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Report News Today:
Equatorial Guinea: Yesterday and Today

06.05.2013

Equatorial Guinea is the least known by an American reader, and is at the same time one of the most developed countries in Africa. The country is very small in territory and population, with 650 thousand residents. As compared with neighboring Nigeria (152 million) and Cameroon (19 million), the country looks like an African Luxembourg. And looks rather decent. The country ranks 63rdby GDP in the world, with USD 20,200 per capita, as of 2012 figures.

Equatorial Guinea acquired a global renown in 2005 which was a record-breaking year by GDP for the expense of a dramatic boost in oil extraction, and the country moved to the 2ndposition by this indicator globally.

Since that time, the country has been drawing great attention of the global community, and representatives of international financial, political and human rights organizations. Residents in many European countries that fall behind Equatorial Guinea by GDP figures, employment rates and other indicators, treat that evolving economy with a proper respect. In March 2013, Madrid tightened regulations on getting citizenship for migrants who should not only live in the country for over six years, but also pass some exams and swear allegiance to the king. Simplified rules of getting citizenship remain valid for Portugal, Andorra, South America countries and Equatorial Guinea the only African country. Why isnt the Spanish government afraid of accepting citizens of that specific country?

The matter is that the country has substantially no emigration sentiments. According to Encyclopedia of the Nations, net migration from Equatorial Guinea amounts to nothing the country residents move in scarce quantities and to Spain only. The country has a future, which is clear for almost everyone, including opponents to the regime of the current President of Equatorial Guinea Teodoro Obiang. In 2004, Equatorial Guinea was the third largest oil producer in Africa southward of Sahara. Its extraction went up to 360,000 barrels a day. The country government co-operates with neighbors in the African continent, including Nigeria, adopting practices of economic development and methods of oil extraction and processing. The Head of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan accented at the recent visit last month: Its true that Nigeria has been operating in the oil and gas business for the past 40 to 50 years, whereas Equatorial Guinea started recently.

Members of the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund held consultations with the countrys top executives in January 2013. The results most relevantly reflect the present economic situation in Equatorial Guinea. In particular, the final report reads the following: For the past five years, a quick growth in government investments facilitated the enhancement of transport and power supply infrastructure according to the2008-2020 National Development Planthat is financed from hydrocarbon revenues. As a result, construction incentives are estimated to have raised average growth rates in non-oil and gas sectors by about 15 percent. However, some of the topical issues are shrinking the poverty rate and creation of a stable productive activity of the private sector

However, if you gain insight into the poverty in that country, you can come to rather unexpected conclusions. Many people wishing to know something about the life in the strange Equatorial Guinea are geared to opinions of human right organizations that publish their estimates about the life in that country. Vukasin Petrovic, Director of programs in Africa at human rights organization Freedom House says: according to Global Witness, 60 percent of the population live on less than $1 a day. The vast majority of residents in Equatorial Guinea hardly has access to clean drinking water

But this information looks very obsolete or intentionally incorrect. The Prices in Equatorial Guinea report published on the Numbeo website reads that a Combo Meal at a local McDonalds in Malabo costs $6.56; a 0.5-liter bottle of a domestic beer costs $3.03, 1 liter of milk $2.14, a 500-gram loaf of wheat bread $3.39, a kilogram of oranges $3.85, a kilogram of potatoes $ 3.85, etc.

However, a liter of gas costs $0.82, and taxi rates are rather low $0.1 per 1 kilometer at standard conditions. Clothes at many Malabo shops for the middle class are sold at prices comparable with prices in Spain, the US and other countries. E.g., a pair of Levis 501 jeans costs $80, a light Zara and H&M dress $80, and a pair of Nike sneakers $57.84, etc. Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the downtown Malabo costs $692.44 a month on the real estate market, and renting a three-bedroom apartment $1020.

An average salary in the country is about US 1 thousand dollars a month, according to Numbeo. This is considered not too much, as migrant workers who come to the country, for example, American engineers, earn 12-15 000 Euros monthly.

Its rather strange to say that someone lives on 2 dollars a day in the country, taking into account the prices and a rather high rate of consumption there.

In spite of real life indicators, Equatorial Guinea finds it difficult to get rid of a general image of the African continent that is perceived as a backward territory by developed countries, which population has no rights and all of them live below the poverty line.

Tens of thousands of labor migrants come to Equatorial Guinea every year looking for a better life. Its about as hard to get there as moving to Luxembourg for non-EU residents. Many immigrants who come to the country start from trying to acquire a residence permit or a work visa.

Its not easy today unless oil companies, embassies, etc. assist a person.

The main objective driven by numerous labor migrants who come to Equatorial Guinea is finding a good job and raise enough money to transfer it to their families. Experts underline that saving money is as a challenging task as making money, considering rather high prices across the country.

A hitherto weak banking system and problems with transfering money abroad create difficulties to labor migrants who come from all African regions, yet do not stop them.

Migrants cannot solve internal national problems. They can just help the country change its face.

To all appearances, the government of Equatorial Guinea realizes the country needs changes. Development of small business and middle class consolidation, as well as reforms related to human rights are two essential topics at present. And these steps seem to be taken. E.g., headquarters of the Department for Economic and Business Information was re-established in March this year, for supporting small and medium businesses. Daniel Miyang, Head of the facility, said that their programs would include staff training, advisory services and new courses for the young.

Despite the government of Equatorial Guinea is criticized by many human rights organizations, the country experiences positive shifts in this field that cant help but be noticed. In March, family courts were established for combating gender violence and juvenile delinquency, and for settling family conflicts. The government is putting in place a program on building rehabilitation centers for violence victims and develops educational programs devoted to violence against women. As of today, the government of Equatorial Guinea ratified mostly all international and regional conventions focused on the prevention and elimination of violence against women. It also adopted the National Action Plan for Gender Equality.

In spite of some challenges in human rights and infirmity of democratic institutions in the country, Equatorial Guineaisdeveloping and is apparently committed to seriously change, adopting practices of worlds developed countries in human related spheres. This brings hope for transforming the country into a stepping stone for developing new living standards in the African continent and poverty alleviation not by means of humanitarian assistance offered by developed countries, but at the expense of own resources and domestic reforms aimed at economic recovery.

Francisco Valle
Source: Report News Today


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