left.
A reign of terror follows, bringing international protests until in 1979 Macías is toppled in a military coup led by his nephew, the defense minister Teodoro Obiang Nguema. President Obiang remains in power for the rest of the century and achieves a human rights record little better than that of his uncle. During the 1990s, in the spirit of the times, the promise of democracy is constantly in the air. But opposition leaders are continually harassed and persecuted. Elections are widely agreed to be fraudulent. In 1996 the president claims to have been re-elected with more than 99% of the vote. Meanwhile, Fernando Po has acquired another new name. When Macías Nguema falls from power, in 1979, his eponymous island goes the same way. It becomes Bioko.
The unsuccessful “Wonga Coup” by European and South African mercenaries in 2004 attempted to replacing Obiang with a puppet ruler who would open the country’s mineral wealth to the plotters. Briton Simon Mann, a former officer in the Special Air Service, led the plot, which also included former members of the South African Army 32 Battalion. Financial backers included Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and possibly the British novelist Jeffrey Archer. Somewhere between $3 million and $20 million was expended on the failed coup, which is said to have had the tacit support of some Western governments and international corporations. In the 2016 presidential election, which was held on April 24, Obiang was reelected by a huge margin—93.7 percent—defeating six other candidates.